Mal Pais, 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.
The former road sign of Malpais and Santa Teresa.
On Playa Carmen Mal Pais merges with the booming beach village of Santa Teresa with its vibrant surfer scene,
shops, hotels and bars.
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.
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: 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 your boat you might see dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles or whales. Tours can be arranged by any hotel in Mal Pais or Santa Teresa. See also: » Malpais Underwater
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.
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 road 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 km you reach the small fishing village of Cabuya where you turn right to continue for 2 km until the park entrance.
A worthwile stop on the road midway between Malpais and Cabuya is a newly built butterfly garden where you can see Costa Rican butterfly species, such as the blue Morpho.
The road from Mal Pais to Cabuya is however in very bad shape for most of the year. The road is usuall fixed in December so you can use it dry season until May or June, depending on the rains. 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.