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Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

Milwaukee, WI
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90 posts
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Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

Okay guys I just got back from Costa Rica. Spent three nights each in three places, Mal Pais, Arenal, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. I would have to say Mal Pais was my favorite. I will try to share as much info as I have, but feel free to email me if you have questions.

Apparently you can fly in a Cessna for $65.00 to a little town very close to Mal Pais, but we were driving throughout Costa Rica, so we did that route. Get a 4WD. I also highly recommend the ITPS map that you can get on Amazon - this was recommended by arenal.net and saved us on our trip. The Inter American from San Jose to Puntarenas is horrible. Parts of the highway were totally missing in the mountains. It will take you about two hours to get to Puntarenas. Once there, you will see a car line for the ferry. Get in line IMMEDIATELY and just wait. There will be some guys who look like maybe they work for the ferry, who approach your car and are kind of intimidating - automatically put you on guard thinking "scam". I though they worked for the ferry - but they really don't. They just give info for tips. Well here's your free info. Get in line. That's the most important thing. A ferry official will come shortly after the ferry arrives and hand out laminated passes to the cars. Only so many cars fit on the ferry. Once you get your pass - rush up to the window to buy your tickets. A car pass includes passenger, and then you also need to buy for other adults in your car. Two adults and car was like $11.00. Get back to your car quickly cause they load pretty fast. If you want snacks/soda/beers, buy them before getting on the ferry as they are more expensive, though still cheap by American standards. Have your camera ready too cause you might see dolphins as we did, and the view is gorgeous. The ride to Paquera is about 1 1/2 hours. If you miss a ferry - you will have to wait about two hours for the next one. I would say get there one hour before the time slot you want - and better to go early in the day. Don't leave your car unlocked or unattended for long.

When you get off in Paquera you have another hour or so to drive to Mal Pais. You will pass through the small town of Cobano - that has a federal bank, with long lines, and an ATM that was broken on our way in and out. Don't count on ATMs no matter where you go - unless you know there is more than one. I would say to bring what cash you want and change it at a federal bank for the best rate. Also Cobano is the last stop for gas - so make sure to fill up here. The roads to Mal Pais are half great, half not so great. As you arrive - you will see Frank's Place on your right. There is actually an ATM there now. You can get most of what you need in Mal Pais and Santa Theresa, as far as snacks, beers, ice, etc. There are even some small boutiques. If you go straight - you will hit the beach - there is a parking lot here, some artists selling jewelry, including one guy who will make jewelry out of anything you find on the beach - and the restaurant Playa Carmen. To the left is Mal Pais, all the way to where the road ends and the Sunset Bar and Canopy Tours are. To the right is Santa Theresa - where the surf camps are, and the end of the road is Manzanillo- if you can make it that far in your 4WD. I liked the Mal Pais end better - just seemed quieter and more scattered out. The beaches here are all rocky - good for exploring tide pools, rock pools, etc.

EATING: In Mal Pais we had our best meal, probably out of all of Costa Rica, at Mary's. Great prices, fresh seafood, original dishes, such as chile relleno stuffed with goat cheese and corn, dorado, tuna filet, etc. Also known for great pizzas. Nice atmosphere with a pool table. We tried Soda Piedra Mar, and while prices were good and food was pretty good, service took forever. This is nothing more than plastic tables under a roof on the sand. Our think our meal here, for two people, which included a huge shrimp dish and grilled whole red snapper (pargo) was like $12.00. Our other fabulous meal was at RITMO TROPICAL. I can't say enough good things about this place - great menu, prices, food, and service. Miguel, or Michael - can't remember his name, made sure we attempted our Spanish when ordering (I am about 1/2 fluent). He was super friendly, and showed us his cabins. They were adorable, a bit small, but very clean and cute. It seemed like they had air too, but I forgot to ask. His pool and commons area ROCKED. He told us rates were about $45.00 at that time. Please stop by and see him and eat at his restaurant and maybe even pick them for your accommodations.

We wanted to eat at The Place - but they no longer serve food. Do stop by for a drink though as their courtyard is AMAZING and they show surf movies some nights. We had lunch at Playa Carmen - very good and fun to watch the beach goers. We also ate lunch at Luz de Vida, Santa Theresa - cute little resort right on the beach. Food was good but limited menu and kind of Americanized.

Plan on eating around noon and dinner at 5 - 7. We were on a later schedule and were often the only ones at lunch and last ones at dinner.

For entertainment, there are lots of cute places to stop for drinks in both towns. Most bars shut down around 9 or 10 - but there is always one that stays open really late and has live music, djs, or fire dancers, etc. Ask around to find out where the fiesta is that night.

