The search for the perfect mother-daughter trip begins when my daughter is about two months shy of graduating with her PhD in cognitive psychology from University of Virginia. We had always planned to visit Iceland but now she wants to drink sangria in the tropics. I want a direct flight, great AirBnb and ocean view. My daughter wants a place to chill and NOT be writing her thesis. It is love at first sight when I read about Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. After all, who doesn’t want to stay in a place named after her? (Yes my name is Teresa but I am no saint!)
This stretch of Costa Rica’s beaches—located on the Pacific Coast—ranks among the world’s top beaches. Surfers come down here and never return. The beach towns are filled with American hippies who will never leave. And the sea and sand are divine.
What I didn’t understand was how long it would take me to get from point A to point B on a combination of airplanes, shuttle buses and a ferry. We spend about eight hours to travel to Santa Teresa … and this is after a four-hour direct flight from Baltimore. Oh and there is that little problem with the ruts in the dusty roads leading to Santa Teresa.
But I didn’t know any of this when I booked our gorgeous Sunset Reef Ocean View suite (AorBnb) on the top of a mountain in Santa Teresa. The cost was $828 for 7 nights. Our unit offers multiple hammocks to watch the sunrise and sunset over the ocean. Lush tropical flowers and bushes bloom in the gardens below our deck.
So I booked it. If you can put up with the fact that it is a long drive across the country to get to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast or if you are willing to travel in a tiny plane, this is a great deal.
The direct bus from the capital in San Jose where the international airport is located leaves at 6 am and 3 pm. It takes 6 hours including the ferry crossing. Suffice it to say it is a pain to get to the Peninsula de Nicoya, Costa Rica but it feels like heaven when you survey Playa Santa Teresa (or nearby Playa Carmen) for the first time. Imagine sea stretching for miles. Feel the sugary soft sand slip through your toes. Marvel at the surfers who seem to glide on top of the huge waves.
There is a reason why Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is “pura vida,” meaning pure life. I find Santa Teresa to be pure joy. Since the town has not been overly commercialized with highrise hotels and runaway development, there is a small town vibe. Even in high season in January (but after the Christmas-New Year tourism crush), I mostly have the beach to myself to swim, read or take long walks along the coastline. I enjoy wading in the tidal pools and climbing over the huge rocks. I also love how the beach features a thick forest of palm trees where I can rest when I overheat.
The list is endless for what to do. Every day I see tourists riding horseback on the beach. But the highlight for me is meeting two horses who ran (or maybe just cantered away) from their trainer and wander on the beach.
Sitting drinking a sangria with Claire at a beachside bar, I bolt out of my hammock to greet them. They nod their head when I ask whether I can stroke their long tapered neck. Both horses are chestnut colored. They are in no hurry nor am I. It is bliss petting them.
I also enjoy eating lunch daily at Soda Tiquicia which is located on the main drag. This is where the native Costa Ricans (known as Ticos) eat in an open air dining cafe at picnic tables or the bar. There are billowing cotton curtains to block the noon sun. (It also does a brisk carryout business.) The kitchen produces the best “tipico” plate of spicy black beans, rice, salad and fried fish (or you could chose meat). And it costs about $6.
Claire and I make fast friends with the cat who lives on-site with the caretaker at our AirBnb. Her name is Teresa. She is a tiny tabby with striped fur and penetrating green eyes. All it takes is the purchase of a can of tuna fish from the local grocery store to win her favor. Soon she is spending every night in our suite.
One splurge is contacting a local woman (an ex-pat from Vancouver, BC) for a 50-minute massage on our deck. So while I listen to the waves crash on the beach below (and her iPhone plays classical music), she works out every kink in my neck, back and legs from our long journey. Heaven!
I log a lot of steps (about 8 miles a day) because I have the long haul down the mountain to get to the beach. Once there, all I want to do was walk for miles and lose myself in contemplation. Since my daughter likes to sleep in, I usually fix my coffee in the drip Costa Rica coffee maker, enjoy a homemade cafe latte on the deck and then take a LONG morning walk while it’s still cool.
I regret to say that I am quite lazy about leaving Santa Teresa proper. I want to try the jet line adventure but I can’t get my act together early enough to book the tour. We also have big plans to attend a concert at a local bar on Friday night bar but a torrential downpour soaks us and we chose to return back home and put on dry clothes. Heavy rains are a daily occurrence in July.
I also didn’t get to the 3,000-acre Cabo Blanco nature reserve, which is a six-mile walk (to the south) from my AirBnb. And oh there is so much more to do in Santa Teresa if you choose. A lot of sun-tanned yogis stay in dorms on the beach and do Sun Salutations from their porch at sunrise. Another guest at our AirBnb enrolls in a Spanish immersion class and attends school during the day and vacations at night. She is an elementary school teacher from California and she wants to be able to talk to her students’ parents (many who speak only limited English.)
And finally you can book an all-day fishing excursion (or snorkeling adventure) in the neighboring community of Mal Pais and bring home enough fish to organize a dinner party for five. Which is what our cool neighbors on the other side of our villa did—invite us to share their grilled fish and homemade ceviche. Of course we bring a bottle of crisp white wine. It is the perfect way to end our week in Santa Teresa.
At 3:30 am, we begin the long final trek down the mountain … dragging our rolling suitcases. We have a sad (and yes tearful) goodbye to our suite cat, Teresa. Our pickup van waits on the main road, its headlights guiding us in the dark. Within hours, we are booking the ferry which will take us back toward San Jose.
Sitting on lounge chairs, we watch the black night dissolve into a swirl of pink, rose, gold and orange strokes painted across the morning sky. Pura Vida!
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