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Tucked away on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica lies Malpais, a serene fishing village that’s become a magnet for those seeking surf and solitude. Travelers often search for destinations that offer both adventure and tranquility, without the crowds of more well-known tourist spots.

It can be challenging to find places that tick all these boxes, but Malpais offers an escape with its pristine beaches and relaxed atmosphere.

Mal Pais is not just another beach town; it holds the distinction of being near Costa Rica’s first protected area, Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve. This reserve is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and hikers looking to explore untouched landscapes.

With its mix of lush forests and coastal beauty, our guide will lead you through everything from how to get there smoothly to unmissable local activities.

Prepare yourself for a journey off the beaten path in this charming corner of paradise. Let’s unveil the wonders waiting in Malpais together!

Key Takeaways

  • Malpais is a tranquil fishing village in Costa Rica, perfect for travelers looking to surf or relax on pristine beaches away from crowded tourist spots.
  • To reach Malpais, you can take a scenic ferry ride, hop on a local bus for an authentic experience, or catch a flight to Tambor and drive from there.
  • The town offers activities like surfing at Playa Carmen, exploring the biodiversity of Cabo Blanco Reserve, wandering through Santa Teresa’s vibrant streets, and visiting the peaceful beachside community of Cabuya.
  • Accommodations in Malpais vary from budget – friendly hostels to luxurious villas with ocean views; local restaurants serve delicious fresh seafood and international dishes right by the beach.
  • With its mix of adventure opportunities and serene spots for relaxation, Malpais provides an intimate look at Costa Rica’s natural beauty and culture.

Discovering Malpais: A Hidden Gem in Costa Rica

Continuing south from the bustling surf town of Santa Teresa, travelers find themselves in the serene embrace of Malpais. This remote fishing village on the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula offers a stark contrast to its neighbor, proudly preserving its tranquil atmosphere and close-knit community vibe.

Emerald green forests edge up against volcanic formations and long stretches of untouched beaches where one can hear the symphony of waves crashing onto the shore.

Mal Pais entices adventure-seekers with its consistent swell for surfers and cove-studded coastline begging to be explored. While it may not have the fame of other Costa Rican hotspots, it’s precisely this under-the-radar status that makes Mal Pais an idyllic escape for those eager to venture off the beaten path.

Here you can join local fisherman as they haul in their daily catch or ride along dirt paths on quad bikes with nothing but nature’s unspoiled beauty surrounding you.

How to Reach Malpais

Accessing the secluded beauty of Malpais requires some planning, but it’s worth every effort for those seeking its tranquil shores. Whether choosing to glide across the waters by ferry, navigate Costa Rica’s landscapes by bus, or soar skyward on a flight, each route offers its own unique adventure into this serene corner of Puntarenas Province.

By Ferry

Taking the Puntarenas Ferry is a popular way to reach Mal Pais, setting you off on an adventure through Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes. After a scenic ride across the water, you’ll arrive in Paquera.

From there, hop into your car and travel along Ruta 21 straight to the heart of Mal Pais.

Travelers can expect great weather and picturesque views as they cross from Puntarenas to Paquera by ferry. This route not only offers a glimpse of Costa Rica’s beautiful coastline but also starts your trip with a relaxing cruise over blue waters before you immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Mal Pais.

By Bus

Traveling to Malpais by bus offers a glimpse into the local way of life, making for an authentic Costa Rican experience. Catch a direct bus from San Jose and settle in for a scenic journey that will take you through bustling towns and serene countryside before arriving at your laid-back beach destination.

Be prepared for an extended ride; this mode of transport may be less costly but requires patience as it is not the quickest option.

Once you reach Santa Teresa, connect with one of the shuttles that head towards Mal Pais. These shuttles provide functional comfort and drop you close to several Mal Pais hotels or rental places near the beach, saving time on foot or arranging separate transport.

