Off the Beaten Track: Santa Teresa and Montezuma

It’s been a few months (!!) since my last post so apologies to the avid readers out there. 😉 We were back in the states for a couple weeks for my brother and new sister-in-law’s gorgeous wedding and also spent time visiting dear family and friends in the Northeast.

Soon after we returned, the kids had their ‘semester break’ (the school year here goes from early February to late November with December and January as summer holiday) so we took advantage of that and headed to a couple of small beach towns on the Nicoya Peninsula to do some exploring and enjoy lots of fun in the water.

Getting there

Our first stop was the small town of Santa Teresa on the very southwest corner of the peninsula and just getting there was an adventure in itself. We drove to the Puntarenas ferry about an hour from Atenas and took the ferry over to the peninsula before continuing on. The hour long ferry ride was quite lovely – there was a little cafeteria with fresh popcorn and cold beer AND even air conditioning!

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The ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera

We then disembarked and our narrow paved road turned to dirt with major potholes and dust for the last 30 minutes or so to Santa Teresa, but we arrived. It’s a good thing we did not stop anywhere after the ferry until we arrived as our car promptly died as though it couldn’t take anymore…it wouldn’t start later that night when we were thinking of heading out for dinner. Actually, we knew there was an issue weeks prior that we figured we get checked out after our trip. Oops! Thankfully, our AirBnB host lived at the property and right away called her personal mechanic who came to the house, diagnosed the problem (the starter was caput), got the car started and took it to his shop to get fixed. They then delivered back to us two days later just in time for us to get ready for the next leg of our adventure. Talk about service! In the meantime, ‘Big Red’ got us around the area just fine. Actually, this vehicle was made for these unpaved and potholed roads so it was a dream…as long as we stayed under the speed limit.

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Cruising in style with Big Red

Santa Teresa

As for Santa Teresa, the town is spread out along the coast along a string of beaches and beyond that it’s pretty much jungle. The beaches are gorgeous – raw natural beauty! Not the best for swimming as lots of rip currents and waves, but great for surfing and boogie-ing. Playa Hermosa is the calmest and there were lots of first-time surf lessons happening and boogie boarders enjoying the waves.

 

 

We also enjoyed walking to Playa Carmen from our casita and hanging out at the Banana Beach restaurant for amazing food, cold drinks and beautiful sunsets. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Sidenote: the restaurants in Santa Teresa are also of superb quality with a strong focus on fresh locally sourced ingredients. The Bakery served amazing gourmet lunch fare:

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Avocado Toast at ‘The Bakery’ in Santa Teresa…YUM!

Montezuma

We also took a day trip to Montezuma with Big Red which was a whole other adventure. It’s probably less than 20km away from Santa Teresa, but on very rough dirt roads which included fording three rivers. Somehow Alice fell asleep along the way; meanwhile, I was gripping the door handles. It was worth the journey as Montezuma was a pretty cool boho little town famous for a few beaches great for surfing and a colorful pueblito. We had some snacks, played in the town playground and hung out at the beach for awhile before our nail biting (or nap time in Alice’s case) ride home.

We would have liked to stay longer and do some hiking in Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve, but it wasn’t meant to be this time around.

Stay tuned for the second leg of our trip to Nosara!

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The Hidden Gems of San José

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San José, Costa Rica doesn’t have many accolades despite there being so much to see and do all around the country so it has never been high on the priority list, but let me tell you, there are a few treasures to be discovered! Here are my top 5 things to do in San José.

1. Mercado Central (Central Market)

As with many Latin American cities, San José’s central market is easy to get lost in. It’s a huge labyrinth filled with stalls of anything and everything you might ever want or need, from fruits and veggies to fresh seafood to spices, home goods, tools, dried flowers and everything in between. It’s even a decent place to find souvenirs! I love that many people here still visit the central market to buy their goods rather than heading to one of the larger grocery or department stores. Spend some time wandering and get a feel for the ‘old world’. I’m sure you’ll come out with a treasure or two.

2. Feria Verde in Aranjuez (Organic Farmer’s Market)

If you’re ever in San José on a Saturday morning, be sure to check out the colorful Feria Verde at the Polideportivo Aranjuez just north of downtown. It’s a really fun gourmet/hippy/hipster market where you can buy organic produce, but also many specialty items such as hard to find cheeses and spices, but also clothing, jewelry, soaps, yoga mats, and lots more. There’s even a food booth section with all kinds of special goodies including pastries and fancy coffees and juices. It’s definitely worth an hour of two of fun!

3. Teatro Nacional (National Theater)

Located in the heart of the city next to the expansive Plaza de Cultura, Costa Rica’s Teatro Nacional opened in 1897 and is one of the country’s finest architectural buildings with beautiful furnishings inside. It offers regular high quality performances including operas, symphonies, concerts and plays as well as hourly guided tours for visitors and a lovely gourmet café open to the public. We haven’t yet made it to a performance, but it’s definitely worth a visit at least.

4. Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum)

Okay, I realize this may not be for everyone, but if you have little ones , the Museo de los Niños in San José is definitely a must-see. We’ve been there twice so far and we STILL haven’t explored everything yet. There are tons of cool interactive exhibits from dinosaurs to space exploration to optical illusions to whole areas dedicated to the history, culture and wildlife of Costa Rica such as coffee production, the rise of banana plantations and how they function, historic train cars from the national train system, etc. There’s even a double decker bus, an old fire engine, an airplane and a helicopter that the kids are able to explore! We highly recommend a visit..or two…or three!

5. Barrio Amón

Barrio Amón is a lovely historic neighborhood in San José (check out Avenidas 9 and 11 just west of the zoo and botanical garden) that is going through a sort of revival. The beautiful historic mansions lining the streets were originally built by wealthy coffee growers back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of them have been beautifully restored into hotels or restaurants, and others are in total disrepair or covered with vines which gives the neighborhood an authentic…or maybe nostalgic…feel.

With every visit we make to the capital, we discover something new, so I’m sure there are other hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered. It just takes a little digging!