At the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, just north of Costa Rica’s Cabo Blanco Reserve, the towns of Malpais and Santa Teresa host a handful of hotels, retreats, and modest lodges. Malpais literally means ‘bad lands’, but the rough roads that once made travel to Malpais a bumpy affair have gotten smoother as the region becomes more popular.
Miles of pristine, empty white sand beaches and rocky outcroppings border Malpais, and the waves there can get choppy and large, making the area a favorite destination for surfers and other lovers of water sport. Until fairly recently Malpais has been a place to go to ‘get away from it all’ and the lodging choices reflect this isolated mood (even though the area is now being rapidly developed).
At the pricey end on the scale, the Flor Blanca Resort in Malpais features luxurious individual villas surrounded by lush gardens. The rooms are a creative fusion of Latin and Asian décor, and the resort features spa-quality classes in yoga and kickboxing for those who are interested.
If the solitude of a retreat is more to your taste, Milarepa offers a quiet collection of individual bungalows with private porches, ceiling fans, and mosquito netting over the simple large beds. All of the furnishings are teak and bamboo and all the bungalows have wood floors and good cross ventilation. The more expensive bungalows have ocean views.
The beachfront Tropicano Latino Lodge is one of the oldest hotels in Malpais and still a good choice for travelers with moderate budgets. The older rooms have huge king size bamboo beds, and the on site restaurant serves fresh seafood and pasta dishes at reasonable prices.
Budget travelers can check out Frank’s Place; a collection of rooms tacked on to a popular local restaurant, or the Point Break Hotel, which features polished concrete floors, twin beds, clean showers, and big screened windows.
The Malpais Surf Camp & Resort also offers an array of budget accommodations at a wide variety of price points. Choose a private room with a shared bath, or, at the other extreme, you can rough it and pitch your own tent. Surf rentals are available here, and as might be expected, the crowd tends to be youthful and the atmosphere casual and relaxed.
Any of the hotels and resorts in Malpais can help you set up any additional activities you want to include in your stay, such as scuba diving, surfing lessons, yoga lessons, canopy tours, or day trips to Cabo Blanco. Most travelers to the area like to just hang out and decompress, but you can structure as much activity into your visit as you like and find all the help you need to do so.
No matter where you decide to stay in Malpais, don’t be surprised if you end up spending very little time in your room. With miles of pristine beach bordered by colorful jungle and the Cabo Blanco Reserve a short jaunt south, there’s plenty to enjoy and lots to see outdoors in the Costa Rican sun.