Planning A Trip To Pavones
There are few places in the world that compare to the nature and beauty of Pavones in Costa Rica. Pavones is not on a typical tourist’s agenda and if you don’t surf, you probably haven’t even heard of it. Pavones is the southernmost destination on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and is famous for its peeling left that can hold up even with a large swell.
If you do decide to make the investment in both time, money, and yourself (because going here will change you), here are some helpful tips to help you plan your trip to Pavones.
Today, so many airlines fly into San Jose. We use Skyscanner to search for the best airfare. If you aren’t ready to book your trip yet, set up alerts for Skyscanner. We often fly out of Tijuana, since it is right next to San Diego, using Volaris. Volaris has extremely cheap fares. Sign up for their email so you are alerted when they run specials. The Tijuana airport is very easy to fly in and out of (and there’s now a bridge going directly from the terminal to the U.S. border). However, you often have to change planes in Guadalajara. If that is the case, make sure you go directly to immigration and pay the tax. You will be required to have this before boarding the plane for San Jose (and no one tells you about this). The fee was about $500 pesos or $35 USD per person. This is not the same as the paperwork you are given for immigration when you get to Costa Rica, nor the agriculture & declarations that you will handover after you pass customs in Costa Rica and before you leave the airport with your bags. Be ready when you step outside the airport in Costa Rica. The taxi drivers tend to be overwhelming. If you rented a car and don’t see their booth before you step outside, call them to let them know you’ve arrived and where to meet you, that way you don’t look lost (and an easy target) for all the taxis.
My impression of Volaris—they are very cheap. Our last trip to CR from Tijuana cost only $134 per person round trip! I like that I only pay for what I need. You get one checked bag and 2 small carry-ons for free. Surfboard bags cost $65 each way, which compared to airlines like Hawaiian, is a great price especially because they allow 3 boards in a bag as long as they don’t weigh over 55 lbs. We travel with a coffin bag that holds up to 3 boards- our 7’2″ 6’8″ and 5’6″ boards. You can pay an extra ($8USD) to choose your seat on each leg of your flight, but often I don’t and still manage for our family to sit together.Here’s what I don’t like about Volaris, they always change my flight! I book so far in advance to get the cheap price but inevitably that means they change it at some point about a month or even a week before. The first time it was only a small change of an hour. But, Last time, they changed it by four days! I called right away and they made it so it was only a day different and put us up in a hotel for a night, but dealing with the masses of people and inefficiency of Guadalajara airport will make me reconsider using them again. It’s hard because the prices are just so cheap.
Here’s what I don’t like about Volaris— they always change my flight! I book so far in advance to get the cheap price but inevitably that means they change it at some point about a month or even a week before. The first time it was only a small change of an hour. But last time, they changed it by four days! I called right away and they made it so it was only a day different and put us up in a hotel for a night, but dealing with the masses of people and inefficiency of Guadalajara airport will make me reconsider using them again. It’s hard, though, because the prices are just so cheap.
We have always driven to Pavones from San Jose mostly because of our budget. But if you can afford to fly into Golfito it will make your trip much simpler. Just remember that sometimes it takes 1-2 hours to get through customs before you go to your connecting flight so plan ahead. If you need to stay a night in San Jose, last time we stayed at the Hotel Brilla Sol and were happy with it– don’t stay in San Jose it’s far (and dirty) from the airport. Stay in Alajuela. The planes that fly to Golfito are very small propeller planes so if you have a phobia of this, just drive yourself.
Don’t forget that Costa Rica charges you to leave their country. There is a departure tax of $29 per person. Many airlines now just roll this into their ticket price so be sure to check your reservation.
- Rental Car
Depending on where you stay in Pavones will really determine if you need a car. If you are purely looking to surf then I recommend being in Pavones itself. However, there’s not much to this sleepy little town other than a super (market) and a few sodas (restaurants). If you stay in Pavones, then just take the bus in. It will save you money and headache. Like I’ll say in my other blog, I personally think it’s worth it staying a bit south oPavoneses. I love the surf here but I also love the nature and clean air that I get more of as I go closer to Punta Banco.
Again, I use Skyscanner or Expedia to book my car rental. If you go to book and notice that the price is very cheap and wonder if there is a catch… there is. Costa Rica government requires you to pay for — insurance when you rent a car. This will run you about an additional 15-20 a day. But there’s another catch. The rental cars want you to buy their — insurance which will cost an additional—on top of the— however you can avoid this extra charge if you pay with a Visa or Mc that has rental car insurance in CR. Check this beforehand because if you are covered you will need to have your cc company send you this in writing and have a copy printed out to give the rental car company. The company might scare you with talk about higher deductibles and not being able to leave the country until the repairs to the car are done, but my credit card company assured me this was not true. Get all the details from your cc and be prepared when you walk in to pay.
Driving in Costa Rica especially anywhere near San Jose or Jacob can be interesting, to say the least. People drive fast and rules are loosely enforced. Drive defensively and be aware. I personally have never had a problem but we have a lot of experience driving in other places in the world.
The good thing is that a lot of the road from the airport to Pavones is paved and 75% is brand new.
