Pavones Surf Guide: Second Longest Left in the World

Pavones, Costa Rica is one of the most glorious surf spots in the Western Hemisphere, if not the entire world. The wave here breaks for almost a mile, and surfers from all over the world flock here to experience the ride, and the pura vida Costa Rica lifestyle. Pavones surf is not to be missed, as it is some of the best surfing in Costa Rica.

Just for you, I’ve composed a guide for how to plan a Pavones Costa Rica surf trip, that includes every last detail on how to experience this surfing wonder. Enjoy!

Pavones Surf Overview

The surf in Pavones, Costa Rica is absolutely legendary. It is truly one of the best waves in Central America, and certainly one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. In fact, Pavones is the second longest left breaking wave in the entire world! 

You can seriously ride this wave for MINUTES. Three minutes to be precise. This wave breaks for almost a mile!

Pavones is located in the deep southern region of Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula. It is an extremely remote break in the South Pacific, in an extremely remote surf town. The remoteness makes this break and Costa Rican surf town far less crowded than other surf breaks in Costa Rica, so if you can find it, you’re in for a real treat.

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The Different Pavones Surf Breaks

Pavones is a left breaking point break that wraps around the shore. When it’s really working, there are five different takeoff spots. The deepest is the most advanced takeoff spot, and the furthest inside is more beginner/longboard friendly(usually).

Rio Claro River Mouth

This is the deepest takeoff spot there is when Pavones is really working. It’s not hard to find, just look for the takeoff spot furthest out on the break, and it’s usually just south of the Rio Claro River Mouth. 

If it’s big enough the takeoff spot will be set all the way almost in the rocks. This break holds up to 20 feet, and while it’s not a particularly steep takeoff it is HEAVY. We’re talking experts only when it’s that big. 

Once you make that first drop, you’ll be racing down the face to make steep sections. If you make it out, or even just halfway, you’ll probably have just scored some of the longest surf of your life!

Sea Wall

This is technically the third takeoff spot in Pavones. By this point, the wave has slowed down quite a bit, making the drop in and takeoff much more mellow. This takeoff position is great for intermediate level surfers, who aren’t quite skilled enough to make the heavy drop at the river mouth.

It is also a better takeoff point for longboarders, as it is less steep and can handle a board with more volume. 

How to get to Pavones Surf

Pavones is incredibly remote. That is part of what makes Pavones surf so magical, but also what makes it so difficult to get to. There are a few different ways for how to travel to Pavones surf:

Travel by Car to Pavones surf: 

One way to get to Pavones is to drive from the San Jose Airport. Google maps says it takes about 6 hours, I’m going to let you know right now that that is not accurate. Driving long distances in Costa Rica typically takes about 2-3 hours longer than what Google maps says.

So it’s safe to budget about 8 hours to drive from San Jose to Pavones. 

Cost: This depends on season, type of car, insurance, and your negotiating skills. For a 4wd, medium sized SUV, this will cost anywhere from $30-$75 per day. Keep in mind, one way car rentals typically charge about a $50 dropoff fee. 

Renting a car is a great option for a group of people on a surf trip, as you can split the price!

Travel by Plane to Pavones Surf:

Flying into Golfito is another option to reach Pavones. Sansa Airlines flies daily from SJO to Golfito, the port town near Pavones. Flights cost about $130USD, and only take about 40 minutes. 

From Golfito, you can take a local bus or taxi to get to Pavones. A bus will cost about $3USD, a taxi probably $60. 

Flying to Pavones is a great option for solo travelers, or anyone taking a shorter surf trip, and doesn’t feel like wasting an entire day in the car. 

Travel by Public Transportation to Pavones Surf:

Public Transportation is the cheapest, and also the longest way to get to Pavones. There are two busses that depart from San Jose to Golfito daily, one leaves early in the morning, one in the afternoon. This bus takes about 8 hours and costs roughly $12USD.

Then, you can take the bus from Golfito to Pavones which costs about $3USD.

Public transportation is a good option for anyone short on money, but not short on time, because you want to be able to dedicate at least a few days to enjoy this surfing mecca.

Best Pavones Surf Season

Rainy Season: May-October/ Early November

Typically the best time to surf Pavones is during the rainy season. To really turn on, Pavones needs a nice solid south, or southwest swell. During the rainy season, there are plenty of these! 

The rainy season is a really great time for a surf trip in Costa Rica in general, because there are fewer crowds, everything is less expensive, and that is when Costa Rica as a whole receives heavier swells.

Dry Season: November-April

This is typically not the best time to surf at Pavones, and the wave will be flat throughout a large part of the dry season.

However, don’t let that discourage you- even with a small swell, as long as it’s coming from the right direction, Pavones can still be a really nice wave to surf.

Where to Stay for Pavones surf

Chances are, if you’re visiting Pavones on a surf trip, you want to be really close to the surf. I’ve laid out below a few sweet accommodation options for different budgets. 

