Officially one of the happiest places in the world, Costa Rica was top of my must-visit list for years. I finally made it last January, my first trip in a travel-packed year out.
I’m not one for sitting on a beach all day and my usual holiday MO is to cram as much as possible into two weeks, never staying in one place for more than a couple of days.
The original plan had been to go to Costa Rica to do a yoga teacher training course. A week in hospital with pneumonia put paid to that. When my doctor said I was too ill to take a long haul flight, let alone do such a physically demanding course I burst into tears. However, by the time he discharged me he said I was well enough to fly, but that I should take things easy.
Rethinking my trip, the thought of charging around the country and staying in hostels sounded like too much hard work (I really must have been ill). I wanted to find somewhere I could call home for the duration of my stay.
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A couple of hours on the computer later I settled on Santa Teresa, a beach town on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica, filled with cafés and restaurants, plenty of places to practice yoga and, the deciding factor, perfect waves for a first-time surfer, something I’d always wanted to do.
Researching places to stay the Horizon hotel scored highly on TripAdvisor, with several solo female travellers giving it a great rating. Set on the hillside above Santa Teresa, there was a veggie restaurant visitors raved about, a pocket-sized pool, a yoga deck with daily classes and fast wifi (very important!). I booked in for the full three weeks.
After an exhausting 11-hour flight from London to San José, a short but nerve-jangling flight on a 12-seater plane to Tambor, and a bumpy hour-long taxi ride, I finally made it to Santa Teresa.
I dropped my bags off at my super-cute one-bedroom cabin and headed to the café for lunch. The menu includes veggie-stuffed sandwiches, pitta pizzas, tasty salads and fruit and veg juices, with nothing costing over $10. Tucking into a green salad topped with cranberries, apricots, walnuts and chunks of cheese, washed down with a watermelon and mint juice, the sun warming my face, I couldn’t stop grinning. Despite everything I was in Costa Rica at last.
Days quickly settled into a chilled-out routine. I woke up early and walked to the beach to watch the sunrise, alone bar a few surfers and the odd dog walker. Then I’d do a yoga class on the deck looking out towards the ocean, followed by a lazy breakfast of either granola topped with tropical fruit and yoghurt, shakshuka (poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce) or pancakes.
I spent the days reading or walking along the endless beach, venturing a little further each time. In the evening I’d either watch the sunset on the beach or do a yoga class while the sun sank behind the ocean. A week in and feeling stronger I added surf lessons into my daily routine.
Much to my surprise I wasn’t a natural surfer (I’ve watched Point Break like a million times and couldn’t believe this didn’t translate into awesome surf skills) but that made it all the more sweet the first time I caught a wave and surfed all the way to the beach. Best buzz ever.
Having never done the travelling thing, I’d been worried about meeting people but I shouldn’t have been. I made friends with a fellow yoga enthusiast who was travelling with her surf-enthusiast husband and most days we would go for a post-yoga coffee while he hit the waves. I was invited along on nights out with the teachers at the surf school. And I got chatting to people on the beach, at restaurants, wherever I went really.
By the end of three weeks I felt back to my normal self (better in fact). I was sad to leave without having seen very much of the country, but that just means I’ll have to go back one day. I’ll definitely stop by Santa Teresa, it has a special place in my heart. [/ezcol_2third]
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Horizon A lovely, friendly place with a great veggie café and high-quality yoga classes that non-residents can attend too.
The Bakery Great for people watching, with a menu that includes delicious pastries, juices and eggs every which way.
Zwart Art Café Cute shabby-chic cafe decorated with colourful surf-inspired paintings by owner Margriet Zwart (I bought two home with me!) serving healthy but hearty breakfasts and lunches. There are piles of magazines to read and a secondhand bookshop if you’ve run out of reading material.
Brisas del Mar The best spot in Santa Teresa for dinner. Get there in time to see the sunset and tuck into delicious dishes such as mahi mahi with coconut sauce. It gets busy so book ahead or arrive early.
Rocamar Beach Lounge With a thatched dining area, a tasty Asian-inspired menu, excellent cocktails and plenty of beds, beanbags and hammocks for lounging on, this place is worth the longish walk along the beach.