Santa Teresa / Mal Pais

These two towns are located about 3 km apart on the Pacific side of the peninsula. Both towns more or less consist of a row of small hotels, cabins, restaurants, cafes, bars and houses lining the unpaved road that winds it’s way up the coast. Both places have great waves and are popular with surfers, who appear to make up the majority of the community.

The community is young, close and very international, with large contingents of Israelis and Argentines. The area’s residents make a living running tourism ventures and real estate companies, and the pace of life is slow but active. Like many surfing towns, the schedules are set by the surf rather than clocks. 

To date, the property market in Santa Teresa and Malpaís is dominated by the sale of raw land and houses. The area’s first gated community was under construction at the time of research, and other developers had begun building model homes, so there should be more residences for sale over the next few years. A few large fincas are still available in the Santa Teresa area, but most of the action by now appears to have moved out toward Cóbano.

Generally, the profiles of people interested in buying in this area break down into three categories: The surfer looking for a place for under $100,000; the investor looking for land to develop; and people looking for a second or third home. Malpaís and Santa Teresa have no titled beach front property - it’s all under concession. The land from Malpaís north to the beautiful and isolated beach of Manzanillo is regulated under 11 different zoning plans. The Costa Rican Board of Tourism (ICT) and the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications (MINAET) are trying to consolidate them, according to information from Hidden Realty. 

In addition, and as is the case with many other wooded beachfront areas of Costa Rica, MINAET is in the process of doing studies to identify forested areas that they should be regulating rather than the local municipalities. Under MINAET’s supervision, activity in concessions containing endangered trees or other special conditions could be severely restricted. The coastline around Santa Teresa has yet to be studied by MINAET, and that, combined with the numerous regulating plans that need to be consolidated, getting land use permission – or uso de suelo - to build in concession land right now is quite tricky. 

For the meantime, it appears that in the Santa Teresa area, the municipality (which maintains control as long as MINAET hasn’t defined which areas it’s going to regulate) continues to work under the existing regulating plan for the area and this will possibly continue for some time, locals say.

In short, be extremely careful buying a land use concession in the Santa Teresa, Malpaís and up to Manzanillo, and be sure to do your due diligence very carefully.

A number of small shopping centers had just been completed at the time of research.  The area also has an office to help people with their move, a number of beach clothes shops, several low-key cafes and restaurants, and, of course, several real estate brokers. For more details on services, see the table below.

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