Pavones Accommodations Under $100 a night: 

There are unfortunately no hostels in the Pavones region. For the cheapest options, I’d recommend scoping airbnb. For hotels and motels, I recommend:

Nicer Hotels in Pavones Costa Rica:

  • Hotel Swell Pavones $126 a night

If accommodations are hard to find in Pavones, you can stay in the nearby town of Punta Banco! However, you will likely want transportation to reach the Pavones surf.

Where to Eat

When visiting Costa Rica, you should really give Sodas a chance! And, Pavones restaurants have some pretty tasty food.

Sodas are restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican food. Typical Costa Rican food usually involves different variations of beans and rice- although it is much more sophisticated than that!

Typical Costa Rican food is healthy and deliciously seasoned. The beans and rice combo is a true superfood, and is the perfect fuel for surfing!

Some typical Costa Rican restaurants in Pavones (sodas) include:

  • Esquina del Mar, located right on the beach
  • Café de la Suerte 
  • Bar Restaurante la Plaza

Other Activities in Pavones

While Pavones is a world class surfing destination, sometimes we like to take our non surfer friends with us! (or sometimes there isn’t swell….) in which case it’s important to know what there is to do in Pavones besides surfing… and watching surfers!

Luckily, Pavones Costa Rica is located on the Osa Peninsula which is a stunningly beautiful place in Costa Rica. 

There is much to do and see here besides surfing!

Some of the best things to do in Pavones besides surf include:

Explore the Rainforest

pavones surf

Pavones Costa Rica is located on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. The Osa Peninsula is a biologically rich and diverse region in Costa Rica, and has many dense and rich rainforest reserves. 

The Golfito Wildlife Refuge is located in nearby Golfo Dulce, and not far from Pavones. There are many rainforest hiking trails here!

Relax on the Beach

Surfing aside, the beach in Pavones is beautiful! Playa Pavones is the main beach, and it has sparkling white sand, and is nestled up against lush rainforest. 

The beach in Pavones is just perfect for reading a book, relaxing with a drink, or even watching the surfers!

While the surf is definitely what brings many to the area, you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the beach in Pavones!

Take a Horseback Riding Tour

One of the best ways to explore this beautiful region is by a horseback riding tour

Take a Yoga Class

Yoga in Pavones is a booming industry. There are many different places to book a yoga class in Pavones, including:

  • Rancho Burica
  • Shooting Star Yoga Retreat
  • Pavones Yoga Center

Hike up the Rio Claro

Last but not least, hiking up the Rio Claro is one of the best activities to do in Pavones besides surfing!

The riverbank is full of wildlife, including monkeys and exotic birds. 

Pavones Surf FAQ’s

Is Pavones hard to surf?

One of the most common questions about surfing Pavones is if it is hard to surf. The answer really depends on the swell, and takeoff point. With a big swell, at the deepest takeoff point, Pavones is heavy, and should only be attempted by more advanced surfers.

However, with a smaller swell the break is really not that fast, and suitable for surfers of any level! 

Is Pavones good for beginners?

When the surf is smaller, Pavones is a great break for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners! It’s such a long wave that beginners will get so much practice with their stance, turns, and form.

Where is the longest wave in the world?

Pavones is actually not the longest wave in the world! The longest wave in the world is Chicima in Peru. Although, Pavones does come close!

Other Tips

My #1 tip for visiting Pavones is to time it perfectly. This wave needs swell to really come to life, and to tell the truth, Pavones isn’t exactly the liveliest town to sit and wait around for the swell to hit.

So, if you’re itching to hit Pavones on a swell, have an extended period of time in Costa Rica, here is what you should do:

Set yourself up in either Dominical, or Jaco. In both of these towns, you’ll have consistent surf and a more lively scene.

Then, you can check the Pavones surf report, when the swell picks up in Pavones, you’ll only be a short trip away to make it for the swell, but you will have been able to surf sweet waves in Dominical or Playa Hermosa (Jaco) in the meantime.

It’s really the best of both worlds. 

My #2 tip for visiting Pavones is to bring your own board. Quality, high performance rentals in Costa Rica are scarce, and there is nothing quite like having your own surfboard on a wave as nice as Pavones.

With that said, if you’re a beginner, or surfing a bigger board (7 foot plus) then I’m sure a rental board will not only be suitable, but surfing a different board is great practice for beginner surfers!

Final Thoughts on Pavones Surf

Pavones is one of the best surfing towns in Costa Rica. If you’re planning a Costa Rica surf trip, especially in the rainy season, you should absolutely make the trek down to Pavones to score some of the longest waves in the world.

1 thought on “Pavones Surf Guide: Second Longest Left in the World”

  1. Try the Riviera hotel . The McGonicals a professional surfing family .Laid back , unaffected .

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