After Jacó we decided to visit the Nicoya Peninsula; catch a glimpse at Montezuma and indulge ourselves on the beaches of Santa Teresa and Mal País during our leg#4 of our Costa Rican road trip. All of those towns are known as a surfers’ paradise and an adventurer’s playground, like so many Costa Rican beach villages on the pacific Ocean.
To get there from Jacó, we first had to drive up to the city of Puntarenas to catch the ferry. New experience, new challenge!
Naviera Tambor is the ferry that leaves from Puntarenas to Paquera and provides a direct transfer to the dirt roads leading to Montezuma and Mal País. Six departures are scheduled per day.
The ferry leaves from Puntarenas at
- 5.00 am
- 9.00 am
- 2.00 pm
- 5.00 pm
Buying your ticket beforehand is a whole other story!
And with good reason: the ticket “office” is located just before the ferry port. If you arrive from Jacó watch out for the bakery – a BAKERY! – on your left on the road leading to the port. You got it I guess? Here you can buy your tickets.
That being said, to find a parking spot in front of that bakery in the middle of the bustling and hustling street is a foolhardy enterprise. You are not allowed to park your car in the ferry port before having bought your fare tickets! By the way, buying those ferry passes is a preposterously stressful and very sweaty business as well, involving a lot of mouthy and pushy people… and not a single baked product!
But once on the ferry, there’s nothing more rewarding than to install yourself on deck and enjoy the fresh sea breeze! Watch out for confused birds and the treacherous sun, though!
Montezuma (on the map)
Before reaching Mal País, we wanted to make a pit stop in the picturesque little village of Montezuma. This village is known for the beauty of its beaches, the surrounding lush landscapes and its bohemian atmosphere.
And bohemian it was! At first, I thought we had done a leap backwards to the hippie heyday era. Montezuma was literally swarming with fake gypsy travellers of the free-spirited world! The only thing beside that entire masquerade I remembered Montezuma was the overpriced organic juice I drank at one of the shacks… This place was definitely not for me.
But hey, tastes differ and so do people. Have a look and decide for yourself if Montezuma is your cup of tea!
Before leaving we still wanted to see the famous Montezuma Waterfalls; apparently they are wondrous and refreshing natural showers that one absolutely has to see! Unfortunately we had to put our cheerful anticipation aside: The falls were closed due to excessive rainfall and dangerous hazards… The joys of travelling during wet season!
After our Montezuma-flop, if I might say, we were ready to travel on and discover what the villages of Santa Teresa and Mal País had in store for us.
Santa Teresa & Mal País (on the map)
Santa Teresa and Mal País are two small neighbouring coastal towns in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica.
Like other beach villages on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa and Mal País started as remote fishing villages, but nowadays they have become a sought after destination by surfers and adventure travelers from around the world.
While Santa Teresa attracts mainly a community of keen surfers and the younger crowds due to its scenic shores and beloved surfer’s spots; Mal País is most prominent for its incredible beauty: white sand coves overlooked by steep rainforest-covered hills and rock formations… what does an adventurer’s heart want more?
The 3 main beaches to visit are: Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa…, which by the way is truly “hermosa” (beautiful)!
Getting to those beaches is already an adventure for itself. You drive alongside the coast on a potholed and dusty dirt road. Be prepared to get thoroughly shaken inside of your car before coming to a halt just next to the sea. And by the way, parking your car under a coconut palm tree? Not such a great idea!
Santa Teresa and Mal País offer so many activities that I don’t even want to pretend to list them all! Here’s just a little insight of the leisurely pastimes offered to travellers.
There are for example organised boat tours around Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve were visitors can go snorkeling, diving, fishing or whale watching. You can also typically take surf lessons or simply watch the spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
We spend two days exploring the surrounding beaches, walking around for hours, taking in the beautiful scenery under the blue sky and fleecy clouds. Those languid walks were of course interrupted by the occasional splash into the sea and followed by cocktails and late night dinners in some of the delightful open-air restaurants. Our stopover in the Nicoya Peninsula was definitely a treat, where we indulged ourselves and pampered our bodies and souls.
Speaking of open-air restaurants, in Santa Teresa and Mal País travelers are beyond question, spoiled for choices. Thai, Japanese, fusion, Italian, … vegan, vegetarian or gluten free … hot, cold, sweet or sour: You name it!
Places to sip a cold beer or dig into a hearty meal are literally spread all over the place. The multicultural crowds of former travellers, who’ve settled down on this coastal stretch and opened their own restaurant, offer an international cuisine with exotic tastes to every hungry mouth in search of a delightful feast.
Red Snapper Seafood Restaurant and Katana Asian Cuisine are two restaurants we visited. Both offered us, each one in their own way, a little piece of heaven on a plate.
The Read Snapper Seafood Restaurant excels, as the name says it already, in the art of preparing fresh fish, seafood and paella dishes.
Katana Asian Cuisine is ranked among the top 10 eateries on tripadvisor and if you still have any doubts, just have a look at the mouth-watering pictures on their Facebook page!
Santa Teresa and Mal País offer a large choice of accommodation, Hotels, B&B’s, hostels, … you’ll find everything from high end to low budget. Both towns are specialized in accommodating surfers and young adventures. This means that you come across some very cool, cozy and laid-back apart’ hotels, which are definitely worth a try.
We stayed at the family owned Hotel Oasis, where the individual bungalows where equipped with a nice little terrace kitchen. Slurping your coffee to the sounds of the awakening nature with the sun raising … there just are no words!
Hotel Oasis also comes with a small swimming pool (but who needs a swimming pool, when the Pacific Ocean around the corner?) and very, very friendly staff!
Santa Teresa and Mal País are villages, which recently developed into beloved travellers destination with the help of former travellers. The loved the place so much, that they decided to settle down and welcome in turn other globetrotters. For my part, I totally understand why they got hooked by this destination. From time to time I too picture myself secretly living the slow life on one of the beaches in Santa Teresa.