Difference between revisions of "Jacó"
Revision as of 18:15, 1 April 2008
Jacó is one of the two largest party cities on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Jacó is about 80 miles from San Jose's airport, a beautiful drive of just over three hours.
From Juan Santamaria International Airport, follow the signs toward San Ramon. After 6 miles, take the exit toward Atenas and at the stop sign, turn left. Follow the winding street until you get to San Mateo. At San Mateo, the road jogs right a block because of one way traffic (towards you). Just follow the road around and you will get back on the main drag. When approaching Orotonia, a sign directs you to the right. DON'T FOLLOW IT (you'll get lost in the business district). Stay straight until you see the sign on the right directing you to Jacó. Follow that road to Jacó. From here on in, it is just following signs to Jacó.
There are frequent buses going directly from the Coca Cola bus station in San José. Fares are about US$2 each way.
Alternatively, drive from San Jose past San Ramon toward Puntarenas, until you get to hwy 27. Go south on 27 and follow the signs to Jaco. It's further but much faster since it is not a mountain road. Another plus is that you can stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles River along the way - a prime spot to observe wild crocodiles. You can even stop along the way and purchase some raw chicken to feed the beasts.
Transportation in and around Jaco is quite simple. The city is small enough, that walking from one end to the other is not an impossible feat. But when it's hot, or it's dark, there are always plenty of taxis to take you down the strip wherever you might want to go. The taxis in Jaco are red. Don't get in a taxi that does not look official. Often there are pirate taxis that are generally safe, but it's best to stick with the official companies. There's a taxi stand by the main grocery store, Mas o Menos, or you can always pick one up easily outside of Beatle Bar. As a Gringo, you may need to negotiate the price. Most taxis do not have meters, nor do the meters work well. 1,000 colones is a standard price to go just about anywhere in the town, or to Herradura, unless it's a short distance and then it's usually 500. Ask a local if you are unsure of how much you should pay.
There are local buses that circulate from Herradura to Jaco every hour. The bus does not go through all of Jaco, it does not travel to the most Northern side, but it you can get off at any spot in central Jaco, along the strip. The main bus stop to go to Herradura is located across the street and down the road a short distance from the grocery store, Mas o Menos. There is a bus stop there, and usually a congregation of people waiting for the bus to come. If you take the bus from Herradura to Jaco you can pick it up at Herradura beach, at the crossways of the Costanera in Herradra, or down the road at the Herradura gas station, otherwise known as La Bomba. The Herradura/Jaco bus will take you to Central Jaco, and all the way to Herradura beach for less than it would cost to take a taxi. The price to ride the bus in 2004 was 85 colones.
At the Northern end of Jaco, across from the Best Western hotel is the official bus station. If you want to take the bus from Jaco or Herradura to San Jose, this is where you need to go to buy tickets. There is a ticket window where you can purchase tickets, and it's recommended that you do so. Seats are assigned, but the Costa Ricans have no qualms about over-selling the bus. The trip from Jaco to San Jose generally takes 3-4 hours, and without a seat, you're forced to stand the entre, perilous trip, until someone gets off and there's an empty seat. This rarely happens. At this bus terminal you can also purchase tickets to other destinations such as Puntarenas and Quepos. Bus fare is inexpensive, and bus travel is always sure to be an adventure. If returning to San Jose by bus from Jaco, there are many places throughout Jaco that you can catch the bus: the bus terminal, of course, the bus stop in front of Mas o Menos, or various other locations along the Jaco strip. It's also possible to pick up the San Jose bus on the Western side of the road at the crossway in Herradura. There are set times when the buses come and go, and for the most part they are usually on time. Be there a little early so you don't miss it. As always, be cautious with your belonging on the bus. There is storage underneath the bus for heavier and larger items, but people have been known to take suitcases and bags, from under the bus, that did not belong to them. Always keep an eye on your belonging inside the bus as well.
Jaco is fairly small, and it's easy to see the entire town in one day. But you can also just as easily take your time and spend several days exploring, shopping, going to the beach, surfing, dining out, going to bars, and taking tours in the Jaco area. If you have a rental car, a drive along the Western Costa, along the Costanera is very beautiful, and offers many opportunities to stop, take pictures, or find private, secluded beaches. Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica's National Parks, is an hour drive from Jaco, and is nearly a straight shot South along the Costanera highway.
Jaco is not very big, but there are plenty of things to do there. Surfing and Boogie Boarding are extremely popular, and it's fairly inexpensive to rent a board for the day. The fares range from 6 - 20 US, depending on the shop and the type of the board. There are many shops along Jaco's main street that offer surfboard/boogie board rentals. Laying out on the beach and swimming are nice, although the water in Jaco is quite dangerous, and there are often riptides and large waves. The beach is beautiful, however the black sand at midday is scorching hot. There are some fantastic restaurants in Jaco, including some excellent Sodas, the local traditional restaurant. At night there are numerous clubs and bars that stay open late. La Central is a well-known dance club that has quite a reputation. Be cautious and careful when you go there. The Beatle Bar, which looks quite welcoming from the outside, is actually where most of the city's prostitutes spend their time. La Bruja is a quieter bar closer to Jaco's center, as is Onyx. A short drive from Jaco, in Playa Hermosa, there is a great, mellow bar called The Backyard. It's an excellent retreat from the more rowdy bars and clubs of the Jaco center. Also in Playa Hermosa is the Jungle Surf Cafe (if you passed the soccer field you've gone to far), excellent for Breakfast(oh, the Bannana Pancakes), Lunch (Baja Fish Tacos), or Dinner (Seared Tuna is awesome). However, BYOB. It is welcomed.
