Costa Rica Nicoya Peninsula

The Travel Guide to the Peninsula de Nicoya, Costa Rica, with detailed Maps, Hotels and Tourist Information


Malpais, Costa Rica

Malpais is a small, tranquil neighborhood, loosely spread out along five kilometers of road. Its northern limit is the road intersection of "El Cruze"where the road from Cobano ends on Playa Carmen.

Mal Pais Santa Teresa
The former road sign of Malpais and Santa Teresa

On Playa Carmen Mal Pais merges with the booming beach town of Santa Teresa with its lively surfer scene, a multitude of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops.
The southern part of Malpais abuts the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve on the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Many people refer to the entire area as Mal Pais, so when you hear of Mal Pais being one of the top surf destinations in Costa Rica, it actually means the surf beaches of Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen. » Surf in Malpais and Santa Teresa

Mal Pais Surf
Surf in Mal Pais

Mal Pais is the more peaceful part of the combined villages of Santa Teresa and Malpais. While in recent years Santa Teresa has seen a boom in development, Mal Pais has retained its laid-back, small village atmosphere with large patches of unspoiled natural beauty. The coast of Mal Pais is rocky in most parts, with some bizarre volcanic formations creating fascinating scenery. Old jungle forest grows down to the shore where rocky outcroppings alternate with pockets of beaches, some made up entirely of tiny seashells.

Mal Pais Beach
Rock formations on the beach of Mal Pais

In Mal Pais you don't find supermarkets, shops and many people. Instead it offers a lot of nature activities and adventures.
From the small fishermen port you can make boat and fishing tours around the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The maritime sanctuary of Cabo Blanco protects many aquatic species, and from a boat you might see dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles or whales. » Malpais Underwater
Tours can be arranged by any hotel in Mal Pais or Santa Teresa.

Mal Pais
Playa Cuevas is also called "Secret Beach"

Although Malpais directly borders the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, there is no entrance to the park from this side. » Driving from Mal Pais to Cabo Blanco
To explore the neighborhood of Cabo Blanco take a canopy tour on the edge of the nature reserve, or go on a horse tour.
Located within the national park but still accessible from Mal Pais is one of the area's most scenic beaches: Playa Cuevas is also called "the secret beach" although it isn't a secret anymore. The small white-sand cove is surrounded by a rocky outcrop and is also one of the best snorkeling spots in Mal Pais.

Mal Pais Hotels
Enjoying solitude on the beach of Mal Pais

In the undisturbed mountains and coastal areas of Mal Pais you can also enjoy great bird watching. » List of Birds in Mal Pais, Costa Rica.

More about sports and activities: » Mal Pais and Santa Teresa

For accommodation you find a small collection of vacation rentals and hotels in Malpais, ranging from luxury to rustic cabinas.
» Map of Mal Pais with Hotels

From Malpais to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

Mal Pais to Cabuya Road
Mal Pais road to Cabuya

From the village center of Mal Pais a scenic road leads over the mountains to Cabuya and Cabo Blanco. The first 2 kms pass through a river valley with lush jungle covering steep slopes on both sides. Then the road steepens to climb into the rolling hills of the Cabo Blanco backlands.
After 7.5 km you reach the small village of Cabuya where you turn right to continue for 2 km until the entrance of the national park.
Half way between Malpais and Cabuya you pass by the Cabo Blanco Butterfly Garden where you can see and learn about Costa Rican butterfly species, such as the famous blue Morpho.

The road from Mal Pais to Cabuya is however in very bad shape for most of the year and you will need a 4x4 vehicle. The road is usuall fixed in December so you can use it during the dry season months until May or June. The alternate route from Mal Pais to Cabo Blanco is via Cobano and Montezuma.

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a round-trip hike takes approx 4 hours. Mondays and Tuesdays the Cabo Blanco Reserve is closed.