Pura Vida! Pura Vida! Pura Vida!
I have heard these two words several times a day during my stay here in Costa Rica. Pura Vida is directly translated "pure life" and is used in conversation and as a greeting everywhere. Whether I am buying a bottle of water, walking past someone or out in the surf lineup, these words are spoken with dignity, pride and a clever smile.
It makes sense to me now. These words actually are everything that Costa Rica is and how Ticos (locals) live their life. They are friendly, kind and laidback people and seem to be living a healthy lifestyle. Their food is organic, fresh and fabolous. No wonder people are happy in this country.
As I get on the bus to my next destination, the driver welcomes me with the magic words: "pura vida".
A four and a half hour bus ride takes me from Tamarindo to a small surf town on the south west corner of Peninsula de Nicoya. The dusty, dirty, rugged beachtown Santa Teresa is a favorite spot among surfers and yoga enthusiasts. Being both, I am sure this place is everything I have been dreaming about and more. It is more a long strip of dirt road with surrounding cafes, hotels and restaurants, than a city center. On the left side of the road you have jungle. On the other side of the jungle you will find miles and miles of pristine beach.
In Santa Teresa you will find more ATV's than cars and more surfers and "dirty" backpackers than package tourists. The beach is crowded with surfers and dogs, and the lack of restaurants, umbrellas and sunbeds makes this area feel less touristy and less explored than Tamarindo.
The wildlife is more visible and diverse here than in Tamarindo. I see and hear both white faced capuchins and howler monkeys everywhere. There are species of birds that I did not see further north and the iguanas are bigger and more colourful.
I am realizing that good food is the standard in this country, not the exception.
I start my days with a huge and healthy breakfast at the Zwart cafe. A cool, artsy, all white and dusty vegeterian/vegan/healthy cafe. This place has a variety of tasty smoothies and coffees. It is a bit pricy, but well worth it.
A big lunch after a long day of surfing is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. A short walk from Zwart cafe you will find a great burger joint called Rancho burger. This place makes amazing vegeterian, meat, shrimp and tuna steak burgers; just what you need after a long day in the water. The staff is super friendly and it is not too expensive.
Sushi! Sushi! Sushi! I would recommend to visit Santa Teresa for several reasons, one being the fresh fish and the excellent sushi. Emo sushi located in "town" serve a great lunch box for about ten dollars. The other sushi place is a bit harder to find. For the locals or anyone carrying a Lonely Planet book it is a well known spot. Kooji sushi is run by a Japanese surfer who makes sushi so good that he can have his restaurant in the middle of nowhere and still be fully booked every night. Dont miss this one!
Santa Teresa is not just for surfers. It is a great place to stay if you want a beach that feels untouched and not too touristy.
Get up early and take advantage of the wide and long beach. Bring your running shoes or yoga mat and exercise with a view.
Score cheap deals on accommodation and splurge on the amazing food.
Rent a surfboard and learn how to surf.
Watch the amazing sunsets from the beach.