If you’ve ever traveled to the southeastern Asian party spot of Phuket, Thailand or Daytona Beach, Florida, then you might understand what’s in store for Jaco, Costa Rica.
Although a scaled-down version of those other two beaches, Jaco resonates with tourists, beachgoers, surfers, fishermen, gamblers and prostitutes (which is a legal adult activity in Costa Rica). Don’t let the latter personage perturb you; however, as Jaco is clean, attractive, family-friendly and worth the chance to be visited.
Jaco lies on the Pacific Coast of the Puntarenas province in Costa Rica. Less than two hours driving time from San Jose, Jaco also lies less than 20 miles south of one of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica -- Carara National Park. Though the roads are paved, expect to drive about 2 hours after leaving San Jose by way of the Santa Maria International Airport. Though you can fly down to Quepos, it’s best to either drive or take the shuttle transportation services. You can hop on the Fantasy Bus Transportation Company, which serves tourists with one of the best safety records and fair prices to boot.
There is one main road through Jaco proper running parallel to the beach, which is about 2 miles long. Several other smaller side streets run west of the shoreline throughout town. The main street houses most of the town’s bars, restaurants, bistros, hotels and local hangouts. These places offer everything from American and TexMex to Mediterranean and Italian specials. Each bar also has various happy hours, guaranteeing dependable bar-hopping all through the early evening.
Jaco’s accommodations fit those individuals with the smallest pockets to those with offshore accounts (cheap to expensive lodging). Buses serve the city almost every hour from all possible points, making Jaco a one-stop thoroughfare where you can carouse with friends then sober up with a day hike in the Carara National Park (some resources refer to Carara as a Biological Reserve). Regardless, Carara is a Costa Rican treasure of dry arid and rainforest.
Jaco’s claim to fame; however, is largely because of the uniform surfable waves, with the most popular Playa Hermosa beach attracting crowds of charter flight Canadians, Germans and younger Ticos. The beach here is full of little rocks with grayish sand and can be a bit rough for casual swimmers. If the surf is too rough here, you can travel less than 30 or 40 minutes by car to reach Esterillos Oeste, Esterillos Centro and Playa Bejuco.
Since Jaco is one of the most popular places in Costa Rica, there is an array of healthy outdoor activities. Sea Kayaking, sport fishing, horseback riding, zip line canopy tours with Chiclet Canopy Tour or Canopy Adventures is your best outfitter. If you want to get away from all these perilous thrills, then ask your hotel about the Rainmaker Mountain Nature Refuge, which circumscribes 1,500 acres of virgin and primary rainforest. For about 50 bucks, you’ll get a three to four-hour hiking tour, paid entrance fee and lunch.