Published: February, 2020
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Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Dubbed 'The New Tulum' but Costa Rica is SO MUCH BETTER then Mexico and Santa Teresa is HERE TO STAY!
— Courtney Celeste Fisch
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Beach
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: I would set aside at least a week- there may be a full travel day on each side and you will want to have time to fully “drop in” once you arrive

to & from

This trip is LITERALLY planes, trains and automobiles. There are daily direct flights into San Jose from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale (thank you Southwest Airlines for this option!). Upon arriving in San Jose –

  • Take the puddle jumper to Tambor airport. Sansa Air and Nature Air both offer these flights. The cost is minimal- it is mostly flight timing that will affect your decision to go this route (and whether or not you can tolerate the tiny planes.). Once you arrive in Tambor there are car rental places or your lodging may arrange transportation.
  • I chose to drive. After leaving San Jose airport I followed the fairly simple route to Puntarenas. It was difficult navigating which direction I was headed when I first started out (my Waze was not working for some reason, it usually does) but once I got started it was smooth sailing.
  • In Puntarenas you catch the ferry to Paquera. Drive the car onto the ferry and choose to lay the seat back and rest or lock up the vehicle and head upstairs to watch the sunset (or sunrise on your return trip.). The scenery is breathtaking and a warm welcome after your travel day. Add an Imperial and it is smooth sailing.
  • The drive from Paquera to Santa Teresa/Mal Pais is quite simple- the road is mostly paved although it is twisty, turny and dimly lit. You arrive to a dead end on the beach with the option to turn right (Santa Teresa) or left (Mal Pais.). There is plenty of signage to make sure you don’t get lost.
  • WAZE usually works and is the preferred navigation system of most locals.

Where to Stay

  • Casa Marbella Santa Teresa. I originally booked my room for just myself but ended up sharing with a girlfriend who joined me last minute. The night guard was so helpful in getting us to our room and we finished checkin the next morning. Nothing terribly fancy- but clean and very nicely appointed rooms. The owners are kind and helpful and just want you to enjoy your time. The rooms all centered around the pool and its magnificent views. The hotel is located at the top of a steep hill- but no worries, your bum will just be a touch higher and firmer when you put on your swimsuit! There are shortcuts to yoga and dining from the hotel- to save some burn for the beach!
  • Casa Chameleon (adults only)- WOW! Again- at the top of a verrrrry long and steep hill. And located in Mal Pais (which means dead country) so it is desolate. Feel free to swim naked in your private pool and don’t be startled when the white-faced monkeys come tearing through the trees for brunch. This is not for families – perhaps more of a romantic trip, a trip with close friends or a solo trip where you just want to unwind and enjoy the serenity of the jungle. My favorite touch was that I could open the glass door in the shower and turn it into an open-air outdoor shower.
  • Hotel Nantipa- Santa Teresa. For families, friends and couples. The location is perfect, on the north tip of the main road but not too far away. On the beach- so no hills. Large room settings for families. Fairly new, so the resort is pristine. The service was impeccable.
  • Other hotels include Latitude 10, and Florablanca. Vogue and Travel and Leisure have both mentioned these places. I just didn’t stay there so I can’t offer much.

Where to Eat and Drink

WOW- WOW WOW WOW! Every single thing was so delicious and mouth-watering and amazing! OK-

  • The Bakery. The scene! The FOOD! There is a reason why people are there from Coffee to Cocktail. The juices are fresh, turmeric shot will set you straight, the avocado toast was divine. Then the bakery- there is an endless array of baked goods- cookies and cakes and croissants. . . You could make a whole trip out of working your way through the treats and sweets. All the while your food is served by a model crew (literally, they are all models. Or look like models. Models that are sweet and smile- the best kind.)
  • Product C for lunch. I suggest hitting up the surf in the am then sliding into Product C for margaritas and ceviche. Their raw bar is insane and the tacos are fresh and delicious. And- another comment on the staff- just because everyone is so incredibly gorgeous! They are all so happy and just glow- their eyes radiate joy! You will find yourself just hanging out and taking it all in.
  • Koji. One place you will want to make sure you have a reservation. Again- I dined there with a girlfriend and another night with my husband- both dinners were magical. The sushi was dreamy, the wine was delicious and dessert was divine. This restaurant is a Santa Teresa staple.
  • Katana. Sexy sexy sexy. Literally my girlfriend and I were pulling into town around 8p, starving, and we drive by – took a glance- then made a quick u-turn to park. We snagged two seats at the bar and ate with abandon. The sushi and pad thai were both so satisfying and, again, the people were just sexy!
  • Brasas Del Mar at Casa Chameleon (adults only.) The pancakes are adults only pancakes. I am not a pancake person- I ate these daily when I stayed there. I took photos of them. Covered in toasted coconut and strawberries and some sort of sauce I would normally never touch but could not get enough of.
  • Soda Tipica Las Almeras. There are Sodas everywhere- it means local food. This one though- WOW! Junior took us there on our quad tour. Have him take you.
  • Hotel Nantipa– dinner on the beach. Delicious and serene.

What to Do

Quad tour with Junior. Find him on Instagram @OlasMalPais. He is local, knows his way around the jungle, knows where to eat . . . He pretty much knows it all. And you are supporting LOCALS!

  • Canopy tour with Canopy Mal Pais. These guys are so fun and the tour is enjoyed by all ages!
  • SURF! Playa Hermosa is a touch north of the main part of town and boasts the best surf. Ask your accommodations for the preferred surf shop close to them.
  • Eat, drink and relax.
  • Fishing, SUP and snorkeling are also options.

inside scoop

The surf break on the main beach has some rocky spots- so be careful.

  • In the same shopping mall as Product C was my favorite shop- A07CommonGoods. Everything is gorgeous and dreamy. It’s deserves its own Pinterest board.

skip it


What to Pack

Baiana Beachwear makes the perfect bathing suits for this trip. Simple cuts, stunning colors and fabric that works for play, surf and lounging. Plus they are Eco-Friendly- which pairs the most perfect with Costa Rica. Wear with gold jewelry on your neck, wrists, fingers and toes and you will fit right in.



  • Reef Sandles. They now have a platform sandle! Wear to hike the waterfalls or to head to the beach.
  • Ancient Greek Sandals if you want to be fancy, or simply a pair of Tkees. Your shoes WILL GET DIRTY- there are NO PAVED ROADS.
  • Flowy dresses. Think 9Seed, Tiare Hawaii, Free People or even Roberta Roller Rabbit. Just don’t spend a fortune on your clothes and be prepared for them to get dusty and dirty.


Dubbed “The New Tulum” but Costa Rica SO MUCH BETTER then Mexico and Santa Teresa is HERE TO STAY

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