The 10 Best Things to Do in Mal Pais, Costa Rica

August 18, 2017 Harland Bartelt

Near the southernmost tip of Peninsula de Nicoya, Mal Pais offers rocky coves, white sand beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, surfing, and relaxation near a remote fishing village and Cabo Blanco National Park. The prime attraction is surfing at beaches like Playa Mar Azul, Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Manzanillo, and Playa Carmen. Plus there is fishing, boating, snorkeling, diving, hiking, horseback riding, biking, and 4-wheel drive touring. A 4-wheel drive vehicle comes in handy for navigating unpaved roads in this still mostly wild area, particularly during the rainy season. Though locals zip around on quad bikes and motorcycles transporting their surfboards. Allow the better part of a day driving from San Jose Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) to Mal Pais. Budget extra time to board the car ferry from Puntarenas across the Golfo de Nicoya to Paquera on the Peninsula de Nicoya. Or take the short flight from San Jose to Tambor Airport (TMU), and be within an hour of Mal Pais. Some Mal Pais beaches have little sand, and judging point break direction and swell size requires surfing acumen. A Mal Pais surf camp may be perfect for family members wanting to learn to read the surf better. Santa Teresa’s beaches have more white sand, and point breaks like Suck Rock are almost legendary among surfers flocking here when the seas around Playa Carmen get too rough. Playa Carmen has enough variety to accommodate all levels of surfers, but the swells can get too rough and too frequent to get out during the rainy season. A bit to the north, with waters calmed by a rock jetty, Playa Manzanillo is known for its annual sand castle competition.
Restaurants in Mal Pais

1. Mal Pais Freedom Riding SUP

Mal Pais Central, Mal Pais Cobano, Costa Rica
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5 based on 103 reviews

Mal Pais Freedom Riding SUP

Freedom Riding SUP Adventures was formed by Andy Seidensticker and his Costa Rican wife Edith. We started doing SUP lessons and tours five years ago in the fishing village of Mal Pais, taking clients all the basic fundamentals of SUP, and paddling clients into the Cabo Blanco Reserve. The business has grown quickly in the last couple years, and has now expanded into SUP rentals, clinics for all levels, and SUP adventure tours around the Nicoya Peninsula. We are passionate and true lovers of the sport of SUP and take teaching the sport very seriously. Edith competes on the Costa Rican National SUP Race Circuit, and has clinched the National Womens Champion two years in a row, in both long distance and short distance. Contact Freedom Riding if you would like to schedule a class, tour or rental for your next vacation.

Reviewed By Felilaafoa - Boise, Idaho

Booking was easy, website was up to date and accurate. Andy and Edith kept communication a priority throughout the trip planning process and helped communicate what experience may be right for our group.
Day of the tour was amazing, the best way to catch a sunrise in Mal Pais! Edith and her daughter went out with our group and were wonderful. We had a mix of experienced and unexperienced and everyone went away with 2 hours of fun! Early morning booking is a must do, we were done by 9:30 and had the rest of the day to find adventure.

2. Jose's Crocodile River Tour

Located 20 minutes from Jaco beach and Los Suenos Resort and Marina, Tarcoles, Garabito Municipality, Costa Rica
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5 based on 531 reviews

Jose's Crocodile River Tour

An action-packed river boat adventure on the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. See crocodiles up to 17 feet long, over 30 kinds of exotic birds, iguanas and lizards, cruise through mangrove forest, and admire the rainforest scenery! Wildlife UP-CLOSE! An adventure you must experience! Located 20 minutes from Jaco beach and Los Suenos Resort and Marina.

Reviewed By cadeaugratuit - Nevada, USA

From the youngest to the oldest, all will enjoy the crocodile tour. The guides intimately know the mangroves and the best spots to see crocs as well as fabulous water/shore birds. About 90 minutes, (no bathroom onboard.) The plastic and other litter in the river is disheartening, but the CR people truly love their country and enjoy sharing it with visitors. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour and got great photos.

