Malpais, Costa Rica
Malpais (Mal Pais) today remains one of the lesser chockablock localities in Costa Rica, with plenty of room still left to surf, plentiful beaches still left to walk and a plethora of wildlife still left to spot. The water shortages of the past is how Mal Pais (“bad land”) got it’s name, and perhaps this is one of the reasons this bad land is still a good place to get away.
Mal Pais is located off the Nicoya Peninsula in the northwest of Costa Rica. The town goes inland from the Pacific Ocean with the Mal Pais and Santa Teresa beaches meeting up the coast. The road runs parallel to the eastern coast from Paquera, Tambor, Montezuma and ends in Mal Pais.
The area around Mal Pais houses the noted Cabo Blanco National Reserve, with the waters helping to protect a diverse range of fish. The Isla Cabo Blanco, however, is home to a variety of avifauna. A boat leaves from Mal Pais with visiting hours kept to a minimal to lessen human impact. Moreover, the horseback riding, snorkeling, fishing, kite and wind surfing, boogie boarding, canopy tours, hiking tours, ATV tours and beaches to sprawl on lend to the Malpais paradise feel.
The birds at the Isla Cabo Blanco number in the hundreds with the section around Mal Pais not yet suffering the shove of human presence. The Quetzal, Yellow Flycatcher, Gray-Breasted Wood-Wren and Treehunter frequent the area.
One of the more removed beaches in Mal Pais lies on the Isla Cabo Blanco bird sanctuary. A two-mile trail from the entrance leads to the Playa Cabo Blanco beach. The Playa Las Suecas and Mal Pais beach, lying south of Playa Santa Teresa on mainland Costa Rica, are never overly crowded and provide great surf launches into the ocean.
When the swells come in, the best riding occurs in Playa el Suecos and Punta Barrigona, with El Carmen, Playa Hermosa and Santa Teresa staying consistently surfable though small on average. El Carmen and Playa Hermosa both break left and right. Punta Barrigona has the longest lefthander waves though a good boost from swells will make the area crowded.
There are only two predictable seasons for Malpais, Costa Rica. The summer tends to be very wet, with pelting rains beating the sand and water every afternoon. The best time to come to Mal Pais is during the dry season, when average temperatures stay comfortable, roads become passable and bugs remain minimal.
This is not the place to see Cancun-esque high rises, though there is luxury to be had. In addition to luxury, the mid-range resorts and villas happily accommodate thousands of visitors per year. The styles here are often simple, with prices remaining affordable for an area so accessible.