Playa-Santa-Teresa

Koh Samui & Costa Rica

We’re almost a week into our first expedition to Costa Rica and I’m flabbergasted at how under-developed the beach communities along the coast are. No large resorts, high rise hotels or a single fast food restaurant or convenient store. That’s right, no 7Eleven or burger joint by the clown or king.

I find myself being reminded of Koh Samui, circa 1988, a few years before the airport was built and when both Chaweng and Lamai beaches were still dusty fishing villages which were mostly populated by transient backpackers. There might have been maybe two hotels on the entire island back then and only a few dozen dodgy bungalow resorts. I worked at one of them, the Golden Sand.

I remember how hard it was to find a restaurant on Koh Samui that served decent western food and that you had to drive a motorcycle or take a flatbed truck taxi ride to the ferry town Nathon and there wait patiently in line at Koh Samui’s only post office to make a collect call to wherever.

That was thirty years ago.

Santa Teresa is similar in a few ways and undeniably different in others.

Like on Samui three decades ago, we mostly have the beach here to ourselves. You pass maybe 20 people during an hour’s long walk up and down the coast. Half of them are surfers. This despite it being absolute peak season.

There are perhaps a dozen hotels scattered along the beach and a few bungalow places located on either side of narrow, unpaved lanes just above the main road.

Unlike Samui ´88, there are a plethora of really good restaurants here. We’ve enjoyed very tasty Japanese, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican and some seafood during our week.

We’re a little surprised at how expensive it is, though. So far, we haven’t been able to spend much less than $70-80  for a dinner for three. Which is almost as expensive as in Europe or even the US.

Then again, Costa Rica has been popular among affluent American families and well-to-do college kids for decades. So the high prices are likely a reflection of an upper middle class tourist demographic.

The thick, unmistakable smell of ganja is prevalent almost everywhere – especially on the beach just before and after sunset. Just as it was on Samui wayback when.

For a photographer and travel writer, there’s plentiful of things to be inspired by here. Including the dense jungle just a few steps beyond the beach and the large flocks of pelicans that soar majestically in fluid arrow formations just above the tree tops.

The weather has been great so far. Cool mornings with temperatures in the lower 20s and middays in the mid 30s. It’s a dry heat, though. Nowhere nearly as humid as in Thailand but significantly hotter than on the Hawaiian islands.

Finally, I think one of the main reasons why Costa Rica is enjoying increasing popularity is in no small way thanks to the friendly atmosphere among locals and guest workers alike.

It’s pura vida all the time.

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