Where to stay in Santa Teresa Costa Rica – Best 4 AREAS and hotels

If you’re wondering where to stay in Santa Teresa, the heart of this coastal village is an excellent starting point, especially if you are on your first visit here.

The beach is just fabulous, with a renowned surf break, which works so well for intermediate and seasoned surfers. Then you can experience a multitude of restaurants, bars, food courts, and some sort of nightlife too.

But Santa Teresa is more than just its bustling center. There are a few other areas that might be more suitable if you’re on a family holiday, seeking tranquillity, or if you’re mindful of your budget.

In this guide, I have documented the 4 best places to stay in Santa Teresa and close by, with all the advantages and drawbacks of each area. I have also organized a map and an easy table to quickly compare each destination and select what suits better to you.

Where to stay in Santa Teresa - Costa Rica - map
Where to stay in Santa Teresa – Costa Rica – map

Where to stay in Santa Teresa – Key Points

Here is the quick comparative table. Click on the area name to jump to the full description including all the pros, cons, and a few suggested hotels and accommodations.

On a mobile, swipe left or right to see all the columns.

Area/TownIdeal forProsConsAccessibilityRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeNature of the area
Santa TeresaFirst-time visitorsFamous surf spot, vibrant nightlife, restaurantsCan be noisy & dustyShort walk to most placesExcellentGoodGoodCoastal paradise with wild nature
Playa CarmenFamilies & BudgetQuieter, cheaper accommodations, good for familiesDusty, muddy main roadClose to everythingGoodExcellentLowSimilar to Santa Teresa, but quieter
Playa HermosaNature and seclusionQuiet, secluded, great for beginner surfersIt can be hard to accessATV or 4×4 may be neededLimitedGoodNoneWild nature, outstanding beach
MontezumaAuthentic experienceCharming village, wild beach, waterfallsFar from Santa Teresa4×4 or ATV suggestedGoodGoodLowWild beach, charming village vibe
Where to stay in Santa Teresa – The 4 best areas

If you are in a hurry, here are my 3 suggested places to stay in Santa Teresa and around.

Driving in Costa Rica is honestly not as complicated, however, you do not need a car if you plan to visit uniquely Santa Teresa and nearby. Everything is just a short walk away, and you can always rent an ATV for some special excursions, like to the Montezuma Waterfalls.

But here’s the real deal: renting a car in Costa Rica was the best decision I made. I discovered hidden beaches, cool waterfalls, and wild rainforests, without any organized trip, all by myself with my partner and the kid. Easy and epic.

I rented my car through DiscoverCars, and they hooked me up with the best price. Plus, for just $7 a day, I got full insurance (watch out of the types of insurance in Costa Rica, avoid these scams).

Santa Teresa Beach & Town – Best place to stay for first-time visitors

Let’s start talking about Santa Teresa from the beach, the highlight of this destination. It’s a very long one, with plenty of wild nature including a never-ending lineup of palm trees that make this part of the coast a real paradise on earth.

Santa Teresa is one of the most famous places in Costa Risa for beginner surfers, however, the waves can be quite challenging, and more suitable for intermediate and expert levels. If the waves get too big here, drive north 3km to Hermosa Beach (more later) where you will have an easier environment.

A narrow forest buffer separates the beach from the main road where the town develops and where you will find plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and some form of nightlife too.

Most of the shops are surfing-related, from boards to lessons, from clothes to gear. From the main road, you have side streets where you will find most of the hotels and B&B

There are different access to the beach, where most of the people leave their bikes or ATVS, however, the one next to Ani’s (btw, best salad bowls in town) is my favorite one. That’s where you can easily rent a surfboard and where you will find the best part of the beach without rocks.

My biggest tip here is to book your accommodation far from the main road, 200-300m (250 yards) will be enough to have a serene and quiet stay.

Unfortunately, the main road is noisy during the day, with all those ATVs using modified exhausts, and possibly the night too if you are close to bars opening till late. Moreover, the road is paved but it is still quite dusty, so not really the best experience in Santa Teresa.

