The last 20 or so hours of my trip to Costa Rica were spent in the beach town of Jaco. I had been warned that Jaco would be touristy, crowded and Americanized, but we decided to spend our last night there anyway so we would have a quicker trip to the airport than we would have had from Manuel Antonio (about one-hour-45-minutes vs. three-plus hours). So, on Tuesday morning around 11 AM, we reluctantly tore ourselves away from the beautiful views of La Mansion Inn and boarded a van to Jaco. (We ended up with a private driver willing to take the two of us to Jaco for slightly less than the cost of the Interbus, the van-shuttle system that goes to most tourist destinations around the country.)
I wanted to go Jaco for more reasons than just its proximity to the airport — after all, there are certainly closer places to the airport. Jaco is known for being more developed than Manuel Antonio, as a major beach destination for both Costa Ricans and international tourists. Not only are there good breaks for surfers, but its well-positioned for sightseeing day trips. It's accessibility also means that a lot of fancy beachfront condos are being built, and I was curious to see them.
The van dropped us off at the Hotel Poseidon, a small hotel that's about a two-minute walk to the beach. Even though it was only 12:30, they let us check into the room, where we got ready for the beach. Well, we went to the beach, fully expecting to see crowds and vendors, despite the fact that we didn't see anyone on our short trip over.We entered the beach at Calle del Bohio and it was completely empty, as you can see above. We were more than a little confused. And a tad disappointed, as we had hoped there would be someone there renting lounge chairs. But, hey, it was cool to have the beach to ourselves, a beach that was supposed to be so full of people that we were going to need to take a taxi to the next one over, Playa Hermosa. So we decided to take a nice long walk.
As we walked, we came across a few other people walking, maybe eight or 10 people total the entire time. We also got incredibly hot. Perhaps it was the heat that was keeping everyone else away from the beach? At the time, I thought I had never been so hot, but of course now that I'm back in my slightly chilly apartment, I am sure that I have been hotter on some other occasion. I just can't think of when.
Desperately hot, we decided to get our feet wet in hope of cooling off. No luck there — it was the warmest ocean water I had ever felt. It seemed to be even warmer than the water at Manuel Antonio! It felt almost as warm as the hot springs at Tabacon. Since it didn't feel refreshing, we didn't even bother getting all the way wet, especially when we saw a few small blue (probably harmless) jellyfish. Also, we had seen more than a few riptide warnings… Although the water seemed very calm at the time. (Is that how the riptides fool you?) Perhaps the calmness of the water was another clue as to why no one was there — did all the surfers grab their boards and go elsewhere in search of better waves?
Somehow, we made it to the end of the beach, where we saw a road that we hoped would lead to a store where we could buy a cold bottle of water.We did find a little store and made the long walk back down the beach. And it was still completely empty.
We went back to our hotel and then had a late lunch in the front garden of Riosasis, on the main drag. It was really good wood-oven pizza, just as the guidebooks promise. Across the street, we had some delicious ice cream from the Italian heladeria across the street. All of the ice cream that we encountered in Costa Rica was either Italian-style gelato or Dos Pinos brand, which would be the Costa Rican equivalent of Bryers.
We walked around town for a bit, and it was fairly quiet. The stores there were far better than what we had seen in Arenal and Manuel Antonio. There were lots of artsy stores, including one that sold woven wooden bikes (pictured left). I had been expecting (and dreading) all sorts of American chains, but the only two I saw were Subway and TCBY. I guess I must have been in the right part of town. Then we went back to the hotel for a bit, grateful for the small pool. Having finally cooled off, we ventured out to see the sun set.
When we went to see the sun set, there were more people on the beach than before, which really isn't saying much. But at least it wasn't completely empty. And we did see some people surfing, or at least attempting to. We left the early the next morning for the airport without having solved the mystery of empty Jaco. Was it the heat? The recession? Is Jaco really just a weekend place for locals? Has it gotten so popular that no one goes there anymore?