Malpais, Costa Rica | Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Once you drop down from the mountains to the beach, everything to the south (the left side) is Malpais. Officially spelled Mal Pais, the words mean “bad country” but it really means “badlands” because of the difficulty of living there in the old days when there were no wells, and all the small streams would dry up. Despite the dry climate in Costa Rica’s summer, native Americans had lived in Malpais for thousands of years.

Malpais has some of the most photogenic beaches in Costa Rica. There are several large rocky outcroppings that extend into the ocean, creating small bays and coves, with white sand and a variety of surf breaks. The best snorkeling is in Malpais too.

There are a few great surf breaks, especially well known are Sunset Reef and Mar Azul. However, most of the surfers go to Santa Teresa because of the more consistent waves there. But, if you’re looking for the best surfing around, Sunset Reef is where it’s at, and it’s never crowded.

Malpais isn’t as heavily developed as the Santa Teresa side, because of its lack of long stretches of white sand beaches. There are fewer hotels, although there are many luxury rental villas in the hills overlooking the area. Many wealthy foreigners have sized up the area and decided to buy in Malpais because its less busy. And the two areas are right next to each other so its only a short drive from a villa in Malpais to the restaurants in Santa Teresa.