Surfing Santa Teresa (Costa Rica) || The Ultimate Guide

White sand beach, 2-3ft a-frames out front, monkeys in the trees overhead, girls on the beach, Cerveza in hand… Paradise. If that image has you drooling, there’s a slice of Costa Rican paradise that has all of the above in abundance. Let’s explore everything you need to know for surfing Santa Teresa… 


Table of Contents

Santa Teresa Surf Break
Playa Carmen, looking inviting...

Best Time Of Year

Santa Teresa has waves all year round. For example, I visited in January, and the waves were 2-3ft every day. However, Nov-March is considered the off-season for waves, and while the weather is much drier and sunnier, the waves are less consistent. 

The best time to surf in Santa Teresa is between April and October. This is when the largest south swells hit the coast. However, it comes with lots of rain and less predictable conditions. Typically the morning is offshore until around 10 am; then, the onshore winds whip up for most of the afternoon before glassing off again in the evening. What a routine! 

Best Surf Spots in Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa has various surf spots for all abilities. Mostly, the Santa Teresa surf spots comprise punchy beach breaks, with different sections of the beaches suiting different abilities. 

Playa Santa Teresa 

Playa Santa Teresa is the main beach in the area and is a long stretch of beautiful white sand with fun, punchy peaks up and down it. The banks can change; generally speaking, the waves are soft, mushy, and forgiving. But it can still be fun for turns and great for beginners at higher tides. 

Playa Carmen  

South of Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen is a super popular beach with numerous peaks. Fun, punchy, and, at the beach’s northern end, long wally rights breaking off the rocks. The beach is popular and gets super crowded. So be aware of crowds and surprise rocks on the inside. 

Playa Hermosa 

Not to be confused with the thumping beach break of the same name in Jaco, Playa Hermosa in Santa Teresa is a forgiving and beautiful beach fantastic for beginners. Just outside of Santa Teresa town, Hermosa is one of the best beginner surf beaches in Santa Teresa– a long walk or a short drive. Read more about the Jaco version of Playa Hermosa here.

Punta Barigona

At the southern end of Playa Carmen lies Punta Barigona. The place only gets going on the largest swells, and you won’t be surfing here unless there’s a major south swell running. When it’s on, there are super long wally lefts with barrel sections. 

Where Is Santa Teresa? 

Santa Teresa is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast on the Nicoya Peninsula, in the country’s northeast. The town is located on the west coast to the southern end of the peninsular. 

How To Get To Santa Teresa?

By Plane

The quickest but most expensive is the short domestic flight to Montezuma. A tiny airport 30 minutes south of Santa Teresa. While these domestic flights aren’t super cheap, I’d suggest looking for flights on Kayak or Skyscanner. 

By Car

You can also hire a car in San Jose and drive to Santa Teresa. It takes 5 hours to get from San Jose to Santa Teresa. But be warned, hiring cars in Costa Rica is crazy expensive.  

By Bus

If you’re budget-conscious, the best way to get to Santa Teresa is via shuttle bus. Shuttles are common throughout Costa Rica and are the cheapest and easiest way to get around.

While not as cheap as the famous chicken buses, you can go between major towns for around $50. There are numerous shuttle companies, all varying in prices and comfort. You can also check out local bus routes. 

However, the time displayed on your Ticket DOES NOT accurately reflect how long it will take to get somewhere. So allow for delays and that slower pace of life in any travel plans.

Getting Around Santa Teresa 

Once you’re in Santa Teresa, you’ll have the freedom to explore a handful of different waves and you can easily walk between shops, restaurants, and hotels. Santa Teresa is less a town and more a long street with hotels, cafes, and restaurants dotted along the length of it. 

However, if you want the freedom of checking out some lesser-known spots and other attractions, such as waterfalls, hiring a quad bike could be a great option. These are super common but can be expensive. Prices range from $75 to $200 per day.

Surfing Santa Teresa
Playa Carmen - Playful Afternoon Rights...

Enjoying this post? You might like my complete guide to surfing in Costa Rica, or full breakdowns from around the country. Check out the guide to surfing in Dominical, Pavones, and Puerto Viejo. 