Keep in mind public buses are less frequent here compared to other top tourist destinations in Costa Rica, so plan accordingly to ensure smooth travels along the southern Nicoya Peninsula’s stunning coastline.

By Plane

Catching a flight is one of the quickest ways to reach Malpais. Local airlines fly from San Jose directly to Tambor, which sits conveniently close to your destination. Once you land in Tambor, it’s a simple drive to the serene beaches and lush landscapes of Malpais.

These flights not only save time but also provide stunning aerial views of Costa Rica’s vibrant topography.

Choose this option for efficient travel and enjoy more time exploring the tropical paradise that awaits in Malpais. Car rentals are available at Tambor Airport, making the transition from air travel to road trip seamless and stress-free.

Pack your bags for an adventure that starts with breathtaking views from above and continues with countless discoveries on land in the heart of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais.

Exploring the Town of Malpais

Malpais entices travelers with its quaint charm and vibrant coastal culture, inviting visitors to delve into its treasures.

Playa Mal Pais and Nearby Beaches

Playa Mal Pais beckons with its stunning ocean views and serene atmosphere, setting the stage for a paradise where surfers chase world-class waves. Surrounded by lush greenery and rugged cliffs, this beach remains relatively untouched, allowing visitors to savor quiet moments by the sea.

With consistent waves rolling in, it’s an idyllic spot for both seasoned surfers and those looking to catch their first wave.

Nearby beaches like Playa Cuevas boast hidden coves where one can find tranquility away from any crowds. Venture a bit further, and you’ll discover Playa Mar Azul’s azure waters inviting snorkel enthusiasts to explore underwater marvels.

Each beach around Mal Pais has its unique charm, providing ample opportunities for sunbathing, bird watching or simply soaking up Costa Rica’s breathtaking coastal beauty.

Surf’s Up: Mal Pais’ Surfing Scene

Mal Pais beckons surfers with its reputation for world-class waves that roll in throughout the year. This surf haven offers breaks for every skill level, making it a prime destination whether you’re just starting out or looking to challenge yourself on more advanced swells.

The tranquil atmosphere blends seamlessly with the excitement of surfing, allowing visitors to enjoy both relaxation and adventure.

Each day, people flock to the renowned beaches such as Playa Carmen and Santa Teresa from their hotels or luxury villas nearby. Surfers ride the long beach break waves while spectators lounge under canopies, taking in the laid-back vibe of Mal Pais.

With numerous surf camps dotting the coastline, there’s always an opportunity to improve your skills or even catch your first wave under expert guidance.

Top Activities in Malpais

Immerse yourself in the diverse activities Malpais offers, from its serene nature reserves to the vibrant local culture, ensuring a rich experience for every traveler.

Hiking in Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

Trekking through Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve presents a precious chance to experience Costa Rica’s raw beauty. The trails wind along the coastline, offering breathtaking vistas and opportunities to observe a plethora of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Hikers find themselves enveloped by an atmosphere of tranquility as they navigate paths that range from easy strolls to more challenging treks, catering to adventurers of all skill levels.

The reserve stands as a sanctuary for conservation, home to vibrant bird species and other local fauna. Each step taken on these well-marked routes is an invitation to leave behind the noise of everyday life and embrace the stillness of nature around you.

After soaking in the marvels at Cabo Blanco, your journey can continue onto exploring Santa Teresa where more surprises await.

Exploring Santa Teresa

Exploring Santa Teresa unlocks the vibrant heart of life next to Mal Pais. Wander through this buzzing town and find everything from charming cafes to surf shops dotting the streets.

Get your daily essentials in Santa Teresa, where supermarkets offer a variety of fresh produce for beach picnics or cozy meals at your rental. The community vibes are tangible as locals and visitors mingle in bars and restaurants, creating an atmosphere that’s both welcoming and exhilarating.

Make sure you visit Santa Teresa’s beautiful beaches, like Playa Carmen, known for their soft sands and perfect waves. Here, surfing enthusiasts ride the swells while beginners can find plenty of schools ready to teach them how to catch their first wave.

