Quepos was good to me, I had a great hostel, awesome Couchsurfing host, good food and lovely beaches, but I had to leave. I really didn’t want to have 8 hours of transportation on my way to Montezuma so I decided to spend a night in Jaco, despite a few hesitations. See Jaco is notorious for being THE party town of Costa Rica, people come here for the nightlife, but I had no interest in that. Actually since being here I’ve only had one beer, and that silly Four Loko in La Fortuna, I guess I’m focusing more on the yoga and wellness vibe of the country. But Jaco, how was I going to get through a night, a Saturday night to be more specific, in the party capital of the country. Simple: pick an awesome hostel with friendly people and own my “I’m cool, I promise, but I’m not going out drinking and having a hangover with the rest of you” mentality.
Reading the reviews of Riva Hostel Jaco I had a good feeling so I went with my gut and booked it; a chill place located just outside the party center. As soon as I walked through the front door I knew I had done well. Charlie, the guy working reception was exceptionally friendly, sharing with me all the details of Jaco, including a few gems I didn’t know about. I got a bracelet which granted me access to one of the hotel pool clubs nearby as well as discounts at a few different restaurants. He also mentioned the night life or the option to just chill and hang out at the hostel, as there would likely be a crowd gathered in the courtyard.
I took Charlies suggestions to heart and mapped out my day, food, beach, viewpoint hike and the pool club. I had the best intentions of a healthy lunch, maybe a casado or tacos, but then my inner 5 year old took over and ice cream won. What? I’m on vacation! Dulce de leche cone in hand I walked the beach to the south end so I could start my climb to what Charlie promised to be good views. I expected a small dirt path, but was surprised when there was an actual road heading up the mountain. I thought maybe I’d had it wrong but after 15 minutes I reached lookout number 1 and knew I was in the right place. The views down to the beach were awesome, and it was then that I remembered I had actually read a blog about this, so I was happy Charlie had encouraged me to go.
Part of me wanted to quit here and turn around, back to the beach for some sun and swimming, but I pushed through and continued on my way. Nearly at the next viewpoint I came across a family, half of which were in an SUV and stupidly followed them right when we reached a fork in the road. After another 15 minutes of walking I determined that they were wrong, and this in fact was not the way to the second lookout point. I left them to continue on their adventures, turned back and took the left turn this time, at the fork. This made much more sense as it was a steep climb up, rather than a winding road through the forest, and while I was slightly annoyed at my detour I tried telling myself it was good exercise. I reached a grass clearing and wondering if this was the second viewpoint, I didn’t see any of the ‘ruins’ Charlie told me about exploring so I was a bit confused. Just up the path I saw an even smaller, steeper path up so I figured I’d give that a try. The monkeys overhead were watching me, and making me nervous so when the hike became more of a crawl up a slippery rock face I gave up and slid my way back down. I actually think I may have said, out loud to myself, “Fuck this, a good view is not worth breaking a leg”.
When I got back, almost to the fork, the family I had been with 15 minutes earlier was there. They pointed to another path, which I had apparently missed the first time, and told me there were great views. I was tired, annoyed and getting hungry, but followed their lead and went to check it out. Finally, I was at the place Charlie was talking about, old ruins of a ?? actually I don't know what, and great views out over the entire city of Jaco. Somehow my ‘be lazy and lay on the beach’ day had turned into a mountain adventure. I took my obligatory photos, chatted with a couple from Canada and then hustled back down to the beach, I was beyond ready for a jump in the ocean. A quick swim followed by collapsing in the sand for an hour while I waited for the sun to set was a perfect cap on this random day.
I rounded out the evening with a cheap meal at the Soda around the corner from our hostel, showered and told myself to make some friends. Charlie was already five beers deep and quickly acquiring friends in the backyard. I changed into PJ’s after my shower which completely puzzled one of my roommates, “Are you going straight to bed” but really I just couldn’t be bothered to think of an outfit. I joined the group in the yard who was just beginning a drinking game called “Pizza Box”. Charlie claims it’s from the US, but I’ve never heard of it, does that mean I’m getting old? I got a round of “Is that water???” after the first time I had to drink, but ultimately I don’t think anyone really cared, and the game continued as normal. The group was fun, two guys from Sweden, a pair of best friends from Canada (the French part), a young energetic American pair, my roomie the aloof German, Charlie, and two goofy guys who I’d probably be best friends with from the UK. They all got drunker as I grew tired, so when 10:30 hit and they decided it was time for the bars I was beyond ecstatic to have the place to myself and go to bed, getting some rest before my 7 am bus.
And that, is how I survived Jaco, all 16 hours of it; ice cream, beach walks, crazy almost getting lost hikes, sweeping views, ocean swimming, reading on the beach, sunsets, cheap food, and water fueled drinking game, the only thing missing was a hangover, but I’m more than okay with that.
Packed with Adventure and Adrenaline, a diverse landscape from mountains to cloudforests, oceans, beaches and waterfalls. It's known for being touristy, safe and expensive, but was for me, a great introduction to Central America.