Somehow I Made it to Pavones, Costa Rica -
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Somehow I Made it to Pavones, Costa Rica

Pavones beach

 

If you were to tell the city dwelling, silk wearing, white couch owning perfectionist I was two years ago

 

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that I would one day be sitting on a dusty tire in the back of a bus, covered in sweat, eating papaya with my bare hands

 

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I doubt I would have believed them.

 

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But this is precisely how my time in the small town of Pavones on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica began.

 

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After two boats, one shuttle, four buses, and a disastrous border crossing (I might be in the country illegally…), Marissa and I arrived in the village famous for its left hand point break and little else.

 

pavones beach

 

Surrounded by darkness interrupted by the occasional hole in the wall, we felt like we had reached the end of the world.

 

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We soon realized, that what we found was not the end, but in fact the beginning

 

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of a Costa Rica more charming than I could have imagined.

 

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Where restaurants lack menus and everything is special

 

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tourists sleep in homes instead of hotels

 

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and locals proudly, unapologetically, speak the language they were born to know.

 

pavones surfing

 

Where breaks are as long

 

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as the never ending shore

 

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and surfers ride in flocks

 

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under the relentless Pacific sun.

 

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Where cows wander purposefully down the beach

 

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begging picknickers for scraps

 

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monkeys chatter and howl and macaws soar overhead.

 

Pavones Yoga Center

 

Where yogis float above the town

 

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staring down at the sea

 

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in the most beautiful studio rooted by a ylang ylang tree.

 

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Where glassy green water runs up a river

 

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to a swimming hole under a bridge

 

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and locals plummet like cannonballs

 

pavones river

 

convincing crazy gringas to follow their lead.

 

pavones playa negra

 

Where opalescent seafoam

 

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kisses a black sand shore

 

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waves crash dramatically

 

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against islands made of rock.

 

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and sunsets deserve

 

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a full house

 

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a captive audience

 

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and a standing ovation.

 

 

Where to Stay in Pavones

 

Caza Olas

$10 for a dorm bed, $20 for a private

Caza Olas was a dream come true when we arrived in Pavones on a Saturday night with no reservation. The place was immaculately clean, the kitchen well equipped, and the manager Jenny as sweet as ripe pineapple. We washed our laundry and gossiped with the housekeeper. Sat at the communal table talking with other travelers. Walked to yoga with the hostel manager. It felt like home. Instantly.

 

Clear River 

$15 at the cabinas in town, $20-$50 for private rooms up the hill

During my Yoga Teacher Training at Pavones Yoga Center, I had the pleasure of staying with the owners Patrick and Susanne at their property up on the hill. This was easily the best housing option I’ve ever had in Costa Rica, if not anywhere in the world. Patrick and Susanne are some of the kindest people I know and they always made me feel right at home. They excitedly showed me the birds and monkeys that would come to the yard and shared fresh organic fruit that grew in their garden. My room was perfect, with a comfortable bed, a desk, and a stunning view of the ocean. They kept the place immaculately clean and were continually kind and generous with me. If you’re doing a yoga training at the PYC and are considering staying offsite I HIGHLY recommend staying at their property on the hill, otherwise they have a cute little surf hostel in town in front of the beach. Tell them I sent you :)

 

The Yoga Farm

$43 per day includes a bed in a dorm, three home cooked vegetarian meals, and daily yoga. $50 for a private room, $65 for a private cabin. 

This place was unfortunately booked far in advance when we inquired, but we met travelers volunteering and living here who absolutely loved it. Yoga in the morning, surfing all afternoon, and delicious and healthy meals served three times a day. What could be better? I plan to return to Pavones just to stay here!

 

Ponderossa Jungle Resort

$60-$140 for double rooms, $200-$250 for luxury rentals that sleep 6

Private rooms at a beachfront hotel with a pool surrounded by tropical gardens… starting at $60 a night? I can hardly believe it myself. Onsite restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

 

Where to Eat and Drink in Pavones

 

El Terruno de Ronital

$10 for chargrilled steak, fish, chicken, or pork, $12 for a whole fried snapper

We ate here every night of our stay. It is that good. A Tico family lovingly prepares large platters of incredibly tasty casado with marinated fish or meat grilled over an open fire, sauteed vegetables, salad, rice, black beans, and crispy fried patacones. Chat with the owner, meet other travelers, and play with the puppies they recently adopted. Don’t forget to use the homemade hot sauce, which is to die for. It’s a little pricey at $10 for a casado, but Marissa and I shared a plate every time and left satisfied.

*Update August 6, 2014: Still my favorite casado in all of Costa Rica, just no puppies anymore 😉 

 

Cafe de la Suerte

$7 for an enormous smoothie, $5-10 for vegetarian snacks and sandwiches

Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies. They ain’t cheap but they are MASSIVE and incredible, more than enough for two people to share. My favorite combinations include banana date and carrot pineapple. They also have a super healthy vegetable juice with beets, celery, carrot, apple, and bee pollen. A great spot to catch up on wifi and people watch.

 

Tico Mex

$4-7 for breakfast, tacos, burritos

When you want some delicious, flavorful, Costa Rican style Tex Mex, head to Tico Mex right across from the beach. The tacos are insanely good, in homemade fried hard shells piled with beans, veggies, and slaw and the burritos are massive, more than enough for two people to share. Though it’s not on the menu, I’ve managed to order a fresh, raw salad with avocado and starfruit for $4.

 

Ebenezer

$4-7 for breakfast, casado, local faves

Cheap, solid local food that draws tourists, locals, and expats. Delicious and inexpensive platters of whole red snapper and grilled veggies. The lemonade is freshly squeezed and oh so yummy. Connected to the restaurant is an ice cream bar that serves awesome brownie sundaes and homemade cookie ice cream sandwiches.

 

Golfo Dulce

$4-7 for Costa Rican fusion

This darling restaurant overlooking the beach has some super tasty fusion cuisine from all over the world. The Costa Rican owner, Jeraldo, teaches all kinds of Latin dance and crafts creative dishes like Israeli wraps with green papaya slaw. Come in at dinner for some freshly grilled fish, grab a cocktail, and let Jeraldo show you how to move! In the day you can hang out with the locals and people watch from one of the swings.

 

Jolly Roger

$5-10 for tapas and entrees

This Italian owned restaurant has a wide offering of yummy food, delicious drinks, and a great social vibe. The first night I came in here they had a toga themed party and an entirely Greek menu. Another time there was a big Italian BBQ. I love knowing that if I pop in for dinner I will instantly feel like I’m part of a community. Be sure to try their hummus which is spectacular.

 

Brisa del Mar

$10 for a big bowl of fresh ceviche

On the road out towards Punta Banco lies this cute little cafe offering big fresh plates of local fare. It’s a great place to share a bowl of their famous ceviche for an appetizer before cycling back into town for dinner.

 

La Manta

$1 beer, $2 cocktails at Happy Hour

La Manta seems to be the place in town for socializing. It sits in front of the beach and offers drink specials at sunset. Projectors play surf videos and locals and tourists gather for burgers, fish tacos, and of course casado.

*Update August 6, 2014: Closed down, no clue what happened

 

Beach Bonfire

After the bar across from the soccer field shuts down, the party usually moves to the beach around a bonfire under the stars. BYOB.

 

 

What to do in Pavones

 

Surf

$20 per day to rent a board

Pavones attracts serious surfers from all over the world. Though unlike many other Costa Rican beach towns the surf scene has not become overly commercial. Most surfers drive in with their own boards, but if you’re looking to buy, rent, or arrange a lesson stop in at Sea Kings Surf Shop. They also have a good selection of surf gear, beach attire, Havaianas, stickers, and beautiful prints by local artist and world traveler Alex Lanau.

 

Pavones Yoga Center

Turn down the gravel road, Alta Mira road, next to the supermarket. When you feel like your legs might fall off, you’re almost there. I promise, it’s worth it. Public yoga classes are offered daily at 7am, as well as retreats and trainings to deepen your practice. We took two classes with the owner, Indira, who amazed me with her incredible instruction.

*Update August 6, 2014: I recently completed my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training here and it was more incredible than I even imagined. In the training Indira and her staff lend their deep knowledge of all eight limbs of yoga including alignment focused asana instruction, deeply devotional intentions and meditations, chanting and discussion of the yoga sutras, pranayama exercises, energetic aspects of yoga like the bandhas and the chakras, and a strong focus on the interconnectedness of humans and nature. If you’re considering pursuing your yoga teacher training, I cannot imagine receiving this level of education anywhere else in the world. 

 

Shooting Star Yoga and Tours

$15 for public yoga classes

For sweaty, fun, powerful Ashtanga based yoga classes, pay Amy a visit at Shooting Star Yoga. The studio is a beautiful little jungle oasis and Amy’s deep knowledge of yoga comes through in her instruction and deep, transformative assists. Amy and her husband also offer a variety of tours and surf lessons.

 

Tubing, Swimming, Exploring at the Rio Claro

Climb down the rock cliff, or jump off the bridge, down to the refreshing Rio Claro. Inquire at your hotel or hostel about where to rent tubes for an exhilarating experience that spits you out past waterfalls, under bridges, and onto the beach.

 

Bike out to Punta Banco  

As you head south of town towards Panama the beaches in Pavones become even more beautiful and deserted. You can rent a bicycle in town from Clear River Cabinas and cycle for about a half hour to the gorgeous beach at Punta Banco.

 

Farmer’s Market

The tiny farmer’s market held every Saturday has some surprisingly healthy and delicious food and some lovely handmade clothing from the indigenous communities. My favorite snacks and baked goods are from Jasmine, an Israeli woman who makes raw power bars from spirulina, cacao, maca, and local fruit. Sometimes you can find lunch items like brown rice nori rolls and black bean burgers from some of the vendors.

 

Shop at Meadow 

This darling little beach shop has a gorgeous collection of jewelry, swimwear, and elegant beach and yoga attire made by the owner Meadow. Everything is beautiful and unique, making it a great place to pick up souvenirs.

 

 

How to Reach Pavones

 

From Panama

If leaving from David, take a bus from the main terminal to Paso Canoas. Walk across the border and head to the station for Laurel. In Laurel pick up the bus to Comte in front of the MegaSuper. Change in Comte for Pavones.

 

From San Jose

Fly to Golfito, (around $115 each way on Nature Air or Sansa)

or bus to Golfito from the Tracopa station at 7am, $15, 6 hours

then take a taxi, $80, 1.5 hours

or the bus at 3pm, $4, 3 hours

 

*There is no ATM in Pavones so if possible bring all of the cash you will need with you. The nearest ATM is in Golfito.

 
 

Want to create a truly life changing trip to Costa Rica? My eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica will show you how!

 

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Comments

  1. I love your blog, each story I read takes me away to a diffenent place :) Thank you for doing what you do!

  2. THE FEELS! THE FEELS! THE WANDERLUSTING FEEEEELS! *dies* Thank you for this gorgeous and eloquent post, dearie!
    (by the way, do you have a button? I’d love to put it in my “blogs I love” section of my sidebar!)

  3. I need more vacation time! Every time you do a post like this (except the super rainy place) I plan a vacation in my head! Ah!

  4. ahhhh! i am so jealous of your life!!!
    i found your blog via andie’s. she is my favorite blogger for a bazillion and one reasons, and of course since y’all are BFF’s, it was only natural that i would also love how insightful, thought provoking, and poetic your blog would be, too :) i would love to be BFFs with y’all in real life, too! please let me know where i can find interesting people like you and andie, all the people i’m surrounded by in school are kind of boring (including myself i’m sure).

    i am wrapping up my 2nd yr of med school- got 2 more yrs +3 yrs residency…then maybe 2 yrs before i can pay off my loans, THEN I WILL START LIVING the dream like you!!!!
    hopefully it won’t be hard for me to find a job as an ER doc..? my dream is to live +work in each place for a few months and travel all over!! i’ll be 29 when i’m done with residency, so i still got a few years of fun before i need to settle down for a family and kids :-p

    but for now, i am living vicariously through your travels!

    • Hi Tiffany! Thank you so much for the compliments!! First of all, you might be bored with your life right now but you are in no way boring! Going to med school? Wow, I have nothing but respect for that, it must be TOUGH. I hope it’s your passion, traveling the world working as a doctor sounds like an incredible way to see new places, meet people, and give back. I know doctors who did their residency in amazing places like Barbados! As far as meeting interesting people, I truly believe that by continuing to live your life exactly the way you want to live it the right people will enter it. Best of luck to you, it sounds like you are on a great trajectory. xo

  5. Hahahaha “convincing crazy gringas to follow their lead.”
    Beautiful post, as always. What is up with that sunset?!?!?!?! *standing and clapping*

    • Thanks Erika! I know… you really can’t beat those Pacific Coast sunsets. Hoping to see an amazing one tonight in Manuel Antonio, the sky has been to cloudy the last two days for any colors. Fingers crossed!!

  6. Reading this, seeing the photos — I am re-inspired by the beauty of our little town of Pavones through your post. Thank you for seeing this part of the world with fresh and loving eyes. Mucho Amor, Indira

  7. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Had to re-post this magical account of a self-described “American Girl’s” visit to Pavones. Her photos and poetic prose had me falling in love with Pavones all over again. Thanks Camille!

  8. Nice photos! If any of your friends need help planning a Costa Rica trip, that is what I do. Check out CRsurf (dot) com to see many favorite beaches, including Pavones, and find surfing camps and resorts for every budget.

  9. […] Pavones […]

  10. Hey there, ur blog is awesome. I’m about to be in town with the old owner of la manta, Eric langford, do u know him, could be a small world.

    • This American Girl Says: October 28, 2013 at 1:32 am

      Thanks so much Chris! I unfortunately only spent a few days in Pavones and did not get to meet him. I definitely plan to come back to Pavones in the future. Enjoy your time :)

  11. Your post was eloquent and poetic and it made my imagination run wild with the thought of stating my journey.THANK YOU.

  12. Hey Camille, I just stumbled on your blog while searching for some tips on traveling to Costa Rica. Your photos and words are simply magical. Thank you for sharing them.

    Question for you: my girlfriend and I would like to spend the last few days of our two week stint in Costa Rica relaxing on a beach somewhere. Our flight back home from San Jose is early in the afternoon on a Sunday. My thinking is to arrive in San Jose Saturday night to play it safe. Would it then be best to stick to a beach closer to San Jose? Or would we be fine going somewhere more West like Samara beach? Is it risky traveling from Samara beach to San Jose the night before?

    Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

  13. Have you read Allan Weisbeckers memoir regarding Pavones: Can’t You Get Along With Anyone?
    Please do.
    And keep your eyes open!
    Best,
    Bob

    • Camille Willemain Says: June 25, 2014 at 9:22 am

      I have not but I will be sure to check it out before I leave :) Thanks for the recommendation.

  14. Christine Says: August 9, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Love, love, love all the beautiful pics and commentary. Thanks for the memories!!

  15. […] Pavones […]

  16. […] Despite my intentions for the past few months to settle in somewhere, ground myself, and focus on my career, I had traveled to ten different towns between two countries and rested my head on no less than twenty-four different pillows since completing my Yoga Teacher Training in Pavones. […]

  17. Lisa Thrash Says: January 18, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Camille, this was very well done! :) you captured Pavones perfectly! That is our 2nd home, have had to move back temporarily to the states for family reasons…so it was wonderful to see the beautiful photos you took. :) That is where we homesteaded for about 6 years, and my son learned to walk and run…was talking to the monkeys before he even spoke words! 😉 Our place is right below Golfo Dulce……cool it is a restaurant now and there are dance classes there…perfect for when I get back! 😉 Congratulations on your adventurous life! ..If I was single, I would probably be doing the same thing! 😉 Safe, fun and inspiration journeys! Will keep you surrounded in Love and Light! Blessings :)

  18. I love this! My boyfriend and I are spending December is Zancudo and I have been looking everywhere for some information on the surrounding area. I love the site, thanks for all the advice!