Malpais & Santa Teresa: Top Costa Rica Beach Destinations
Santa Teresa Beach in Costa Rica is known for its gold and light sand, warm, clear aquamarine water, world-class surf conditions and spectacular sunsets. Its neighbor to the south, the sleepy beach hamlet of Malpaís, is celebrated as a surfer's paradise with a very relaxed jungle lifestyle.
Both top Costa Rica beach destinations are found on the western coast of the southern Nicoya Peninsula. Poor or non-existing roads kept this tropical utopia off the beaten path for decades. Backpackers and surfers camping their way along the coast discovered the paradise of small fishing villages in the early 1990s. Today, they are popular – though still slightly isolated – tourism destinations and win awards for being the best beaches in Central America.
Being a transitional zone between the northern Nicoya Peninsula’s dry forest climate and the southern tropical rainforest, the beaches of Malpaís and Santa Teresa are greener from more annual rain. From a hilly interior, the jungle sweeps down to the Pacific Ocean, hugging the shore and creating some of the most beautiful and hidden beaches of Costa Rica. The road across the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula from the ferry port at Paquera ends at the beach of Playa Carmen. To the right (north) is Santa Teresa and most of the tourist development; to the left (south) lies Malpaís.
Malpaís sits at the southwestern end of the Peninsula, opposite the popular beach town of Montezuma, with the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve lying in between. It is less developed, with tourist lodging and restaurants interspersed in the thick jungle along the beach – you’ll probably find more monkeys than people! There is a canopy zipline tour and you can rent horses to ride, besides the exceptional surfing with consistent swells year round.
Santa Teresa is known for pristine Blue-Flag beaches, easy-to-ride waves, volcanic reef formations and picture-perfect sunsets. Stretching from Playa Carmen to Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa along the main road, you will find a bustling town with high-end luxury resorts, little hotels, top-notch restaurants, shops and tours. It is a cosmopolitan community with residents from all corners of the world.
Where to stay in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
On the beach at Playa Carmen, between Santa Teresa and Malpaís, Hotel Tropico Latino is a relaxed and charming oasis on four acres of serene, abundant gardens – a heavenly Costa Rica vacation destination. Hotel Tropico Latino offers exquisitely-designed tropical bungalows and suites, a beachfront spa, yoga classes and retreats, surf instruction and retreats.
Article by Shannon Farley