Jaco, Costa Rica
“Surf City” Costa Rica
Why you should go:
World-class waves, gorgeous rain forest, and a plethora of nightlife spots—Jaco can keep you busy from morning to night.
It’s evident from the surf racks on the taxis flying around town that Jaco is a haven for surfers. Located on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Jaco is surrounded by rain forest to the east and numerous top-notch breaks to the west. Jaco’s 80-degree water, panoply of waves, and friendly atmosphere draw surfers from around the world. There are waves and lessons for those learning to stand and stand-up barrels for those trying to get a shot in the mags.
Jaco itself is a beachbreak offering rights and lefts best surfed between three to six feet. Don’t let the fun beachbreak located in Jaco fool you. Just a few kilometers away are waves like Roca Loca, a rocky right point break; Playa Hermosa, a sand-bottom beachbreak referred to as the Puerto Escondido of Costa Rica; and Playa Escondida, an A-frame reef with long hollow lefts that will get your heart racing. If you don’t take the time to explore the waves nearby, you’ll be wasting your airfare.
When to go:
The central Pacific coast of Costa Rica is surfable year-round. Jaco and the surrounding areas break best on south and west swells, making the rainy season (April through November) the best time of year to find waves. However, with so many world-class breaks nearby, it requires some serious bad luck to get skunked.
Where to stay:
Jaco is designed for tourists, and they have accommodations to fit anyone’s style of travel. Unless you have some specific needs, lodging can be arranged upon arrival with little hassle. For those on a budget, youth-hostel-style accommodations called cabinas are the best call. Cabinas generally offer a bed, shower, and communal kitchen from around fifteen dollars per night, possibly less if you look around. Hotels with private rooms and air conditioning can be found for around 50 dollars per night. Those used to the finer things in life can find refuge just outside Jaco at Los Sueños Beach Resort 1-800-228-9290—offering golf, tennis, and fine dinning, with rooms ranging from 120 to 220 dollars per night. A list of all types of accommodations can be found at exintur.com/costarica/hotels/jaco.html.
Where to eat:
Jaco offers over 100 restaurants, cafes, and bars, making the most difficult part of eating settling on one. Served at most cafes during breakfast and lunch, gallo pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica, consisting of beans and fried rice—great paddling fuel. If you get homesick, you can head down to the Pizza Hut and pretend you’re back in the States. The best bang for your pizza buck is Wishbone Pizza and Mexican Food, located on the main drag just a few blocks from Pizza Hut. Afterward, head to Pop’s Ice Cream for some dessert. Mas X Menos is a large supermarket in central Jaco where you can stock up on food and fluids, saving the cost of eating out.
•Explore the nearby breaks
•Go on a canopy tour of the rain forest
•Skate the ramp in Hermosa
•Stop at the “Crocodile Bridge” just north of Jaco, look down, and with your best Australian accent say, “Crikey, that’s a mighty big croc!”
•A rental car with four-wheel drive for access to remote locations
•A sense of adventure
Look out for:
The most dangerous part of your trip to Costa Rica will most likely not be in the water, but on the roads. Driving in Costa Rica involves sketchy roads, people passing around blind corners, and bridges you would hesitate to ride your bike across. Keep your eyes open. In the water, know your limits and surf the appropriate break for yyour skill level.
Costa Rica is a cheap vacation destination—generally five dollars buys you a sit-down lunch and one dollar buys you a drink. The cheapest time of the year to travel is April through November, which happens to be when the waves are the best—a win-win situation. Airfare from Miami can be found for as little as 260 dollars; fares from Los Angeles are usually in the 500-dollar range.
The rest of Costa Rica is not like Jaco, goods and ATMs are not as easy to find. It’s a good idea to stock up in Jaco before venturing elsewhere. If your high school Spanish is rusty or nonexistent, you’ll be okay—many locals speak English, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting an American. Tip: If you have no idea of what you’re are being told, smile and throw up a clichéd-yet-effective “shaka” accompanied with the phrase “Pura vida.” Pura vida literally translated means “pure life” and is the Costa Rican equivalent to “aloha”—meaning all things from goodbye to thanks. There’s no shortage of Web sites with travel-related information for Costa Rica: ticotravel.com has a great list of all the major breaks in Costa Rica; costaricapages.com and centralamerica.com are good places to find general information. Pura vida.—Jeremy Peay