Yoga studios invite you to unwind with sessions that align with the serene backdrop of Costa Rica’s coastline. For adventurers seeking more than just sunbathing, rent a quad bike and explore the dusty backroads leading to “secret beaches” waiting to be discovered near Santa Teresa.

Visiting Cabuya

Cabuya invites travelers to experience its serene beauty and cultural wonders. This tranquil town, nestled close to Malpais, lures nature enthusiasts with the pristine Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve where they can hike through lush forests and gaze at panoramic ocean views.

History buffs will find intrigue in the age-old petroglyphs etched into coastal rock formations, offering a glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich past.

Visitors are drawn to the unique cemetery on a nearby island, an unusual sight that becomes reachable by foot when tides pull back their watery veil. For those seeking respite from more crowded destinations, Cabuya provides peaceful beaches and a relaxed atmosphere that embodies Pura Vida—the pure life—cherished by locals and visitors alike.

Boutique hotels and eco-friendly lodges dot the area around Cabuya, ensuring stays are both comfortable and kind to earth’s ecosystems.

Where to Stay and Eat in Malpais

Mal Pais welcomes travelers with a range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Seek out the cozy hostels for a communal vibe perfect for solo adventurers or choose budget hotels that offer comfort without breaking the bank.

For those seeking luxury, Malpais boasts exquisite villas that promise privacy and panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean. Many of these stays provide amenities like swimming pools and easy access to Mal Pais’s stunning beaches.

Satisfying your hunger in Mal Pais is an adventure in itself, with local restaurants serving up fresh seafood caught straight from the ocean. Indulge in international cuisines at quaint eateries dotted along the beach, where you can dine with sand between your toes.

Sunsets are even more magical when accompanied by a delicious meal in this laid-back coastal haven. Ready to continue exploring? The vibrant scene of Santa Teresa awaits just around the corner, offering more adventures and experiences.


Venturing through Malpais presents an exceptional travel adventure, unveiling Costa Rica’s less-traveled roads and breathtaking sights. The journey is more than just a trip; it’s an immersion into the heart of a paradise that marries pristine beaches with exhilarating activities like surfing and hiking.

Travelers find convenience in various transport options, including ferries and flights, while ATVs offer freedom to roam this hidden gem. Comfortable stays and local flavors await those who wish to explore deeper into Malpais’ tranquil village life.

With each step or ride along the coastline, one discovers why this destination captivates so many hearts – from its warm waves to its welcoming shores, Malpais invites you to make your own unforgettable memories under the sun.

Let these experiences become stories you’ll cherish long after the sandy footprints fade away.


1. What makes Mal Pais, Costa Rica special?

Mal Pais is a small beach town known for its laid-back vibe and beautiful surroundings, including Playa Santa Teresa and the Cabo Blanco National Park at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

2. Are there any activities for adventure seekers in Mal Pais?

Yes, visitors can enjoy horseback riding along secret beaches, surfing at renowned spots like Mal Pais Surf Camp, or exploring nature with canopy tours in the lush forests surrounding the area.

3. How do I get to Mal Pais from San Jose?

You can take a flight from San Jose to Tambor and then rent a car or use a shuttle service to make your way to Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen before reaching Mal Pais.

4. When is the best time to visit Mal Pais?

The best time to visit is during dry season for sunny days ideal for outdoor adventures; however, visiting during rainy season offers lush landscapes with fewer crowds.

5. Can I explore around Mal Pais on quad bikes?

Absolutely! Quad bikes and motorcycles are popular ways to explore the entire beach area and rugged terrain of this region, adding fun and flexibility to your travel plans.

6. Where should I stay when visiting this part of Costa Rica?

Consider staying at places like Casa Chameleon or various hotels in Santa Teresa that offer proximity both to beaches such as Playa Carmen and natural attractions like Cabo Blanco National Park.



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