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Mal Pais, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 04, 2023

Summary: People describe Mal Pais, Costa Rica as a laid-back beach town with a relaxed atmosphere and stunning natural beauty. Expats love the small-town feel, the friendly locals, the abundance of outdoor activities, and the easy access to the beach. The weather in Mal Pais is typically warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,500 to $2,000 per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment is typically around $500 to $700 per month, while a two bedroom apartment can range from $700 to $1,000 per month. The approximate population of Mal Pais is around 1,500 people.

What are the pros and cons of living in Mal Pais?

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Mal Pais responded:

"It's true that Mal Pais is growing but it still is a tiny fishing village and somewhat remote. One road, one grocery store and two restaurants. The beaches are beautiful and you see or experience something new almost everyday. One day a calf snuck up to my husband on the beach and licked the back of his arm. He was so surprised at the roughness of it's tongue. He said hello and then it's mother moo's and he ran back to mom. Once in a while we see whales and this causes quite a stir on the beach. We watch the fishing boats come in from their day of fishing, knowing they will be selling fresh fish just a short walk away. There are many men who kayak early each morning to catch fish as well. One I know smokes his fish and sells it to the local market. It's a simple life. People bake, make crafts, paint and give lessons for means of income. We don't need much to be happy here," explained one expat living in Mal Pais.

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What type of social life can someone expect in Mal Pais?

When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Mal Pais, they replied:

"Being social in a small fishing is about community. We have small social gatherings. We walk to the beach at sunset, wave at neighbors and make dinner plans," explained one expat in Mal Pais.

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"When we walk to the beach for sunset we wave, say hola to everyone. It's a small community so we all know each other. We met new people coming and going every year as they come to visit Costs Rica," said another in Mal Pais.

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What advice to expats in Mal Pais have about housing?

"It has changed in my little village. Covid-19 has driven prices of real estate and rent up. People who got stuck in Costa Rica have decided to stay and build. We have several building projects in out town. We are fortunate to have rented a house two years ago with an affordable rent. Progress is happening all around us," added another expat in Mal Pais.

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What do I need to know about living in Mal Pais?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Mal Pais, they said:

"Before retiring in Mal Pais, it is important to understand the local laws and regulations. Make sure you have secure legal residency, and that you are in compliance with all required documents to secure a visa and stay legally in the country. Know the tax implications and other financial planning that comes with retiring abroad. Additionally, be aware of the climate and terrain in the area, and the healthcare, telecommunications, and other infrastructure that is available in the region. Make sure you research the area before committing to a permanent retirement and understand the local culture and language," remarked another in Mal Pais.

"Before retiring in Mal Pais, it is important to research the cost of living. The cost of housing, groceries, utilities, and sundry items can be significantly higher than in other parts of Costa Rica, so it is important to be aware of expected expenditures. Additionally, it is advisable to consider the climate, as the weather is humid and hot. Another important item to consider is accessibility as, while public transportation is available, it is not always reliable. Lastly, although Mal Pais is an intimate and quiet area, the nights can become quite noisy due to the bustling restaurant industry, so it is important to check out local noise ordinances before retiring in Mal Pais," explained one expat.

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What do I need to know before moving to Mal Pais?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Mal Pais, they said:

"Before moving to Mal Pais you should consider the cost of living and the availability of job opportunities. It is important to research the crime rate to ensure your safety. You will also want to learn about the local laws and regulations to make sure you are following all the rules. Finding a place to live should be done in advance as the housing market is limited. Reliable transportation is important and often public transportation is not an option. Lastly, it is good to familiarize yourself with the local customs and culture as you transition into your new home," replied an expat in Mal Pais.

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How do I find a place to live in Mal Pais?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"When looking for a place to live in Mal Pais, the first thing to consider is where in the area you would like to stay. Depending on how you want to experience Mal Pais, there are a variety of locations to choose from, ranging from beachfront villas to mountain view cabins. Research each neighborhood to determine the best fit for you. Renting a property is the most common option for living in Mal Pais. Many of these rentals are private homes that are furnished, have multiple bedrooms and include amenities like a pool or jacuzzi. Depending on the location, the price range for rentals can vary greatly. In addition to private home rentals, there are several gated communities that offer long-term rental options. These typically provide access to shared amenities like swimming pools, fitness centers, and even golf courses. These complexes are great for those looking for a community atmosphere. For those looking for a more unique living experience and have the budget to do so, there are a handful of eco- friendly resorts in the area that offer custom-built homes available for purchase. Tropicoco Real Estate is a great resource to find all the above types of accommodations. They provide a comprehensive list of properties in the Mal Pais area that can be sorted according to amenities, budget, and desired living experience," remarked another in Mal Pais.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Mal Pais?

