Santa Teresa and Malpaís
- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
The shoreline immediately north of Cabo Blanco is a lively surfers’ paradise with some of the best surfing beaches in the country. The past few years have seen a phenomenal tourist development, propelling Santa Teresa from offbeat obscurity to newfound popularity.
Dozens of hotels and restaurants have popped up out of nowhere. Land prices have skyrocketed, fueled in part by the fact that Drew Barrymore and supermodel Gisele Bündchen are among the celebs to buy property here.
A road that leads west 10 kilometers from Cóbano hits the shore at the hamlet of Carmén, known in the surfing realm as Malpaís. The tiny fishing hamlet of Malpaís is actually three kilometers south of Carmén, but no matter; this road (paved in 2010) dead-ends at the hamlet and turns inland briefly, ending at the northern entrance gate to Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Reserve (there is no ranger station, hence no entrance fee). A rocky track that begins 800 meters north of the dead-end links Malpaís with Cabuya; a 4WD vehicle is essential.
North from Carmén, the road parallels Playa Carmén and Playa Santa Teresa, a seemingly endless beach with coral-colored sand, pumping surf, and dramatic rocky islets offshore. The community of Santa Teresa straggles along the road for several miles before the paving runs out. The narrow dirt road continues to Manzanillo, where the going gets tougher and is a potholed bouillabaisse in wet season.
The Malpaís–Santa Teresa community stretches along miles of shorefront, and local transport is minimal. Be prepared to walk if you don’t have wheels.
Entertainment and Events
Malpaís Surf Camp has a lively bar that shows surf videos and has ping-pong, table soccer, a pool table, and (occasionally) a mechanical bull.
La Lora (tel. 506/2640-0132), a lively no-frills nightclub, has regained its stature as the hot spot in Santa Teresa for Ticos. It has a pool table and theme nights, including Latin night on Tuesday and Saturday, and hip-hop on Thursday. The D&N Day & Night Beach Club (tel. 506/2640-0353, www.dayandnightbeachclub.com, 9 A.M.–2:30 A.M. daily) also has theme nights.
It looks quite humble, but Café Liberal (tel. 506/2640-0797), at Plaza Royal in Santa Teresa, jumps at night, especially for live reggae on Wednesday. Tabú (tel. 506/52640-0353), on the beach at Carmén, competes with reggae on Monday, Latin music on Wednesday, and electronica on Saturday. It has beach volleyball by day.
Canopy del Pacífico (tel. 506/2640-0360, www.canopydelpacifico.com) offers tours by zip line between the treetops at 9 A.M., 11 A.M., and 3 P.M. daily by reservation ($35).
There are a dozen or more surf shops, several offering tours, including Adrenalina Surf & Kite School (tel. 506/8324-8671, www.adrenalinasurfcamp.com). Malpaís Surf Camp (tel. 506/2640-0357, www.malpaissurfcamp.com) and Santa Teresa Surf Camp (tel. 506/2640-0985, surf [at] expreso [dot] co [dot] cr) also rent boards and offer surf lessons.
Malpaís Adventures (tel. 506/2642-0891, www.malpaisadventures.com), created in 1993, is a one-stop shop for all your adventure needs.
After all your activities, relax with a massage at Sonja Spa (tel. 506/2640-1060, jenifer106 [at] hotmail [dot] com), at Frank’s Place.
Getting to Santa Teresa and Malpaís
Transportes Hermanos Rodríguez buses (tel. 506/2642-0219) depart San José from Calle 16, Avenidas 1/3, at 7 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. daily; return departures are at 7:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. Buses depart Cóbano for Malpaís at 10:30 A.M. and 2:30 P.M.; return departures are at 7 A.M. and noon, connecting with onward buses to San José.
You can rent an ATV (a virtual necessity in wet season) from Malpaís Quad Tours (tel. 506/2640-0178) and Tropical Tours (tel. 506/2640-0811, www.tropicaltours-malpais.com). Alamo Rent-a-Car (tel. 506/2640-0526) and Budget (tel. 506/2640-0500, www.budget.co.cr) have offices at Carmén.
Taíno Gas (tel. 506/2640-0009), 0.5 kilometer north of the soccer field in Santa Teresa, is open 7 A.M.–6 P.M. daily.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition