The road to Pavones, Zancudo, Punta Banco...



(Excerpts from The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica & SW Nicaragua)

This place is legend. Excellent, world-famous series of cobblestone, rivermouth left points that, on a good swell connect up into what is probably the longest left in the known universe, with rides over a kilometer long on a strong south swell. And it needs a good SSW or SW swell to work. The waves start out way around the rivermouth and wrap all the way past the river and into the bay (the best place for beginners, except they may not like the rocks, but the rocks are unavoidable in Pavones). Excellent shape and tons of speed, so much that it’s difficult to make on smaller days, especially for regular foots. Blows out most afternoons, destroying much of the shape. On low tide the best waves are up the point. On high tide the take off spots move down the point to the east. As you would expect, it draws crowds from near and far. The best season for the south swells that Pavones needs is the rainy season, April through October, but you can get fun surf there any time of the year.


The town of Pavones isn’t much, but that's OK. It's all you need. There are enough places to eat, a variety of places to stay, and surf shops. It’s a ways out there, but it’s still not the end of the earth. (Neither is Punta Banco, but it’s close.)


Pavones has a colorful history. “Land disputes in Pavones have spurred murders, arson, sabotage and other violence…ever since the United Fruit Company packed up in 1985 and hundreds of jobless banana pickers became land squatters.” This quote comes from an article in The Tico Times about ex-con/surfer Dan Fowlie (convicted for drug violations and famous locally for flying over town flinging cash out of the plane to the locals), fugitive financier Robert Vesco and other interesting folks who provide the intrigue for Pavones’ history. Until recently, Pavones’ most famous colorful resident was “In Search of Captain Zero” author Allan Weisbecker, whose online activity kept many posted on the continuing saga down south. Check the book by Jeremy Evans, “The Battle for Paradise: Surfing, Tuna, and One Town’s Quest to Save a Wave,” detailing the whole drama.


Pavones is about 410km from San José. If you drive it takes seven to ten hours. To get here from the San José airport catch the Pan-American Highway south to the town of Rio Claro and head right. Use your map and follow the signs. There’s a left you need to take as you near Golfito, so look for the sign or you’ll find yourself in Golfito wondering what went wrong. As you get closer to Pavones there’s a lookout point with a soda where you can check out Playa Zancudo to the east, so you can rest, eat, and take in the view. Just past that is a fork with a Cabinas Ponderosa sign where you’ll bear left to Pavones.


Pavones view from the other side of the river. Photo credit: Bob Towner