Mal Pais, Costa Rica
Malpais is a tranquil community, loosely spread out along five kilometers of road that begins at "El Cruce", the intersection where the road from Cobano ends at Playa Carmen.
Old tagged road sign of Malpais /Santa Teresa.
Nowadays replaced by hideous giant billboards
On Playa Carmen Mal Pais merges with Santa Teresa. There you can find many shops, hotels and a vibrant surf scene,
while at its southern end it borders the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.
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.
See » Surf in Malpais and Santa Teresa
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 quiet, laid-back 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.
Rock formations on the beach of Mal Pais
In Mal Pais you don't find any shops, offices or a lively scenery. Instead you can have a lot of activities and adventures.
At the southern end of Mal Pais is the small fishermen port from where boat and fishing tours go around the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The maritime sanctuary of Cabo Blanco protects many aquatic species, and from a boat you can watch dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles, and whales. Tours can be arranged by any hotel in Mal Pais or Santa Teresa. See also: » Malpais Underwater
Playa Cuevas by the Cabo Blanco Reserve
Although Malpais directly borders the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, there is no entrance to the park from this side.
See: » 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.
Enjoying solitude on the beach of Mal Pais
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. » Map of Mal Pais with Hotels
From Malpais to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
Mal Pais road to Cabuya
From the village center of Mal Pais, there is a scenic 8 km road over the mountains to 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. There are no houses on the 7 km of road until you reach Cabuya and you have to cross two rivers. For most of the year this road is in a very bad shape. Before heading off, ask for current road conditions. The alternate way to get 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.