Most of the accommodations are on side streets that may be in all sorts of conditions. Typically the council does not pay for their upkeep and the property owners maintain them in a sort of consortium/body corporate. You may be lucky or find what I would refer to as riverbeds.

For this reason, if you are driving around Costa Rica with a 2WD, make sure to contact your host to verify if you can actually access the accommodation with your car. Some of these streets can be in really poor condition and very steep, accessible uniquely by ATV.

I have listed below 3 great accommodations that tick all of the boxes (quiet, accessible, beautiful)

Here are 3 of the best accommodations in Santa Teresa:

Hotel Nantipa ($$$$): Idyllic beachfront escape with excellent service. Comfy rooms, stunning pool, and serene surroundings. A memorable Tico experience

Canaima Chill House ($$-$$$): Serene hillside retreat with spacious suites, pool, and hot tub. Charming eco-friendly haven near Santa Teresa Beach.

Fuego Lodge ($$$): Stunning oasis near the beach with comfy rooms, friendly staff, and an inviting pool. Perfect tropical getaway.

Santa Teresa Beach at sunset time
Santa Teresa Beach at sunset time

Playa Carmen – Where to stay in Santa Teresa on a budget

The first part of Santa Teresa Beach is actually called Carmen Beach and this is where the first travelers arrived.

On my last trip, I met a German guy who visited and invested in this part of Costa Rica 30 years ago, when there was just one restaurant serving local food to the bunch of surfers who were able to venture through the tough roads of those years.

Things have changed massively, like everywhere else, and now in Carmen Beach, you can actually find the biggest supermarket in the area (nothing huge but a good size), besides bars, restaurants, and the unmissable ATV and surfing shops. However, there is basically no nightlife in the area.

Carmen Beach is very similar to Santa Teresa, except for one important thing, the main road. This is still unsealed, mostly dusty, and often muddy because of the rain or because the locals spray water to keep the dust down.

Most of the time the side streets are actually in better condition, which is great because that’s where you will find most of the accommodations which tend to be cheaper than in Santa Teresa, perfect if you are traveling on a budget.

A few hostels are also in Carmen Beach, which works again great if you are looking for a cheaper place to stay in Santa Teresa.

If you are wondering where to stay in Santa Teresa with family, then Playa Carmen may be also your place. It’s much quieter and you will find bigger properties at a better price too.

Once again, I have listed below two safe accommodations that are gentle on the budget and they are perfect for a quiet night’s sleep.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Playa Carmen:

Santeria Lodge ($): Cozy rooms, friendly staff, and a convenient location. The pool is fantastic and the place very clean

Casa Piscina ($$): Fantastic private villa with pool, central location, and helpful host. Clean, comfortable, and great for families. Awesome value for money

Unpaved main road of Playa Carmen
The unpaved main road of Playa Carmen

Playa Hermosa – Best area to stay in Santa Teresa for nature and seclusion

Playa Hermosa (which translates to Beautiful Beach) is about a 2-3k north of Santa Teresa, accessible mostly through the same paved road that runs along the coast.

The village itself is very tiny, just a bunch of restaurants and bars. There’s not much going on, in fact, this is the best place to stay in Santa Teresa for a quiet and almost secluded vacation.

The beach is almost empty during the day and it gets populated by a bunch of people at sunset, the best time to be there, possibly around a big fire.

Playa Hermosa has the best waves in the area for beginner surfers, which sometimes come here from Santa Teresa with the surfing schools. Keep in mind that high tide is the best time to be here.

Most of the houses develop on the hillside of Playa Hermosa, which can be really hard to access, usually only by ATV and 4×4. There are however a few options closer to the beach but they are usually booked out well in advance.

For any kind of supply, you will have to head back to Santa Teresa and Carmen Beach.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations for families in Playa Hermosa:

Sky House – Adults only ($$$$): Stunning ocean views, impeccable cleanliness, attentive staff, and tranquil atmosphere.

Lua Villas ($$$): Idyllic beachfront retreat with beautiful villas, lush surroundings, and a peaceful ambiance.

