Pura Vida is more than just life on the beach
As an outsider, the forever tourist, I always seek ways to think outside the box. One strategy is to avoid what I like to call “tourist tunnel vision”. It is incredibly easy to follow in the footsteps of other tourists, falling prey to high-priced activities and tours, for usually a lower quality (but high quantity!) adventure. Avoiding tourist-geared traps is one hurdle. The next hurdle resides within you.
Your ability to explore the borders of your comfort zone while abroad is paramount to the experiences you will write home about. Visit one hundred beaches a year and you will feel no personal connection to the destination, because you’ve done nothing to create it. Taking a break from “life” and relaxing on the beach is cool, but that is not where you experience Pura Vida. Break out of your shell, leave the book behind, and experience the abundance of life in this developing coastal town.
Look past the ocean, past the sand and the salt
When you reach your destination on the Nicoya Peninsula you will notice the dust. Believe it or not, the road was paved once (probably a few times), but the rainy season does a number on these small beach towns, where all the construction is done by tico hand, not machinery. Throw a bandana over your nose, take a walk down the road.
Explore what peaks your curiosity
Beyond the dust are surf shops, yoga studios, boutiques with handmade goods, nomadic artisans walking the beach. Aside from your typical Costa Rican fare, there is a multitude of international eateries, from falaffel to french fries and chimichurri to croissants. Santa Teresa has an increasing global population; Ticos, Norwegians, Germans, Argentinians, and Americans all create a mini melting pot of cultures. The surf attracts many, the community pulls them in, but the electric atmosphere is what makes international travelers stay for good.
Leave the Lonely Planet at home
Research BEFORE you leave. Don’t cloud your vision with a day-to-day itinerary mapped out years ago by travel writers. Restaurants close, move, open, change hands in the blink of an eye. Shops, bodegas, sodas, and bakeries all have an evolving personality in this developing surf town. I see so many people highlighting and scribbling in the margins of their travel guides on buses, taxis, ferries, and planes. The energy needed to simply talk to a local is nominal compared the hours of reading your latest travel guides. Get your nose out of the book, look up, look around. You may just miss that bush fire..
Experience the people, not just the place
Rise with the sun and you will hear the howler monkeys and roosters calling their hens. At any hour of the day you will see many people walking down to the beach, barefoot, surfboard in hand. It is not uncommon to see surf racks welded on motorbikes and ATVs, speeding by on the way to the break.
There is an energy in the air, once it grabs hold, you can feel it everywhere. When the sun begins to near the horizon, ticos and internationals alike, flock to the beach. Winding down the day is as easy as sitting with your neighbors and watching the sun disappear. Toddlers, teenagers, families and friends come down to see the day end. Local artisans walk the beach with their jewelry, entrepreneurs offer fresh sliced pineapple or mango, runners take to the tidal flats. The sun arrives and departs Santa Teresa ceremoniously. I could get used to that.
Book a ticket, hop on the bus, get on the ferry..
whatever it takes to lose yourself in the rhythm of Santa Teresa.