Pura Vida Adventures surf retreats are located in Santa Teresa, the main tourism hub of the southern Nicoya Peninsula. With breathtaking sunsets, fashionable boutiques, restaurants to rival any cosmopolitan city, and a vibrant street scene, you might not feel the need to leave. However, during your surf vacation, you will have some downtime. If you want to spend some of your free time exploring other towns in this region, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll discover quaint pueblos with very different vibes, all within a short drive.
Santa Teresa is quite busy compared to the surrounding communities. When you drive down the road from Cobano and arrive at the beach, you’ll get to “the crossroads” at Playa Carmen. Mal Pais is everything to the left and Santa Teresa is everything to the right.
Santa Teresa is one very long road that parallels the beach for miles. Incredible restaurants, stores, and hotels line the road. Santa Teresa, where our surf camp is based, has a beach break with nice lefts and rights. Most of Santa Teresa is white sand beaches, with occasional rocky outcroppings. With its relatively remote location, Santa Teresa has a bit of a “wild west” feel. It’s a bit grittier than other parts of the country. Even with minimal glitz, or perhaps because of this, Santa Teresa is a place where the world’s rich and famous come to escape from the world. You may even see some celebrities in the ocean having a surf vacation of their own.
Mal Pais has a series of lovely beaches, rocky coves, along with many tidepools and a few surf breaks. The hills are rugged and steep. Even so, there are a surprisingly high number of luxury villas accessed by challenging dirt roads. While next door to the busy Playa Carmen, it is sleepy and not nearly as developed.
Originally a fishing and farming village, Mal Pais is also growing as a surf vacation destination. This small community has a great surf spot called Mar Azul, although there are many rocks in this area. Mal Pais borders Cabo Blanco National Park, but it doesn’t have an entrance to the park; the public access is in Cabuya. Mal Pais is also a great place to set up a sport fishing, zip line, or bioluminescence tour. There is no grocery store or pharmacy here, but there is an excellent coffee shop and pizza place.
Playa Hermosa is a beautiful white sand beach north of Santa Teresa. It is arguably the prettiest beach in this region. Hermosa does mean beautiful, after all! It is perfect for learning to surf and also has a challenging right-hand point at the north end of the bay. The dependable waves at this beach are a favorite of surf camp guests, and you can find more details about this surf break here. At Playa Hermosa, you will not encounter the crowds of Santa Teresa. Playa Hermosa has an unspoiled coastline, with jungle meeting white sand as far as you can see. Sunsets here are some of the most beautiful around.
This town is on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the road south of Montezuma. While it is small, flat and relatively undeveloped, it’s also a pretty remarkable place. It has two appealing, uncrowded surf spots and a reportedly haunted cemetery island. During surf retreats with PVA, you may occasionally come to this break to surf gentle green waves.
Cabuya is home to several large waterfalls, Cabo Blanco Butterfly Farm, an animal rescue center, and perhaps the largest tree in Costa Rica, a Higueron banyan tree. There are also delicious restaurants, a brewery, a chocolate café and weekly movie screenings on the beach. This town also has the public entrance to the beautiful Cabo Blanco National Park, which is excellent for hiking, and spotting wildlife.
Delicias is a beautiful area of rolling hills, fincas, jungle, plenty of wildlife and some ocean views. It’s quiet, with almost no crime and not much of a town center. Delicias has easy access to Montezuma, Cobano and Cabuya. It has two backroads to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, although these roads can be tricky in the rainy season! It is in the hills above the ocean, so it’s cooler and less humid than the beach towns. Tierra y Fuego, Puggo’s and Ash are the three delicious local restaurants. These are lovely places to stop for dinner if you are staying in Santa Teresa but have made the trip to Cabuya to surf for the afternoon.
This town has a more laid-back, bohemian feel than Santa Teresa. The vacationers you will find here are typically backpackers, young families, and couples looking for an off-the-beaten-path getaway. There are quaint shops, many restaurants, and you can often find live music in the evening. The natural side of this community consists of many calm beaches, lush jungle, and the popular Montezuma Waterfalls. There is plenty of wildlife here, like monkeys, butterflies, parrots and coati.
Cobano is the commercial center of this peninsula region. It leads to Santa Teresa, Montezuma, Manzanillo, Delicias, Tambor, and north towards Guanacaste beach towns. Cobano (pronounced CO-ba-no) has the area’s only gas stations, a post office, and the regional police station. There are many waterfalls in this area, such as the beautiful Florida waterfall.
North of Santa Teresa, Manzanillo has historically been known for an annual sandcastle competition. The town of Manzanillo is slightly set back from the beach. The nearby small beach with a rocky reef and small waves is a great place to snorkel. High tide is ideal for swimming. An offshore reef break at the north end of Manzanillo beach is surfable only when the swell is big.
While all of these towns are great places to visit, we completely understand if you end up staying right here in Santa Teresa. Surfing during the day and watching the stunning sunsets each and every night is a pretty ideal way to spend your vacation.
One of THE best vacations of my life and looking forward to checking schedules for late March/April 2023!! Susan
Susan, we just submitted our dates to the hotel and will probably have them all set next week. I will send you an email as soon as I know. Excited to have you back!