The Ecstasy, beaches and bakeries of Santa Teresa.
So, Santa Teresa finds itself as one of the coolest spots on the planet, apparently in the august company of Mykonos, Marrakech, Tulum and Bali as one of those truly hallowed places where the ‘beautiful people’ hang out and sprinkle a little of their stardust on us poor mortals. And quite frankly, who would blame them, as Santa Teresa is simply divine.
I’ve been coming here with Chaos for seventeen years, whilst she has been coming and causing mayhem in the town for a good decade more. I first started visiting when my BFF had a house in Manzanillo a few miles outside of the town, where we would gather for holidays and eat, drink, swim, drink, play chess and eat some more. One year we spent the most magical New Years Eve at their home, where we plonked a table in the sand and used thick tree truck slices as seats that we dragged like the workers of Stonehenge to their final destination. We were just steps away from the sea, where waves crashed exhaustedly at our feet, and someone had built a roaring fire that looked like the funeral pyre of Hercules, the flames dancing in their resplendent garb as they lit up the night sky. There was also a full silvery moon that cast a ghostly hue upon the jungle behind us. We drank pink Champagne and my pal used his garden wheelbarrow as a barbecue that we roasted a herd of cows upon, though there was still space for tasty baked potatoes and a dozen salads had been prepared. Around midnight a shooting star sped across the heavens. It was one of those great moments to be alive.
Admittedly not every subsequent visit has had such a mise-en-scène, but of the forty-odd visits, I cannot think of one, when I have not been all gooey about the town.
This is particularly remarkable as simply getting there, was, for a long time, a torturous trial, the type that you usually read about in the Old Testament. The early morning rush (actually, just an early morning is bad enough?) from San Jose to the ferry in Puntarenas, where you might, might not, get on that particular sailing, and if not, a wait for hours in the blazing heat, or a drive around the peninsular. The ferry was always uneventful as there were never enough dolphins interested in accompanying the boat, which may have had something to do with the reggaeton played on the ships music system. Then the road from Paquera dock to Santa Teresa, two and half hours of kidney displacement as you were thrown around in your car as you drove on the wildest roads and tracks this side of the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms. Once you arrived in Santa Teresa, the roads were even worse, a situation that meant the first Gin and Tonic of the holiday was always wasted as you either gulped or spilled it as you recovered from the trauma of the journey.
Not now. The 27 from San Jose to Puntarenas is a pleasure, the ferry trip is perfectly agreeable as the ship ambles its way across the calm waters around the Guanacaste peninsular, whilst the road from the ferry terminal to Santa Teresa has been entirely re-laid and allows you the most comfortable drive as you admire the beautiful countryside.
I even get to cook there sometimes.
Even the roads in the town -which is basically the strip- are almost High Street in the Shires quality.
But enough about the boring infrastructure and more about the cocktails, stunning views, comfy daybeds, and tasty dishes.
So, where to eat. For years we made a pilgrimage to Al Chile Viola, run by Luz and Emiliano where we had the best Italian plates in the most comfortable of surroundings. However, they have sadly closed the place, so you’ll just have to take my word for how delicious it was, though I hear they are now doing private events for those fortunate souls who have enough friends to make up a properly sized reservation?
There are some stunning places in the hills, up with the gods, such as the spot where we celebrated the fiftieth of a very dear friend. Sir David Attenborough always gets the best imagery for his programs but this place was really nature at its most Instagramable. Palm trees, golden sunsets, cocktails in the foreground and everyone in their cricket whites.
Busy day at Casa Biba
A dear friend owns Casa Biba, where you get nose bleeds due to altitude sickness (an exaggeration and shameless plot device) yet enjoy the best views for miles along the glorious coastline. He rents on Airbnb if you’re interested.
Preparing Lunch at Casa Biba.
We also like Sebastien and Myriam’s Couleur Café down by Playa Hermosa where you get excellent salads, sandwiches, coffees and juices. Rocamar is also a good address for a relaxed lunch.
Evening at Banana Beach
Then there is Banana Beach, a really super spot to hang out for the day, noisy, fun, lots of young people, enjoy great cocktails, ceviches, pizzas, hummus, falafel plates, feeling cool and momentarily young again and sunsets. They’ve just done a renovation of the restaurant and the place looks great. Do go there. The owners also have some excellent accommodations and we’ve been lucky enough to stay in their magnificent Casa Magnifique, which is really one of the most beautiful properties in the town.
Really magnificent Casa Magnifique
Casa Magnifique still feels magnificent.
Dinner with Giuseppe.
Pronto run by the chef Giuseppe is an absolute riot. Great place to eat, and Giuseppe is the best fun ever.
Existentialist Angst at Uma Restaurant
Another new opening is Uma on the beach. We’ve done consecutive lunches here, where, with the help of some excellently made G & T’s, you can obviate the misery of existence in your own palm thatched Palapa, enjoying wonderful views of the beach and sea that magically change colour as the afternoon sun accompanies yet another weary day to its bed.
Sunset view from Uma restaurant
We’ve also been visiting El Corazón, a new vegetarian restaurant owned by the super cool brothers Milo and Ambrose that is a great spot for tasty dishes and also for your conscience. Obviously for dinner there are Koji’s and Katana.
I wasn’t needed in the kitchen yet.
We always enjoy a walk along the beach, in the early mornings or late afternoon, where you can spend a couple of hours relaxing in the sheltered rock pools. The community in the town are incredibly friendly, which is something you appreciate, only when you’ve acknowledged how maddeningly stressful we’ve made much of modern living. So, the best cocktail of the town would be the concoction that they serve of sun, sea, natural beauty, a simpler life and a dash of spirituality.
The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa by Tamara de Lempicka