From where most of the rental car agencies are you head towards the airport on Highway 1 (east)
Check your odometer when you pass the airport. After 8 kilometers, exit right (look for a bridge), go in almost a complete circle here as the exit will get you on the bridge
You will take this road for 6 km and then get on Highway 27 which is a Toll road.
You will pass 3 booths on this road. It takes dollar bills up to $20s, but each is less than $2 so if you have smaller bills it’s easier. The tolls in colones are 400, 700, and 530. There are a bunch of Sodas and fruit stands right before you pay the third toll and this is an easy place (not beautiful) to grab a bite if you are starving from your travels. There are also plenty of places in Jaco but I don’t recommend stopping here. If you can last three hours, the best place to eat is Cafe Mongo Congo, in Dominical. It’s a vegan restaurant that serves up amazing food and the best coffee!It’s hard to time flights and drives in order to make it from your house to Pavones in one shot. We usually land in San Jose around 10 and by the time we get through customs and rent a car it’s close to 1pm. Sunset is at 6pm year round and you don’t want to drive Pavones in the dark your first time.
It’s hard to time flights and drives in order to make it from your house to Pavones in one shot. We usually land in San Jose around 10 and by the time we get through customs and rent a car it’s close to 1pm. Sunset is at 6pm year round and you don’t want to drive into Pavones in the dark your first time.
We usually spend the night in Uvita because it’s the last big town before pavones. It’s closer to the airport, but only by 30 min, to stay in Dominical. Dominical is very Americanized and if you are intimidated going to CR your first time, this could help ease your transition. But Americanized means touristy to me and other than eating at Cafe Mongo Congo, I don’t like it here that much.
Uvita supposedly has a nice beach and Ballena is nearby. Since we are itching to surf we just stop in Uvita to sleep and then continue on our way early. We’ve stayed at Hotel Villas Gaia and it was easy. Rooms were comfortable and breakfast was free the next morning and very good. Last time we stayed in a hostel, Cascada Verde, because we were on a tighter budget. I personally loved the place. It’s very unique because the rooms are all built into a tree house. It had a big kitchen for us to make our meals and there is a grocery store nearby to get food. There is also a bank and ATM next to the grocery store so get your money here before going to Pavones as there is not an ATM there. Either way, staying in Uvita is great because the howler monkeys get pretty close
From Uvita it will take you three hours
Thirty minutes after Uvita you will go right in Palmar (follow signs for Golfito) get gas here or When you get to Rio Claro fill up on gas (and get cash if you didn’t in Uvita)
In Rio Claro you go right again (still following the signs for Golfito).
Pay attention for this next turn. There will be a bar called Rodeo but it’s hidden on the left and the turn is a very tight left so you can easily miss it. Go left here. Now you have only about one hour fifteen minutes left (if you have 4×4, a little longer with 2wd). In 15 minutes you will hit a dirt road, although every time we go down more and more is paved so you might not hit dirt for longer.
- What to pack
As little as possible and things you don’t care about.
Seriously, we go down with about 3-4 outfits, 4 or 5 bathing suits, flip flops, and closed toe shoes if you plan on hiking. That’s it. It rains a lot and is humid so things don’t dry. If you happen to spend a lot of money and have a room with AC then go ahead and bring fancier clothes. We don’t. We hand wash what we bring and if the mildew smell doesn’t come out, we leave it when we go. But remember, because it’s so wet and humid, the area is drop dead gorgeous so keep things in perspective! I brought our packable Columbia rain jackets but really didn’t need them. It’s so warm when it rains that a jacket really is too much. I do recommend a light long sleeve cotton shirt. It’s nice for cooler nights and for to protect from mosquitoes.
The bugs aren’t too bad—at least they weren’t in June. The temperature was a little cooler (and really pleasant) in June than last year in may, but with global warming you never know. Even though it was the rainy season, it never rained for more than half a day and some days, not at all.
This depends a lot on your habits and what you are looking for. You can do it very cheap and put up with some discomfort or you pay more money for luxury.
Here is what our trip cost for the four of us for a 10-day trip. We spent 7 nights in Pavones and one night in Uvita one night in San Jose before flying out (and thanks to Volaris, one night in Guadalajara but that was free)
-Airfare total $828 (including picking seats and carrying a surfboard bag)
-Rental car $289
Hostel Cascada Verde $55
Casa Marea Alta Punta Banco $560
Hotel Brilla Sol San Jose $75
-Groceries. We cook our own food most of the time. Check out this blog. Buying groceries in pavones at the super was affordable but I’ve been told it’s even cheaper if you get it in panama on your way in or at a maxi Pali (bigger grocery store). Personally I like the owners of the grocery store in pavones and I like supporting small business so I shop there. For our one week we spent about 100,000 colonies which totals less than $200
-Eating out. This varies depending on how much you cook at home. We didn’t eat out much
Once in pavones at ebenezers cost 25,000 ($45)
Twice at the Italian restaurant pina (just for a snack of one pizza to share) each time was about 15,000 ($55)
Cafe mongo in dominical $40
Dinner at hotel in San Jose $60
Misc airport $25
Total trip cost for 4 people to go to Pavones for 12 days $2300
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