|A week is enough to understand why
pura vida is so common and fitting in this unforgettable tropical
country north of Panama and south of Nicaragua.
Endless vacation packages are available on the Internet, including
specialized trips for surfers. But the best way to travel to
Costa Rica may be without hotel reservations. Although reserving
a rental car may be a good idea.
Accommodations, especially for low-maintenance surfers, include
hostels (yes, clean) for about $10 a night per person up and
down the country’s 755 miles of wave-blessed Pacific Ocean
and Caribbean Sea coasts. Local meals, great fruit shakes, and
bottled water can be purchased almost anywhere, including near
most surf spots, and all prices are low.
This trip focused on the southwest coast in search of abundant,
clean, and empty overhead waves.
The main international airport is in San Jose, in the middle
of the country and site of its university. The adventure
begins with driving a rental car through rush hour traffic
and onto the Intercontinental heading south through the interior;
The destination is an 800-meter, left-breaking wave to be
found near the Panama border in the Pacific coast town of
Missed turns, rainy weather, steep climbs, and slow trucks
can easily turn the eight hour trip into 12, but waterfalls,
rivers, and tropical rainforest keep travelers entertained.
The last few miles are unpaved, signs are rare, and bridges
are concrete slabs.
Actually reaching (and leaving) Pavones depends on the rain.
A car ferry a few miles before the secluded surf town often
cannot cross a small river after heavy rains because thousands
of large tree trunks float by. And small creeks intersecting
the road can turn into uncrossable flash floods.
Despite all that, Pavones truly does break forever, is always
warm, and has great conditions in the morning. With some luck,
Pavones will provide an unforgettable wave or two for even
the most spoiled O‘ahu surfer.
Staying in Pavones longer than planned is tempting, especially
if a great day comes along, but it is not worth risking the
return flight home, and there is so much more to see and surf.
A few hours up the coast from Pavones is a town called Dominical,
another great surf destination. Within a few miles of the town
are numerous barreling point and beach breaks.
This town is more of a party scene than Pavones, with great
clubs right on the beach.
Driving north from Dominical means more dirt roads, which is
strange, because many tourists use the road. Most main roads
in Costa Rica are quite good. The country is very modern compared
to some of its neighbors.
An hours drive up the coast north of Dominical is Manuel Antonio,
which does not offer great waves but is a popular town with
tourists because of its beautiful, tranquil bay, great hiking
trails through rainforests featuring tucans and monkeys,
secluded white sand beaches, shopping, dining, and dancing.
Also available are surfing lessons, beach massages, and kayaks,
which are the only way to reach secret pristine beaches.
A few miles north of Manuel Antonio is Jaco, a relatively big
surf town not too far from San Jose. This is not the most family-friendly
place, but is overall safe and provides a good base for visiting
some of the numerous breaks that surround the town.
A few minutes south is Playa Hermosa, a black sand beach featuring
endless beach breaks. A huge tree named Almendro, located on
a little dirt road, marks the main spot, but good spots abound.
If the surf is not good, zip-line tours over the jungle canopy
or white-water rafting trips are available, as are other activities
to keep you feeling pura vida.
All photos by Baxter Cepeda and Daniel Sandoval