Our Favourite Places in Mal Pais, Costa Rica

If you’ve ever looked into the areas of Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa, you may be thinking “Hey Kate, didn’t you already write this post here?”

Well yes, and no. Before Christmas, we spend 10 days in Santa Teresa, in a hostel that was about 5km from where we are now. As a result, we didn’t get a chance to explore the area of Mal Pais very much.

So, I thought I would write about a couple of our favourite places on this end of the strip, and with good reason too. There are some amazing local businesses here that I highly suggest you check out.

It's like the sun is making a spot light on the small store little store front. It's the one on the left.

It’s like the sun is making a spot light on the small store little store front. It’s the one on the left.

Bean & Bejuco- Natural Food Market & Artisan Trading Co– If you are a health food fanatic, as I am, Bean & Bejuco is the place to be. When I first walked into the little shop nestled amongst the clothing shops and restaurants in the Playa Carmen mall, I couldn’t believe my eyes, a real health food store! It even had that health food store smell that I love.

The previous health food stores I’d visited were mostly organic fruits and vegetables. Not this one! The store is a wonderful mix of both western health food store goodies like burts bees, and local Costa Rican food products like honey, and cacao. Need less to say I was in heaven.

So many amazing products to explore!

So many amazing products to explore!

On my first visit, my eyes scanned over all sorts of goodies like quinoa, and kimchi, until they finally landed on the prize of the day…natural peanut butter! For real! Nothing but peanuts!  Although I’ve found some that has come close in the past, this is the real stuff. And not only peanut butter, but almond, cashew, and other fabulous combinations

Can you hear the angelic music playing over this display?

Can you hear the angelic music playing over this display?

You better believe I bought a container, as this stuff is pure gold.

If you are in Mal Pais, and looking for some healthy treats, have specific food needs (raw, gluten-free, vegan etc) or just want to support an amazing local business, I would highly suggest checking out Bean & Bejuco.

Such a cool building

Such a cool building

Kasava Gourmet Fast Food: A great healthy dining option for anyone visiting the Mal Pais area.

The first thing that attracted me to this place was the building. It’s really attractive, and makes you want to check it out. The sign outside boasts healthy fast food, so I was intrigued.

I certainly wasn’t disapointed. They have a huge array of healthy made to order options, a salad bar, full coffee menu, plus the added bonus of a/c and free wifi. The service was great, the staff are really friendly, which is something that I find is hit or miss in this area.

The beautiful patio in the background

The beautiful patio in the background

What really made this place stand out was their outdoor space in the back. I’m always looking for places that I can get a coffee, sit down, and relax for a little while, without feeling rushed. The outdoor space in Kasava is the perfect spot for a little Zen Kate time.

If you are looking for some healthy eats, or a relaxing coffee, this is the place to be!

All smiles at Papaya Lounge

All smiles at Papaya Lounge

Papaya Lounge: I had read about Papaya Lounge on trip advisor, and once I heard everyone raving about the view, I knew I wanted to visit it. It’s a little off the beaten path, but if you are looking for the best way to see Mal Pais at sunset, and are willing to got for a bit of a walk, it’s well worth it.

This doesn't even do it justice!

This doesn’t even do it justice!

Located about 2km from the main intersection, Papaya Lounge is perched at the highest part of the Moana Lodge property, so be prepared for a lot of stairs!The menu is mostly tapa style, and although we had planned on going just for a drink, we ended up sharing some pico de gallo, which wasn’t anything too exciting. In the end, this place is all about the view. Get there in time for sunset, and I promise it will be worth your while!

So there you have it, our fave picks during our stay here! It was actually hard to choose for this round, because there were so many great places.

If you are visiting the area, and want anymore recommendations, pop me an email, or come join our Facebook page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

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Mal Pais Surf Camp, Mal Pais, Costa Rica

After two weeks of luxury, we were bracing ourselves to re-enter the life of hostelling. Luckily, our pick for this week couldn’t have been better for our transition.

P1010822

Mal Pais Surf Camp

Mal Pais Surf Camp is located, funny enough, in Mal Pais. It is about 500m left of the main intersection, on a huge property about a 5 min walk from the beach.

