Last updated on January 16th, 2021 at 09:35 pm EST
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Playa Santa Teresa Photos
Playa Santa Teresa fast facts
- English name: Santa Teresa Beach
- Distance from San Jose: 320km (approximately 6 hours) via ground transport; Shorter travel distances/times are possible by taking ferries that cross the Nicoya Gulf from Puntarenas
- Closest Town: Cobano (small town)
- Beach Status: Public beach
Playa Santa Teresa beach details
Sand, shade, scenery, and unique features
Playa Santa Teresa is a long and primarily smooth beach that has light, dusty, almost blush-pink sand. Offshore, rows of waves break in front of the beach; the water is turquoise in places. A wall of trees backs the beach. Free to view (near the Banana Beach Restaurant) is a small turtle hatchery that aims to protect the eggs of nesting sea turtles.
Crowds and noise
Playa Santa Teresa receives a steady number of visitors, mainly because it’s one of the most sought-after beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. People come to this beach to either surf, practice yoga, or relax in solitude, so noise is generally kept to a minimum, especially along the northern stretch of the beach which is the quietest. Along the southern stretch of the beach, which is adjacent to Carmen (sometimes referred to as “downtown Santa Teresa”), crowds and noise can be an issue. Fortunately, the multi-kilometer-long beach provides plenty of room for spacing out and rarely feels full.
Cleanliness and Ecological Blue Flag rating
Costa Rica’s Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag Program) promotes sustainability and public health (to learn more about the program, see our related blog post: Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag Program: Safe and Sustainable Beaches). Every year, several beaches in Costa Rica compete for top honors, which are bestowed annually according to strict criteria that span the topics of water quality, beach sanitation and garbage disposal, the treatment of industrial waste, beach security, and environmental education. Beaches that participate in the program and meet 90-100% of the eligibility criteria achieve a 1-star rating. Additional efforts invite beaches to achieve 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star ratings (5 stars is the highest rating).
In 2019, Playa Santa Teresa participated in the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica and received a 1-star rating. You may see the achievement displayed at Playa Santa Teresa on a sign that reads Playa Galardonada (Award-Winning Beach).
Development at Playa Santa Teresa
Hotels, restaurants, tours, bathrooms, etc.
The community of Carmen and its outskirts (the community of Santa Teresa) provide an assortment of (typically modern and progressive) establishments, including hotels, restaurants, tour offices, and shops, virtually everything you might want to have at a Costa Rican destination. The majority are high-quality; resort-quality accommodations outnumber budget lodging options, and restaurant menus are weighted with healthy, often plant-based meal choices. Most establishments line the main road that runs parallel to the beach and are within walking distance of the water, if not positioned directly on the beach. A few provide tables, chairs, and hammocks on the sand for guests to use.
Playa Santa Teresa safety
Swimming and water safety
Swimming is allowed at Playa Santa Teresa, however, as a well-known surf destination, the water can be wavy and rough. As always, exercise caution in and around the water, especially if you plan to visit with children or inexperienced swimmers.
Never bring items of value with you to the beach and always keep an eye on your belongings. Remember to lock your rental car if you have one. Do not visit the beach before sunrise or after sunset.
Playa Santa Teresa location and road conditions
Access to Playa Santa Teresa and 4×4 requirement
Playa Santa Teresa is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It fronts the community of Santa Teresa, which sits north of Carmen and Mal Pais (sometimes cited as Malpais), two neighboring communities.
An unnamed road (nicknamed “the road to Cobano”) leads a direct path south from the inland town of Cobano to Carmen. From Carmen, it’s an approximate 3-kilometer, 10-minute drive northwest up the coast to the community of Santa Teresa and its namesake beach. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended to reach Playa Santa Teresa.
Map of Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Parking at Playa Santa Teresa
There is no official parking at Playa Santa Teresa. Locals park randomly along the side of the unnamed road that runs parallel to the beach, or down side streets that run perpendicular to the beach.
Best reason(s) to visit Playa Santa Teresa
Offering solitude, stellar waves, and some of the prettiest sand on the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Santa Teresa is worth visiting purely to experience the beach. Especially if you plan to surf or practice yoga during your visit and you wish to participate in these activities at a modern, developed destination that’s simultaneously calm and remote, Playa Santa Teresa shouldn’t be missed.
Beach hopping from Playa Santa Teresa (or alternative beach options in the region)
Recommended day trips from Playa Santa Teresa include visits to Playa Carmen, Playa Mal Pais, or Playa Las Manchas.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Playa Santa Teresa? What did you think?
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Costa Rica Writer / Author / Reviewer
Nikki Solano, Costa Rica guidebook author
Original Review Date (review has since been updated)
Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Rating (out of 5)
Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica