by Derek Dodds May 18, 2016 3 Comments

The Basics - Surfing Pavones Costa Rica

Nearly all of Costa Rican surf towns have been engulfed by tourism, which can truly put a damper on a surf trip to Central America.  When you visit the majority of Costa Rican surf towns, you’re going to have to deal with the beginner hussies, expensive fish tacos, and most likely, a crowded lineup. Pavones is a tad different.

Renowned as one of the most desolate and remote surf destinations in the entire country - Pavones provides surfers with a total surf oriented experience. Being that it’s so difficult to reach, Pavones lacks the extreme amounts of surfers from around the world and rather caters to the die hard barrel hunters. 

Surfing Pavones  Yes, you can get barreled in Pavones if you get the right swell.

Pavones encompasses 10 miles of different beaches, which lines the nearly untouched Golfo Dulce area of Costa Rica. The Rio Claro is one of the clearest rivers in Central America and this dazzling spectacle feeds into the gnarliest left breaking wave in the entire country.

Pavones is considered to be possibly the longest warm water left in the world, which is why so many people have attempted to reach it, though only few have actually made the trek. I have surfed both Chicama in Peru and Pavones in Costa Rica and they both give the title 'world's longest left' a run for the money. The only way to know is to surf them both yourself.

Dulce - a fresh look at Pavones from Patrick McMahon on Vimeo.


Literally, you can hit this left for 1 mile+, and I’m not even exaggerating. One of the greatest parts of Pavones is the entirely chilled-out, relaxed vibe that the area offers. 

Located in nearly the most southern point of the south pacific region of Costa Rica, Pavones is a little slice of heaven that thousands of surfers have dreamt of visiting.  There isn’t the chaos of a tourist heavy atmosphere here, so you can crush waves all day, grab a slice of pizza, and enjoy a nice brew in this desolate surfer destination.

The Waves - Surfing Pavones Costa Rica

The waves in Pavones are legendary. Honestly, if you ask any old time surfer in the South Pacific and they don’t tell you Pavones is the raddest destination in southern Costa Rica, then they are lying to you. Pavones is situated in the “deep-south” of Costa Rica, on the southern side of the Gulfo Dulce, near the small ecologically heavy town of Golfito.

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones  Pavones Costa Rica Region

You won’t be able to reach Pavones unless you truly want to rip it, because it’s just about the hardest wave to reach in all of Costa Rica. Though it may be a hard wave to get to, finding the town of Pavones is very simple, you just need to have the motivation to get your ass from San Jose to Pavones.

It’s about 8 or 9 hours from San Jose the capital and if you’re taking a bus, the trip can take 16+ hours, due to the amount of bus transfers that it requires.  The majority of surfers rent a 4x4 car and can reach it without too much trouble, that’s my best advice to you.

Surfing Pavones Pavones is a world class wave, consistent as all hell (150 days/year), and is without a doubt the longest left in the country. 

The one problem with Pavones is that it needs a big southern swell to create the monster left that you want. The beach has a sandy bottom with rocks and the point is a long wrap around on a beach of boulders, so watch where you toss your board.

If the swell is working and you’re in Pavones, the wave goes on forever. Typical length is between 400-900 meters, which is ample enough time for you to have the left of your life.  I must warn you, though Pavones is incredibly remote, when the swell hits, the town gets crowded. There’s a ton of surfers in the south pacific region of Costa Rica, so you can imagine, word travels fast as a Japanese bullet train.

One other little unknown secret about the area is that you can also head south of Pavones and surf a point called Punta Banco, where you’ll be able to find lefts and rights.  Punta Banco is much less crowded when the swell hits, so can be ideal for surfers that don’t want to deal with a crowded lineup. You didn't hear it here.

Overall, Pavones is one of my personal favorite spots to visit in Costa Rica. It’s awesome when an enormous swell hits my hometown of Uvita and since the wave won’t hold, we grab a crew of Ticos, rent a van, and head down to the holy land of Pavones, Costa Rica. You want a south west, south swell, the wave starts working at 3-5 feet and holds out to 16+ . . . let's check the swell now.

You can surf at any tide, during any hour of the day, during any weather conditions, because you’re in Pavones and should surf regardless of the conditions anyways. 

The only downside is how crowded it can get, but that’s a small price to pay when you can ride the wave for 500+ meters. No complaints here mon, just a ton of stoke!

