Adventures in Costa Rica: Jaco, Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Central Pacific Coast

By the Left Coast Rebel 

Jaco Beach

Mid-way through my trip I started something of a daily diary. Once I started writing about what I had seen and done that day, I quickly realized that I wished I had done the same thing every single day - mostly because I experienced so many things that I am already starting to forget what transpired.

The following post is a day 4 journal entry (typed on the iPhone) of our adventures in Costa Rica and is my attempt at avoiding the all-too-predictable post-amazing-trip blues.

 I apologize for moving backwards in this series...
Downtown Jaco
Journal Day 4
Today we visited the central pacific coastal town of Jaco. Jaco is a small touristy beachfront town smack dab on the Costa Rica central Pacific coast and home to colorful locals (Ticos) vacationing and partying away from San Jose, American surfers, hippies, partying Euros and -- of course -- insane drivers (at least on the way there).

On the road through the jungle to Jaco, my wife and I saw the most stunning neon-blue butterfly one could ever imagine. We both saw it; I hit the brakes (why not, the locals brake without warning all of the time) and attempted to get a few pictures of it. I say attempted because like a lot of the wildlife in Costa Rica, the darn thing moved way faster than my Gringo camera shutter speed allowed and disappeared into the impenetrable jungle understory.
Ticked off by Gringo camera

Iguana on our hotel roof
The blue butterfly incident is just one example of a Costa Rican truism: don't blink because you might miss something. That something may be a looming larger-than-life iguana on your hotel roof (left).

Or it could be perhaps something smaller like the none-too-happy neon green lizard I chased earlier that day (right).

Whiteface monkey and baby
It might even be a whiteface monkey with baby in tow looking for a slice of breakfast fruit, pancake, or any other variety of human food handout (right, again).

Or it just might be something the gracious and often colorful locals are up to - who knows? Just don't blink.

Besides surfing and partying, the town of Jaco is also known as a hotspot for those who seek late night "companionship" (if you know what I mean) but we didn't see anything of the sort while there. I read somewhere that the Beatle Bar (a popular discothèque) was the place to be at night if you were looking for that kind of thing. One has to go looking for vice to find it, which is also true of generally staying safe in Costa Rica - in other words: have common sense, don't engage in nefarious behavior and don't go looking for trouble and 99% of the time you won't find it and it won't find you.
Am I rich? 2,000 colones

As we strolled down bustling Jaco main street (not the street's actual name as streets don't generally have names in Costa Rica), we popped into several souvenir shops and purchased Costa Rican items to take home (some jewelry, a framed blue butterfly, etc.). It was fascinating to see that the dozen or so shops we strolled through pretty much had the same pricing on every item. Tourist items such as t-shirts, macaw masks or multicolored frog sound makers were generally cheap (1-2000 colones or just a few American dollars); expensive items (jewelry, framed blue butterflies, etc.) were in the several-thousand colones range or 10-20 American dollars).

One of many Tacobar signs
When we finished with shopping -- thoroughly dehydrated and starving -- we wandered over to the Tacobar. The Tacobar's multiple fish skeleton country and city roadside signs advertising delicious gourmet fish tacos and a Mediterranean salad bar thoroughly sold me even before I set my grimy Gringo feet on Jaco's bustling busy streets: it was killer taco time!

What we got wasn't "typical" Costa Rican food -- i.e. authentic in local speak -- rather, the food was a delightful mix of Mediterranean, Mexican, a dash of Costa Rica, and all goodness.

Playa Blanca/Gulfa de Nicoya
After Jaco, we decided to spend the day at the beach and opted for a white sand beach named Playa Blanca, about a mile from our room. Instead of walking, we grabbed a shuttle (a golf cart, actually) and a Spanish-only chauffeur carted us up a winding jungly road to our Hollywood-production-quality picturesque beach destination. Our golf cart zigged and zagged its way up and then down the Costa-Rican boa-shaped snaking road and about halfway there the driver stopped for a scenic vista and gave us a chance to gaze out over the indelibly postcard-perfect Gulfa de Nicoya. It was so extraordinarily clear we could even see Mal Pais on the Nicoya Peninsula to the west. After a few oohs and aahs (and copious pictures, of course), we were off! The only notables we encountered on the rest of the drive were a very large iguana (the driver could care less) and a coati, which appears to be the offspring of a late night anteater/racoon rendezvous.

After we set up our little slice 'o heaven under a coconut tree I went for a somewhat refreshing dip in the balmy tropical Pacific waters (almost as warm and wet as the 85-90 ° air and 85-90 % humidity here) and then we did something we hadn't done in Costa Rica heretofore - we relaxed. Of course, I couldn't just sit around for more than half an hour or so, so I beach-combed along the rocky tide pool-strewn shell-laden coastline for the rest of the evening. Coral, tide pool critters and partial tropical shells abounded and with a quick eye and fast hands (between gently crashing waves) I found several beautiful shells.

As I grew tired of my sandy adventuring and headed back to towel-and-water home-base, a cheery Tica had a makeshift stand set up under a leaning coconut tree and offered me a mango sample. "Buenas tardes, te gusta manga?" she beamed, offering me both a toothy dental brace smile and an introductory gratis slice. I savored the soft fruit, turning it over in my mouth, thinking that it reminded me more of some kind of exotic dessert than a natural fruit. They were truly delicious diamond-shaped sliced pieces of paradise-mana, she told me -- or at least that's what I think she said -- for 500 colones or 1 American dollar.

Sadly I hadn't any cash so one mango slice and the indelible memory of the girl's infectious, unforgettable smile had to do.

Before sunset tonight we saw a flock of multicolored Macaw parrots near our resort- amazing!

We'll see what tomorrow brings....

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