Malpais, usually spelled Mal País in Spanish, is everything to the south of the crossroads at Playa Carmen, when you first drive down the hill to the beach area. Like Montezuma, Malpais has mostly rocky beaches, with occasional sandy coves. It has two great surf spots – one at Mar Azul, and one at Sunset Reef. The crowd here is older and more laid-back than in Santa Teresa, and although it’s right next door, has developed a very different vibe.
Unlike Santa Teresa, the real estate on the Malpais side hasn’t been chopped up into thousands of tiny lots for development. A greater amount of intact jungle, and more water in the hills keeps the area greener, and because there are less tourists, it’s quieter. Malpais has become quite legendary over the years, since many famous musicians have shown up unexpectedly and rocked Malpais at the open-mic event that used to happen here at Malpais Surf Camp, and the area still has many celebrities who visit here to escape the paparazzi. You never know who you may see surfing the wave next to you.
Malpais borders Cabo Blanco National Park, but it doesn’t have a public entrance to the park. The only entrance for tourists is in Cabuya, which is just south of Montezuma. Malpais is blessed with one of the best restaurants on the peninsula, called simply “Mary’s”. This place makes the world’s best fish tacos, and the prices are affordable. I’m salivating now just thinking about them!
Malpais Tidepool Life – A Rainbow WorldA colorful miniature world lives secretly in Malpais, within the tidepools of Mar Azul.
Here, a couple dozen tidepools of various sizes offer an incredible array of colorful life, each different than the next. One can’t help but wonder why there’s such diversity from pool to pool, when they’re all very near to each other, ...
The Hidden Tidepools of Mar AzulAt Mar Azul you’ll see a huge rock known as Punta Barigona, and is one of Malpais’s most well-known landmarks.
This area holds a secret that few people know about, which is that the rock flats just to the south of Mar Azul, hold a tremendous number of amazing tidepools.
How to find it
To find them, drive ...
Cuevas Murcielagos Wildlife Refuge
The title above is a mix of Spanish and English, which I used to help travelers understand what it’s called and what it is. The translation in English would be “Bat Cave Wildlife Refuge” or in Spanish, the full name is “Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cueva Murcielago, Costa Rica”
This area is not known well ...
Malpais Canopy Tour
The “Canopy of the Pacific” known usually as the Malpais Canopy Tour, is one of two that are in this area of Costa Rica.
The Malpais canopy tour is higher and faster than the one in Montezuma, offering stunning views of the whole area, as you can see from the photo above. Nearly a mile ...
Fishermen’s Beach and Market in MalpaisOfficially, the beach where the fishermen in Malpais have their boats is called “Playa Malpais”, but you’ll very rarely see anyone swimming here.
It’s most notable for the fishermen who have their boats and storage here. You can book a boat for a fishing trip, or find Malpais’s only sailboat.
Malpais Fish Market
Many people come here ...
Anamaya Resort in Montezuma is one of the world’s premier yoga retreat centers. High on a bluff overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya, and next to Montezuma Falls, it has one of the world’s most spectacular locations for a hotel or retreat center. Focused on Yoga Retreats, Anamaya alternates between week long retreats with various mixed [...]