A Costa Rican hideaway perfect for respite and reboot
by Alex Reichek
An efficient and, at times, overachieving traveler, I sometimes need a vacation from my vacation. I meticulously research food, activities, museums and hotels months in advance, and then organize them all in Excel by favorites and day. I refuse to miss a thing and rarely leave time to rest during my adventures. But this holiday season I finally decided to take my first-ever relaxing vacation. No planning. Just kidding, I planned some, but I didn’t overplan.
As I started to plot out a trip, and knowing that I crave movement, I went to a surprisingly trusty travel resource, Vogue, and searched “yoga + Costa Rica.” The first thing that popped up was the surf centric and health and wellness-oriented town of Santa Teresa, labeled “the new Tulum.” Boom.
Santa Teresa lies on the Pacific coast, with one 3-mile road and a population of many European, Israeli and Argentinian expats. And if the images from my cursory search were any indication most of them looked pretty darn happy to be there. By the time I found Mint Santa Teresa, with its beach bungalows and stunning sunset views, I knew I had to book. It certainly didn’t hurt that the gorgeous and curated space also happened to be affordable with rates ranging from $200 – $300 per night. What started as on online search, grew to full blown excitement and before I knew it my unplanned planned vacation had arrived.
After driving on a surprisingly vertical dirt road my friend and I were happily greeted with fresh coconuts by the Swedish husband and wife owners of Mint. As we entered the open-air villa designed by architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe, we were peacefully greeted with an array of perfectly landscaped tropical plants, custom-built wooden furniture, bamboo-like ceilings and an infinity pool.
While it was tempting to spend all day chatting with the charming owners and elegantly Parisian fellow guests, the draw to the infinity pool was even stronger. Mint felt like our own personal getaway. We knew other guests were on hand, but it also felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Alongside all this charm and privacy we soon found out that a healthy feast of a breakfast is included daily: pillowy zucchini rolls with fresh papaya and passion fruit jam, berries, banana, mango, cucumber, hummus, hard-boiled eggs and banana bread. Yes, please.
Not surprisingly this surfer and yogi friendly town is filled with clean and light dining options: smoothies, juices, salads, sushi and fresh fish abound. Koji’s, with its lively atmosphere, string lights, expansive trees and delicious nigiri, is the only restaurant where you’ll need a reservation.
My favorites were the tuna tataki, grilled jumbo prawns and seafood fried rice with its lobster, prawns and salmon. Believe it or not, the biggest surprise was an okra sashimi salad. The creamy yet refreshing basil dressing was draped across the hearty vegetable tower of broccoli, cauliflower, beets, green beans and tomatoes, all hiding the red snapper and tuna sashimi below. I never thought a salad would be my favorite dish at a sushi restaurant, but if I had access to this rock star regularly, I’d eat it every day.
Another favorite was Zula Restaurant, an Israeli spot owned by two brothers. The falafel is delicious, and the smoothies and shakes are mandatory after a hot day in the sun. Go for the traditional shakshuka or mahi-mahi platter and stay for the bright-pink watermelon-and-guanabana smoothie.
Fishbar’s casual vibe and surfer employees prove that everything is slower on island time. Order the wasabi tuna tartare, whole red snapper and the Mediterranean tuna salad with creamy avocado dressing.
First-time surfers can ride the waves at Playa Hermosa. The soft sand, coconut trucks and amped bros and newbies are chillin’ everywhere. I recommend booking a lesson with Mauricio or Mickey from Santa Teresa Surf Lessons. A little stretching, jumping and learning the flamingo get-up and you’ll be up on your board immediately. I was so nervous about remembering each step, but I jumped right up and rode down to shore on my first try. Feeling that warm ocean water as you surf, or attempt to surf, is why they say, “Pura Vida,” all day, every day.
For the best yoga and healing experience, check out classes at the Florblanca hotel with Stefano. The space overlooks the beach, and feeling the beat of the waves nearby encourages you to focus on breath and movement. I also skipped over to Hotel Tropico Latino for a yin class and a flow class, held on a wood-paneled floor right by the water.
To reach complete, utter Zen, book a coconut scrub at Florblanca’s Spa Bambu, which uses 100 percent natural and made-in-house products. This beautiful sanctuary — complete with waterfall-filled pools and bamboo-encircled treatment rooms — easily transports.
My senses were heightened by the delicious coconut smell, and my skin was left shockingly silky and smooth. The full-body massage that rounds out the treatment makes this one of my most memorable experiences.
As I mentioned, this is a surf town, so the nightlife is low-key. Swing by Tipsy, a wine bar with the best selections in all of Santa Teresa. Thursday night is the town’s big night out, so walk down the street after a glass to Kika for a party crowd with lights, live music and dancing.
Life is simple in Santa Teresa. It’s active, refreshing and all about being present and living in the moment.