Mal Pais – Santa Teresa
It’s ironic that Malpaís means “bad land” in Spanish—this is a place where the beach stretches for miles and the waves can make even the most seasoned of surfers drool. The main town is populated by relaxed, heady locals and is near some impressive outdoor areas, including parks and waterfalls. No, Malpaís isn’t a bad land at all; to the contrary, it’s quite remarkable.
The name comes from the olden days when agriculture – not tourism – was the region’s main gig. The rivers and streams would dry up during the summer, which made it hard for the locals to grow crops. These days the streams still flow less during parts of the year, but that hardly matters—Malpaís and the surrounding area are quickly becoming one of Costa Rica’s hottest destinations. It’s steadily attracting travelers with its lure of white-sand beaches, swaths of forest and warm, surfable waters.
In fact, it was the surfing that first brought people here. During most of the 20th century, Malpaís was hardly known to the international community. The small village mainly sustained itself through a combination of agriculture and fishing. All that changed when surfers – both national and international – heard about the consistently good waves that the area received. Slowly but steadily, people began showing up to shred the swells that rolled onto the beaches of Malpaís. Once they saw what was on tap, they were hooked; many, in fact, never left and stayed around to open businesses. Within a matter of years, Malpaís began blooming into the funky, unique place that it is today.