by Tyler Black
Having never been to Costa Rica (or Central America for that matter), I was really eager to experience a paradise-esque vacation. After all, most of my trips involved big, capital cities or intense hikes that left me socially and physically exhausted. This would be the first time in a while that I could get to know a new region and its culture in a relaxing, stress-free way, and just escape reality for a little bit. Join me while I tell you about some things to do while traveling in Costa Rica.
Jaco, Costa Rica is a Hidden Jem
When searching around the web, Jaco, Costa Rica will probably not be high up on your list of results. It’s small, and located a little more than an hour southwest of San Jose. Once you leave the highways around the country’s capital, you’ll find yourself taking small, windy roads all the way to the Pacific coast. I can imagine it would be a little daunting for solo travelers or small groups. Furthermore, it’s a town that combines the sinful pleasures of Amsterdam, Las Vegas, and Miami all into one once the sun goes down. But even if you’re not into those lustress, nighttime activities, you still shouldn’t be dissuaded from giving Jaco a shot. The beauty of the town and the surrounding area is not one to miss.
For the record, I promise I didn’t google “Hot Spots in Costa Rica for a Single 27 Year-Old.” (I just recently turned 28… God I feel old.) I went to Jaco with a bunch of childhood buddies for our best friend’s bachelor party. I think you can see the appeal here.
But, for the sake of professionalism and not ruining my grandmothers’ perceptions of me (I am the favorite after all), I will keep this piece PG and informative. So, let’s begin.
ATVing Through the Jungle
What better way to explore Costa Rica’s lush jungle and small villages than operating an ATV? It sure beat hiking in the 90 degree heat, not to mention the 100% humidity (I might be exaggerating). Plus, good luck getting thirteen guys who went out the night before to do any form of physical exercise. Our Airbnb host set up the excursion for us. I’m not quite sure what the name of the tour company was. However, a quick google search will reveal dozens of tour operators within Jaco that provide ATV tours through the jungle.
Enjoy cruising down small dirt roads, passing through villages, and crossing rivers, all while enjoying the sensuous Costa Rican outdoors. Most tour operators will periodically stop for water and snacks. They also typically stop at a traditional restaurant at the end of the ride for a nice meal. The restaurant we stopped at was located at the top of a tall mountain that overlooked a large valley. Wear your swimsuit if you can, too! The tour will stop at a 40-foot waterfall. If you’re feeling brave, you can climb to the top and jump off into the water. Just don’t be like me and land on your back.
Here I jump off of a little waterfall in Costa Rica!
The sun will be relentless on a clear day so make sure to constantly apply sunblock, or at the very least, wear a long sleeved shirt. Again, don’t be like me and end up looking like you wandered out of Chernobyl. Also, it should go without saying to keep yourself hydrated. Lastly, make sure to keep your less-coordinated friends at the front of the pack. The roads can get pretty tight and windy along the cliffs. If your friend goes over the edge, you’ll at least want to see it for the laughs. And if your friend somehow veers off a straight road like our pal did, you’ll want to get him the life coaching he so desperately needs.
Whether you’re in dire need of curing your ailments from the night before or just want to enjoy some authentic Costa Rican food, I recommend heading to Soda Garabito to fulfill your needs. Located right at the entrance of Jaco, Soda Garabito operates similar to Subway. However, instead of fitting questionable deli meat and day-old vegetables into a dry piece of bread, you’ll be stuffing a styrofoam to-go box full of different kinds of homemade rice, beans, meats, vegetables, seafood, and so much more.
Open 6 AM to 8 PM, the restaurant is always packed with tourists and locals alike so you know it’s got the authentic seal of approval. The wait is not long, either, as they keep the line moving with their effective operation. The price? Roughly $5. Seriously, this place is heaven-sent. If it were socially acceptable to eat at the same place three times a day, believe me, I would have.
Catamaran Sea Lounge and Playa Fantasia
If there are two things you absolutely have to do while in Costa Rica, it’s hitting the beach and getting on the water. Pretty obvious, right? Well, let’s take that up a notch. How about taking a catamaran to a private, white-sand beach? If that doesn’t sound like paradise, I don’t know what does.
After meeting the Sea Lounge crew at Playa Hermosa, you’ll be taken into the bay by boat to board a large catamaran. Although not technically labeled a “booze cruise”, the full-service crew will always make sure you have a cup in your hand that’s filled to the top with their delicious mixed drinks. After roughly an hour ride up the coast while listening to great music and enjoying beautiful views of the shoreline, the catamaran will anchor itself, allowing you to jump off the back and swim in the warm Pacific while the crew prepares the boats to drop you off at Playa Fantasia.
Relax at the Beach and Forget About Your Nine to Five
Relish in paradise as you relax in a beach chair facing the ocean, taking in the sun (or hiding from it like me), sipping on a drink from the open bar, listening to the parrots fly above your head, and forgetting all about your boring 9 to 5 job. The crew had a giant banana boat that we rode in the ocean, but unfortunately we popped it so we were forced to ride a giant tree trunk that happened to be floating by. We definitely looked like idiots. There are also boogie boards and stand-up paddle boards, but that tree trunk had our full attention.
Before the end of the excursion, the crew will feed you dinner prepared by a five-star chef and then take you back to the catamaran. On the trip back, you’ll have the shoreline on one side of the boat and the sunset on the other along with a cup full of that good stuff. How could life get any better? Maybe if there actually was a Jurassic Park off the coast.
Hodgepodge of Tips Before Traveling in Costa Rica
Check out Adventure Tours Costa Rica for dozens of activities and excursions around Jaco. From fishing to canyoning to monkey tours, you’ll find no shortage of ventures. I wish I had been able to stay in Costa Rica just a few days longer to try surfing and check out the rainforest. I guess that means I’ll have to go back!
No matter what any website tells you, DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER. I woke up one morning a little parched from the previous night’s activities and proceeded to down a glass full of water from the sink. Upon realizing my mistake, I quickly Googled how much time I had to live before my body would explode. To my surprise, every article I read said the water was okay. Well, guess what? They lied. Upon landing back home, I had stomach pains that could only be compared to a woman’s contractions during labor. Just drink bottled water.
Jaco Is Safe, but Remember These Tips
This can be said for any trip you go on, but always be aware of your surroundings. Although Jaco is safe and patrolled by reliable police, it would be in your best interest to avoid walking alone at night. Always have a buddy system. Furthermore, keep in mind that the more drinks you start slinging back, the less aware you’re going to be of pickpockets. Only keep your bare essentials on you and make sure you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Please don’t take this advice as a warning. Just remember to be smart.
I Will Never Forget Traveling in Costa Rica
Whether you’re planning a trip for yourself, family, friends, or even for a bachelor party, Costa Rica (and more specifically Jaco) is a marvelous choice. The landscape, the people, the activities, and even the ambience are warming and refreshing for the soul. No matter what your style is while traveling, Costa Rica will not only meet that, but also exceed your expectations. Traveling in Costa Rica was an amazing experience.