Jaco, Costa Rica
By Jeremy Zachary
Why You Must Go: Pronounced hock-o; this is paradise found. Whether you go for the clean fresh air, clear warm waters, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, to hang with the monkeys, or merely just to lie under the palm trees in a hammock—you go because it’s cheap! Roundtrip airfare to Costa Rica can be found for under $300 (at press time) and there’s a myriad of inexpensive places to stay. San Jose (Costa Rica’s capitol city) is a typical congested metropolis with the usual traffic, diesel-infused air and cadre of shady characters. Fortunately, a day in San Jose is all you’ll need to catch all the historical sights. Proceed to Jaco, where this Pacific Ocean-side beach town will whisk you away from the dirty air, honking horns and big-city noise. The miles of gleaming, black and white sandy beaches make this one of—if not the—crown jewels of Central America! Great surf, great food, great prices and lots of sun are all reasons to visit this Eden of a town. (A local secret for the best Jaco surf spot; hit south Jaco beach. Away from the tourists and pollution runoff of the hotels, south Jaco is the sweet spot with long barrels and isolation.) A great place to stay in Jaco is Hotel de Haan, located in the center of town and a literal two-minute walk to the beach. The hotel is far from the Four Seasons, but in all it’s simplicity it is clean, has a very refreshing pool, a few hammocks, surfboards for rent and 24-hour security. (www.hoteldehaan.com)
Where To Eat: Jaco is brimming with delicious eating choices. From sushi to steaks to freshly squeezed juices, it’s all here on Avenida Pastor Diaz (the main street running through town). John Huntington’s Tsunami Sushi offered the best sushi around, fresh caught fish with that SoCal vibe. With a sister location in Huntington Beach, this spot knows how to turn it out Cali style. Another great dining hotspot is Wishbone, located in the center of town, with sidewalk dining, great prices and a filet mignon that will satisfy any carnivore. Papas & Burgers, located next to Hotel de Haan, fills the gaps with excellent breakfasts, smoothies and every lunch time treat imaginable to cure the hunger pangs after a morning of surfing! Ganesha offers some great evening libations with a chillout atmosphere and Buddha beats. Nestled on the beach, you’ll be sipping Cuba Libres while watching the moonlight flicker off the waves. (www.crmaps.com)
What Else To Check Out: Just down the main road is Playa Hermosa, a must-stop to visit Lowtide Loungefor some great grub and awesome surf. A quaint little bar/restaurant that offers cheap drinks and good food, Brian and Shilka will make the visit worthwhile. Be sure to ask for a Miguelito or two, they make ’em right! Less than an hour’s drive down the main road is Manuel Antonio, a wildlife nature preserve where you’ll see macaws, monkeys, cat-sized iguanas and all sorts of jungle critters. This is why you come to Costa Rica!