The Town That Was All Flow, No Go
“I’d like to book the Montezuma Falls tour.”
“Oh, we don’t offer that. You can rent an ATV and take yourself though.”
“Hmm…the guy here yesterday told me about the tour. Oh well. How about aerial yoga? Is that tomorrow at 9am like on the poster?”
“No, it’s Wednesday at 9:30am.”
“Can I sign up now?”
“Naw, just come beforehand and you can pay then.”
*arrives the Wednesday morning at 9:15am*
“I’ll like to sign-up and pay for aerial yoga.”
“Did you pay already? The class is full.”
<in my head>”Motherf*$%er”
Such is life in the sleepy surf town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, or as I started to call it, the town that was all flow, no go. Where you see multiple ATVs parked in front of No Parking signs and no one so much as shrugs. Where a string bikini is an acceptable outfit to go grocery shopping in. Where you can never trust the information you see on any poster or schedule – the event is bound to actually be a different day and time.
Santa Teresa is a small town on the Nicoya peninsula, in Puntarenas Province. It has world-class surfing and has smartly restricted beachfront development. You won’t find hotels and bars cozying up to the beaches’ edge like you will in many other towns. Instead, everything is on the main road, which sits about 100m back from runs parallel to the beach. When I say main road, I pretty much mean only road. There are a few short offshoots leading to guest houses, restaurants, or other dwellings but they’re more like very long driveways than true roads.
One of the nice things about a vacation in a place like Costa Rica is getting away from the hurried pace of life in the city, even small cities like mine. It’s a country that encourages you to take it a bit slower, appreciate your surroundings more. Where people stop what they’re doing at 5:30pm to go watch the sunset. It’s a go with the flow kind of place. A place to slow your roll. But Santa Teresa took it to another level.
When the server in the restaurant where you’re having dinner may or may not be wearing shoes…or a bra. When “sunrise” yoga really means 8am, two and a half hours after the sun rose above the horizon. When there’s no official bus stop. You just stand on the side of the road, anywhere along the road, and wave at the bus when it approaches.
After two days in town it also occurred to me, I hadn’t seen any families, despite passing a school. Or old people. It felt as if the entire town was populated with tanned people in their twenties, and mostly foreigners at that. Where were the locals who weren’t working in restaurants or as guides? Santa Teresa is a town of tourists…but hardly a gift shop in sight, which is a real rarity. People visiting couldn’t even be bother to shop for knick-knacks.
Service could be another head-scratcher.
One day I noticed that a local sushi restaurant followed me on Instagram. Their food looked pretty good so I thought I’d check them out. Social media works, yo. So I pedaled up from my hotel, I slowed near where the spot should be… I saw the sign… but then only metal shutters. Huh. I rode up the road a bit and circled back. It seemed they were closed. I checked their social but saw no notice. So I messaged on Instagram. They’d had some “technical difficulties” and were closed for the day but should be open tomorrow. Uh, ok.
So then I decided to head back to the spot where I’d had a pretty decent slice of Hawaiian pizza a couple days before. This time I decided I’d get a small pizza so that I could have leftovers for breakfast before my snorkel trip. I cycled the kilometre and pulled up just as the Immigration Police arrived. Uh-oh. I hung around by the door for a minute. They didn’t seem to be closing or ushering guests out so I asked one of the two people serving. “I’ve got to deal with this, but yeah, just take a table.” So I did.
I sat for over 20 minutes watching the uniformed police check the kitchen and then the apartment upstairs and then back to the kitchen, back up the stairs, while a woman with a clipboard oversaw the whole thing. Eventually they left but I never did get a menu. One of the servers took a seat at the bar and chatted with some folks. No menu for me. So I took myself to the takeout window and placed my order there instead. 15 minutes later I was cycling back to my hotel with my pizza. Sitting on my balcony, I opened the box to discover the weirdest slicing job. It looked like they’d managed to cut my pizza in 5 pieces: 2 huge, 3 small.
I was starting to think that the Costa Rican sun was making people so laid back that they just didn’t give AF anymore. Pura vida indeed.
I love Costa Rica and I enjoyed my time in Santa Teresa for the most part. I could also see how easy it would be to slip into that laissez-faire attitude after spending more than a few days there. But as a person on a 10 day vacation who has trouble letting go of schedule, it sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. I like scheduled things to happen on that schedule. I like knowing what I’m doing when and having a plan. Clearly, I just needed to spend more time watching sunsets and sipping beers. A few more yoga classes and a massage wouldn’t hurt either. If you’re in the zone, there’s something relaxing about not having plans. I just couldn’t get into that zone. So really, Santa Teresa, it’s not you, it’s me.