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Pacific Southwest

The Pacific Southwest is the region along the Pacific Coast south of Punta Uvita to the border with Panama. The Pacific Southwest has more rain and humidity than the northern areas, with up to 150-300 inches of rain annually.

This region is home to the legendary Pavones – the world-famous surf spot and longest left in the country. Across the gulf is Cabo Matapalo with its remote and excellent rights.

How to get there
Coming straight from the international airport, head south on CA2 – a long, winding but scenic road. If you’re stopping at the Osa Peninsula, exit the road at Piedras Blancas heading towards Rincón. To get to Pavones, exit at Río Claro and head towards Golfito.
If you’re driving along the ‘Costanera’ from Dominical, keep driving until you meet up with CA2 at Palmar Norte. The road south of Dominical is now paved all the way.

Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula is what most tourists expect from Costa Rica: jungle, beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife and great surf. It is considered to be the ‘most biologically intense place on Earth’, according to the National Geographic magazine.

It’s not easy to get around Osa since there isn’t much of a road system, making the boat a common and often used mean of transport. Osa Peninsula has fewer comforts some may require, but the experience is well worth it.

Drake Bay

This is a remote and uncrowded break with big, long and powerful waves.

Getting There
The traditional way to get to Drake Bay is by boat. Most of the hotels in the area arrange boat transportation with your reservation. You can also get a boat ride in the village of Sierpe, which is 15 km south of Palmar. The trip down the Sierpe River is amazing – beautiful landscapes and exuberant vegetation for your enjoyment.

Where to Stay for Drake Bay
Drake Bay is remote but very popular, especially with eco-tourists. It’s important that you plan ahead and make reservations before you arrive, as many of the hotels have minimum stays.

A surfer friendly place is Corcovado Adventures Tent Camp. It’s a nice place to stay at and is reasonably priced. Other hotels in the area are:

  • Aguila de Osa Inn
  • Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge
  • Drake Bay Wilderness Resort
  • La Paloma Lodge

Puerto Jiménez

Puerto Jiménez is about 50 km off the Pan-American Highway and is accessible by car, bus, ferry from Golfito or by plane from San José. The plane flight from San José takes about 45 minutes.

There is surf outside Puerto Jiménez, but this town is most popular for its lower-priced accommodations, since the places closer to the surf are on the high side.

Cabo Matapalo

At Cabo Matapalo you will find a variety of remote points and reefs – mostly rights that ca get long on a good swell.
Mataplo is the sharkiest part of Costa Rica, which is probably one of the reasons why the crowds have not completely taken it over. But being a remote and ‘quite’ place, there are many local surfers who have bought land near the surf, and they are not pleased with newcomers; therefore, we suggest you lay low and show respect.

Getting There
It takes long to get to Cabo Matapalo from the international airport, unless you’re taking a plane to Puerto Jiménez. The road to Puerto Jiménez is tough, with many streams to cross.
You can also get there by boat from Golfito.

Playa Carbonera, Pan Dulce and Backwash

Playa Carbonera is an easy and long rights and lefts. It is just before you reach the jungle area in Matapalo.
Pan Dulce has excellent rights, which hold size well with fast waves. South of Pan Dulce is Backwash, another long, fast right, best at low tide.

Matapalo Beach / The Point

One mile from Pan Dulce is a reak that picks up the most swell around this area. This is the best wave in the area, breaking between two rocky reefs, with rocks in the middle – so be careful.

Where to Stay for Cabo Matapalo
Cabo Matapalo caters more to the eco-travelers and less to the surfer. The costs for accommodation here are higher than one normally expects in Costa Rica. If you have the money, there are some great places to stay, such as Lapa Ríos and Bosque del Cabo.

Lapa Ríos is the most luxurious and expensive hotel in the area. The best thing about Lapa Ríos is that you can watch the waves from your room high above the gulf.

Bahía Esmeralda is another great lodging option. It’s 18 km south of Puerto Jiménez and is up on a hillside overlooking the Golfo Dulce. Esmeralda is a short walk from Pan Dulce and within a mile of the rest of the breaks.

Playa Zancudo

Playa Zancudo is a nice town spread along a long stretch of great beach breaks. It has been slowly discovered by surfers and has great amenities for its visitors. You can stay in Zancudo and take boats to Pavones and other spots, although it can get a bit expensive.
Where to Stay for Playa Zancudo

There are several basic accommodations in Playa Zancudo, such as Cabinas Sol y Mar (right next to Zancudo Boat Tours) and Zancudo Beach Club. They both have decent surf right out front,
Other places to stay right on the beach are Latitude 8 Lodge and Palmera de Oro – nice, air conditioned places.


The town of Pavones isn’t much, but its surf is legend. It has probably the longest left, with rides over a kilometer long on a strong south swell. Waves have excellent shape and tons of speed. Being this good, it gets pretty crowded. The best time to come to Pavones is during the rainy season, April through October.

There are many breaks between Pavones and Punta Burica (the end of the peninsula). Boats are available in the area to reach these and other spots.

Getting There
Pavones is about 410 km from San José. It takes 7 to 10 hours to get here by car. From the airport, take the Pan-American Highway south to the town of Río Claro and head right. There’s a sign to Pavones, but it’s easily missed, so pay attention. Look for the intersection with the Rodeo Bar. You’ll arrive at the ferry crossing. Once past the ferry keep following the signs.

You can also fly or take a bus to Golfito, and then take a taxi, boat or bus from there.

Where to Stay for Pavones
Pavones is a pretty remote place. While more hotel lodging options appear every year, it’s still far from having all the conveniences and amenities of other surf spots such as Tamarindo, Dominical or Jacó.

There are a few places to stay near the break. One of them is Cabinas La Ponderosa. They have A/C and you can walk to the surf from here.

You can also stay in Golfito and drive from there. Golfito has more comfortable lodging, better restaurants and bars, and a lot more to do.

Punta Banco

Punta Banco is about 10 km south of Pavones. Here you’ll find reefs and breach breaks that break even bigger than Pavones and with no crowds. West of Pavones you’ll find lots of reefs with fun to great surf.

There are a couple of all-inclusive lodges that will definitely make your life a lot easier – Casa Punta Banco and Tiskita Jungle Lodge.

Punta Burica

This is a remote reef break at the tip of the peninsular near the Panamanian border. It has big, deep-water waves and there’s also an island nearby with excellent surf. Accessible only by 4x4 drive or boat.

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