We are planning a spring break trip with our teenage kids ages 15 and 17 to Costa Rica and wanted to learn to surf, enjoy the culture,see waterfalls, wildlife,etc. I have a bunch of questions. How is the crime? I hear mixed reviews about Santa Teresa. Everything from very safe to Don’t go out at night. We would like the kids to learn to surf, but don’t want the surf to be too big. Is Santa Teresa/Mal Pais still ok? Would you suggest going to Samara too, or maybe Samara vs. Santa Teresa? We want the kids to see something other than an all inclusive resort and enjoy some culture. Thanks so much in advance!
Both places might be nice if you have enough time (at least a few nights in each spot). Santa Teresa and Mal Pais have some bigger waves for surfing but there are also beaches with smaller waves to learn on, like Playa Hermosa (one of many beaches named this around the country). Samara generally has smaller waves because of a rock/coral formation offshore (and it’s in a cove) but you can still take lessons and it is a good spot to learn. Both towns are very different too, so it would be nice to see them and compare. Santa Teresa feels a lot more remote and off-the-beaten-path and is sort of just one short strip of stuff along the beach. Samara has more of a concentrated downtown and is a little bigger but still feels small. Both offer culture mixed with tourism.
To answer your question about safety in Santa Teresa, most incidents happen really late at night so if you are just going out to dinner and staying out till 10 or 11 you should be fine. If you plan on staying out late for the party scene, it’s just like anywhere in the world, you have to be cautious. Same thing for most beach towns in Costa Rica that have any kind of late night bar/club scene.