Activities - if you want to surf - do it here. Lessons are cheap and the surf seemed pretty big to us. Or just boogie board, or jump in the waves. The beaches are super clean, you can wander forever. Rent bikes and meander through both towns, it's the best way to see places to explore. We drove north to try to get to Manzanillo -but weren't sure if we ever made it that far or could even see it. We ended up at a little deserted beach just north of a private school. We were the only ones there all day. Take the canopy tour in Mal Pais - eight lines and one rapel. Marby and John are great. Bring your camera - there is a great view of the bay once you get to the top line. I would also go horsebackriding on the beach at sunset - but ask around about the condition of the horses. Mine were not happy campers. There is a girl in town from Vienna who knows all the horse guides - she has some of her own - and she will tell you who has the healthiest horses. She lived on the Santa Theresa side.

This is a small town - be respectful and support Tico businesses. Tourism can be good and bad - so be respectful of people and nature while there. Have a great time! (sunscreen can be bought at Super Ronny).

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Milwaukee, WI
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90 posts
10 reviews
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1. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

One more thing - another great website that someone on here mentioned is nicoyapeninsula.net - gives you detailed maps about where hotels and restaurants are located. Print it out and bring it with you.

Milwaukee, WI
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90 posts
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2. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

oops - make that nicoyapeninsula.com

Florida
4 posts
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3. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

Wow xmasgirl! What a fabulous post! I am right in the midst of finalizing travel plans for our family of 4 (2 teenage boys). We will be in Costa Rica for 10 days over Christmas and we want to do 3 nights on the Nicoya Peninsula, but the question has been "where." I spoke to a friend this morning who told me that Mal Pais was his favorite place and now I have read your post.

Although folks seem to love Tamarindo, it doesn't seem right for us. We like some civilization, but not too much civilization. The boys want to take some surfing lessons, we love waterfalls and jungles, and if there is clear water to snorkle in, that is always a plus. I have also looked at Montezuma as a destination.

I am a little worried about finding a place to stay - we will be there Dec. 29-31, so any suggestions would be welcomed.

Thanks again for the great post!

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4. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

xmas007girl, thank you so much for this post. Info on Mal Pais is hard to find. Where did you stay? We are staying in Mal Pais for a week in the spring after a few days in the Poas area. Can't wait - it sounds beautiful.

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Mal Pais
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Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
New Jersey
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211 posts
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5. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

graytongirl, I just read that you are looking for a place to stay with your boys. We are staying at Mal Pais Surf Camp in the spring. Friends stayed there two years ago and had a great time. The accomodations are rustic, but they have screens, ceiling fans and hot water. There are a few two bedroom units - maybe they have availability. I contacted them by email through their website and received a quick response. We are bringing boards, but they have boards for rent and lessons. They have a pool and restaurant, pool table, mechanical bull & show surf movies. Good luck!

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Mal Pais
Mal Pais
Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
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38 posts
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6. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

xmas007girl, where did you stay in Mal Pais?? Would you recommend it??

Thanks

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Mal Pais
Mal Pais
Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Milwaukee, WI
Level Contributor
90 posts
10 reviews
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7. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

we stayed at Blue Jay Lodge, and yes I would recommend it, but only if you want the rustic living type (open air bungalows, no a/c, etc).

The nicoyapeninsula website has lots of hotels listed. Ritmo Tropicals rooms were very cute, and a decent rate. The rooms at the Place (you can see pics on the aforementioned website) look very cute too. It all depends on what you want to spend.

Luz de Vida was also very nice, though I was shocked to see their rates (they are on the beach side of the road).

Have a ball!

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8. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

GReat post Xmas girl. I will honeymooning in Malpais with my new wife in early January. We will not be driving but would like to rent a car once we are there. IS this possible?...or are there any other car rental agencies nearby?

Milwaukee, WI
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90 posts
10 reviews
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9. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

to my knowledge - there are no car rental agencies in Mal Pais. There are not even gas stations in Mal Pais. Understand that Mal Pais and Santa Therea are tiny, tiny, tiny. Both north and south along the ocean, the road basically ends. You won't need a car - unless you want to drive to Montezuma or something. Even then - you can probably get a taxi or hire a driver. How are you getting to Mal Pais?

You can rent scooters, bicycles, and I believe ATVs.

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10. Re: Just returned from Mal Pais, here are some tips

Thanks for your great review xmas007girl!!

Did you happen to see the Funky Monkey Lodge?? It seems like a really cute place, similar to the Blue Jay Lodge but it is hard to find reviews on the Funky Monkey Lodge!!

We are really looking forward to our stay there.

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