3. Nicoya Surf School

2 km before Cabo Blanco National Park, Cabuya, Montezuma 8423, Costa Rica
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5 based on 109 reviews

Nicoya Surf School

Our surf school is focus to introduce the peolpe to this beautiful sport and life style . Located in one of the best places in the world for learning to surf, the safety, fun and progressive learning is our main objective . with more than 14 years of teaching experience in the area we offer classes for beginners, intermediate and surf safaries for advance .

Reviewed By Aaron B

Guillermo and his team were nothing short of awesome. They are expert teachers! They were full of great information, positive energy, and a true appreciation the beautiful country they call home. We will definitely be back and we will definitely be contacting them again for...MoreThank you so much for the review my friend!! It was great to meet you and your wife here, i hope you keep going out to Surfing back home, saludos!

4. El Toledo Coffee Tour

Atenas 20504, Costa Rica +506 2446 2056
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5 based on 290 reviews

El Toledo Coffee Tour

We are a sustainable organic coffee farm. We have been using sustainably organic practices for over fourteen years. Today we are happy to consider ourselves environmentalists first, and coffee farmers second.

Reviewed By Cosmobobkat - Philippines

This place is great! It’s secluded but can easily find on Waze. Such knowledgeable farmers; I’m so happy they allowed us to see into their ways of farming. Walking around the farm and seeing the biodiversity was so much fun! Highly recommend this tour! Also we signed up for the lunch and I’m so glad we did; it was mucho delicioso!! :)

5. Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo

Tajo Alto | 6 km north of the center of Miramar, Miramar 60401, Costa Rica
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5 based on 206 reviews

Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo

One of our absolutely highlights is our 11 Waterfall Canopy Tour! If you were planning to come to Costa Rica for an adventures experience and to inhale the countries diverse nature this tour will exceed your expectations. While sliding down on 25 zip lines from tree to tree you are able to enjoy the most breathtaking, beautiful views of Costa Rica's natural beauty. Cross a few of the most stunning Waterfalls of Costa Rica, feel the adrenaline rush through your body and experience this green wonder of the world. Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo also offers you an experience that only Superman is known to have had: flying in the open air. Rule the skies, feel the wind of Costa Rica jungles and experience a thrill, which you are going to remember for a life time. You get to glide over a spectacular cable which is 2100 feet long, 270 feet high and you will get an incredible speed up to 45 mph. This beautiful height you will be at, will give you the opportunity to experience the majestic Costa Rican nature and the view of the Gulf of Nicoya from the eagle eyes perspective. Furthermore we offer the biggest High Rope Course of Costa Rica with different elements high up in the trees.

Reviewed By LSLTraveler - St Louis MO

Great staff and lots of them. ZIplines were all a blast, especially over the water falls. Equipment seemed new and in great shape. We spent about 40 minutes at the swimming hole and the youth had a blast sliding down the waterfall. Just ask a guide to show you the best way to do it.
The only 2 slight negatives - 1. Our group was pretty big which caused some backups and long wait times. 2. The rappelling was very slow and with our size group again caused some delays. We didn't really enjoy the rappelling very much after the first one.
But would definitely recommend it overall.
Lunch at the restaurant was local and tasty. Setting was gorgeous. Decent price/value.

Carara-Turrubares-Bijagual-San Jose, Carara, Costa Rica
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5 based on 260 reviews

Vic-Tours

Our Mission is to teach you about the Nature wonders of Costa Rica. Guiding you in National Parks,through their trails, discovering Monkeys, Scarlet Macaws,Toucans, ancient tress, medicinal plants, taking amazing pictures with our spotting Telescope and more...You can hire Vic-Tours services by tour, by day or by week. We also provide full transportation and transfers from your hotel to the tours. Transfers in and out from the airports of Alajuela and Liberia.We organize Bird watching Tours, Nature Guided Hikes through the jungles of Carara and Manuel Antonio national Parks, River and Mangrove Safari cruises, Horse back Riding to Costa Ricas highest Waterfall just to mention some. We are well prepare to help you to organize your vacations as soon as you start planning to travel to Costa Rica, please email us and we will recommend places to stay and tours.our opinion about going to the take a hike in the jungle without a Nature Tour Guide, is like being in a classroom without a teacher. Everything is there but nobody is here to teach you!Email us! We will do our best for you to enjoy your lifetime holidays!

