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South Pacific surf spots and breaks

South Pacific surf spots and breaks

Costa Rica's south Pacific retains a remote and uncharted atmosphere. Out there, in the wilds, among surf towns and isolated villages you'll find Costa Rica's longest wave, consistent hollow beach and river mouth breaks. The south Pacific surf breaks begin in Dominical and include the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce.

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Dominical offers a beautiful tropical setting, a friendly surf town with a decent selection of accommodations, plus good surfing on some right and left beach breaks. The mile-long beach has fun waves that rise to just overhead, and beach breaks suitable for boarders of all skill levels. The Baru river mouth area has slightly stronger currents, while the south end of Dominical boasts smaller waves ideal for beginners. Stop by Dominicalitio and Playa Hermosa for mild beach breaks good for beginners and intermediate surfers.

The surf is best at midtide, when waves are hollow, but good conditions are present at low and high tides as well. Dominical can be reached by public bus, private shuttle or car. The closest airport is in Palmar Sur or Quepos. From San Jose, take the Route 27 toward Orotina and continue south to Manuel Antonio. The road between Quepos and Dominical is completely paved, and the single lane bridges are in relatively good condition.

Drake Bay

This uncrowded section of Pacific Ocean is home to mostly river mouth breaks. When the swells are up, long rides on powerful waves are common. Due to its secluded location on the Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay is not frequented by many boarders, so surfers can concentrate on catching the best waves and not on how to share the surf. Drake Bay is accessible by car, boat, public bus, private shuttle or plane. Flying is the fastest and most hassle-free method of visiting Drake Bay. Nature Air and Sansa offer daily flights from San Jose to Drake Bay and nearby Palmar Sur.


Pavones is one of Costa Rica’s premier surfing hotspots and home to one of the longest left point beaks in the world. Waves measure an incredible 3/4 to one mile long and advanced surfers begin at the southern end and work their way left. Beginners should hang ten on the northern section where the break mellows out. Local surf contests are held in April, May and June while larger sponsored events occur at least once per year. Surfing season is between April and November, when the most consistent southern swells occur.

Pavones is accessible by car, public bus, or boat. The closest airports are in Golfito and Puerto Jimenez. From San Jose, take Route 27 to Orotina and follow signs for Quepos. In Quepos, take the Costanera Sur highway to Palmar Norte. Get back on Route 2 and drive until the Rio Claro. Continue south, turning left at the sign to Pavones – about nine miles before Golfito.

Cabo Matapalo

Across the bay from Pavones, Matapalo is home to excellent surf. At Playa Pan Dulce (Sugar Loaf), dual breaks create decent conditions for both beginner and more advanced surfers. When the two breaks connect, advanced surfers can ride both – for a total length that rivals the legendary break at Pavones.

Nearby, before the beach landslide, a rocky break creates challenging waves suitable only for seasoned surfers. The surfing is best between April and October, when south and west swells create ideal conditions. Located on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula, Cabo Matapalo is accessible by boat via Pavones or Golfito, or overland from Puerto Jimenez. Day trips are available from Pavones, just 4.5 miles away across the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf).

Punta Banco

Nestled a few miles south of Pavones, Punta Banco (Bank Point) offers beach and reef breaks. The surf is not always consistent and the foam is not ideal, but the beach is secluded and there are rarely more than a few surfers sharing the waves. From Pavones, drive five and a half miles south and follow signs to Punta Banco.

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