• Cielo Vista

Surfing one of the world’s best waves in Pavones

April 12, 2019

Pavones is legendary.

Every goofy rider who has ever heard of it wants to ride it. Hell, every regular rider who has heard about it wants to ride it too.

Those who’ve never heard of it, dream of waves like it.

Thousands of surfers come from all over the world to for a chance to ride it.

Pavones is one of the most southern spots in the nation and hosts one of the world’s surfing wonders. It has been categorized as one of the world’s longest left-hand waves. It can go on from 400 to 900 meters, maybe longer if you’re lucky.

(Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

When the swell hits the beach’s rocky bottom, a beautiful light blue, glassy left-hand wave emerges and it will open for a few hundred meters. Good positioning and the ability to pump in the right moments will lead to the ride of your life.

Once you get to Pavones, you’ll want to get in the water immediately and drop the first wave that comes your way. Getting out there can be a long paddle out, but if you find the right spot, you won’t need to duck dive under the wave.



If you get to surf during the morning, there’s a high chance of glassy conditions and some light offshore wind that will make the wave look even better. Onshore conditions will not favor the surfing, even though the wave can hold slow onshore winds. The view is beautiful too and even more, you watch it from inside the lineup.

Pavones offers amazing views. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

You have the southern view of the Golfo Dulce and you can see Puerto Jimenez and its beautiful Cabo Matapalo across the gulf. If you’re looking for right-hander waves, Matapalo has a few beauties of its own.

Be careful out in the water though. If there are small to medium waves, there’s a high chance there will be some traffic out there. For moments like these, make sure to respect priority.

You can hurt yourself, damage your gear or, most importantly, other surfers and their gear if you don’t respect priority. During my visit, there was a severe lack of respect for priority. I even saw a woman get a dent on her board after someone dropped in on her wave and crashed into her.

Here we see two surfers disrespecting priority. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

Since this wave breaks from right to left, whoever sits further right on the wave gets first priority. Things can even heat up if this non-written rule gets broken. Some local riders take waves very seriously and I have seen people get into fistfights.

Don’t get into a situation that could have been easily avoided. So be safe and respect the priority when surfing, wherever you are.

Here, the surfer on the left has priority since the wave breaks closest to him. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

The bottom of this wave is also made out of rocks, so whenever you wipe out, make sure to cover your head with both hands. I know it’s hard, but try to fall as lightly as possible too.

This wave is about 90 minutes away from Golfito. The road is pretty decent, but not fully paved. Almost any vehicle can get through during the dry season, but I’d recommend a 4×4 if you’re going in winter. You can also take a boat, but that can set you back $150 and not every fisherman likes to go out to the wavy coast of Pavones.

While it’s not the easiest beach to get to, surfers from all over the world come down for a chance to catch the wave.

Some decide to stay here for a while, I saw a couple of surfers who were living in their van, a flat back tire and a blanket covering the windshield, in front of the wave. Who can blame them? I wish the first sight I had every morning was that beautiful spot.

A sunrise at Pavones. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

While I was out there I spoke to surfers from Central, North and South America.

If you are coming here, make sure to bring your board and surfing gear. If you don’t want to travel with boards, you will be able to buy or rent boards, apparel, and wax throughout the Pacific coast.

Yet once you pass Dominical, these stores become rarer. There are plenty of convenience stores in Pavones though.

My recommendation is to come here for as many days possible and make there’s some swell predicted to hit. You wouldn’t want to travel all the way down there to witness a beautiful blue colored lake.

Let’s leave that to the less adventurous folks out there.

Make sure there's a swell when you visit Pavones. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

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