Located on the southwestern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, Mal Pais is quickly becoming a trendy tourist destination for all types of travelers. Despite its’ name translating to “bad country”, Mal Pais has repeatedly been praised for its beautiful, untouched beaches and consistent surf breaks. Spanning approximately 7 km long, the area of Mal Pais includes Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa and Manzanillo. The main road runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean with amazing beach spots everywhere you turn. Here is a guide to the top 5 best beaches in the area.
Playa Hermosa, not to be confused with one of the other 3 Playa Hermosa’s in Costa Rica, is by far one of the most popular surf beaches in Mal Pais. Located north of the main town, just pass the Hermosa Valley School, left at the fork & left down the first dirt road driveway straight west to the beach parking lot on your right. A perfect place for beginners to take a lesson in the whitewash at mid-high tide or advance your skill and ride the outside breaks with the locals. If surfing isn’t your thing relax on the unspoiled beach and enjoy the lush jungle backdrop & warm ocean waters. Indulge your tropical side and buy a “pipa fria” (cold coconut) from the local vendor who is typically there daily. You might even catch them climbing the trees to get them fresh!
Playa Suecos, also referred to by locals as either “Secret Beach” or “Swedish Beach”, is just pass the fishing village at the southern tip of Mal Pais, up the dirt road on the left and through the jungle to the parking area. Neighboring Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, Playa Suecos is great for snorkeling & swimming, and if you’re lucky a wave that local surfers sometimes compare to Teahupo’o, Tahiti (just not as big, promise). Given its proximity to the nature reserve and rocky reef, Playa Suecos is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for snorkeling, with an abundance of sea creatures and marine life, including fish, eels, turtles and more!
North End Tide Pools
Between Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa, across from The Perfect Sunset School you can find the best tide pools of Mal Pais. Of course the beach itself is pristine, however the best time to enjoy this particular beach is during low tide when the spacious pools are perfect for relaxing or exploring. Although not as plentiful in marine life as Playa Suecos, you can still see some fish or creatures swimming around the rocky pools if you bring your snorkel gear. Otherwise the tide pools are the perfect place to bring a picnic and spend the day basking in the Costa Rican tropical weather.
Centrally located in northern Santa Teresa area, this beach makes our list for not only its beauty but also its amenities. Here you can surf, swim, eat & drink your day away! Grab a table, or comfortable couch bed at Rocamar beachfront restaurant and you can enjoy your lunch with an ocean view. Every Sunday afternoon during the high season the restaurant teams up with musicians & more and delivers the most epic “Beach Family Gatherings” in Mal Pais. Complete with rocking dj’s, drink specials, grilled food and activities for the kids, such as hula hoop & tele silks, not to mention a beach bonfire after the sun sets for all to enjoy. Even if it isn’t Sunday, Rocamar beach is still a beach that shouldn’t be skipped.
One of the most popular beaches due to its location in the center of town, Playa Carmen is amongst the favorite beaches of the area. With its consistent surf breaks right in front and its untouched jungle backdrop, Playa Carmen beach is the perfect spot to enjoy your vacation. This is the only beach in Mal Pais where you can rent a lounge chair & umbrella during the day, and even a boogie board if you want to play in the waves. Across from the ocean is the Restaurante Playa Carmen, serving up pizzas, fresh fish, cold drinks and more, if you need a break from the strong Costa Rican sun. During the day you can even buy some local artisan souvenirs from the street vendors set up just in front of the restaurant.
No matter where you end up spending your time in Mal Pais rest assured you will thoroughly enjoy the town. Between the un-crowded beaches and plush jungle settings Mal Pais has some of the best Costa Rica has to offer. Although the small surf-town-vibe makes everyone feel relaxed & laid-back always remember to lock your car and take your valuables with you. Nothing ruins a vacation more than losing your possessions. Pura Vida!