Mar 31 2008

Surf Pavones, Costa Rica: World’s Second Longest Wave

Published by at 4:22 pm under Destinations,Surf spots,Travel

I first read about Pavones in “Searching for Captain Zero.” Writer, Allan Weisbecker , makes a surf road trip to Costa Rica to find a lost childhood friend. He ended the trip at this epic wave described as the world’s second longest (behind Chicama, Peru). I made my first trip to Costa Rica last May and when a real swell hit, I packed up my rental car and motored 12 hours down the coast from the North to Pavones. The wave lived up to every description of it. Sure, it’s crowded, but that’s to be expected of any epic wave with land access. There will be drop-ins but for the most part everyone including the locals respect the line-up. It’s entirely possible to grab waves out at Pavones and probably grab some of the best waves of your life. Considering how close it is the U.S. and how cheap it is to get there, it’s definitely worth a trip to surf. The area of Southern Costa Rica surrounding Pavones is pristine and stunning. The locals are friendly and the small town at Pavones has a chill laid back vibe. Check out our guide to getting to and surfing Pavones below (more photos and video)

pavones line up Surf Pavones, Costa Rica: Worlds Second Longest Wave

The wave at Pavones breaks on larger Southern swells from April through September. Though it’s considered one wave, it tends to section in the middle creating two epically long waves. The outer wave breaks across the river mouth and is generally larger than the inner wave. It’s generally fast with long walls and sections at times with a few short hollow sections. On the right swell the two points will connect for a ride over 2 km! The inner wave picks up at the corner and breaks through to the beach. Both rides are close to 200 yards long! The inner wave tends to be smaller and has absolutely perfect shape. It’s similar to a left handed longer version of Malibu.
pavones local Surf Pavones, Costa Rica: Worlds Second Longest Wave

Paddling out is relatively easy at the rivermouth. From there, you could paddle up to the first point or stay there for the second peak waves. I found it easier to catch waves on the first point because they were bigger and tended to section more spreading the line-up out. The best outer point waves would break all the way through the rivermouth although it was difficult to connect them through to the second peak. The second peak was very crowded and more challenging line-up, but waves here peel perfectly through to the inside (usually half the size of the waves on the outer point). The bigger and more consistent the swell, the better off you are for scoring waves. Pavones needs a big swell and the size spreads the line-up out more.

[youtube 4D9kQxV9EcY]

The wave is cobblestone bottom, winds were light in the morning with glassy conditions, but seemed to pick up mid-morning slightly sideshore that added some lump to the water. Surf was best just above low-tide.

pavones inside Surf Pavones, Costa Rica: Worlds Second Longest Wave

Pavones is about a eight to ten hour drive from San Jose. It’s a long drive especially considering the last two hours is on dirt roads, better to break it up over two days. Locals can all point you in the right direction. I spent a night in Dominical on the way there , a village on the coast with an excellent beach break. Dominical or Playa Hermosa are great places to wait for the swell to build and surf excellent beach breaks. There are plenty of accommodations in Pavones and all seemed to be cheap and a short walk to the point. The locals are all friendly and happy to have business. There’s a few more waves a short drive up the coast, but you’ll want to surf Pavones when it’s on. It’s also possible to fly from San Jose to Golfito, the closest airport to Pavones. From there, you can arrange a rental car or taxi ($50 one way) for the remaining two + hour drive.

pixel Surf Pavones, Costa Rica: Worlds Second Longest Wave

15 responses so far

  • Nathan

    Shed some light on how to fly into Panama and drive to Pavones. What is the best way to get there?

  • Evan

    San Jose, Costa Rica, is less than half the distance Panama City is from Pavones. Also you’ll be crossing a border if you come from Panama, so you can’t take your rental car and border crossings can take a couple hours because of lines and crowds. From what I’ve heard the surf on the west coast of Panama is OK, but not great. Costa Rica has better options.

    I would recommend flying into San Jose and renting a car there. Get a small SUV because the road from Golfito to Pavones is all dirt and not very good, you can do it in a car but not during or shortly after the rainy season (June – September). Driving to Playa Hermosa or Dominical and surfing there until the swell comes up for Pavones (it needs a big swell to go). From Playa Hermosa is probably close to 10 hours, from Dominical probably 5-6 hours.

    You could also fly from San Jose into Golfito and take a taxi from there.

  • nuno

    Hey, im a bit confused..
    i´ve read about a bay called tamarindo.. and to my surprise ther is some kind of connection between pavones and tamarindo??

  • edier

    i like your wed site.
    i am a local because i am living in pavones…

  • Eli

    hey i go there every year and what i say is fly to san jose then take nature air to golfito then either ride the bus to pavones (or punto banko way nicer to stay and talk to jerry about renting bikes.) or rent a car in golfito. in pavones you can easly get a boat ride over to matopalo on the peninsala which is also a very nice wave.

  • Gooey!

    horrible place with nothing like the pictures, definitely someone photoshoping lefts on a beach, it’s actually a right that ends in this Croc lined sandbar, U R Better off surfing Jaco for it’s perfection and friendly locals

  • Evan

    Pavones is as good if not better than the images. Although it needs some size to start working. But once it starts working it can be a 400 yard long ride. The outer point is bigger and section more across the river mouth, but you can expect 50-100 yard long waves here. The inner point is pure perfection, it doesn’t section, just reels off perfectly for up over 100 yards. It’s a little bit out of the way and crowded but well worth the journey.

  • Surfermarcov

    i went there sept 09 bye far the best rides ever comming from daytona bch 8 ft and perfect it did get a little crowed not bad though every bodys pretty cool cold brews at night on the sea wall i wish i could live their so layed back thums up.big ray ps a guy named berry took pictures of me in a big ole barrel i wish i can find him o well the memorys all up here in the noggen lat.

  • Surfermarcov

    must be nice i really liked it there so layed back no presure im looking for berry the guy who take pictures ther im big ray from daytona bch fla hes got pictures of me i was going to buy a dic but i ccount find he before i left so you could be my contact to find him and the assome pictures hes got of my great time there

  • Mariano Ávila

    Hey, if anyone is interested, I’m selling a lot of 8000 square meters and a house. The place is 40 minutes from Playa Pavones and I’m selling it just for $40000.
    If you want information, write me.

  • Keelay

    Hahaha, you are sooooo right!  No one should ever go there…tons of crocs, and all they eat is Americans…

  • Hiochiro

    You couldn’t be more wrong.  Pavones is only a left.  Look at the geography on a map.  It can’t ever be a right.  Plus, any river mouth in CR will have Crocs.  They don’t bother people, especially if you don’t sit right in the river mouth.

  • surfinhard

    Yeah, that place is wack, my buddy went and said it wasn’t worth it, so many other places in CR that are so much better.

  • Pedro

    going to Costa Rica
    in January. It’s worth to go to Pavones in January? i heard that there is no
    waves there that time of the year. What’s the probability to find any swell in

  • Anonymous

    Pavones needs a big swell to work, so unlikely in January. Best bets are Hermosa or other west coast beach breaks. Or try the Caribbean side.