• Santa Teresa
  • Playa Carmen
  • Tambor
  • Montezuma

Inside Scoop

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 : and

To find information about Montezuma, go to

Getting There

To drive there over land it would take a good 5 to 6 hours to reach Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen, Mal Pais, and the nearby beaches, not all of it on a paved road. To shorten the trip to 3 to 4 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, here is an 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.

Taking the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula

Ferry to the Southern Region:
(Tambor, Montezuma, Malpais, Santa Teresa)
Puntarenas to Paquera Paquera to Puntarenas
(Regular schedule:)

5:00 a.m.
9:00 a.m.
11:00 a.m.
14:00 p.m.
17:00 p.m.
20:30 p.m.

5:30 a.m.
9:00 a.m.
11:00 a.m.
14:00 p.m.
17:00 p.m.
20:00 p.m.

Get there at least an hour before the ferry leaves to ensure a place. When you get to the tip of the peninsula of Puntarenas, turn to the right and then at the end of the street, park in line. Then a guy comes around to each car and gives you a card encased in plastic. You use that card and go to the ticket counter to buy your ticket
(~$25 for one car with the driver each way and $1.50 per additional passenger) You can buy your tickets online HERE. You have to purchase them 48 hours in advance.

Take care that you are on the right boat: to get to Santa Teresa or Montezuma take the ferry to Paquera, to Samara and Nosara take the ferry to Naranjo.

Driving Distances from the ferry in Paquera to
Tambor: 24 km (40 min)
Montezuma: 48 km (80 min)
Mal Pais and Santa Teresa: 58 km (90 min)
Samara: 80 min

Bulletins - Anuncios

The Costa Rica Network of Accessible Tourism is collecting plastic lids and caps in order to reprocess them into plastic planks to use in making handicapped accessible walkways to the beach. Check here to see what hotels and local businesses are collecting them.

Best Time to Travel to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Why is the rainy season the best time to travel to Santa Teresa Costa Rica? When you think “rainy season” or “green season” here at beautiful Blue Surf Sanctuary in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, you often conjure up the thought of consistent downpours ruining your day’s plans. This is definitely not the case. It is truly the best time to travel to Santa Teresa Costa Rica. Read more on the Blue Surf Sanctuary blog.

Check out the latest Learn to Surf Videos posted by Pura Vida Adventures in Santa Teresa.

Surf Spots

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.

Surf Camps

Visit our Costa Rica Surf Camp Directory

Featured Hotels & House Rentals

Visit our Costa Rica Hotel Directory for more of our favorite hotels and house rentals

Description: Six 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.
Santa Teresa CR: (506) 2640-0617 $80-$150

Description: Ranchos Itauna offers 4 spacious and very comfortable rooms which accommodate 2 - 4 people each. They all have private bathrooms with hot water, fan and refrigerator. Two of their rooms have a kitchen. A new option avaiable is at Rancho Cana. It has more privacy and is closer to the beach. It comes with a private bathroom, hot water, AC, safe, WiFi. One king bed and one single bed. Private deck and a little ocean view.

Santa Teresa 2640-0095 $80-$140

Vista de Olas Hotel

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.

Mal Pais 2640-0183 $175-$195

Casa Cecilia

Casa Cecilia Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa 877-859-3059   $99-219