In the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica, we are blessed with brown sugar beaches that stretch the length of the mountainous coast. If you are an explorer at heart, you will delight with all we have to offer. We’ve got waves to ride, room to breathe, and beaches to stroll upon. Below are our top highlights.
OUR BEST SURF – Roads Less Travelled, Yet Sought out by Many
PAVONES – Pack your board, we’re heading south
Situated in the “deep-south”, Pavones offers a consistent world class left wave, with a point break that is said to be the world’s second longest wave measured by overall length, height, speed, and swell. The beach bottom is sandy with rocks and generally speaking, it is a performance wave more suitable for turns rather than barrels. Off the beaten path, this tranquil town remains untouched by paved roads, ATMs, and even gas stations, which many visitors who are looking to unwind can truly appreciate. The best way to get to Pavones is via Golfito, from there it is about an hour and half drive south. A 4-wheel drive is recommended.
CABO MATAPALO – Any surfer’s dream retreat
Cabo Matapalo, simply known by locals as Matapalo, is situated at the very tip of the Osa Peninsula. Once you reach the beach you will think you’ve been cast away. The experienced surfer would make their way to Playa Pan Dulce, where the wave action makes for a great practice to “roll with the waves”, but beware of the rocky bottom. The best conditions are at mid tide with a west/southwest swell, where it’s not uncommon to find up to 500-yard tube rides. Playa Backwash, next to Pan Dulce, is great for any surfer level. It features a slow right at low tide that breaks over a reef in the middle of the bay. And since you’ve made it this far, why not venture a little more and explore King Louis Waterfall, towering nearly 100 feet high. To get to Cabo Matapalo head south 20 kilometres from Puerto Jimenez. A 4-wheel drive is necessary.
OUR BEST NATIONAL PARKS – THE SMALLEST & THE LARGEST ARE IN THE SOUTH
MANUEL ANTONIO – Abundant wildlife at the touch of your fingertips
The smallest, yet most visited national park in Costa Rica is Manuel Antonio. Highly accessible, it offers an unequaled diversity of flora and fauna in a compact space and has white sand beaches! It is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and the three types of monkeys: the Mantled Howler monkey, Central American Squirrel Monkey, and White-headed Capuchin monkey, any of which you are likely to spot. Just a stone’s throw away from Quepos.
PARQUE NACIONAL CHIRRIPO – If the hike hike does’t leave you breathless, the view definitely will
For those looking for a hiking adventure, visit Parque Nacional Chirripó. Cerro Chirripó Grande, the highest peak in Costa Rica, boasts a height of 3,820 meters and takes two days to reach. Once climbed, on clear days, you are able to see from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast, and while many visitors are attracted by the challenge of conquering the summit, it is also suitable for the day traveller. The abundant wildlife and natural beauty cannot be overlooked, permanent lakes with clear azul waters are featured, and fittingly Chirripó takes its name from the Talamanca Indian word meaning “Place of Enchanted Waters”. To enter the park go to the ranger station between 5am-5pm, south of San Gerardo de Rivas. Advanced reservations are required, if you are fortunate a permit could be issued at the station. Wear layers.
PARQUE NACIONAL LA AMISTAD – Primary, uncharted forests, untouched by man’s hand
It is estimated that two thirds of all wildlife residing in Costa Rica can be found in Parque Nacional La Amistad. It is the southern end of the Talamanca Mountain range and was declared by UNESCO to be a Natural World Heritage Site in 1983. Due to the rough terrain, it remains relatively unexplored, and that may be the reason why it is home to many large animals including jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs, pumas, coatis, and ocelots. There are several entrances: Estacion Altimira near Buenos Aires, Estacion Tres Colinas in Helechales; Estacion Pittier in Progresso, and Estacion La Escuadra to the northeast of Santa Elena. It is advisable to hire a guide, as many of the trails are unmarked.
OUR BEST BEACHES – STARTING FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
PLAYA DOMINICAL – Where the surf’s up
A paradise for advanced surfers, year round consistent waves are served up at Playa Dominical, thanks to the proximity of the river mouth opening of “Rio Baru”. Get ready to be impressed by the surfers who are cutting up the waves, that is, if you are not in the line-up yourself. Situated in the offbeat town of Dominical, it’s a great place to people watch, catch a sunset, and simply hang out. The small town lights up at night and it is home to many annual surf competitions. The beach is located directly in the town of Dominical. Be cautious when near the river as crocodiles also call “Domi” their home.
PARQUE NACIONAL MARINO BALLENA – Great for a relaxing day at the beach
At the most southern end of the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena you will find Playa Ballena, one of the most leisurely deserted beaches in the Southern Zone. At low tide, long walks on the beach with a perfect view of “Isla Ballena” and “Las Très Hermanas” add to your dream vacation hideaway. Softer waves for swimmers will have you rocking to the motion of the ocean. A great spot for sports enthusiasts, the beach is perfect for a friendly game of soccer or volleyball, and if you are solo, surf, boogie boarding, kayaking, and SUP are on the agenda. Located on the Costanera at KM169. Restroom, showers, and picnic tables are available on site.
PLAYA VENTANAS – Get ready to be impressed by the power of water
If you can only make it to one beach in the Zone, Playa Ventanas should be it. It’s most incredibly unique feature are the caves that have been cut by the sea, and form large, natural, tunnels that are waiting for you to explore at low tide. At high tide, the waves make their way through the tunnels, producing an amazing thundering sound, and as the water bursts through the double cave openings it is an incredibly impressive sight to witness. A great beach to spend a day, ample shade is available so bring a hammock and put your feet up! As the beach is situated in a bay, it is a great spot for swimmers and body surfing or boogie boarding. Located on the Costanera at KM173. Parking fee of $2 USD per vehicle and $1 USD per person.
In the Zone we have it all, wildlife, beaches, parks galore, so head South and discover all we have to explore! You will find everything you need and when in doubt, ask a local, don’t be shy, they may even let you in on a few more tips and hidden gems that take years to find.
Note to visitors, entrance fees for all National Parks apply.