Mar 31 2008
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)
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.
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.
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 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.