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Our remote and off-the-beaten-path location of Zancudo, Costa Rica implies a sense of isolation. The single, unnamed dirt road runs parallel to the six-mile stretch of Playa Zancudo and ends at the point. It is easy to feel secluded and cut off from the rest of the world, but, in reality, there are several day trip destinations. The weekday taxi boat can quickly get us to Golfito, the closest hub for necessities (like a pharmacy and bank) not available in Zancudo. With a private boat hire, we can cruise across the Golfo Dulce to the Osa Peninsula, which boasts a dense tropical forest full of monkeys and other wildlife. There is even a daily bus (albeit an early one that leaves at 5:30am) that can take us to Paso Canoas, a lively Costa Rica-Panama border town. And, if just a different beach is what we are after, there is Pavones, Costa Rica, just 10 miles south of Zancudo.
Pavones, Costa Rica
Just like Zancudo – and, we assume, just about every other small town in Costa Rica – the center of Pavones consists of a simple, block-constructed police station, a soccer field, a grocery store, an open-air restaurant and a handful of cabinas. But, what makes Pavones different from Zancudo is the swell that attracts surfers. The surfer vibe is almost palpbable with longboards poking out of the back of trucks, the surf shop buzzing with activity and dozens of surfers waiting in the water for the next wave. That being said, Pavones doesn’t only appeal to surfers and there are plenty of ways to wile away the day in the small town.
6 things to do in Pavones, Costa Rica
While Pavones, Costa Rica may be unknown to most of the world, it’s no secret to surfers. When the swell is right the “second longest left in the world” takes surfers for a two-minute-long ride. Young kids, old men, badass girls and pro-surfers all compete to catch the next wave.
Tip: Want to learn to surf? Rent a board and get a lesson from the guys at Sea Kings Surf Shop!
Watch the Surfers
Those who can’t surf – that would be me! – can still enjoy the surf culture in Pavones, Costa Rica by kicking back under the shade of a tall palm tree and watching the action on the water. The waves break close to the shore, allowing for a spectacular, up close view.
Tip: Bring your camera to catch the surfers in action!
Walk the River
In Pavones, Costa Rica, the Rio Claro – which translates to Clear River – cuts through the town of Pavones and empties into the Golfo Dulce. Crystal clear water lazily makes its way through the shallow riverbed lined with smooth pebbles. For a break from the adrenaline-inducing surf, slow the pace with a leisurely stroll up river in the refreshingly cool water. Find a place in the shade near the bank and splash about a bit.
Tip: Wear shoes or sandals that will stay on your feet in the water. It is possible to walk barefoot, but only if you have tough feet!
There is no shortage of wildlife in Costa Rica and Pavones is no different. The location on the river and sea make it a popular spot for a variety of brightly colored tropical birds. The iconic scarlet macaw is easy to spot with its blazing red feathers, although, they will most likely be heard before being seen. And, it isn’t only birds that frequent the area – we watched four wild horses parade down the beach, stopping for a sip from the Rio Claro during our visit.
Tip: Bring binoculars to better see the birds high in the trees.
On Saturdays, a local craft market takes place at the top of the beach in the center of town. Traditional products made by locals are available for sale. For fresh fish, on the way out of town, stop where the boats are hauled ashore by tractor. Ask around for the catch of the day.
Tip: If you are looking for a unique souvenir or gift, the local craft market could have just what you are looking for!
Enjoy the scenic ride
Getting to Pavones, Costa Rica is half the fun! The area is rural, with ox and cattle being a common sight. The trip offers a glimpse at a part of Costa Rica not directly tied to tourism. The ‘low road’ includes several water crossings, one where we were asked to exit the vehicle and walk across a log-planked bridge while the car passed through the water.
Tip: Keep your eyes peeled! It’s not every day you will see an ox pulled cart or a man washing his horse in the river!
Our top tips for your trip to Pavones, Costa Rica
Where To Stay:
During our visit to Zancudo, we were house and pet sitters (found through Trusted Housesitters). However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are a few accommodations to choose from in the area.
Before You Go:
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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