Anyone who’s followed my blog knows that we haven’t been great fans of Costa Rica. Santa Teresa ended up being the one place in Costa Rica that we loved. And that’s because of an incredible yoga retreat.
First of all, Santa Teresa itself isn’t much of anything. It’s a dirty little town built up along a horrible dirt road. Because of the dryness of this area, a wave of dust bellows up whenever a car goes by, covering the plants and stores on both sides of the road with a layer of dust. Motorcyclists (a lot of people on motorcycles or ATVs here) wear bandanas to cover their faces. It amazed us that they couldn’t tar a road cutting right through town, yet, a couple of kilometers away in the middle of nowhere, the road is tarred all the way through to the airport (about 45 min away). Typical Costa Rica. Walking in Santa Teresa, you have to contend with both the dust plus the lack of sidewalks. There are no lights on the main road and nothing to stop you from falling into the deep gutters on both sides of the road. Access to the beach is along little dirt paths from the main road. I can’t understand how poor countries like Cuba or the Dominican Republic have better infrastructure than Costa Rica, you can’t walk anywhere here. Santa Teresa is in fact just another dirty Costa Rican beach town. [I’ll summarize our feelings on CR at the bottom of this post].
Still we loved Santa Teresa. For one, the nature is beautiful. We flew in from La Fortuna (via San Jose) and saw the rolling hills and rocky shoreline and thought that this area had the most spectacular geography that we had seen to date in Costa Rica. Sunsets were spectacular and different in some way every night. The weather was hot and dry, unlike the wet and humid that we had encountered in La Fortuna. But the main reason we loved Santa Teresa was because of the hotel/yoga center we stayed at.
Below: view from the Horizon Ocean View Hotel and Yoga Center
Above: The iguana that hung out on our roof.
Above: Where we did yoga. Below: sunset views
We stayed at the Horizon Ocean View Hotel and Yoga Center located on a small hill looking down over Santa Teresa and the beach.
It was absolutely fantastic and this is the first place I’ve ever given a perfect score. Fantastic rooms, incredible food, lots of very nice people, an international crowd. The atmosphere of the place seems to bring out the best in everyone. I was afraid of the yoga (I had never taken a class) but it was great. The 9 am classes (which last 1 1/2 hours) gave structure to our day. After that we were free to do all types of activities including tours which the hotel arranged at very affordable prices. After being royally screwed with prices everywhere else in Costa Rica, it was nice to see prices that made sense. At the end of the day we would sit on our private balcony enjoying the sunset. It really was paradise and we loved the place*. It’s an incredible yoga retreat.
* Note: I get suspicious when I see other bloggers saying they love a hotel – note that I didn’t get compensation of any kind for the above comments. Our reviews are 100% from the heart and reflect our experiences.
Above: This dog came out of nowhere to say hi. He took a liking to Lissette and just sat there on her feet for 10 minutes. Little things like that sometimes really make your day.
Above: That’s me on our balcony.
Above: flying back to San Jose for our flight home. Santa Teresa was our last stop on this trip and we actually left Costa Rica on a sad note.
Final thoughts on Costa Rica: We wouldn’t ever come back. Why?
1) Overtouristed (most tourists are American and Canadian) & prices totally out of whack with the local economy. As I mentioned in a previous posting (which ended up as more of a rant), I resent being charged Switzerland-type pricing in a developing country.
2) We both felt that this country was run by foreigners and not by Costa Ricans. Hotels and restaurants were almost all foreign owned (save for a few local mom-and-pop restaurants) and I found it amazing how much of the staff were also foreigners. I travel because I like the interaction with locals – I don’t want or need to be served at the neighborhood cafe by a Canadian or American. It left me wondering about Costa Rican employment laws.
3) We’ve been to quite a lot of Latin American countries in the last few years where we’ve met a lot of very friendly people. Costa Ricans left us indifferent. Maybe because there are too many tourists? Or is it because their economy is run by foreigners? For those who’ll accuse us of bashing the Ticos – I’m not. Unlike in Brazil (where we had a lot of very unfriendly encounters) Ticos were never unfriendly. They were just reserved and formal. We just missed the connection to locals that we’ve felt in other places.
4) Logistics – as I’ve detailed in the last few posts, transportation was always complicated and expensive. I don’t say this for many places, but you have to rent a car in Costa Rica. Not only that, do it early because (as I’ve mentioned in other posts) they go fast. The best website for car rentals is rentalcars.com.
Honestly? I would suggest neighboring Nicaragua for a more unique and affordable tourist experience. And where they don’t say “Pura Vida” ten times a day.
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