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We emerged from the rainforest greeted by paved roads and a warm breeze. Coconut stands began to pop up on the side of the road until you could see them as often as a Starbucks in Seattle. We had officially made it to the beach towns of Costa Rica. Jaco was a 3 hour drive from Monteverde but it felt like we crossed over into another country. The temperature shot up from 66 to 93 degrees, the gentle breeze was warm and the smell of the beach hung in the air. After spending several days in the rainforest, I was ready to put my toes in the sand!
Just outside of Jaco we passed over a bridge with swarms of people and a few souvenir stands. We decided to stop and see what all the commotion was about. Little did we know we had just crossed over Crocodile Bridge! Just below the bridge in the shallow waters were about 30 crocodiles sunbathing. It was a pretty awesome sight to see and we were glad we stopped!
What to See
As you pull off the highway and on to the main drag of Jaco you can see that it is a busy little strip! There are tons of shops and restaurants. We found most of the shops offered similar items with a few unique things thrown in. Since it was so hot we spent our morning shopping and our afternoon by the beach!
Where to Eat
This great little outdoor restaurant is just off the main street in its own little oasis. If you’ve never eaten a taco on a swing, you need to stop here. They have normal tables for families and groups but the bar has all swing seating! Place your order at the counter and they’ll bring it out to you. After you get your order you can load your plate up at the salad bar!
You can eat outside on the terrace or inside in comfortable air conditioning in this great little restaurant tucked back on the main street. Everything looks gourmet but the entrees are actually quite budget friendly! My husband and I both got different teriyaki bowls. They were delicious and so filling!
For all my craft beer lovers out there, they had a great little selection of beers. I highly recommend trying the Tumbacalzones from Treintaycinco! It’s a fruit beer with a strong hibiscus flavor. If you’re after something stronger, the Maldita Vida might be right up your alley.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Room2Board Hostel and Surf School. It was relatively inexpensive with its own pathway to the beach. It is right behind the beach front properties so it’s just a three minute walk to the ocean. They have a great bar, pool and a little rental shop for bikes, surfboards, etc.
This hostel is definitely meant for a younger crowd with loud music in the bar area playing well in the evening. We booked a private room which happened to be on the rooftop. The music was pretty quiet from the top floor and our room was gorgeous! The view was breathtaking and there are tons of rockers, hammocks and lounge chairs on this top floor so you can relax in peace.
I only have two small gripes about this hostel. The architecture of this hotel is very unique (which I love) but it also meant that we entered a wifi deadzone the moment we stepped into our rooms. This was a bummer when we had the AC blasting because our room was so comfortable we didn’t want to leave but we also couldn’t get driving directions or do any online research.
Which, consequently, leads me to grip number two. If you book a private room here, you will see “air conditioning” listed as a hotel amenity. You should know that it is not included for free. But, we were so hot I couldn’t hand over $15 fast enough.
They did have a nice big fan in our room and we noticed our neighbors did just fine without. Stuff happens and a lot of websites can be unclear about exactly what your room may or may not include so we weren’t upset by any means, but it is something to be aware of if you’re watching your budget.
Playa Jaco is the closest beach to San Jose so it will be quite busy. There is a significant amount of crime here so watch your items closely and don’t bring anything you don’t mind losing. The water is great for wading and swimming but stick close the beach if you’re not a strong ocean swimming. We got caught by a surprise wave and my husband lost his sunglasses, which is exactly why we don’t travel with expensive sunglasses!
If you are staying the night in Jaco, be aware of the night time party scene. They do have a great bustling nightlife but be safe and stay in groups. There are prostitutes in the area and they can be quite aggressive. Our hotel staff warned us about it and made it clear that we were not allowed to bring anyone back to the hotel that was not a registered guest, so obviously it is a problem in Jaco.
Overall, Jaco is a great little Costa Rican beach town. Staying for one night was a great way to break up the drive from the rainforest to Manuel Antonio. It was nice to have a room right off the beach!
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