"Expat homes and apartments in Mal Pais are typically stylishly designed and comfortable, often with modern or contemporary furnishings. These homes and apartments often feature a comfortable outdoor living space that incorporates a swimming pool, outdoor bar and seating area making them great for outdoor living and dining. Many Mal Pais homes and apartments are located near the beach and offer stunning ocean views," said another person in Mal Pais.

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What is the average cost of housing in Mal Pais?

If you are thinking about moving to Mal Pais, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Mal Pais is typically mid-range, with many rental properties and vacation homes available for rent. Prices vary depending on the size and type of property, with one-bedroom apartments starting at around $500 per month and larger homes for up to $3,000 or more per month," explained one expat living in Mal Pais.

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How do I meet people in Mal Pais?

When we asked people living in Mal Pais about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Mal Pais is a great place to meet people and make new friends! A great way to meet locals and other travellers is to visit a local beach bar or restaurant. You can also join up with one of the many outdoor sports and activities that are offered in the area, such as surfing, yoga, and kayaking. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also join a guided tour, or venture off on your own to explore the many hidden gems in the area. One of the best ways to meet people is to participate in some of the local festivals and events that take place throughout the year. Increasingly, there are also a number of social media groups and websites dedicated to Mal Pais where you can connect with other people that are passionate about the area," said another person in Mal Pais.

"Mal Pais is a popular tourist destination and full of friendly locals, so meeting new people is quite easy. A great way to meet other people is by joining any of the many beach activities like swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding. Other popular activities you can join are biking, fishing, diving, horseback riding, and yoga classes. You can also meet people by just walking around town and exploring the local restaurants, bars, and shops. There's also plenty of vibrant nightlife here, so go out to the local bars and clubs to meet other travelers. Finally, you can either find or start up a group activity or hobby like beach volleyball or Spanish language classes," remarked another expat in Mal Pais.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Costa Rica

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What should I bring when moving to Mal Pais?

People living in Mal Pais were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"Clothes suitable for hot and humid weather, comfortable walking shoes, hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, flashlight, medical supplies, bathing suit, towels, sandals, basic kitchen items, tour guide book, books, laptop and cell-phone chargers, camera, energy bars and snacks, water containers, portable chairs, hammock, beach blanket, binoculars, kitchen towels, and spices," said another expat in Mal Pais.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Mal Pais?

We asked expats in Mal Pais what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"Setting up a bank account in Mal Pais can be done at the local BBVA Bancomer bank, which is located on Principal Avenue in Mal Pais. Other banks, such as Banco de Costa Rica, may also have branches located in the area," explained one expat living in Mal Pais.

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Will I be able to find a job in Mal Pais?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Mal Pais, they reponded:

"Yes, it is possible to find a job in Mal Pais. There are a variety of job opportunities available due to the tourism and hospitality industry. Jobs include hotel and restaurant staff, tour guides, and diving instructors. Furthermore, some businesses offer remote working opportunities that allow individuals to work remotely," explained one expat living in Mal Pais.

"Most people get a job through word of mouth or a local Facebook groups. This is a tourist area so people work at restaurants or clean homes. It's also a fishing village so people work on the books. There are several people who have local online businesses," said another expat in Mal Pais.

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What is life like in Mal Pais?

When we asked people living in Mal Pais what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in this area is a rewarding experience, with plenty of opportunities to explore the culture and cuisine. There are myriad activities to choose from whether you enjoy outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, or nightlife. The cost of living is relatively low when compared to other popular expat destinations and the population is friendly and open to newcomers. The weather is sunny and pleasant most of the year and the public transport is reliable, making it an easy place to navigate. As an expat, you’ll be exposed to diverse influences and activities and you’ll be sure to find plenty of English-speaking people nearby. As with anywhere, it’s important to take some time to adjust to the new way of life and to get to know the local customs, language, and laws. Nonetheless, life as an expat in this area is sure to be both enjoyable and interesting," remarked another expat in Mal Pais.

