Mal Pais, Costa Rica

A relaxed & remote fishing village

The Mal Pais Vibe

Mal Pais is one of our favorite spots in the country.

Here you can experience raw natural beauty, relaxing vibes, and an easy drive to some really amazing activities.

Also, Thomas loves this area for fishing.

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Map Of Mal Pais

Mal Pais is located on the Nicoya Peninsula between Montezuma and Santa Teresa.

Mal Pais at a Glance

Nearest International Airport

San Jose International Airport

Popular Things to Do

surfing, rent an ATV, fishing

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, ATV

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April


Getting to Mal Pais

Flights to Costa Rica

Mal Pais is great because it is easily accessible from the Liberia airport and the San Jose airport. 

More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.



Cheapest Way to Get to Mal Pais

The cheapest way to get to Mal Pais is with the public bus (if coming from San Jose). However, this will take seven hours and involves switching busses three times and going on the ferry. You can check out the bus schedule here.

Most Comfortable Way to Get Here

For the most comfort, we like to take a private shuttle. Our go-to shuttle company is Adobe Transfers. We have worked closely with Adobe for almost five years now and trust them completely. You can get a private transfer quote here.

Our Favorite Way to Get Here

We always suggest renting a car and driving to Mal Pais on your own. The best way to do this (if coming from San Jose) is by going on the Puntarenas ferry to Paquera. In total this trip will take about five to six hours.

However, about two of those hours will be spent on the ferry/ getting off the ferry. So, in actuality, it is not too much driving.

Check out our ferry guide for more on that.

We like to rent a car because Mal Pais is very remote. For all day trips you will likely want a car and there are not many car rental places in the Mal Pais area.

You do not necessarily need a 4×4 for the drive to Mal Pais, but an SUV with decent clearance is suggested for once in Mal Pais because the roads are not paved. If you would like to drive the back road to Montezuma from Mal Pais, you will need a 4×4.


Fastest Way to Get to Mal Pais

The fastest (but most expensive) way to get to Mal Pais is by plane. From San Jose, it is possible to fly with a domestic airline to Tambor Airport. From Tambor, you can take a private shuttle or taxi 45 minutes to Mal Pais.

Getting Around in Mal Pais

Having a rental car will be the easiest way to get around in Mal Pais. Without a car you will be limited to just the small Mal Pais area. 

Another option is to rent an ATV in Santa Teresa for a few days to get in between Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. Most companies charge about $75 a day for an ATV. 

Mal Pais Weather

Like most of the country, the dry season here runs from mid-December until April or May.

From May until August you can expect some afternoon rainstorms. They tend to roll in like clockwork around 2pm.

From mid-August until December a lot of things close down because the weather can be really rainy and there just isn’t enough tourism in this area at that time. 

Even during the green season, this area tends to be super hot and sunny during the day. 

Learn more about Costa Rica weather here.

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Mal Pais Hotels

There are not many hotels in Mal Pais. We have stayed at a few, but often we have had better luck renting small houses or apartments here.

However, here are the few places we can highly suggest. 

Casa ChameleonOur top choice for a romantic getaway. This is an adult-only hotel that offers two-person villas with private splash pools. 

Hotel Vista de OlasA nice rustic hotel with great ocean views. A good mid-range option. 

Blue Jay Lodge – The most budget-friendly option on this list, Blue Jay Lodge has a pool for guests to use and a free breakfast. The rooms are simple but sufficient. Plus, it is located directly across the street from the beach. 

Mal Pais Homes & Villa Rentals

We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.

Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double check before booking.

Casa de Noni – A four bedroom home with a nice private pool in the hills above Mal Pais. This house can sleep up to ten people. 

Casita Silencio – This is the perfect place for a couple looking for a relacxed and romantic getaway. 

Villa Havana – If you are traveling with a group of friends, this is our top choice for you. It sleeps up to 18 people in six bedrooms/ five bathrooms.

There are two pools connected to each other, a pool table, a BBQ area, and more!

