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Is this gorgeous beach destination the next Tulum?


learn about horseback riding in santa teresa Pin It
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn
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Santa Teresa might not be on your radar yet, but it should be. The beach town at the bottom of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula has been called the next Tulum, but simply comparing it to another beautiful place isn’t fair. It’s a surf mecca known for epic breaks, but beyond that, it’s in a Blue Zone—one of five places in the world where residents are proven to live longer, healthier, happier lives (others include Okinawa, Japan, and Ikaria, Greece).

“This is the land of surf and yoga,” says Nancy Goodfellow, co-owner of Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat. She was first drawn to the town’s mix of vast white-sand beaches and lush green jungle. “There is definitely a special energy here that feels almost magical and draws interesting, creative people from all over the world.”

Living in tune with nature was also what attracted restaurateur/artist Margriet Zwart. “It’s a great place to connect with all the elements of wild, primal living,” the native Canadian says. And while it’s still natural and untamed—don’t go unless you’re comfortable seeing lizards, frogs, crabs, and bugs on a regular basis—it’s become a globally known destination for yoga and other wellness modalities, too.

The energy here is like an amplifier and allows a healthy spirit to thrive.

“I think the energy here is like an amplifier and allows a healthy spirit to thrive,” says Zwart, a surfer who also adventures up rivers, hikes, and hunts for waterfalls in the green season. “The ocean, the hills, and the locally grown fruits are a perfect medley of things that create balanced bodies and minds.” Her community is filled with healers whose modalities include aura and energy work, massage, and crystals. “It’s a great place to heal and feel,” she says.

Nearby Montezuma, just an ATV ride away, is home to spectacular falls. If you cozy up with locals, they may just share their favorite insider sunset spots, breaks, or full-moon meditation tips. “There’s a big spiritual community here,” says Goodfellow, “and people are friendly and open.” Healthy, organic food is standard, and vegan or vegetarian eats are prolific. But the joy of Santa Teresa is in the discovery. “I find all sorts of secret spots,” says Zwart, “but that’s the magic of hunting, and I’m sure there are many spots I’ve yet to discover.”

Stoke your wanderlust with this guide to the healthiest spots in Santa Teresa—and start planning your trip!

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Yoga in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn

Sweat and surf

When the surf is world-class, you have no excuse not to try—pro or newbie. The town is teeming with instructors happy to teach a beginner lesson, or you can rent a foam board for just $10 a day at Playa Hermosa shops and try your luck in the white wash. More experienced surfers have been known to have their best sessions ever at La Lora—a rippable beach break with occasional barrels—or at the point break of Cabuya. Even if you don’t ride a warm, crystalline wave, it’s good for the soul to start the day as a viewer on the sand.

On dry land, get your flow on at Pranamar. Daily yoga classes happen all over Santa Teresa, but everyone knows that Pranamar’s massive shala—framed by emerald jungle on one side and the property’s two-tier pool on the other—can’t be topped as the destination for incredibly sweaty classes (we’re talking 90 percent humidity!) that border on transcendent. Post-class, grab a cold coconut at Luc’s just steps away, head to the beach for a refreshing dip in the sea, or saunter to the sandy Gaia Wellness spa for craniosacral therapy, a type of bodywork that uses massage to release tension in the soft tissue of the skull, spine, and sacrum, that will leave you totally blissed out.

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Zwart cafe in Costa Rica
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn

Feast on superfoods

Zwart Art Cafe, Margriet Zwart’s Technicolor art studio-slash-cafe is guaranteed to cheer you up. Thick green superfood smoothies come in goblets worthy of royalty (and can get you through a surf sesh without a hangry mishap), and vegan surfer bowls include such good-for-you goodies as turmeric and toasted cumin brown rice, sprouted sunflower, avocado, and coconut sour cream.

For a tasty and satisfying meal, try Chop It. Falafel burgers with sweet potato fries, organic wraps, and fresh-pressed juices are the stuff dreams are made of when in this active spot, but the locally made probiotic drinks (the Santa Teresa–brewed, natural Fermented Renegade Sailor Ginger Beer and house-brewed ginger turmeric water kefir) are true must-orders. Substitutions to make anything vegan, gluten-free, or dairy free are welcomed with a smile.

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Spa Bambu in Costa Rica
Photo: Florblanca Resort

Indulge your spa dreams

Who doesn’t love a good massage? But that’s not all Florblanca Resort’s Spa Bambu offers. If you don’t mind getting a little messy, book Completely Coconut or the Costa Rican Body Scrub, which involve deep, head-to-toe scrubs using the natural, local ingredients in raw form. Plan to arrive early in order to laze about in the sheltered giant Jacuzzi surrounded by chirping, squawking jungle. Or even better, book a bespoke Pilates session with Lucia.  

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learn about horseback riding in santa teresa
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn

Ride (not-so-wild) horses at sunset

Slip on some leggings and saddle up for a thrilling horseback ride along bucolic beaches and up into the hills above. Ask around for Ollie’s Adventures and talk with proprietor Adrian, who owns the most horses of anyone locally. He’ll ensure a safe journey through gorgeous scenery and, if the need arises, will chase off any excited wild stallions that may try to hit on your crew of mares (it may actually happen!) as you gallop along the deep sand.

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Dance party at Hotel Nautilus in Costa Rica
Photo: Instagram/@hotelnautiluscr

Get your dance on

There is one discotheque in Santa Teresa (La Lora, if you really need to party), but ecstatic dances are the preferred evening activity around town. Locals and travelers alike gather biweekly on Friday nights at Nautilus Boutique Hotel’s treetop shala, which becomes host to a DJ and a lot of open minds. There are no rules except no substances and no talking, which elicits one of the sweatiest, freewheeling dance parties you’ve ever experienced. Downstairs, Olam is the place to treat yourself to a restorative superfood smoothie, a glass of organic malbec, or raw vegan fudge cake afterward.

Get more travel inspiration! These yoga travel destinations are perfect for a winter getaway—plus, don’t miss what really happens at this $15,000 fitness retreat