There are numerous, small shops and stands all along Jaco's main strip that runs parallel to the water. Most of these stalls offer similar things: jewelry, fabric, surf clothes, knick-knacks, and traditional Costa Rican gifts. There is also a small mall, El Galeone, along the main street. There are a few unique stores in the mall, as well as an ATM on the second floor. The center even boasts a very nice Americanized coffee shop.
Jaco has many great restaurants to choose from. If you're looking for a large, American-style breakfast, Sunrise Breakfast is the place to go. La Hacienda offers great sandwiches, steaks and burgers. For a more elegant meal, El Bohio is an excellent choice for seafood and dining on the beach, a person can easily spend an entire afternoon in its shady beachside bar, sipping ice cold $1 beers. If you're looking for Mexican food, Pacho Villas is the best option. For sushi, nothing beats Tsunami Sushi in central Jaco. In addition to the more expensive restaurants, there are many great sodas, traditional Costa Rican restaurants, in the Jaco area. These offer great, traditional food, such as chicken, rice and beans, for very low prices.
Jaco is loaded with bars and places to grab a drink. Some of the bars there are: La Central, Onyx, Beatle Bar, Nacho Daddy's, Pancho Villa, La Bruja, Club Ole, Bar El Zarpe, and The Backyard Bar, located just South of Jaco in Playa Hermosa. Many of the local restaurants are excellent spots to sit down and have a cocktail as well. The Beatle Bar, however, is notorious for prostitution (so it has that going for it).
There are many excellent day trips from Jaco to locations that are worthwhile to see. Going North from Jaco you first come to the small village of Herradura. Herradura offers a beautiful cove-style beach, that is often less crowded than the beach at Jaco. The beach was the chosen site for the filming of the movie 1492, and one can tell why by its rustic beauty. Also located on the beach is the Los Suenos Marriott and Resort. The Resort offers spacious and beautiful Marriott accommodations and restaurants, a large outdoor pool, 18-holes of golf through the lush rainforest, and private rental condos. There is also a Marina and restaurant at the Northern end of the resort. As there are many rivers flowing into Herradura Bay, at times there are Crocodiles that swim in the bay to feed. They are difficult to see, as a result of the black sand, so be very cautious when swimming there.
Travelling North after Herradura you will come to the gorgeous hotel, Villa Caletas. The hotel is perched on top of the mountain, and is reminiscent of traditional colonial style architecture. Go to the hotel right before sunset and sit in the amphitheater, located cliffside, for the most amazing sunset experience you'll ever have. Enjoy a delicious cocktail while you take in the breathtaking views.
Travelling North again, along the Costanera, is the elusive Playa Blanca. The entrance to this beach is extremely difficult to find, and it's best to have a local point it out to you. The road is quite bumpy and filled with potholes, so go slowly and cautiously. Since all the other beaches in the Jaco area are made up of black sand (volcanic rock) Playa Blanca is a welcomed change. This beach, also part of the Punta Leona resort, is virtually closed off from the rest of the world. Although you can get there for free down the "hidden road," you can also pay to use the beach through the Punta Leona resort.
If you continue North past Punta Leona, you will come to the River Tarcoles. The river is famous for one thing, its Crocodiles. Park alongside the road and walk along the bridge to view the hundreds of Crocodiles lying below. Many of the local resorts and hotels offer Crocodile tours to Tarcoles where you can see the creatures up close. If that's a frightening idea, the view from the bridge is impressive enough.
South from Jaco, the first village you find is Playa Hermosa. Also considered one of the best surfing locations in the world, the beach at Playa Hermosa is extremely dangerous. People die here every year, as they do in Jaco as well, and the riptides and large waves in Hermosa are notorious. Be extremely careful when swimming in Hermosa. The black sand at midday is scalding hot, and will burn your feet. But the beach is beautiful and uncrowded. Most people prefer to spend their time in Jaco, and Hermosa is largely ignored. A great place for a drink or a snack while in Hermosa is the Backyard Bar. In contrast to the rowdy bars of Jaco, this one has a very mellow, surfer vibe.
There are numerous photo opportunities travelling South along the Costanera, as well as many secluded beaches. If you continue an hour South you will eventually come to the National Park, Manuel Antonio. It can be a bit confusing winding through the town of Quepos to get there, but simply follow the signs, or ask the locals for directions. Manuel Antonio is a pristinely preserved national park that boasts 6 or 7 secluded, white sand beaches. Be aware of the tide variations as they can change from season to season. Also be on the lookout for monkeys as Manuel Antonio is an excellent place to see them up close. Avoid feeding them, even though they're cute, as they come to depend on this food and risk danger by getting so close to humans.
On the way back North to Jaco from Manuel Antonio, be sure to stop in at the Mono Azul (The Blue Monkey) to see the sloth rescue project, sponsored by Kids Saving the Rainforest.