The surf camp is incredibly versatile, and can meet the needs of travellers of all budgets and walks of life. They offer apartments, cabinas with both shared, and ensuite bathrooms, open air, hostel-style ranchos, and camping. There is literally something for everyone!

Our little home this week

Our little home this week

Shaun, and I opted for the cabina, with ensuite bathroom. When we arrived we had an outdoor kitchen area with a fridge, and a sink. The property is so big, that it was a bit of a hike to the communal kitchen. Within two days, the owner had set us up with an industrial propane burner, and all the tools needed for a full kitchen. It is such a treat to have our own little house!

The restaurant/bar.

The restaurant/bar. Shaun loves that they are always playing surfing videos

A bonus of this place is their gorgeous pool, and delicious restaurant, a rarity for hostel life! Every night, Shaun and I have sat in the restaurant enjoying an Imperial, and Diet Coke, while chatting, using the Wifi, and watching surfing videos. It feels like we get to go out every night, without having to break the budget.

The entrance way, so gorgeous

The entrance way, so gorgeous

The atmosphere here is great. The diversity in their accommodation options, translates to a diversity in their clientele. There are families, couples, surfers, and hard core backpackers. Along with amazing food, the restaurant area also has a pool table, ping pong table, book exchange, and a never ending supply of interesting people to chat with. The camp runs on an honour system, so you can just head behind the bar to the cooler, grab your drinks, jot your name down, and your off. This system reinforces the positive atmosphere that this place emits.

Shaun has been really enjoying the surf. Although Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa are often thought of as the same place, there is about a 10km difference from where we were staying at Wave Trotter.

Our little kitchen area. Howler monkeys were going crazy when I took this!

Our little kitchen area. Howler monkeys were going crazy when I took this!

So Shaun had never had the chance to surf the waves on this side of the beach. Some days the waves have been better then others, but after his lengthy surfing hiatus in Playa Coco, I think he is just so happy to be back out there. The camp offers both surf board rentals, and surf lessons, for those who feel so inclined.

The only downfall is it is a bit of a hike to the grocery store, probably just over 1km. This is totally fine if you have an ATV/Bike/car, but as I’ve mentioned before, Shaun and I are walkers through, and through. We realized how spoiled we were at Wave Trotter having the store 200m away! On the other hand, it is only 500m from the main drag of town, so you have lots of restaurants, coffee shops, banks, and shops close by.

Other then that, this place gets top marks from us. Any place that I can be lulled to sleep by howler monkeys in the trees, and iguanas on the roof gets a high rating in my books! In fact, it might be one of the best places we’ve stayed so far! We’ve already talked about how great it would be to come back here years from now with family, and friends.

If you are looking for a place to stay in the Mal Pais area, we would highly suggest the Mal Pais Surf Camp!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

How to break your surfboard in half (and how to fix it)

Yes, the unthinkable happened. The only bright side is that it prompted our dear friend Shaun to write another post…
I may not know surfing...but I think it's supposed to be in one piece.

I may not know surfing…but I think it’s supposed to be in one piece.

Well today is a day I would rather forget. I hardly got any sleep last night thinking about my surf the next morning. I was going to be all over the lefts and was so excited. Consequently I got a terrible sleep, but whatever, I checked the beach first thing and it looked good. Winds were even slightly offshore. I went out at low tide when it is supposed to be quite good at Santa Teresa.
It wasn’t all that crowded either and I was stoked. I got a couple smaller waves right away. It was a nice little warm up. It seemed the smaller ones had better shape to them and you had to be quite selective with the bigger waves as they would often close out.
I was sitting in a sparce line up as a set came in, and I wasn’t in the best spot. I tried to paddle over to the peak before it arrived, but ended up just teatering for awhile. I finally gave up as it seemed too late and about to close out. Unfortunately I dragged too far in I was in a bad spot for the other set waves. I paddled like mad and tried to get under the next wave. There was a guy dropping in, so I had to head towards the impact area to try and stay out of his way.My duck dive wasn’t so successful.
devastating...

devastating…

After a short bounce around, I feverishly tried to get back my tombstoning board to get under the next wave. Just as I got it, the next wave was about to break and I just dove under. I came up and quickly grabbed my board, or half my board. The other half caught the wave and made it to shore. It was devastating and so demoralizing. In a few weeks I’d grown attached to that board and was, although getting my ass kicked at times, loving the waves at Santa Teresa.

