Upon arrival in the cheerfully scruffy center of Jaco (or, alternately, the luxuriously landscaped resort just north, Los Sueños), you’ll want to appreciate the view; Costa Rica’s Central Pacific is as lovely as a shore as exists anywhere. After checking in to your room, whether a budget backpacker dorm or marble-floored villa, you may want to consider indulging in Jaco’s chief attraction: Surfing.Day 1: Catch a Wave
Jaco’s main beach is home to one of the most regular, predictable, sandy-bottomed breaks in the world, fun for experts and perfect for newbies who just want to try out the sport. Several surf lessons and board rentals are available.
If you’d rather just watch, grab a seat at any one of Jaco’s beachfront eateries, and enjoy some of Costa Rica’s sensational seafood, or perhaps and adult beverage. As the shadows lengthen, the nightlife heats up. This is one town where you can party until dawn.
Day 2: Enjoy the Great Outdoors
While Jaco may have started out as a humble surf spot, it’s now at the epicenter of all sorts of eco-attractions, from zip-line canopy tours and aerial trams to horseback riding tours to Playa Blanca, Jaco’s most beautiful beach. Another great day trip in the area is to Carara National Park, home to one of Central America’s last breeding populations of scarlet macaws.
Do you prefer your wildlife a little less wild? Hit the links at Los Sueños’ beautiful golf course, where spotting howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, and huge iguanas is pretty much par for the course.
Day 3: Road Trip to Manuel Antonio National Park
Less than an hour south of Jaco is what Forbes magazine calls “One of the Ten Most Beautiful National Parks in the World.” Manuel Antonio—a curving peninsula that shelters four gorgeous, white-sand beaches and ends in a rainforested stone formation called “The Cathedral”—is, perhaps, Costa Rica’s top attraction. Hire a guide who’ll point out four species of monkey, several slow-moving sloths, and all manner of other birds and wildlife.
Just outside the park, Playa Espadilla offers rows of umbrella-shaded beach chairs for rent, where you can order a drink or even a meal while soaking up the tropical sun. Some of the country’s best restaurants, as well as fine art galleries and gorgeous resort hotels, line the four-mile (seven-kilometer) access road between Quepos and the national park.