Where To Stay?

Santa Teresa has options for everyone, whether you’re after a luxurious, comfortable stay with the family or your partner, or you’re on a budget. 

Best Budget Options

Akih Pods 

Akih Pods is one of the more affordable accommodation options in Santa Teresa. I stayed here for 10 days, and while the rooms are super small, you get your little pod; there is a cool communal kitchen space to hang out in, and you’re a 5-minute walk from Playa Carmen.

Selina Santa North & South

A classic chain of hostels popular among backpackers throughout Latin America. Selina Santa Teresa has everything you need and has two locations in Santa Teresa. North and South. If you are a traveling surfer or digital nomad looking to work and surf in Santa Teresa, Selina is ideal. Selina always has clean rooms, fast wifi, restaurants, and co-work space available. 

Best Mid-range Options


Family-owned and operated, Lucero offers surf camp packages, including yoga, surf lessons, and accommodation. Lucero is up there with the best surf camps in Costa Rica. 

Best Luxury Options

Laloon Luxury Suites

For a stunning spot to stay in Santa Teresa, check out Laloon adult-only suites. With beautiful sweeping views of Playa Carmen below and an infinity pool as you step out of your room, there really isn’t anywhere better to stay in Santa Teresa. For prices and availability, read more about Laloon Luxury Suites. 

Where To Eat? 

Along the stretch of Santa Teresa, there’s an abundance of places to eat. From tiny takeaway joints and budget-friendly locals, you can grab a cheap meal for between $5-10. In contrast, the upmarket restaurants with healthy vegan options will set you back upward of $20 per meal. 

La Cevicheria

Exactly what it says, this ceviche joint in Playa Carmen has outstanding ceviche tuna poke bowls, super popular but regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants in town.


If you’re after a sushi fix in Santa Teresa, look no further, Nami boasts some of the best sushi in town and is the perfect way to round off a day’s surfing.  


With a solid Israeli community in town, some fantastic Israeli restaurants are springing up around Santa Teresa. So if you’re craving a falafel wrap after surfing all day, Zula has the best in town.  

Santa Teresa Cost Breakdown

Costa Rica certainly isn’t one of the world’s cheapest surf destinations and is the most expensive nation in Central America, and many budget surf travelers choose to skip it altogether. Unfortunately, Santa Teresa is no exception due to an increase in popularity. Here’s a breakdown of some costs in USD.  

* Costa Rica widely accepts USD; however, the local currency, colones, is also used for smaller payments. Typically you’ll pay for your transport and accommodation in USD, and meals/drinks will be priced in Colones. You can check out the current exchange rates here. 

Tip – If you need to exchange currency, use Wise App, it’s a super handy little app I use that allows you to convert and transfer money between currencies without the extortionate international banking fees. 

Surf Shops In Santa Teresa

Along the main road that is Santa Teresa, you’ll find a wide array of surf shops, from your shack selling essentials like wax and zinc to stylish boutique stores. Check out the best surf shops in Santa Teresa on the map. 

What To Pack For Santa Teresa? 

So what do you need to take for surfing in Santa Teresa? Here’s a packing list of some must-haves: 

  • Sunscreen/Zinc 
  • Insect repellent 
  • Surf hat 
  • Shorts and tees
  • Rain jacket (for the wet season) 
  • Shortboards 

Playa santa teresa sunset

Final Words

Santa Teresa could have everything you need for a fun surf town with a traveler vibe combined with consistent, easy-to-surf 2-3ft beachies. It’s a slice of Costa Rican surf paradise, and while it may cost a lot more than other Central American surf destinations, it’s worth checking out if only for a few days. 

The waves may not be all time, but it’ll be warm, consistent, and easy to surf… Oh, and if you surf early in the morning, you can surf on your own for an hour! I hope you’ve found this post helpful and has given you some insights into what surfing Santa Teresa is like and helps you make your trip happen. 

Discover other blog posts for surf guides on places throughout Latin America,  including some of the world’s cheapest surf destinations. If you need more inspiration, check out my YouTube channel for some deeper insights. 

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