Its been big since the day I arrived and I have to paddle way more but its nice to surf decent waves… I’m from Canada so my expectations are low… Anyways, I slogged my way to the beach where a local kindly was holding the rest of my board with a huge grin. He apologetically gave it back and I did the big walk of pity back up the beach and to the hostel.
While walking back I kept thinking the board was a little too big anyways. It would have been good for the following week in Grande and Tamarindo though. I was less bummed thinking of the prospect of getting a smaller board.
When I got back the hostel owner had a look and figured I could easily

Walk of Shame

Walk of Shame

get it fixed. I checked out the used boards at almost all the shops in town, and it was slim pickings, Tamarindo had better options. However, it turns out there is a board shaper in town. Denis of Denga Surf Shop had a look and figured he could fix it since it was a clean break. He said it will be a lot stiffer afterwards but something tells me that with my surfing, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I figure I can use it in the upcoming weeks with the smaller surf. After that I can either sell it or keep it.

On a side note, Denga Surf Shop builds there own boards and has a lot to choose from. It’s a nice shop. I think its about 20 days to get a board custom made. The new boards that he has in stock are going for about $400 to $450 which is a wicked deal compared to the used boards here that people are trying sell for $250 plus. If you are in Santa Teresa and buying a board make sure you check out Denga. I don’t recommend buying a new board if you are travelling around because it will get thrashed (or snapped), but they have some good options if you’re here long term.
This day may have sucked, and I may have bought a case of beer and nearly have it downed, but I’m in Costa Rica surfing nearly every day, and I’m here with the love of my life. Things are pretty damn good. Pura f’in vida eh! and go nucks go… 7 straight.
So there you have it! We cut it pretty close with the board repair. We ended up heading a couple days after it broke, and left the board in Santa Teresa to be fixed. The board was going to be sent in a cab when it was done. We sat outside our hotel for hours waiting, Shaun’s knuckles getting whiter and whiter. We were leaving for the 5 hour drive back to Tamarindo early the next day so it was now or never. I watched Shaun got more and more stressed out, calling the board shop, and our previous hostel to try and track it down. Thankfully, around 7:45pm the cab pulled up. I think we both felt equal relief!
The finished product, and one happy camper!

The finished product, and one happy camper!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Wave Trotter Surf Hostel, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

There has been lots of questions about where we’ve been staying here in Santa Teresa, so here we go!

The sign from the road

The sign from the road

The apartments in the back..Ours is the bottom on the far right.

The apartments in the back..Ours is the bottom on the far right.

P1010072For the past 9 days we’ve been staying at the Wave Trotter surf hostel in Santa Teresa. Gone are the cushy days of air conditioning, and pool time. We’re in real hostel country now. That being said, Shaun, and I haven’t gone so far as to get a dorm in any of the places we’ve booked so far. Many hostels offer rooms with a double bed, and an ensuite bathroom for $40-60 dollars a night. This is the set up we have here at Wave Trotter.

Our room is simple, with minimal amenities. We don’t need much, as we tend to spend most of our time in the main house. These private rooms belonged to another property prior to being added to Wave Trotter, so they are older then the dorms in the main house.

Walking up to the main house from our room in the backyard

Walking up to the main house from our room in the backyard

The reception, kitchen, and dorms are located in the house. An awesome open concept, loft style building about 200m from the main road in Santa Teresa, and very close to the Santa Teresa Surf break. The hostel is owned by an adorable family from Italy. Giovanni, Julietta, and their beautiful baby Cecilia, who is just a little over a year old. They run Wave Trotter in high season, and then shut it down, and head back to Italy for low season. Both the family, and the staff spent so much time and energy making sure the main house and communal areas are clean, and that everyone is taken cared of.

Reception in the main house, and LeeLo the dog with the very tough life.

Reception in the main house, and LeeLo the dog with the very tough life.

