Find out about Mal Pais and the Santa Teresa area. Things to consider when traveling down and around the Nicoya Peninsula. Don’t miss this video if you’re interested in this surf area.
Im not really sure why such a relatively small area has three different names, but it does, so let me see if I can explain it. Most people enter the area coming from Cobano, which is the main road into the Malpais/Santa Teresa area. After descending a fairly rough and steep road (4-wheel drive is highly recommended for this area), it forms a T, and you either go left or right. This entrance is basically referred to as, Franks Place, because Frank obviously owns quite a bit of businesses on both sides of the road if his name is any indication.
If youtake a left, you are basically going into the Malpais area. Malpais is NOT a town per se, but an area of spread out hotels, resorts and restaurants. The beaches are more rocky and remote and theres no real surfing in this area, but the coastline is beautiful and a perfect place if you dont want many people around in order to enjoy the solitude. If you happen to book a hotel in this area, you could have quite a long and dusty walk into the main surfing beach (Playa Carmen), and the town itself. Santa Teresa is the right at the T, and is basically the town, but you really cant call it a town. It seems to be more of a conglomeration of shantys or simple structures made into little sodas, restaurants, surf shops and tour offices- they just happen to be close to each other. In Santa Teresa you will find most of the discos, bars and nightlife scene. There are plenty of resorts, hotels and services that become more remote as you venture out of town. Now to confuse even more, Playa Carmen, which is the main beach and directly in front of the T, began as merely the name of the beach, but is now becoming its own little town and is situated smack between what is loosely Malpais and Santa Teresa. Playa Carmen basically starts at Franks Place, and goes to the right, where it stops, Im not really sure. The only major information you need to know is that if you book a room in Malpais, youre basically a nice little walk away from the town, and if you book somewhere in Santa Teresa/Playa Carmen, youre pretty much in the middle of things. In the Malpais/Santa Teresa/Playa Carmen area you can either be beach side or book various B&Bs and hotels that are situated on a steep hill, but offer a spectacular ocean view of the entire area.
This area is a huge surfing destination. Laid back, chill and offering a cool vibe, surfer/hippie types come from all over to enjoy the breaks as well as the atmosphere in general and you wont be seeing and grand tour buses rolling down the dusty road with the older generation coming into town for a visit. There are other activities to enjoy here as well, but make no mistake, this area is mainly for surfers and sport fisherman or people that want to have some quite time in the more remote parts of the area.
The nightlife is also a great party, filled with grooves and dance beats that could have anyone dancing into the wee hours, and if youre looking for something other than alcohol, then thats probably available as well.
Dont forget to visit Montezuma only about an hour away and heres a helpful hint, you dont have to go back up through Cobano to get to Montezuma, ask a local, hell show you the back way and its pretty easy and much more scenic.
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