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mal pais santa teresa coastline view from canopy malpais
 - Costa Rica

Mal Pais

Mal Pais

    Mal Pais Snapshot

  • Summary: Legendary surfing, beachfront forest,pristine beaches, great tidal pools, brilliant sunsets and remote location
  • Landscape: Beaches, rainforest, dry forest
  • Attractions: Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, Curu Wildlife Refuge, Cuevas Los Muercielagos Wildlife Refuge, Hacienda Ario
  • Activities: Bird & wildlife watching, kite surfing, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, stand up paddle, whale watching, zip lining, yoga, tidepooling
  • Caters to: Budget travelers, independent travelers, surfers, wildlife enthusiasts
  • Quick Facts: 30 miles from Paquera ; Warm and sunny with temperate evenings ; 77 and 86°F ; Sea level

Mal Pais and Santa Teresa are a secret Shangri-la only known to few. For surfers, their waves are legendary, with consistent year-round swells washing onto the rugged shoreline. For everyone else, these hamlets are simply a natural and wildlife paradise where you can be yourself and reconnect with your spirituality.

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Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, twin hamlets huddling together facing the Pacific Ocean, are on a nine-mile (14 km) stretch of tiny coves tucked between dramatic sea rocks, long stretches of powdery multi color sand, strewn here and there with rock outcroppings providing for great tide pools; lined with thickets of luxuriant rainforest, swaying palm and almond trees kissing the ocean.

A dirt road 218-yards (200-meters) inland, parallel to the coastline, runs up and down Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. The imaginary line that splits both hamlets is at the "T-intersection" of Playa Carmen – known by the locals as "El Cruce Playa Carmen". Turn right (north) and you will be in Santa Teresa. Turn left (south) and you will be in Mal Pais.

Cruise along Mal Pais and Santa Teresa's sunniest strip of coast-hugging from north to south: the sun-drenched, sand-sculpting snorkeling beach of Manzanillo; the sun-kissed surf beaches of Hermosa, Santa Teresa, Carmen, and Mal Pais with its coved tidepooling surf beaches of Ventanas and Mar Azul.

Big wave riders carve up large waves at the consistent left and right breaks at the Playa Santa Teresa while others hit the iconic Playa Hermosa's beach break at the northern end where surfing instructors teach groups of newbie surfers how to tackle the medium and small waves. Pros ride the waves of Mal Pais and Mar Azul.

Many families explore the rich sea life of the most pristine tide pools – anemones, starfish, octopus and other creatures - in Mal Pais or at the southern end of Playa Hermosa in Santa Teresa. Others prefer just to bask in the sun and relax on the sand at any of the beaches.

Nature lovers watch pregnant-mother whales ply the waters of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais from September to December looking for a place to give birth to their calves. Boat on the shores of Cabo Blanco Reserve for its 132+ types of birds and sealife or trek its natural trails and love the wild splendor hidden inland with more than 249 species of plants and their amazing wildlife.

Serious and amateur anglers alike come to fish the warm waters for mahi mahi, snook and tuna. Reliable winds attract kite surfers, while sunbathers flock to the pristine beaches of Mal Pais, Carmen, Santa Teresa, and Hermosa. Visitors can horseback along backcountry roads, explore Playa Santa Teresa’s rocky tide pools, or fly through the jungle on a canopy tour in Mal Pais.

Taking deep breaths and aligning to the universe, yogis take inner body and mind trips -renewing their spirits - infused by the natural music sound of the waves, the warm breeze and clean salty air of the open ocean in the different yoga studios or health retreats feathering the area.

Mal Pais and Santa Teresa are magnets for the Hollywood set, celebrities dodge the paparazzi along the coast. Mel Gibson and Gisele Būndchen own homes in the area. Matt Damon is sometimes spotted on the beach or dinning at restaurants.

Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, wedded to the Costa Rican 'Happy attitude', steeped in the new dreams and hopes of expats from big cities who made these hamlets their home, and perfectly indifferent to what goes on in the world, forge the jolly vibe of the area with a profound respect for the environment.

Mal Pais Background

No local access to running water whatever water you drink had to be carried by horse, torrential rain pounding the area seven months out of the year, uncultivable hard-to-access land, and more harsh living conditions earned Mal Pais its name – "badlands".

Mal Pais was a large cattle farm during the 40s. The basic means of survival was fishing and buying products that had to be carried by horse from any of the two small trading ports – one in Montezuma Beach and the other one in Manzanillo Beach – that linked Mal Pais via boat with the rest of Costa Rica.

Tourist developments in the nearby hamlet of Tambor brought major changes to the area during the late 80s. The hotel chain Barcelo invested on an all-inclusive resort on Tambor Bay which committed the government to invest in two piers in the towns of Puntarenas and Paquera that serve as terminals for a public ferry that transports people and automobiles from one side to the Nicoya Gulf to the other making the trading ports of Manzanillo and Montezuma obsolete.

As tourism grew more travelers explored the area, expats from Japan, Canada, United States, Europe and South America started falling in love with the waves and landscape of Mal Pais and settled in the area.

Surfers discovered Santa Teresa beach break points and started telling others until the Santa Teresa Beach gave the other side of the hamlet its name: Santa Teresa.

The hamlets got electricity and phone coverage in 1991 and since then it has grown to become what it is now.

Mal Pais in Pictures

Mal Pais Travel Guide

Mal Pais Weather

Current Conditions

Mostly sunny

83°F (28°C) Mostly sunny

Wind: 4 mph NNW
Visibility: 8 mi

Humidity: 67 % Barometer: 29.86 in/Hg

15 day weather forecast >

Mal Pais Tides

Sunday, April 23, 2017
High 05:59 a.m. 1.64 ft. (0.5 m.)
Low 12:17 p.m. 8.17 ft. (2.49 m.)
High 06:30 p.m. 1.31 ft. (0.4 m.)

Two-week Tide Forecast >

Experiences in Mal Pais