Wave Trotter has a real family feel to it, and has a tendency to bring people back year over year. Lots of the people we met were repeat visitors which made me feel like we were part of a really neat community. Every day the family can be found puttering around the house cooing to the baby in Italian. It was just such a great atmosphere.

Looking into the house from the backyard...there is Shaun!

Looking into the house from the backyard…there is Shaun!

Wave Trotter is a really surf centered hostel. They rent boards, do ding repairs, and can arrange for lessons. If you are looking to surf the Santa Teresa break, it is one of the closer hostels to the area. As we walked through the town, and saw all the other hostels we had looked at online, we felt pretty fortunate that we had chosen one that was so close.

The fireman's pole!

The fireman’s pole!

The interior of the main house is really unique, and is truly the selling feature of the entire experience. The interior is loft style, with all the dorms above the communal living space. There is even a fireman’s pole to get down (if you feel so inclined).

The main house at Wave Trotter

The main house at Wave Trotter

The staff, and owners at Wave Trotter really make the experience special. I would highly recommend the dorm set up, as that’s where the action is. The apartments in the back are nice, but fairly rustic, as you are located pretty much in the middle of the jungle. Despite the occasional creepy crawlers, I loved waking up to the sound of howler monkeys in the morning!

Have you ever stayed in a hostel dorm? How was it?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Favourite Places in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

During our travels here in Santa Teresa, we’ve come across from pretty cool places.

Today’s post is all about some of our favourites!

A Health Food Store! I think I'm in love!

A Health Food Store! I think I’m in love!

Green World Store: Oh yes my friends, Santa Teresa has a health food store. Although I’m not sure that Shaun every actually went inside, I think I was there about every other day. In Canada I can spend so much time cruising up and down the aisles of health food stores, looking at all the goodies. Turns out, I can spend even more time cruising them when everything is written in Spanish!

Can you see the hidden Mickey's??

Can you see the hidden Mickey’s??

Cafe Zaza: Air conditioning and coffee..What more could a girl ask for??This cute little cafe is closer to Santa Teresa side of the strip, and is in the same complex as a couple little shops. It’s a pretty hostel central area, and while we were there, there was a lot of talk about things being stolen. Just keep you wits about you as you sip your latte!

Check this place out!

Check this place out!

Bajo del Mar: We ended up here for dinner on their opening night. We had planned on going somewhere else for dinner, but after a couple glasses of boxed wine in plastic cups, our fellow hostel mates convinced us to join them here. It turned out that the owner used to work at our hostel, so they were all heading there to support him. We were keeping an open mind, as we knew it was their opening night, and we were a pretty big group, but the meal was amazing! We had a Margarita pizza. Shaun, and I order these all the time, so we are pretty critical of them, but I gotta say, this one was amazing! The crust was so crispy, and the ingredients so fresh. A must visit if you’re in the area!

photo 2 (3)

my view on many days here in Santa Teresa

Zwart Art Cafe: So this place wins the prize. I spent soo many afternoons at Zwart, sketching, and drinking coffee. This place is a coffee shop/ bookstore/diner/art studio. A one stop shop! The owner even offered to have me come use her paints (unfortunately, I ran out of time). If you are looking for a place to relax, eat great food, and feel inspired, I would highly recommend Zwart.

Many days were spent like this!

Many days were spent like this!

Banana Beach: This is one of few bars that is right on the beach, but let me tell you, it’s a winner. Hammocks, beds, lounge chairs, tables. However you want to relax, they have it. Shaun and I spent many afternoons buying the occasional cervasa and coke light, just so we could use their beach chairs.We spent most of our time here during the day, and at sunset, but they have something different going on every night, plus some great (but pricey) food.

Such a great atmosphere

Such a great atmosphere

So those are just a couple of the many great places we’ve encountered while we were here, and most are pretty close to our hostel. Like I mentioned before, the Mal Pais/Santa Teresa road is 10km long, so there are lots of places we didn’t spend much time at. We will be staying in Mal Pais in the new year, so I’m sure we will have all sorts of new places from this area to share!

What has the been the best place local business you’ve every found while travelling?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Cardio Fit at Casa Zen- Workouts Week 3

Travel Fitness, how I love thee…

This week I was able to track down another awesome group fitness class here in Costa Rica.

