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Includes Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen, Tambor, and Montezuma
Mal Pais is actually three small towns stretched along the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. From north to south they are called Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen, and Mal Pais. The road is not paved for the last 10 kilometers, but at least the dirt is scraped smooth at the beginning of each dry season. The light brown beaches with green hills behind them bring tourists that prefer nature over nightlife. There are a few late night fiestas and it is growing at a suprising pace, so hopefully the iguanas and monkeys won't be moving out anytime soon. For more info on Mal Pais, check out : www.malpais.net and www.malpaisbeach.com.
To drive there over land it would take a good 7 to 8 hours, not all of it on a paved road. To shorten the trip to five hours from the San Jose Airport, you can take the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, which is a scenic journey in itself. The quickest way is to get cheap flights from San Jose to Tambor on either Sansa or Nature Air, and then arrange a taxi for the final 45 minute ride. (Remember these airlines don't take boards over 7 feet) From Paquera, drive about 20 miles to Cobano, where you’ll follow signs for seven miles to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. For travel from Liberia airport, our friends at Del Mar Surf Camp shared this easy to follow Google Map.
For busses, there is one that leaves the Coca Cola Bus Terminal in San Jose at 6:00 a.m. and arrives in Mal Pais by 2 p.m. There is also one bus that leaves at 6:00 a.m. from Mal Pais to arrive in San Jose by 2 p.m.
Here is the ferry timetable (effective 2014)
Ferry to the Southern Region:
(Tambor, Montezuma, Malpais, Santa Teresa)
Puntarenas to Paquera
Paquera to Puntarenas
valid Nov 2014 until ???
Get there at least an hour before the ferry leaves to ensure a place. TB 3 fits about 40 cars, TB 2 fits about 160 cars. When you get there, park in line. Then a guy comes around to each car and gives you a card. You use that card and go to the ticket counter to buy your ticket
(~$11 for car and $1.50 pp)
*** TB 3 will be undergoing repairs starting October 29th, leaving only one ferry running. Be sure to get in line early to secure a space!! ***
* 40% discount on rooms at Rancho Itauna. ($60 with kitchen or $50 w/o) Valid until the end of October.
* GREEN SEASON SPECIAL at Atrapasuenos Resort in Santa Teresa.
3 nights for 2 people for $290, including breakfast and taxes and the opportunity to choose between:
- An ATV rental
- A surf lesson
- A massage
*From June 1st to August 31st.
Conditions apply - EMAIL us for details or to book your stay
In Mal Pais, the beach break has a lot of rocks sticking out, especially at low tide, which makes it a little sketchy on some of the drops, but also a hollower wave. There are also a couple of left points at the south end of town. Playa Carmen is a long and wide stretch of open beach where most of the surfers go since it breaks a little bigger there than other spots. There is a powerful shorebreak and when the swell is big can break very far on the outside. It can handle well over double overhead surf, but will mostly closeout on the sets. Farther north in Santa Teresa and some smaller beaches has a series of rocky reefs that break left and break. The reefs need waves overhead or better to work.
Playa Carmen is at the center of Mal Pais, a block to the beach from Franks Place and a few new hotels. If you go straight out the bottom is sand, but at lower tides there are a few boils and rock outcroppings to the north and south so be careful. The wave is best from head high to three feet overhead. It does not usually barrel on the outside sets, just provides a big slopey wall for huge carves. It can break way on the outside so watch for sneaker sets. Best tide is mid going to high tide. Crowds are the worst right in front, but the drift will spread out the pack and you can get fun waves on the inside sections, too.
About a kilometer north of Playa Carmen is Santa Teresa, a stretch of beach mixed with sand and lava rock outcroppings that extend out 100 meters or more into the ocean. So at the right tide these ledges make for some heavy barreling rights and lefts. There is even a peak called Suck Rock because that is what it does. Ask the locals which tide works best or just sit on it and watch from a hammock at one of the many beachside villas. Crowds are light, but the locals will hit it if there is enough swell to make these peaks work. Best size is overhead to two feet overhead.
At the south end of Mal Pais there are a couple of left hand point breaks that only work when it is overhead or bigger. Midtide is the best time to check it. You will have to park on the road and walk to find the break. Just drive slowly and keep one eye peeled for a set. If it is big, the wave can break for 200 meters.