"Living as an expat in the area can be a great experience. There is a wide range of interesting and diverse cultures to explore and a great deal of amenities and services available for expats. Those who are looking to live in the area will find good job opportunities and the cost of living to be quite affordable. There is a good variety of housing options, as well as many great restaurants, coffee shops and stores catering to over 30 nationalities. Good transportation and a few international schools are available for expat families. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the stunning natural landscapes and plenty of activities including hiking and skiing. The expat community is vibrant and friendly, providing lots of opportunities to make new friends and get involved in events and activities," explained one expat living in Mal Pais.

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What do expats in Mal Pais appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Mal Pais appreciate the laid back atmosphere and the close knit community feel of the town. They love the relaxed, tropical lifestyle with plenty of opportunities to enjoy swimming, surfing, kayaking, hiking and other activities. They also appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the area, with lush tropical forests, volcanic mountains, secluded beaches and the stunning sunsets. People in the area have an easy going and friendly attitude, often helping out and being very welcoming, further adding to its charm," said another person in Mal Pais.

"We love the Pura Vida vibe. Some people say it doesn't exist, but for us we notice the simple laid back attitude everyday. We love the local people and have made many friends. We appreciate the simplicity. I especially love the surprises! For example, the horses walking down the street grazing on the graze unattended. The iguana that lives on my roof. The monkeys steeling my avocado and then pooping in my floor after I hid all the fruit. The fruit bat that fell on my computer keyboard out of nowhere! I love the "you don't see that everyday!" aspect of life here," remarked another expat in Mal Pais.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats often find adjusting to a new culture, unfamiliar languages, and different ways of doing things to be among the most challenging aspects of relocating or traveling abroad. Furthermore, navigating complex visa and immigration requirements can present a challenge, as can finding the right medical, housing, and financial services in a new country. Additionally, maintaining relationships with family and friends back home, as well as making new friendships, can be a challenge, as can finding the right job or setting up a new business. Furthermore, everyday living expenses and a new way of life can also present challenges," explained one expat.

"Honestly the most challenging aspect of the new culture is having to still deal with the US on some level. Using Skype to make US phone calls is extremely challenging. I needed my laptop repaired, the taxi took me to the repair shop but the "guy" who does the repair was not there. The taxi driver made a phone call and found another guy who repairs computers. After driving up a narrow dirt road and missing the turn we finally arrived at a private home. A young man approached the car and told me in English " sure i can fix" uh okay I replied. We drove away and I had an uneasy feeling that I just handed over my laptop to a stranger. Several days later and a few desperate emails I got my laptop back in good working order. Everyone I asked about the repair man's good standing was answered with " of yeah I know him, hes a good guy." Another challenge at first was finding certain products in the local grocery store. We have adapted to buying more local products, but one time I asked the store if they had decaf coffee? They promised to order some for me. Everyday or so I would ask "did you get the decaf? The response was "maybe tomorrow" in Spanish of course. I finally gave up asking," said another person in Mal Pais.

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Is there a lot of crime in Mal Pais?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"No, there is not a lot of crime in Mal Pais. The town is known for its relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and it is generally considered to be a safe destination to visit," said another expat in Mal Pais.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Mal Pais accepting of differences?

"Mal Pais is a town with a diverse population, including Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, and other expatriates from around the world. There is a great acceptance of differences in the local community, and people from all walks of life can be seen walking together in harmony. The local government and business community have made a great effort to ensure that everyone feels welcome and respected. Mal Pais is known as a genuine and friendly community, where diversity is appreciated and celebrated," said another expat in Mal Pais.

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What are the schools in Mal Pais like?

"Schools in Mal Pais range from preschools to high schools and offer an excellent standard of education. The primary and secondary schools provide classes in a variety of core subjects, including Maths, English, Spanish and Science. Additionally, many of the schools also offer specialized courses in Performing Arts, Physical Education and Computer Science. Teachers are experienced and well-trained and student support services are provided in all institutions. The schools also have active student bodies and offer extracurricular activities, including sports, arts and music," commented one expat when asked about in Mal Pais.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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