I had been intrigued by the area of Santa Teresa in Costa Rica ever since two fabulous Swedish ex-models, Anna Wachmeister and Carlotta Meadows sent me their stunning beachfront properties to represent. So when I got the call from Catherine Fairweather at PORTER magazine to tell me that she wanted to do a story on the lifestyle and villas there and asked if I would like to come, I leapt at the chance. Rather than reproducing an inferior version of our trip, written by Catherine, (please read her piece in the Summer Escape 2015 issue of the magazine.), I thought that the most helpful thing that I could do for my clients would be to give as much inside info as I had picked up on our trip.
So I interviewed Anna and Lottie:
What drew you to Santa Teresa, Lottie? “I wanted a lovely place to have a home during the winter months – and Asia, which would have been my natural first, choice is packed and full of people. I fell in love with this amazingly beautiful place, Santa Teresa. Another reason is that both my sons are professional surfers so it was an ideal place to buy land and to make sure they came to visit!”
Anna, how would you describe the area? “It is very wild, I would say basically an upmarket surf town with all sorts of different people, everyone looking for freedom and adventure and simple living – a huge European / expat community and more Americans have been buying recently.”
What style of houses were built here originally? “Originally it was mostly shabby to eco chic but recently huge houses have been erected and minimalist houses with striking architecture.”
Has it changed, Lottie? “Yes, it has changed a bit – more people living here, more houses up on the hill – before you used to be able to be in the ocean and look up at a totally green hill/jungle which now has many homes, but the beachfront will always remain un-spoilt because of the strict Costa Rican building regulations which is good. The town and area are still very under the radar and we are hoping that the road does not get paved as we think that this will stop the more “conventional” type of tourist arriving and staying. One month a year the whole town smells of molasses as a half-hearted attempt to pave the roads is made, but it’s still full of potholes!” “The original ones were Mary’s, Frank’s place where the food was simple, an Argentinian chicken cooked over an open fire place and the original nightclub was La Lora, he was a crazy Cuban who had been an actor /model in New York – he came here and bought his beach front with a swatch watch as down-payment! My house Capitan originally had a shack on it in the shape of a boat – so this theme continued and now it is more like a catamaran.”
Where do people go in the evening, Anna? “They go to Banana beach for the Sunday gathering which is organised by Jez Gooden, who owns the local radio station, www.purasonica.com. It’s very family friendly, people of all ages. Tuesday night is a big night at Kojis, it’s Japanese, comparable (and better!) to any great Japanese restaurant in London/New York/LA and even Japan – he is amazing and we are lucky to have him here – he lives here because he is a surfer. He is a total artist. He buys fish according to whether fish were in a good mood when he caught them and will close the restaurant without notice if the fish are not up to standard! Kika and Roca Mar are popular too.”
Where do people hang out during the day, Lottie? “The Belgian Bakery, Juice bars, French cafe, Product C in the Mall, Swart art cafe , Kina surf shop – otherwise they are surfing, doing pilates, tai-chi, quigong, yoga or just chilling. There are very few sunbeds on beaches and fewer people lying there –it’s not like a typical resort. Most people are either in the water, surfing or doing activities or else they are on one of the many adventures available. Exploring the jungle or driving a quad bike for miles up the deserted beach is one of my favorite things to do.”
Why are so many celebrities drawn here, Anna? “Celebrities are blown away when they come here for the first time and they always keep coming back, I think they come here for the anonymity, that it is so wild and the tempo here is the opposite to their own fast jet set lives – they like the simple clean living, beautiful beaches and nature, simplicity. You can do exactly what you want. Every day feels like an adventure. No one knows who you are, or cares for that matter!”
Is there a dress code? “It’s extremely casual, shoes are optional in most places, flip flops, shorts and T-shirts. Most people do not wear jewelry or even make-up during the day, they have a “fresh-out-of-the-ocean-look”. At night you can dress up to the nines without looking out of place and you can also wear a bikini top without being under-dressed. Everyone seems ageless.”
Lottie, is there a lot of shopping here? “Well, the best shop is Anna’s, by far – Santa Ganesha – you could arrive with nothing and get everything from her shop. She has a fantastic eye and sells jewelry, clothes, home-ware and art that she has sourced in Nicaragua. There is also a nice shop in the Mall called Playa Boulevard. A new furniture shop will open, this is very exciting as we will not have to fly to San Jose every time we need something new or go to Nicaragua to buy art and hammocks.”
Is most of the food sourced locally, Anna? “Yes it is, and we also have a Saturday market with fresh organic produce brought on the ferry from San Jose.”
Who are the best surf instructors? “Mick and Aleric are totally amazing – they go on adventures “looking for that perfect wave”.
Where is the best place to go riding? “You can ride on the beach, staying in temporary camps on the beach, all the way up to Nosara on moonlit nights and camp. It takes three days – otherwise you can ride all over the beaches at sunset, or inland on farms, past snaking rivers and rolling hillsides through national reserves and waterfalls.”
Are there any cultural spots nearby? “We have three art galleries: Montezuma is an artisan village.”
Are there any special souvenirs that you would recommend bringing home? “Coffee, coconut oil, artisan woodwork, hammocks, coconut jewelry, hand rolled cigars, flor de cana rum.”
What are the local specialities, Lottie? “Patacones with guacamole, casado, gallo pinto, pico de gallo, all sorts of picadillos.”
Anna, where are the best jungle walks? “There are masses, but the best jungle walks are at Montezuma.”
Which yoga teachers would you recommend, Lottie? “Esteban is probably the best and does Ashtanga, Christina for Viniasa yoga. Nancy does Anusara. Tammy does Kundalini yoga and Mayan oracle readings, Annie is an astrologer.” (Avenue has these contact details)
Are there other good alternative practitioners? Anna, I hear a lot of spiritual types are drawn here. “Yes, lots of shamans pass through doing healing workshops. Lauren is the most amazing pilates instructor, Neil is the local chiropractor. O3 institute does lots of treatments and sells remedies, creams, potions, Lori is an amazing acupuncturist. There are lots of great massage therapists, Nathan does sport massage as does Darlene.”
Do you have any personal recommendations that are indigenous to the area, Lottie? “Quantum healing hypnosis therapy – there are regular workshops. There is an amazing raw food chef called Joanne – www.thehealingcuisine.com
Is it necessary to hire a car, Anna? “Yes, its absolutely essential, as it’s a few miles from the length of beach at Mal Pais to Playa Hermosa and you need to get a car to explore the area. The only rent-a-car company we have is Toyota. What’s fun is renting quad bikes – lots of couples and teenagers do that.” I hear it’s just got a lot easier to get here, which is great? “Yes, there are direct flights from Gatwick to San Jose and from NY to San Jose- Then Samsa operate a local service for the flight over from San Jose to Tambor at about 100 dollars per person, you can also charter a plane – www.samsa.com”
Thank you so much, Anna and Lottie, for having me to stay and for showing me the heart and ‘pura vida’ of Santa Teresa.
For more info, see our Costa Rica collection