Staying In Pavones Costa Rica

Pavones is a small Costa Rican town located in the southern Pacific zone, near the town of Golfito (about 1.5 hours south). The entire town is reliant on its surf community, but there’s a ton of birds, so there’s also some birdwatchers.

If you catch Pavones at its peak, you can ride it the entire length of the town and impress all the cute girls watching from the beach - some of them birdwatchers. While the majority of the population is Costa Rican, a large amount of international expats have voyaged to Pavones and have been calling it home for decades.

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones  Pavones Surf Shop

Due to the amount of international cultures in Pavones, there’s definitely a very cosmopolitan vibe to the area, which makes it more welcoming for foreigners. Though Pavones is incredibly small and remote, it does have a few different restaurants for surfers to enjoy, but remember, there aren’t a ton of options.

There is a small surf shop called Sea Kings in Pavones - grab those goodies you forgot. The also have some boards for hire and offer surf lessons. Obviously there are the small Tico Soda restaurants, serving up Gallo Pinto, Arroz con Pollo and other Costa Rican dishes. 

Also, there’s a small Italian restaurant which dishes up tasty slices of pizza, small pasta dishes, and some other Italian infused recipes. The only other restaurant I know of is the upscale Brazilian style buffet, which has vegetarian and meat eating choices for surfers that have a little more cash to spend on gourmet meals.

Surfing Pavones There’s also a small supermarket, that has all the essentials you’ll need... meat, fresh veggies, fruit, bread, milk, eggs . . . and yes, beer!

Things to do in Pavones Costa Rica

If you happen to be traveling with people who aren’t die hard surfers (likely not the case) then there are a few no surf activities. There's a yoga studio called Shooting Star Studio where surfers or non-surfers can get a quality stretch in pre or post surf.

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones Osa Peninsula 

Get in the rental and check out a few waterfalls in the area or book a fishing charters in Golfito. Or go old school and just take a walk with your camera for a ton of wildlife right in you back - and front - yards.

If you want to take a day off from the waves, or they aren’t delivering, the Osa Peninsula is right around the corner and it’s one of the most bio diverse places in the world. You can see Scarlet Macaws, sloths, monkeys, dolphins, whales . . . the list goes on-and-on.

All in all Pavones has a plethora of activities for people to enjoy, but the main reason people flock to this remote little Tico town is for the gnarliest left in the world. It’s a peaceful place where you can surf waves, meet people from around the world, share badass stories and see some of the world’s rarest wildlife. 

If you want laid-back with a mix of epic surfing, I don’t know any place better than Pavones, Costa Rica.

Let’s take a quick break and take a great look at the wave during a solid swell . . .

Where to Stay in Pavones Costa Rica

I normally sleep in the van we rent, or camp in a tent on one of the various camping area, but there are a bunch of housing options for people that don’t want to be such a surf dirtbag. When I role with the ladies I usually stay at one of the following options.. 

Staying in Pavones Option 1: Cabinas La Ponderosa

These are very cozy, homey cabins, tended by a super cute couple. They make you feel at home and provide you with just about anything you’d need while surfing or vacationing in Pavones.

Roberta from Brazil said about staying there, "Amazing place, amazing people, amazing vibe." There’s a common area, WiFi, spacious cabins, and a ton of videos to watch - there’s a lot of down time in Pavones. 

But the best part about La Ponderosa is without a doubt the care that Marshall and Angela McCarthy provide their guests. Got an extra 100k lying around? Marshall and Angela have some property opportunities listed on their site that look enticing. Tell them Jason says hello and give them a hug for me, they’re great people - if you buy some land, can I sleep on it? http://laponderosapavones.com/site/

Staying in Pavones Option 2: Caza Olas Hotel and Hostel

This place has a ton of different accommodation options. You can get private rooms, cabins, shared dorms, private rooms with shared bathrooms, the whole shebang.

Rooms start at 15$/night for the shared rooms and privates are anywhere from 30-60$/night. There’s a big kitchen, full of kitchen equipment, WiFi, hammocks, chairs, a porch, comfortable beds, and a super clean hotel. 

You can rent surfboards here, book tours, and park your car in a safe location. Cash only, like most of Pavones and Costa Rica. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/costa-rica/peninsula-de-osa-and-golfo-dulce/pavones/hotels/caza-olas-hotel-and-hostel

Staying in Pavones Option 3: Cabinas Sol Y Mar

This is another option if you want to do the cabin route of accommodation. I’ve never personally stayed here, but have surfed with a ton of people who have. 

