Santa Teresa, like many other small communities located in gorgeous locations in Costa Rica, finds itself at a development crossroads. Pave or not pave the road? How to solve the fresh water issue? How to avoid high-rise overdevelopment?

Yet Santa Teresa’s growth spurt has definitely brought positive outcomes like jobs and a thriving multi-cultural community.

Residents at the laid-back beach town, near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, say that despite the growing pains, Santa Teresa will remain the pristine paradise that first lured surfers and backpackers two decades ago.

“Santa Teresa will never be that big because the mountains and ocean won’t allow it,” said Mario Matarrita, manager at Pranamar Oceanfront Villas & Yoga Retreat in Santa Teresa. “We’re just a narrow strip of land along the beach with large coastal mountains behind us.”

Pranamar Villas special events manager, Larissa Chevalier, added praise to the enforcement of the maritime concession law in Santa Teresa. The nationwide law prohibits permanent structures on any beach within 50 meters of the high tide line. “You can walk down the beach in Santa Teresa and you don’t see any hotels or bars or any development right on the beach. You can look through the trees and see buildings, but nothing right on the beach. It leaves the beach pristine,” said Chevalier, who moved from Canada to Santa Teresa years ago.

“We’ve got issues with the road, water, crime – just like any growing area,” said Chevalier. “At the same time, there are positives with development, like recycling, beach clean-ups, etc.”

The Tourism Board in Santa Teresa and Mal Pais actively promotes many projects, commented Matarrita. One of their main focuses now is improving public beach access, he said. Many of the hotels contribute to regular beach cleaning, and environmental groups are forming in the area.

“Santa Teresa still has something special and untouched, and at the end of the day, I’m still happy to live here,” said Chevalier. “I live in one of the most amazing places on the planet.”

Article by Shannon Farley