In this post, I’ll hit on some nice stand up paddle spots in Mal Pais, Costa Rica, quick tips to save you money and some of the activities that you might seek out when you check out this gem in Central America.
Costa Rica is one of my favorite spots and this was my fourth time visiting. I have mainly traveled up and down the Pacific Coast checking out the different beach towns and there breaks, discovering that each place has its own personality. By far, my favorite spot is Mal Pais & Santa Teresa located on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste Province. This SUP adventure, I chose to stay in this area the whole time and not travel with any of our Solace SUP fleet to try out different board shapes, volume and rockers. It's great to get to know the locals in doing this and getting some local knowledge on the best paddle spots.
This area has a lot of unpaved or crumbling roads with a dash of dust in your face, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! A quaint beach town with stellar restaurants serving sushi, Italian and local Costa rican cuisine that rivals any big city.
WHERE TO PADDLE?
Mal Pais is towards the south end and then you cross the towns city center or intersection which turns into Santa Teresa. Playa Carmen is a nice beach break and spot at that intersection area for beginners and intermediate SUP surfing. I also found a nice reef break in the fishing town of slow pace Mal Pais with help from Andy and his wife Edith from Freedom Riders and no one was around except for a few fishing boats. We ended up doing a nice ocean paddle tour with them and experiencing one of the best sunsets I’ve seen. I also was able to try out a few board shapes and rented a 9’ 7” x 28” surf sup for 4 days to surf Playa Carmen. I call this R&D and it is hard work but someone’s gotta do it, right?! :) If you are in the area, definitely check out Freedom Riders as the crew over there is top notch.
I also was fortunate to run into Marco Salazar with Costa Rica SUP Adventures located about 4 hours away while on the beach. I first started to learn to SUP surf in Tamarindo a few years back and Marco was the guy that helped me and had me riding my first wave in about 15 mins. Tamarindo is also a great area for flat-water stand up paddling and SUP surfing.
Marco was also a Costa Rican surf champion back in his day and has some good stories of top athletes that he has met from around the world. He and his wife Lydia are great ambassadors of the sport and if you are in Tamarindo, definitely stop by their shop right next to the Nogui’s Restaurant.
There are several nice advanced breaks heading north of Santa Teresa so depending if you want to walk right to the beach or explore a little, you’ll find what you are looking for in this area.
WHERE TO STAY?
Hotel Oasis-Great owners and small bungalows off the noisy center of town part but only a 5 minute walk to the beach.
WHERE TO EAT?
The Bakery- BIG ole breakfast burrito and a barista cappuccino
Mary’s- Farm to table goodness. Her farm is next door
La Esquinita del Taco- $10 tacos for $1.50 made to order
Horse back riding
World class fishing
ATV trail riding
Beer drinking :)
MONEY SAVING TIPS:
- Do exchange some cash when arriving but in a local bank or Wal-Mart for the best exchange rates. There is a Wal-Mart right next to the San Jose (SJO) airport and most taxi’s take american dollars (USD) in the city. They bang you over the head with fees in the airport.
- Plan to have colones(costa rican $) when you are leaving the country as they do charge an airport tax or exiting tax. This was right around $18 USD and they will charge a hefty fee if you use a credit card.
- Arrive early when leaving Costa Rica as most departing flights seem to leave all around the same time and the exiting tax lines can be long.
- Have cash if you are taking the hopper flight to a destination as they do charge for over weight baggage and another airport tax. It was $2.50 USD arriving and leaving from Tambor airport.
- Reserve a 4WD vehicle ahead of time as you get the best rate and they can be sold out once you are in a little beach town like Santa Teresa.
- Don't leave any flops, shoes, bags or anything you don't want stolen on the beach or in visible eyesight in your vehicle. Even if your taking a quick dip, it will be gone when you come back.
Feel free to share your experiences or add anything you think I may have left out for this area. We will add a video real soon but for now, enjoy some pictures!
Next blog post will be tips for beginners on how to install and use various accessory equipment with your SUP Board.