Things to Do in Mal Pais

Go Surfing

Head to Santa Teresa and you will find plenty of places to take surf lessons or rent a board.
There are many spots in this area for more advanced surfers, but beginners will find some nice spots as well. Just ask at the surf shop and they will help you out.

Go Fishing

Mal Pais is a popular fishing spot.

Go on an in-shore or offshore fishing trip here and you are sure to catch some tuna, snapper, mahi-mahi, and more!

We suggest going out with Captain Jason for a fun in-shore trip.



Hike at Cabo Blanco National Park

Head towards Montezuma and you will first hit Cabo Blanco National Park.

This is not an overly hilly hike, but with the heat and humidity, it can be intense.

Check out our full Cabo Blanco guide for all the info.

Visit the Butterfly Garden

Head to Montezuma and visit the Butterfly Brewing company. They have a nice butterfly garden to walk through as well as some quality craft beers and food.

Visit the Montezuma Waterfall

The Montezuma waterfall is actually a series of falls. You can swim under a few of them. Our favorite way to visit is by hiking in from the Butterfly Brewing company.

You can check out our complete Montezuma waterfall guide for more info.

Rent an ATV

The roads around Mal Pais are not paved, this means they can be a fun ATV spot.

It is possible to take an ATV tour with a guide, but you can also just rent an ATV and explore on your own.

Go Beach Hopping

The beaches of Mal Pais are all spots of raw beauty. All the beaches here are small and the water near shore is somewhat rocky.

For a nice walking (or surfing) beach, head towards Santa Teresa and check out Playa Carmen.

Walk Montezuma Beach

Head into Montezuma and park in the downtown area to walk the long and beautiful beach. This walk is best done at low tide.

Along the way, you might see sea turtles. The walk ends with a unique waterfall that flows into the ocean. Check out our Montezuma beach guide for all the info.

Take a Day Trip to Isla Tortuga

Isla Tortuga is an uninhabited island with white sand and crystal clear waters. Check out our Isla Tortuga guide for more info.

Check out the Cemetary Island

On the way to Montezuma, you will pass through a small town called Cabuya. During low tide, it is possible to walk out to the town’s cemetery which is located on an island.

It is one of the most beautiful and unique cemeteries I’ve ever seen.

Mal Pais Restaurants

There are not a whole lot of bars and restaurants in Mal Pais, but we have a few places that we like a lot. For a larger selection, head to Santa Teresa

Brasas Del Mar – If you would like a very fancy date meal, this is the place to go.

Located at Casas Chameleon hotel, dinner here costs $150 for two people and includes two starters, two entrees, two desserts, and a bottle of wine or four cocktails.

Everything is delicious here, but I highly suggest going for the fish or seafood. 

Doña Teresa – This is our go-to restaurant in the area. In fact, almost all of our meals are eaten here.

All pastas are homemade and the pizzas are great as well.

If you are a fan of cocktails, every drink we have had here has been excellent. 

Las Caracolas – The place to go if you would like to enjoy a typical Costa Rican meal on the beach.

We suggest getting here just before sunset for dinner with a sundown show. 


Packing for Mal Pais

Since Mal Pais is a small fishing village, there is no need to pack nice clothes unless you are staying at a resort. You will most likely spend most of your time on the water. We opt for lightweight breathable fabrics that dry quickly. 

Keep in mind that the roads here aren’t paved and things can get very dusty during the dry season. Also, it is sometimes best to pack your stuff in a large backpack instead of a suitcase for here because often places are located on hills and you may have to go up steps to get to your accommodation.

Check out our Mal Pais Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials. 

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Mal Pais Travel Tips

– Fun Fact: Did you know that the Nicoya Peninsula (where Mal Paid is located) is one of the few Blue Zones in the world?

This means that people here tend to have an unusually long lifespan. Definitely try to soak up this relaxed vibe while here.

– If you visit Mal Pais we suggest spending at least four nights here.

It is kind of a pain to get to and there are plenty of things to do nearby to fill up your days.

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