Playa Hermosa is going to be you destination if you love wild nature, with an outstanding beach where you will see a few people just towards the end of the day, maybe all around a beach fire, so charming.
Playa Hermosa is going to be your destination if you love wild nature, with an outstanding beach where you will see a few people just towards the end of the day, maybe all around a beach fire, so charming.

Montezuma – Where to stay in Santa Teresa as it used to be

I love Santa Teresa and Play Carmen, however, I miss there the original Costa Rican vibe. Both places are sort of becoming known and new trendy bars and restaurants are coming up along the coast.

If this bothers you, then you should check out Montezuma which I like to think it as the Santa Teresa as it used to be. It’s a small charming village that you should visit even if you decide to not stay there.

There is a long wild beach which works great for some challenging surfing, however, swimming there is a bit risky because of the strong Ocean currents. For that, you should head next to the village center where you will find a much quieter beach.

The village itself is no longer than 200 meters but quite packed with colorful cafes, bars, restaurants, and the unmissable surfing shops. Of course, do not expect any form of nightlife.

Exploring Montezuma with an ATV - you would need a 4x4 otherwise
Exploring Montezuma with an ATV – you would need a 4×4 otherwise

Once in Montezuma, you should visit the 7-level waterfalls with the highest jump being 25 meters (80 feet) high. There is also a spectacular walk that follows the river accessible from the village or from a higher point through private property for around $3.

Overall, Montezuma is one of the best places to stay in Santa Teresa if you are looking for a more genuine experience, however, you will be far from Santa Teresa itself (30-40 minutes) and you would need to rent a 4×4 or hire an ATV to access it. A 2WD would struggle.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Montezuma:

Luminosa Hostel ($): Idyllic beachfront location, helpful staff, and vibrant communal atmosphere. A serene coastal escape at a bargain price

Hotel El Jardin ($$): Perfect location, friendly staff, clean rooms, and lovely pool area.”

Hiking up the lovely Montezuma Waterfalls, an unmissable experience close to Santa Teresa and next to the village of Montezuma
Hiking up the lovely Montezuma Waterfalls, an unmissable experience close to Santa Teresa and next to the village of Montezuma

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Conclusion

Overall, I would suggest staying in Santa Teresa because of the beautiful beach and the facilities that you can find around, including the wide choice of bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Playa Carmen may work better for families, it is much quieter although stay away from the dusty main road.

Playa Hermosa is the place to be for total seclusion, meanwhile, Montezuma has probably the best vibe of all, although it is far from Santa Teresa itself.

Here below I have organized a few FAQs, however, do not hesitate to leave a comment if you need more information not included in this guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Santa Teresa a good place to stay?

Yes, Santa Teresa is renowned for its beautiful beaches, surfing, and relaxed atmosphere, making it a great stay.

Is Santa Teresa Costa Rica worth it?

Absolutely, with its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and unique local culture, Santa Teresa is one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica.

How many days do you need in Santa Teresa?

Around 3-5 days is ideal to explore the beaches, enjoy water sports, and soak in the local vibe.

What is the difference between North and South Santa Teresa?

North Santa Teresa is known for surfing and lively scenes, while the South (Playa Carmen) offers quieter beaches and relaxation.

Should I go to Santa Teresa or Tamarindo?

Santa Teresa VS Tamarindo is getting a popular question! Santa Teresa offers a laid-back surf vibe, while Tamarindo has more amenities and nightlife. Both have unique appeals.

Is Santa Teresa walkable?

Yes, the main areas of Santa Teresa are walkable, but renting a bike or ATV can enhance exploration.

Can you swim in Santa Teresa?

Yes, the beaches in Santa Teresa are suitable for swimming, but caution is advised due to strong currents.

What airport do I fly into for Santa Teresa Costa Rica?

The nearest airport is Tambor Airport, but most international travelers fly into San José and then take a domestic flight or ferry.

I had enough of beaches. Can you suggest an area of costa rica for hiking

Monteverde is an amazing place to experience the unique cloud forests. Arenal and La Fortuna are known for volcanic landscapes and hot springs, with La Fortuna serving as the main town for exploring Arenal.

Playa Langosta is famous for the natural pools in low tide
Playa Langosta is famous for the natural pools in low tide

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