Pavones, Costa Rica is a bucket list destination for surfers from all over the world. It boasts the 2nd longest left break – a wave about 2km long! The town can get very busy during the high season, (best surfing is in March and April), but Pavones is practically deserted during the rainy low season and makes a perfect peaceful get away for those looking to detach from society and reconnect with nature.
One of the reasons Pavones is deserted during the rainy season is because it is not easy to get to. It is located down on the southern Pacific coast, very close to the border with Panama. The road to Pavones is not paved, very muddy and rocky, and if you are coming from San José, the trip takes about 7 hours in a 4WD. Julio and I made the detour to Pavones while returning home from our road trip to Panama City. We took the Festiva to Panama because we weren’t sure we could handle 7 hours in the Samurai, which would be equivalent to 7 hours of bareback horse riding on rough terrain with exhaust fumes and road dust hitting our faces at 60mph. So this means we took the Festiva to Pavones – I do not recommend this. We made it (barely) and had a blast, but after the trip, the Festiva was in the shop for 2 weeks getting welded back together.
Another reason Pavones is so calm during the rainy season is that the famous wave is not at it’s peak, but I believe there is more to Pavones than just that famous wave. The landscape in Pavones is gorgeous and rich in color, flora, and fauna. It is similar to that of Puerto Viejo (South Caribbean), yet the town is a lot smaller and most definitely more peaceful. The long road to Pavones is lined with thick clusters of tropical greens, Birds of Paradise, Hibiscus, and Lilies. The beaches are covered in dark gray sand which contrasts brilliantly with the rich greens of the plants and blues of the sky and ocean. And during low tide, there is a wealth of rocks and shells to comb through that are reminiscent of a long forgotten prehistoric time.
We stayed downtown, in a small hotel across the street from the beach called La Perla. This hotel is like a luxurious resort compared to some of the other “off-season bargain” places we have stayed in. It is very clean and there are actually amenities beyond a roll of toilet paper! Here is a list of what La Perla has to offer that is mostly missing from other bargain hotels in Costa Rica: a table, two chairs, lamp, ceiling fan, air conditioning, mini refrigerator, coffee maker, closet, a lock for the closet, and a clean bathroom with a mirror and hot water shower. Plus there are two comfortable beds in the room and nice rocking chairs on the porch. During the rainy season the price is negotiable and during the dry season the rooms rent out for $60+ USD per night. That high season price is an incredible bargain when you look at all the amenities and how close the hotel is to the beach (and that famous wave), but it needs to be booked well in advance since there are very few hotels in downtown Pavones.
We ate at the very affordable Doña Dora restaurant inside Bar La Plaza and they served up one of the best chicken casados I have ever tasted. Casado is the typical Costa Rican dish (comida tipica) and it is almost always comprised of rice, beans, fried plantains, carrot tomato cabbage salad, and a meat. It is popular to add sour cream and/or Salsa Lizano, but this casado did not need any extra seasoning. It came out with a wonderful flavor and some extras – grilled onions and peppers, cucumbers, and french fries. In fact, Julio and I enjoyed their chicken casado so much, we returned for a 2nd day in a row and ordered the exact same thing!
I just made myself really hungry reminiscing about that yummy chicken casado. I’m off to go and enjoy my own chicken casado for lunch…maybe I should start sharing some of these delicious Costa Rican recipes…
Below is a gallery of some interesting photos I took in and around Pavones. Click on a thumbnail to open up the larger, scrollable version. I also have a set on Flickr that includes photos of landmarks on the road to Pavones (extremely helpful if you are driving there yourself).