Mal Pais in Puntarenas is known to be home to one of Mel Gibson’s vacation homes, but it is also a marvelous surf location that attracts riders from all over the world.
The surf at Mal Pais is close to one of the best spots that you can find. Puntarenas in general is claims a lot of good surf in Costa Rica, and Mal Pais isn’t as heavily trafficked as other spots around Tamarindo and the Nicoya Peninsula. The high profile houses that populate the area draw in some star studded visitors, so the scenery is pristine. Most beaches on Costa Rica are unpopulated and well kept, but this is especially true of Mal Pais and neighboring Santa Teresa.
Outside of being known for some of the high profile part time residents that have vacation homes in Mal Pais, there is also a surf school with a good reputation. The waves at Mal Pais are rated as being world class, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the surf is not so intimidating for first time learners. The Mal Pais Surf Camp is a full service surf hostel where you can stay, or simply hire instructors to show you the ropes.
Mal Pais is also home to several other nearby locations where the surf can be epic on any given day, so you may head up the road if you are feeling unsatisfied at Mal Pais. Some of these spots include the aforementioned Santa Teresa as well as Playa El Carmen, Manzanillo and Playa Hermosa. All of these locations are a short walk from Mal Pais, or you can rent an ATV to take you up the beach a little faster.
Mal Pais is not the easiest place to get to, and a trip from the capital in San Jose will take around seven hours by way of the ferry in the city of Puntarenas. If you wish to go around the Gulf of Nicoya, the trip can be as long as eight hours. From Liberia, Mal Pais is about four and a half to five hours away. The quickest option for getting to Mal Pais from either of the international airports in Costa Rica is to fly to the nearest domestic airport in Tambor, and then make your way from there.
Lodgings: Pacific Azure, Mal Pais Surf Camp, Hotel Moana, Hotel Casa Chameleon
Distance to San Jose: 7 hrs
Distance to Liberia: 4 hrs 30 mins
Best Time of Year for Surf: July to December (expert)
Bottom: Sand and rocks
Wave Height: 3 ft-8 ft