Description: Anamaya is located on a cliff's edge, overlooking the pacific ocean in Montezuma, and next a huge three-tiered waterfall with large natural pools for swimming and jumping. A small resort, we offer 12 bungalows, gourmet organic food, and daily yoga. We are partnered with Young Visions, a Tico-owned and run surf school that's rated #1 on Trip Advisor for "best activity" in Montezuma. We take our surfers to a variety of the area's beaches in Santa Teresa, Montezuma, or Cabuya, depending on the swell size and direction, tides, wind, etc, for the best possible surf experience each day. Our "Soul Surfers" surfing and yoga retreat program runs in 7-day segments, and is ideal for beginner to intermediate surfers.
Description: Packages can be customized to suit your needs, desires and level, but most include two surf lessons daily with surf camp experienced and CPR certified instructors. When they have guests that are advanced, they arrange your transportation to secret spots. Four private bungalows with orthopedic mattresses provide a welcome rest. A zen pool area and complete kitchen for guests to cook in make the camp a complete bonding experience.
Description: An Eco–friendly Boutique Hotel located only a few meters from the beach of Santa Teresa, surrounded by a beautiful, luscious tropical garden offering guests a feeling of seclusion and relaxation. It is set in the heart of town with easy access to grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment, and transportation. The hotel includes six private rooms, with a/c, private bathrooms, balconies with hammock, Cable TV, refrigerator, and wi-fi. They may be rented individually or all together to create an amazing private villa for families, weddings, group events, or retreats. The outdoor rancho has a fully equipped kitchen and barbecue facilities, pool and Jacuzzi, plus a private gated parking place.
Description: DON JONS offers different types of accommodations for variety of customers, all just 100 meters away from the white sand surfing beach of Santa Teresa. They offer two quiet, clean, and quality apartments, six cabinas with ceiling fans, and a great surf hostel with A/C, fridge, and beds for six. DON JONS offers a nice, relaxing and safe family atmosphere surrounded by beautiful natural wildlife. It is a favorite hangout for everyone, “Surf all day, eat dinner, and party all night”.
Description: Located on the beach in Santa Teresa, there are four spacious and very comfortable rooms which accommodate 2 - 4 people each. They all have private bathrooms with hot water, fan and refrigerator. Two of our rooms have a kitchen. We also arrange for you: canopy tours, fishing tours, horse tours, surf lessons and tours, kite surfing, yoga, massage, or Spanish lessons.
Description: Individual bungalows all have A/C, ceiling fan, hot water, gorgeous , breezy verandas and pillow top mattress'. In each room,we also provide, a safe, rain can shower heads, beautiful furnishings, organic soap and aromatherapy candles. Other amenities include Costa Rican coffee service, daily house keeping, cool sparkling pool, security guard, open air rancho kitchen, internet access, communal direct TV, and access to phone. The outdoor rancho kitchen and communal area has a fully equipped kitchen.
Description: The hotel offers 5 secluded deluxe villas. They are separate standing buildings which are hidden amongst the tropical landscaping. All have extraordinary ocean views, air conditioning, secure parking and a luxurious private outdoor bathroom where you can shower under the stars. They are equipped with a romantic canopy king size bed with orthopedic matrass, minibar, room safe, and cozy nooks to relax. An open air poolside restaurant offers the best BBQ in Mal Pais. For dinner they offer a full variety of fresh seafood and quality meats: T-bone Steaks, Filet Mignon, Baby Back Ribs, Bratwurst and more.
Description: Four luxury units, each with panoramic ocean, surf, and mountain views. Located on a small private hilltop with no neighbors, only a 2 minute drive or 10 minute walk up the hill from the white sands of Santa Teresa beach. Each villa has a large bathroom with hot water shower, a fully equipped kitchen, a/c, ceiling fans, wifi capability, breathtaking ocean views, and lots of privacy and space.
CR Surf Travel Co. is an independent agent of Dugan's Travels, which is certified by CLIA, IATAN, and Vacation.com. California Registered Seller 2054922-40 / Washington Registered Seller 602327942 / Fla. Seller of Travel Ref No. ST35992. Please refer to our travel policy page for all information on our travel services.