These twin beach towns are near each other, but offer you a very different vacation experience, balancing your need for excitement, activity, and infrastructure against your desire to enjoy a quiet, calm, uncrowded getaway. Experience surfing in the dynamic Santa Teresa plus fishing in the charming Mal Pais.
Malpais is the term most often used to describe the beach area comprised of Playa Santa Teresa to the north, Playa Carmen in the middle, and the small pueblo of Malpais to the south. A single dirt road that stretches along the coast connects these spots, which are usually bustling with activity and American-style development, primarily geared at the surfer community. Although Malpais is still light years away from turning into Jaco or Tamarindo, some people fear that this might be its fate. For now, it remains a small slice of paradise.
The main road of Malpais is lined with backpacker hostels, bars, and delightful restaurants, including the amazing Casa Zen which specializes in Thai cuisine, and some excellent eateries serving Israeli fare.
Both Playa Carmen and Playa Santa Teresa can be surfed in all tides, but beware of getting dragged too close to the rocks at Santa Tere, as it’s affectionately known by the locals.
Apart from surfing, yoga, and sampling its magnificent cuisine, visitors to Malpais might be tempted to visit Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, which is just a short drive away, between the beach town of Montezuma and Malpais. This national park was created in the 1960s and has fantastic jungle trails, a pristine beach, and is home to scarlet macaws and armies of howler monkeys. It’s referred to as an “absolute” natural reserve because when the park was originally created, people were not allowed to enter it, leaving it in an absolutely natural state.
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