Only good things. You get your own cabin with a kitchen, bathroom, and private space.  Great for surf crews that want to have their own private area. There’s an open air bar and restaurant, WiFi, and a very laid-back atmosphere. http://www.zancudo.com/sol_main.htm

To Sum it Up

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones  Pavones Costa Rica

Pavones is one of the most unique locations in the entire country of Costa Rica. You’ll spend hours reaching this little surf town, but it will be worth every mile (if the swell hits). Surfers from around the world have been flocking to Pavones for the better part of century and the waves send surfers home happy.

Surfing Pavones  There aren’t a lot of places where you can get unbelievably pitted for 500 meters 150+ days out of the year, but at Pavones, you can. 

So pack your back, stuff your board bag with you favorite rip sticks, and head on down to Pavones, Costa Rica. There may not be a whole lot to do as far as parting and nightlife are concerned, but you get to have the pleasure of getting up close and personal with nature in Pavones. I’d recommend Pavones for any surfer visiting Costa Rica, it’s a must see.  Get stoked my friends!

Maps Pavones

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones

Surfing Pavones
Surfing Pavones

Derek Dodds
Derek Dodds


3 Responses


February 15, 2016

Jason – BIG THANKS for writing this article. Hey Listen – there’s as pretty good chance that I will drive down to Pavones in April of next year (2016). I will be coming from California. Can you offer any advice about the best roads … how do you come through Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicuragua? If you’ve got any tips, I could use them. Big thanks and I hope to see those swells in the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica soon. Pete, California


February 15, 2016

Derek – right on! that works for me. BIG THANKS!! Pete

Derek Dodds
Derek Dodds

February 15, 2016

Hey Pete—check out this site bro: http://drivemeloco.com/

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Surfboard Leashes

You Break It We Replace It in First Year. 

Buy a leash closest to your board size—i.e. for 6'4 surfboard you need a 6' leash. 

All leashes are 7mm thick, competition leashes which are lighter/thinner 5.5 mm. 

Pioneer Day Boardbags - Fits One Surfboard

All boardbags have +2 inches. Thus a 6'6 board fit's perfectly in a 6'6 boardbag. All Pioneer bags have expandable fin gussets, so you can keep your fins on your board in the bag—or you can roll with glass-on fins.

Pioneer Sizes:

All bags have interior pockets (fins, leash and wax), bags fit industry standards. 

Our 8'6, 9'6 and 10' bags have fin slots and round noses. 

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Travel Bags - Fits Two Surfboards

All Global boardbags have +2 inches, so if you buy a 6'2 boardbag, the real length is 6'4—thus you have a bit of room to play. 

Global Travel Bag Sizes:

Travel boardbags are 6'-8' inches deep to accommodate two boards—though you can travel with one in these bags without a problem—there are two interior pockets for leash, wax, and fins.

Surfboard Travel Bag Pockets Fin Wax Leash

Travel boardbags have two padded boards separators and two pockets for your gear. 

* Travel boardbags also have 13mm + 13mm of extra padding in the nose and tail.

Travel Bags with Wheels - Fits Two Surfboards

New in 2016 is the double travel bag with wheels. Sometimes you want a smaller bag with wheels, now you can have it. All Global boardbags have +2 inches, so if you buy a 6'2 boardbag, the real length is 6'4—thus you have a bit of room to play. 

Global Travel Bag Sizes:

Travel boardbags are 6'-8' inches deep to accommodate two boards—though you can travel with one in these bags without a problem—there are two interior pockets for leash, wax, and fins.

Wave Tribe Wheelie Surfboard Travel Bags

Travel boardbags have two padded boards separators and two pockets for your gear. 

* Travel boardbags also have 13mm + 13mm of extra padding in the nose and tail.

Boardbag Material & Hardware - All Bags

Side A of the bag is made from a strong density Rugged Eco Hemp exterior which is one tough fiber and naturally built to last with high impact padding protection with Rebound Foam Dynamics including open-to-nose technology.

Side B is the reflective (rental-car-roof-side) made from Reflective Energy Shield for "Cooler Surfboard Safeguard" protecting your surfboard from the sun's harmful rays made from an alloy-steel mesh weave.

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