Mal Pais Activities
ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) Adventures
Explore backcountry roads and scenic rivers on an ATV excursion. These vehicles can take drivers to places even the sturdiest SUV cannot, redefining the word ‘joyride.’ Be sure to stick to the main streets and back roads, as it is illegal to take ATVs on the beach. Half and full-day tours are available.
Bird and Wildlife Watching
Wildlife is plentiful in the jungles and shorelines of Curu Wildlife Refuge and Cabo Blanco Reserve. The best time for wildlife watching is early in the morning, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and in the afternoon between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
At Curu, raccoon, coatimundi, whitetail deer, armadillo, collared peccary, puma, skunk, and kinkajou are plentiful. Playful capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys are frequently spotted lingering in the trees. Giant toads, boa constrictors, lizards, crocodiles and nesting sea turtles can also be found on the property. Birdwatchers will delight in the wide variety of avian species found in the refuge: parakeets, scarlet macaws, woodpeckers, osprey, common black hawks, brown pelicans, and herons are commonly sighted.
Nearby Cabo Blanco is also a wildlife lover’s paradise. The park’s verdant trails are packed with flora and fauna including: howler and white-faced monkeys, coati, agouti, deer, jaguarundis, white-lipped peccaries, Baird’s tapir, and raccoons. It is also home to over 39 species of bats. Many types of bird have also been sighted, such as crested guan, frigate birds, gulls, pelicans, and ospreys.
Brave souls can zoom through Mal Pais’ stunning rainforest canopy, taking in views of the Pacific Ocean and endless tropical jungle. The canopy tour is on a 65-acre farm, at the Mal Pais entrance to the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve. Their highest cable is 246 feet off the ground, where it is possible to see monkeys bounding about in the trees. The tour includes nine platforms, eight cables adding up to one mile in length, and a final riveting 1371-foot flight through the forest.
Let go of all worries and indulge in one of Santa Teresa’s world-class day spas. On the menu are varieties of massage techniques, facial treatments, and alternative healing therapies such as acupuncture. Highly trained and experienced acupuncturists offer quality treatments at affordable rates. Relax and listen to the ocean crash against the sand as your stress melts away.
Horseback riding along Playa El Carmen is one of the most enjoyable activities in the area. Trot down the beach during a legendary Santa Teresa sunset, which seems painted on the sky in vibrant shades of pink, purple, orange, and yellow. Tours last one to two hours, and include a guided trek through several of the area's beaches.
Kite surfing is rapidly becoming a popular adrenaline sport, and gusty Hermosa Beach is the perfect place to test the waters. Experience the thrilling sensation of wind-powered flight while launching from waves. Trainers certified by the International Kite Organization (IKO) can be hired to get beginners off the ground, or to help amateurs reach the next level.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Turtle Island, locally known as Isla Tortuga, offers some of the most phenomenal snorkeling and scuba diving in Costa Rica, and this day trip should not be missed. PADI certified instructors offer multi-day courses to aspiring divers, with a day-long “discovery session” for beginners. Snorkelers can explore the colorful sea life in the tame, sparkling waters surrounding the island. Angelfish, puffer fish, corals, blue spotted jacks, eels, octopi, lobsters, oysters, and needlefish are commonly spotted in the clear shallows. The best place to snorkel in Mal Pais is at the Las Suecas tidepool near Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve. Snorkeling equipment can be rented inexpensively in town.
Relax the body and the mind with Santa Teresa’s enlightening yoga classes. Many studios offer jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. Classes run $10 for a one and a half hour session, but prices drop if bought in packages of five or more.
Inshore and offshore fishing excursions are offered on comfortable 26 to 35 ft. boats. Guests are in the hands of experienced captains who know the best spots for big game fish. Common catches include yellow and black-fin tuna, red snapper, grouper, striped and black marlin, snook, and mahi mahi. Anglers have the option of sampling the freshest sushi in town, or saving their prize for later. Read more about Sport Fishing in Costa Rica.
Both seasoned and novice surfers from near and far come to enjoy the consistent left and right breaks that Santa Teresa and Mal Pais deliver. A variety of talented surf schools offer private and group lessons, all taught by skilled surfers. Multi-day surf camps include meals, transportation, daily classes, and upscale lodging. Camps run for as few or as many days as desired. The area features a variety of waves for surfers of all levels:
Mal Pais is a five-mile stretch of beach with a handful of prime surfing spots, most of which are rock breaks. These can be dangerous for those who don’t know the area well. Seasoned veterans often prefer Mal Pais to the other beaches because of its exciting edge and isolation.
El Carmen’s consistent left and right beach breaks are perfect for both long and short boards. This beach tends to be crowded, with lots of people competing for the best waves. It is a great place to learn by observation, or to ask professionals for helpful advice.
Santa Teresa is slightly less crowded than El Carmen, also with left and right beach breaks. Waves here tend to hold their shape well at low tide. “Suck Rock,” or Roca Mar, is a dangerous rock break at the north point of the beach where helmet-wearing surfers skim along the waves.
This beautiful beach, located 20 minutes outside of Santa Teresa’s center by car, certainly lives up to its name. Consistent left and right beach breaks, combined with relatively few surfers competing for waves, make this beach the ideal pick for those with wheels. Often windy, Hermosa is also a prime kite surfing spot.
Manzanillo is the most isolated of all the area’s beaches. Surfing here is a gamble. Great waves are a rarity, and found only when swells are particularly strong.