Mal Pais, a name that in English means “Bad Country” seems ironic or perhaps symbolic to some people, because in reality no one knows for sure why this beautiful beach region was named as such. But coming down the mountain path that approaches the town, your eyes first spot an ocean so blue it could be the sky, you know you are on the road to romance, for this place certainly produces sudden love affairs. So intense is the attraction that celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Mel Gibson, Mathew McConaughney, Jared Leto and the Olsen twins now own property that, up until a couple of years ago, was the exclusive secret of adventurers and surf lovers. Nestled in the southern most point of the Nicoya Peninsula, Mal Pias barely shows up on the map, and no travel agent ever included it until recently in any travel itineraries.
Today, due to its ideal surf conditions, its multicultural vibe and postcard perfect beaches, it has become the region of the greatest development on the peninsula.
Twenty (this article is from 2007, so now over 30 years ago) years ago, the situation was quite different. Back then, Mal Pais, Hermosa, and Santa Teresa Costa Rica – the three beaches that make of the region of Mal Pais – could be accessed by boat and horse only. With the inauguration of the ferry from Puntarenas, these extensive, fine sand and blue-waved beaches thrusting out from the tropical dry forests soon charmed what seems to be half of the people on the planet. Young surfers, travelers searching for exclusive hotels, incognito celebrities, yoga enthusiasts and nature lovers have all been drawn to these shores. A cross between a sleepy town and an international hub, Mal Pais has the particular charm of a place where visitors may still feel like pioneers exploring the wilderness.
“I came, like many, searching for paradise”, said Gabriela, a designer from Uruguay. She arrived five years ago, and the decided to stay! “The sense of freedom that exists here captured me: nature inspires me to create, and I am always surrounded by incredible vistas. Everybody knows each other and greets each other; which creates a good vibe for tourists.” The town itself has sprung up alongside one singular stretch of road that unites Mal Pais with Santa Teresa. Along the 15 kilometers (9 miles) are surf related businesses, hotels, bars, and restaurants. On the way from one to the other, encounters with cars and bicycles, people walking and chickens crossing the road are common. Conversations can be heard in a million and one dialects that make up the melodic sound produced by the towns populace.
The secret of the beauty of the region has gotten out: Forbes Magazine declared it one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Publications such as Vogue and Conde Nast praise its boutique hotels. Celebrities are beginning to look toward this side of the world as a must-visit travel destination. These days, its possible to bump into Leonardo DiCaprio at the local supermarket, see Kate Moss sitting at a bar, hang with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and even catch a glimpse of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen sunbathing on the beach ( she happens to be building her summer house in the area). The list of Hollywood celebrities, artists ,models, photographers and less recognizable musicians who visit these beaches year after year is almost endless. Why? The relaxed ambiance in Mal Pais is enhanced by its unpopulated beaches, away from the paparazzi and very close to paradise.