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The Mahalo Surf Travel Guide to Pavones

Words by Kim Feldmann de Britto | Images by Aurore Greindl & Mel Bonella
When it comes to world-class surfing destinations, Pavones in Costa Rica stands out as a true gem. Nestled on the southern Pacific coast of the country, this small coastal town has gained a well-deserved reputation for hosting one of the longest left-hand point breaks on the planet. Beyond the waves, the remote and undeveloped nature of the town adds to its charm, with limited infrastructure and a laid-back atmosphere that encourages a slower pace of life. The locals are friendly and welcoming, embracing the surfing community and providing a warm and inviting atmosphere. The surrounding rainforest offers opportunities for eco-adventures such as hiking, wildlife spotting, and even visiting nearby waterfalls, whilst the town boasts several accommodations and restaurants that cater to surfers, providing a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the area. No wonder surfers from all over the world flock to Pavones every year.

 

Mahalo Surf Experience - Pavones | Photo by Melanie Bonella
Pavones is located on the tip of Pavon Bay, near the border with Panama. Reaching Pavones requires a bit of effort, but the journey is part of the adventure. The closest airport is Golfito, which receives domestic flights from San José. From there, travellers can take a taxi or arrange transportation to Pavones, which takes approximately two to three hours. Another option is to rent a car and take a scenic road trip from San José, enjoying the stunning landscapes and making stops along the way. While the journey may be long, the reward of experiencing the incredible surf in Pavones is undoubtedly worth it. Be aware that public transportation options in Pavones are limited, so if you don’t have a car, you’ll most likely get around on foot.
Reaching Pavones requires a bit of effort, but the journey is part of the adventure.

Surfing Pavones

Pavones is world-famous for its long left-hand wave, which can peel for up to a kilometre on the right conditions. The wave at Pavones is considered one of the longest in the world, offering surfers an exhilarating ride. The wave is renowned for its consistency and power; it can be challenging, especially on bigger days when it requires good wave-reading skills and experience to navigate its length. Intermediate to advanced surfers will find the wave more suitable, although there are also smaller sections that beginners can enjoy. It’s worth noting that the wave is predominantly left-breaking, so it is best suited for regular-footed surfers. 
The ideal surf conditions in Pavones can vary, but the most favourable time for surfing is generally between April and October. During this period, the southern hemisphere swells combine with offshore winds, creating optimal wave conditions. Surfing in the early morning or late afternoon can often offer glassy, pristine waves. The off-season (December to April) can still offer good waves, but they tend to be smaller and less consistent. Apart from the iconic main point break, Pavones also offers a few other surf breaks in the area. Backwash is a reef break located further north, which produces fast, hollow waves. Pilon and Pan Dulce are two river-mouth breaks that can provide fun and less crowded surf sessions. 
Pavones is world-famous for its long left-hand wave. Offering surfers an exhilarating ride.

Staying & Eating in Pavones

Surfers coming to Pavones will find a wide range of accommodation alternatives — from budget hostels, campgrounds, and guesthouses to beachfront hotels with stunning ocean views and swimming pools. The latter option is not only the best for comfort but often offers direct beach access, ensuring convenience and proximity to the surf break. Many lodgings also provide daily yoga classes, workshops, and retreats where you can unwind and connect with like-minded people. That said, accommodation providers in Pavones — and indeed, the town in general — are still lagging a bit behind in terms of restaurants and deluxe amenities and services when compared to other surf hotspots of the same calibre. That’s why Mahalo has customised packages that include private chefs, massages, and other exclusive activities so that surf travellers can focus on what they came here for — the never-ending left-handers. But one thing is certain when talking about food in Pavones: fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and locally sourced ingredients take centre stage in many dishes. Don’t miss out on trying the “casado,” a typical Costa Rican plate consisting of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and a choice of meat or fish.
Surfers coming to Pavones will find a wide range of accommodation alternatives.

Beyond the Waves

Costa Rica is renowned for its biodiversity, and Pavones is no exception. The surf break is surrounded by lush rainforests and only a couple hours’ drive from nature reserves such as the Piedras Blancas National Park and Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands, which are home to diverse wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and exotic birds, and offer incredible opportunities for hiking and exploring nature. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, consider going kayaking or embarking on a thrilling boat tour to spot dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. The Golfo Dulce, a marine sanctuary close to Pavones, is a hotspot for observing humpback whales during their migration season. Also, whilst Pavones is primarily known for its surf, it does offer some nightlife and entertainment options. Local bars often host live music events, creating a lively atmosphere for visitors and locals alike. However, it’s important to note that Pavones is more of a relaxed and laid-back destination, so don’t expect a bustling nightlife scene.
Pavones, like many surfing destinations, is acutely aware of the need to protect its natural environment. The local community, in collaboration with environmental organizations, has taken initiatives to ensure the sustainable development of the area. Efforts such as beach clean-ups, recycling programs, and community education on environmental issues have been implemented to preserve the beauty and integrity of Pavones’ coastline and surrounding ecosystems. Visitors are encouraged to engage in responsible tourism practices to support these conservation efforts.
Costa Rica is renowned for its biodiversity, and Pavones is no exception. The surf break is surrounded by lush rainforests.

Practical Information

Pavones has a small medical clinic that can provide basic medical assistance. However, for more serious medical issues, it is recommended to seek treatment in a larger town or city. It’s also important to have travel insurance that covers any potential medical emergencies during your stay in Pavones.
The local currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC), but US dollars are widely accepted in most places. However, it’s advisable to carry some local currency for smaller establishments or when visiting more remote areas. There are a few ATMs available in Pavones, but it’s recommended to withdraw cash in larger towns before arriving.
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. While English is spoken in many tourist areas, it’s helpful to learn a few basic Spanish phrases to communicate with the locals. Wi-Fi is available in most accommodations, cafés, and restaurants, allowing you to stay connected with loved ones or access online resources.
Remember to Adhere to local surf etiquette and respect the rules of the wave.
El MURO. Where surfers meet in the end of the day and celebrate the good vibes while watching the action from the las session of the wave. Aloha & Mahalo!
Pavones, with its legendary wave and enchanting surroundings, is a surfer’s paradise. From the unparalleled surf conditions to the natural beauty and cultural experiences, this Costa Rican gem has something to offer every traveller. Whether you’re seeking a thrilling surf adventure, a relaxing beach retreat, or an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, Pavones will exceed your expectations. 
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