I would use this to get around: Flip-flops. The main part of town is set up along a strip that’s got all manner of shopping, dining and accommodation. The beach along said strip isn’t particularly stunning or spectacular for surfing, but there are a few to the north and south that are worth a visit: However, these ones will require a vehicle. If you’re keen, rent a scooter.
I would stay here: Buddha House, on the main drag. It’s got dorms with shared bathrooms for those on a budget and also private, hotel-style rooms for a few more dollars per night. There is a common kitchen area that’s well equipped with a gas stove and all the fixin’s, as well as a small pool and a few surfboards for rent. The front desk staff are really helpful and friendly, particularly if you need to book shuttles or tours in the vicinity. I also went to a wedding that was held at a resort just on the edge of town called Doce Lunas. It was a beautiful spot with a great open-air restaurant and really sexy pool. Rooms were bigger than some apartments I’ve lived in, although take that with a grain of salt.
I would eat here: Taco Bar. It’s tasty, it’s fresh and they have specials that include beer. Also, Tsunami Sushi Bar was a nice deviation from the usual rice, beans, etc. although, truthfully, I could eat traditional gallo pinto every single day for the rest of my life.
I would drink here: I don’t know, really. Jaco is kind of sketchy, if we’re being honest. There’s a pretty well known and significant issue with prostitution and , consequently, generally sleazy dudes tend to wander the streets with icky looks on their faces once the sun goes down. My recommendation: Keep it safe and simple by picking a hotel or hostel with a good-looking in-house bar.
I would do this: Surf. There are some decent breaks in and around Jaco depending on the season and the swell. The strip is full of rental shops for all your ten-hanging needs. I would also use Jaco as a jumping-off point for a trip to the Nicoya Peninsula. You can get a water taxi to Montezuma for less than $50. It puts you on the peninsula in just over an hour, as opposed to taking the bus, which will eat an entire day of your life and cost almost as much.
I wouldn’t do this: Buy souvenirs without checking the label. I had a handful of “Costa Rican” trinkets and happened to see a sticker on the bottom of one item that gave it away as an import from China. It’s not that I don’t like China. I’m sure it’s a fantastic spot they’ve got over there. But lying is only OK when the alternative will get you fired or killed so don’t waste my time, little wooden frog statue.