Costa RicaCosta Rica

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

Mal Pais

Mal Pais

    Mal Pais Snapshot

  • Summary: Legendary surfing; beachfront forest; brilliant sunsets and remote location.
  • Landscape: Beaches, Rainforest
  • Attractions: Cabo Blanco Reserve, Curu Wildlife Refuge, Wildlife
  • Activities: Bird & Wildlife Watching, Kite Surfing, Snorkeling, Surfing
  • Caters to: Budget Travelers, Independent Travelers, Surfers, Wildlife Enthusiasts

Legendary surf breaks and broad stretches of rugged coastline have made Mal Pais one of the country’s most coveted surfing destinations. A large number of North Americans, Israelis and Argentineans have settled here, giving the community a cosmopolitan flair.

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Mal Pais, or “Bad Country,” has become an all-encompassing term for both Mal Pais and its sister village, Santa Teresa. In fact, they are so closely linked that the two are rapidly becoming one, although Santa Teresa remains the more developed of the pair. Both beach towns parallel the shore, stretched along a single rocky road.  Where the street from Cobano dead ends, the road splits. Everything four miles north of this junction is considered Santa Teresa, and everything five miles south is regarded as Mal Pais. The area offers little in terms of local transport, but luckily most attractions are within walking distance. Because taxis are rare and the road is dusty, many visitors opt to get around town on rented bicycles or all-terrain vehicles.

Several restaurants, shops, resorts, bed and breakfasts and tour operators have popped up in recent years. Their modern amenities compliment the area’s laid-back surfer scene to create the ultimate Costa Rican getaway. While English speakers are abundant, Mal Pais has remained undeveloped compared to the booming surf towns of Jaco or Tamarindo, where high rise buildings paint the skyline.

Due to its remote location, half of the adventure is getting to Mal Pais. If coming from San Jose, take the scenic route from Puntarenas to Paquera, which includes a relaxing ferry trip across the calm Gulf of Nicoya.  Travelers arriving overland from coastal Guanacaste towns should note that 4WD is recommended during the rainy season months of May through November, as several river crossings may be required.

Mal Pais in Pictures