Freelance writer and yoga teacher Brooke Nally has learned a few about life at the end of the road in Pavones, Costa Rica. Here she talks about this remote little surf town and offers some valuable tips for visitors. This article contains a link (or links) to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases. Some other links are also affiliate links, where we also make a small commission if you buy anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you.
Imagine waking up to the sounds of birds and howler monkeys.
You step out your door and walk down a beaten, dirt track to ‘the Wall’, which overlooks one of Pavones main surf breaks.
You scope out the swell with a cup of Costa Rican coffee in your hands, before grabbing your board and paddling out into the water with its famous, long, seamless left.
This is life in Pavones, Costa Rica.
Not only does Pavones have some of the best waves I’ve seen, but it’s also one of the most rustic, untapped surf towns I’ve come across.
You’ll find Pavones towards the end of a dirt road on the southwest corner of Costa Rica. You might not realize you’ve arrived, considering there are hardly any restaurants, almost zero shops, and no resorts.
The closest ATM is an hour away and most places don’t accept credit cards. Although that’s sometimes annoying, I’m still delighted to not to be in a place where a money-driven mind-set hasn’t set in.
Locals and longtime residents say Pavones hasn’t changed much in years. And I doubt it’ll change anytime soon due to the difficulty in getting here on the long, winding, dirt road.
But once you make it, life is sweet in Pavones.
The pura vida lifestyle is at an all-time high here. You have nowhere to be and nothing to do other than drinking smoothies (or beer), surfing, or napping in hammocks between drinking or surfing.
The town is a mix of locals, expats, and a few lucky tourists who come here to surf.
You won’t find many ‘touristy-tourists’ (as I call them), as there’s not much to do if you’re not a surfer or interested in hiking through snake-infested rivers in deep jungles.
But if you’re down-to-earth, adventurous, and don’t need fine dining and fancy hotels then Pavones could be for you.
There are few local spots where you can find amazing food, though.
If you’re like me and all you want in Costa Rica are casados (a typical plate with rice, beans, meat & salad), then I recommend Restaurante Mares (Nick’s Place). Connected to the supermarket, this little place is family run and has the best local food I’ve found in Pavones. I recommend their casados, quesadillas, and papaya smoothies.
Cafe de la Suerte is the vibey, vegetarian cafe, where I come to write.
It has great Mediterranean food, fresh baked goods on the daily, and best of all, you can watch the surf and swell from the barstools.
The famous “Wall”, which runs along the beach where people go to sit, drink beers, and watch the surf, is steps away.
I was lucky enough to find Pavones by landing a yoga teaching position (with the help of Yoga Trade) at the Yoga Farm, in Punta Banco, about 30 minutes south of town. I haven’t been here long, but I’ve learned a few things about Pavones you should know if you’re coming:
1. You’ll get familiar with everyone in town. Fast.
After being in Pavones a short time, I learned fast how small this town is. You’ll see the same faces at “the wall”, in the water, and all around town.
Do nothing super-embarrassing, because if you do, word will get around town fast. Or, do – because the people here are so ‘pura vida’ anyway they’ll forgive you (probably).
2. “The Wall” is the place to be for sunset.
It won’t take long to learn that if you want to socialize, head over to “the Wall” around sunset. People will be hanging out drinking beers, meeting new friends, and watching the surfers who are staying salty all the way through dusk.
Note: If you don’t want to socialize, avoid “the Wall”.
3. Everyone surfs.
If you don’t surf, expect a lot of questions about why you don’t surf. If you surf, expect a lot of questions about how your surf was.
Not saying you won’t enjoy Pavones if you don’t surf. But be aware there’s not much to do if you don’t, other than laying on the beach, walking through the Rio Claro river, and talking to surfers about surfing.
All this surf talk might make you want to learn. If so, Harley Rios is a popular guy around town. He sets up shop (his white truck) outside the Tico Mex restaurant near ‘the Wall’. I took some brush-up lessons with him and he got me from a longboard down to a 6’1. Ask around and someone will point him out to you pretty fast.
4. Pull money out before you arrive.
Know that Pavones is waaaay out there – two hours down a dirt road. You can’t buy much here other than the bare minimal basics in the local supermarket, so bring what you need.
Oh, and there are no ATM’s, and most places don’t accept credit cards. Be sure to pull out enough cash to last you the length of your stay.
I hope you come to Pavones and completely disconnect. You should merge into the pura vida lifestyle that is the authentic nature of this magical place.
But if you work online, or need to connect every once in a while, then there are a few places with a good connection. Cafe de la Suerte has a great wifi connection. Also, Caza Olas, a surf hostel with a cool, relaxed vibe, has a nice hangout area and high speed internet.
If you have questions about life in Pavones, contact me and I’ll be happy to tell you more! Oh – and if you want to read more about this little town at the end of the road, check out Allan Weisbecker’s fantastic book Can’t You Get Along With Anyone? for an in depth look under the hood of Pavones, warts and all.