Introducing Costa Rica
The waves are prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace nice. A peaceful
oasis in a sometimes hectic region, this tiny nation draws 1.5 million visitors every year.
Active travelers can surf, hike, snorkel and spot wildlife for starters. The incredibly
varied topography means you can cruise the cloud forest one day, visit an active
volcanoe the next, and finish relaxing on a hot sandy beach.
Since the boom, tourism is more chic and less cheap. Classic destinations are now
crowded destinations and local culture is often lost or cast aside. Lucky for Costa Rica
that its do-gooder fans, ranging from ecologists to proud Ticos (Costa Ricans), are vocal
and vigilant. Nature here suffers its blows, like everywhere, but at least it is taken
Jaco, Costa Rica
Jacó (pronounced ha-ko, not ja-ko and never ya-ko) has a special place in the hearts of
Costa Ricans as it is the quickest ocean-side escape for landlocked people of the
Central Valley. Many Costa Ricans recall fondly the days when weekend shuttle buses
would pick up beach-goers in the city center and take them away to the undeveloped
Pacific paradise of Jacó. With warm water, year-round surf, world-class fishing and a
relaxed, beachside setting, it was hard to believe that a place this magical was only a
short bus ride away from San Jose, the capital city.
The secret got out in the early 1990s when Canadians on package tours started going
to Jacó, though for the most part tourism remained pretty low. Things picked up a bit in
the late 1990s when surfers from North America and Europe started visiting Costa Rica.
And then, something happened that was completely beyond anyone’s control – Baby
Boomers started getting old.
In only a few years, Jacó became the most rapidly developing town in all of Costa Rica
due to the constant stream of Western retirees looking for their own little slice of
beachside paradise. Plots of land were sub-divided, beachfronts were cleared, hillsides
were leveled and almost overnight Jacó became the exclusive community of the
wealthy. Costa Ricans were happy that development brought Western institutions like
paved roads and fast-food restaurants.
And then, the problems started. Costa Rica’s carefree attitude towards drugs meant that
anyone could buy a drugs on the street; this became a problem in Jaco.
The beach is also the party destination on the central Pacific coast and attracts a slew
of sportfishing enthusiasts, surfers, spring-breakers, cruise-shippers and package-
holiday makers who all come to party and relax on the beach during the day. Jacó is
expensive and during the high season it’s jam-packed with tourists, so reservations are
recommended, especially around the winter holidays.