Mal Pais is a small hamlet on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula which just out into the Pacific Ocean. The southern limit of Malpais borders the National Park Cabo Blanco. From here the beach community stretches for around 4 km, until Playa Carmen. Here, at the road intersection, begins the sprawling surf town of Santa Teresa.

Many people wonder about the origin of the name Mal Pais which means “Bad Land” in English. Maybe it was called so because of its rocky beach.

Although generally not good for swimming, the coastal scenery is picturesque, with small coves, promontories and jagged rocks bashed by the surf. A favorite pastime is bathing in the many tide pools at mid tide and Playa Suecos or Secret Beach is idyllic for snorkeling and swimming!

A particular draw for eco tourists is the neighboring Cabo Blanco National Park. The lushly forested hills of the nature reserve provide the scenic backdrop of views from the beaches. Cabo Blanco is an important refuge for nature and animals which are threatened by the booming development in many parts of the Santa Teresa area. Entering Cabo Blanco is however not allowed from the Malpais side, the park entrance is in Cabuya, a 7 km drive away.

Malpais hosts the only port in the area. It‘s just a narrow channel between rocks to a small spot on the beach where the fishermen keep their boats. Their number has increased significantly years as in high season many fishermen offer boat tours for tourists. The harbor also serves as a take off point for many aquatic activities like kayaking, SUP paddling or boat tours.

For many years the Southern Nicoya Peninsula was off the beaten tourist track because it was difficult to get there. Roads were bad and there were fewer ferries available than today to cross the Gulf of Nicoya. Surfers and adventurous backpackers were the first travelers to discover the beaches with its great surf spots. As roads and public transportations improved Malpais, and Santa Teresa particularly, turned into one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations.
Santa Teresa is a booming travel destination in Costa Rica which attracts especially surfers and the younger crowds to its scenic beaches and great surf.

A broad strip of forest frames the beach of Santa Teresa and an absence of high-rise buildings maintains the pristine image of the coastline with its long sweep of white sand beach washed by the pacific surf and backed by jungle covered hills. Behind the beach forest lies Santa Teresa’s main drag which runs parallel to the coast on a potholed and dusty dirt road.  

The past few years the village has seen a huge spike in devolopment and constructions now spread up the hills inland from the coast

There are bathrooms, showers and changing rooms, drinking water, information services, trained local guides, community lifeguards, and picnic areas. Parking in Sector Puerto Vargas. 

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature reserve protects semi dry tropical forest on the southern tip of the Nicoya Penisula, Costa Rica.  The 2 mile long (3 km) trail crosses a ridge and drops down to Playa Banco on the tip of the Nicoya Penisula.

The visitors entrance to Cabo Blanco is on the east side of the Peninsula near Cabuya, south of Montezuma. Open 8 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) Access on the western side of Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve (Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco) is restricted to the tiny but strikingly beautiful Playa Cuevas. There are no public trails from this entrance.




Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve:
Daily 8am – 4pm


Cost to Enter: $12 USD

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