After spending the first several days running my little heart out, I was ready for a little bit of a break in my exercise routine. I thought about doing a Yoga class, especially since there is a yoga studio on every corner. I ended up seeking out something that would get my heart rate up. So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a Cardio Fit class at Casa Zen Guesthouse.

This pretty much sums up the mood of Casa Zen

This pretty much sums up the mood of Casa Zen

First off, this is a beautiful hostel with, funny enough, a very “zen” like vibe.It’s set back from the street, on a busy beach access road, but it feels private as its nestled in its own little jungle.

There are awesome hand painted signs scattered about their communal living spaces. Sayings like “there is no rush”, and “call your mom”, set the tone of the hostel.

Reception/Kitchen at Casa Zen

Reception/Kitchen at Casa Zen

I checked in at reception, paid my 5 dollars (score!), and waited patiently for Tico time to roll around. Sure enough, at 8:35 the instructor, and her students all rolled in.

The classroom

The classroom

We headed upstairs to the classroom. There is one main outdoor classroom used for all the classes offered at Casa Zen. It’s gorgeous. Everything is brightly coloured, and there are stained glass tiles that the sun shines through. It was such a great space.

The class started, and I was instantly caught up in the fabulous energy. The group was all Costa Rican women, who laughed the whole way through. The instructor walked us through several circuits. We did everything from kickboxing, and weights to old school aerobics. It certainly kept me on my toes! I went to two classes in the week and left each one feeling pumped, and full of energy. They were just what I needed to shake up my super chill week of reading, and relaxing.

The instructor only spoke Spanish, but it wasn’t a problem at all. Shaun always watches the sports in Spanish here. He says he can still understand what’s going on because he is so familiar with the content. Well apparently the same goes for me when it comes to group fitness instruction. I learnt so many new words just from listening to the class, but often found myself a beat behind everyone as I worked out the translation in my head.

Have you every tried to watch or listen to something you are really familiar with, but in a different language?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Exploring Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

We’ve been spent the past 10 days exploring all the Santa Teresa has to offer.

Beautiful sunset, with no one else around.

Beautiful sunset, with no one else around.

After coming from Tamarindo, it has been quite the culture shock. No more being bombarded on the beach with people trying to sell you things. Or having to dodge all the Tourista’s taking sunset photos. It is way mellower here.

The layout of Santa Teresa has been challenging for us. The main strip is a road that is about 200m back from the beach, and it is 10km long. This road covers both Santa Teresa, and Mal Pais (where we will be staying in the New Year).

Coming from Tamarindo where everything is easily within walking distance, this has been an adjustment. There are many places you can rent bikes or ATV’s, and if you want to make the most of your time here, I would highly suggest investing in one or the other. Unfortunately for us, it’s 10 dollars a day for a bike and 50 dollars for an ATV. Just a little to far outside our budget. Besides, we are walkers, so we’ve been using our feet to get around.

As a result of this, I’ve been spending a lot time in the hostel, and the few businesses that surround us. Early in the morning, or early in the evening the road and beach are great for running. There are also tons and tons of places to do Yoga. The chill vibe has been been nice. I’ve read some great books, taken some great classes, started drawing again, and met some fabulous people in the hostel.

The main surf break in Santa Teresa is about a 7 min walk from our hostel, which is really lucky for Shaun. He heads out there during the day at some point, but says that it is very crowded. The waves are better then when we were in Tamarindo, so the result is a lot more surfers out at all hours of the day. The result is often a surfer traffic jam.

One of the many tidal pools I've explored

One of the many tidal pools I’ve explored

The beach is amazing. It’s a combination of sandy beach, and amazing rocky tidal pools. I could, and have, spend hours wandering the rocks, peering into each pool to see what’s inside. It reminds me of Botanical Beach back on Vancouver Island.

Some of the pools are so big and deep, that they become like a hot tub during the day. Lots of people spend their time lounging in them.

Santa Teresa was not what we expected, but it’s been an awesome week of relaxation. Probably for the best, since next week everyone arrives for Christmas. I get this feeling that our days of relaxation and quiet will be replaced with celebration and cervasas!!

Have you ever gone somewhere, and have it be completely different then what you expected?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress