If you were to tell the city dwelling, silk wearing, white couch owning perfectionist I was two years ago
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
I doubt I would have believed them.
But this is precisely how my time in the small town of Pavones on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica began.
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.
Surrounded by darkness interrupted by the occasional hole in the wall, we felt like we had reached the end of the world.
We soon realized, that what we found was not the end, but in fact the beginning
of a Costa Rica more charming than I could have imagined.
Where restaurants lack menus and everything is special
tourists sleep in homes instead of hotels
and locals proudly, unapologetically, speak the language they were born to know.
Where breaks are as long
as the never ending shore
and surfers ride in flocks
under the relentless Pacific sun.
Where cows wander purposefully down the beach
begging picknickers for scraps
monkeys chatter and howl and macaws soar overhead.
Where yogis float above the town
staring down at the sea
in the most beautiful studio rooted by a ylang ylang tree.
Where glassy green water runs up a river
to a swimming hole under a bridge
and locals plummet like cannonballs
convincing crazy gringas to follow their lead.
Where opalescent seafoam
kisses a black sand shore
waves crash dramatically
against islands made of rock.
and sunsets deserve
a full house
a captive audience
and a standing ovation.
Where to Stay in Pavones
$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.
$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 🙂
$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!
$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
$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 😉
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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.
$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
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
$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.
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.
$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.
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
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.
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