Reviewed By dnrphd - Highland Park, Illinois

Vic is the best in every way. He is so knowledgeable, professional and he successfully searched high and low to find the macaws we were hoping to see in Carara National Park. He is warm and personable with a wonderful sense of humor. My family and I were touched by his big heart, his spirituality and his appreciation of life. We wish we had done all of our tours with Vic and recommend him without reservation. We hope to hire him again during this visit or in the future.

7. Pura Vida Expeditions

Hotel Tambor Tropical, Tambor 20112, Costa Rica
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5 based on 77 reviews

Pura Vida Expeditions

If you want to discover the real Costa Rica, we can help. We offer a variety of tours such as scuba diving and snorkeling, mountain and volcano hikes, white water rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, ATV tours and Zip Line/Canopy tours. We venture off the beaten track to the Forests and wildlife reserves in the area, or how about exploring Montezuma and Santa Teresa? All tours are guided by our experienced, local guide who really knows the area.

Reviewed By vacati0n690 - Knoxville, Maryland

We used this tour company last Christmas for several excursions. (Yes I am late in posting, but it was that magical!) We loved every single minute of our time with these guys! We hiked Curu Park and did the Bioluminescent Bay tour and the next day traveled the country on 4 wheelers. So informative! All of our senses were overwhelmed with the beauty and excitement we experienced. A must do!

8. Cafe Monte Verde Coffee Tour

Sur de Iglesia de Canitas 400m, Santa Elena, Costa Rica +506 2645 7550
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4.5 based on 230 reviews

Cafe Monte Verde Coffee Tour

Reviewed By Susan M

This tour was absolutely incredible. I had expected to learn about coffee and coffee plantations. I had not expected to learn so much more. This farm is totally sustainable. Not only that, they are pretty much totally organic. Not only that, they have done it all themselves, and now teach many, many others both here and around the world about sustainable farming.
Of course they harvest coffee beans and they show you that entire process. I was also fascinated by their composting, and harvesting of methane (which they use for all their cooking). Everything they do, they do for a purpose. We that come from 'better first world countries' could learn a lot from them.
Our guide was one of the brothers who own the farm, and he was great. My husband said the coffee was really good - I don't drink coffee but still loved the tour.
All in all, for me, this was not 'touristy'. It was interesting and educational.

9. Soul Surf Surfing School

Playa Hermosa, Garabito Municipality 61101, Costa Rica
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5 based on 68 reviews

Soul Surf Surfing School

Learn how to surf and SUP all year long with Soul Surf surf camp and school.Live the experience with the true spirit of surfing:-All ages and levels-Experienced and profesional instructors-Especials price for groups-C.P.R, AED and First Aid Certication-Water Rescue certified-Surf an SUP camps,lessons and tours-Airport hotel pick up service

Reviewed By Anne-Catherine T

It was our first time Surfing for my fiance and I and we couldn't have had a better first experience. We were a group of 4 for 2 teachers, and it was perfect. We felt that we were in good hands and the conditions were...MoreThank you Ann for your message See you guys soon ???‍♀️??

10. Monte Verde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

22 MI Southeast Of Tilaran 35 km, Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve 55-5655, Costa Rica +506 2645 5123
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4.5 based on 2 reviews

Monte Verde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Reviewed By palvey60 - Beverley, United Kingdom

This rainforest is becoming busier and too many groups are passing each other that doesn't help the human noise level. Saw some interesting birds including the male and female Resplendent Quetzal, one night mammal (which is rarely seen during the day) and learned a lot about the history and rainforest environment. We went on the night tour in the same location but in hindsight would have given the night tour a miss.

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