Mal Pais is a small fishing village on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. From its southern limit at the Cabo Blanco National Park it extends north for around 4 km, until joining the neighboring village of Santa Teresa. While in recent years Santa Teresa has become a bustling surf town, Mal Pais has retained its laid-back vibe and appeals more to nature lovers and tranquilty seekers.
Mal Pais, also written Malpais, means “Bad Land” in English and there are various theories about the origin of that name. It could refer to a special stone found in Malpais which the Chorotega Indians called “Mah Pah”, or maybe it was called a bad land because of its rocky coastline. Whatever the reason, the name isn’t justified. Mal Pais is blessed with a picturesque landscape, and the world class surf of Playa Carmen attracts surfers from all over the world.
In former times, before Santa Teresa became the rage of the surfing crowds, the whole area was rather known as Mal Pais. When Santa Teresa was still an agricultural area, the first resorts, hotels and restaurants opened in Mal Pais. Around the turn of millennium however, developers started to promote Santa Teresa as the surf beach to be and with dizzying speed it morphed into a bustling beach village. In Mal Pais however life continued its slow pace and still today much of the jungle and nature is preserved.
The limit between the villages of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa is the road from Cobano down to the beach of Playa Carmen. Here the difference between the two neighborhoods is easy to see: to your left a rocky coastline with few people curls down until the Cabo Blanco National Park, while to your right extends the vast sandy beach of Santa Teresa, busy with surfers and beach walkers. A few paces up from the beach, at the road intersection “El Cruze”, you also see Santa Teresa’s commercial activity and traffic to your right, and to the left the calm road that leads to Mal Pais.