Friday, January 29, 2016

Pura Vida: New Year's in Jaco, Costa Rica

Jaco, pronounced "Haco" - like "taco." Now you're an expert!
As has become tradition for me, I always like to start the New Year off properly with an international trip. Since I normally don't have that many vacation days - contrary to what all my friends would believe - I try to find places that don't take long to get to. This has led to a strong amount of Central America travel, and perhaps the most popular destination outside of Mexico in Central America, is Costa Rica. We were there from Dec. 30 - Jan 5, staying in Jaco, a surf town on the Pacific side, then drive to Turrialba to go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, which National Geographic rated among the Top 5 places for whitewater rafting, then finish at the hot springs and volcano in La Fortuna. If this sounds like a lot of driving - you're right! And it turned out this Pythagorean Theorem map route wasn't the wisest. 

First things first! My first ever First Class experience on a connection from Hartford to Miami. How many times can I type the word "first"? Sadly, I didn't even get a Bloody Mary and just slept the whole flight. #loser

It was early, y'all.
Our Airbnb in Jaco with our rental car, which is a hell of a machine! If you do an airbnb in Jaco, I strongly recommend going with a property that belongs to Kattia Jimenez. She owns several rental properties in the area is extremely helpful with any tips and suggestions for your trip.
Big fan of the graffiti art in Jaco. These surfer girl impressions were all over the place. Jaco is really about one thing. Not the skateboarding.
Sunset at Jaco.
Dinner at Wahoos. Not to be confused with Socal's fish taco joint. Although I think I ordered fish tacos. Solid bar/grill spot that also had karaoke. We did not bless the locals with any Backstreet Boys renditions. Needless to say, they were disappointed.
Grilled avocado with vinaigrette. 
The local beer. Imperial Lights are far better than Imperials, which has the taste equivalency of getting punched in the stomach. However, you have to drink the local beer when traveling - otherwise you're just an ugly American!
Breakfast at Taco Bar, which is super cheap (like $3), but not that good. The banana-mango-pineapple smoothie on the other hand was massive and delicious. This place is ideal for a post-surf morning breakfast. I find I love eating rice and beans in Central American countries, such more flavor than Hormel's canned beans I normally shove down my throat.
You might think this is a cool statue, but this poor surfer woman was actually frozen alive like Han Solo in "Empire Strikes Back." #SpoilerAlert!
For an intermediate (read: crappy) longboarder who likes waves from 4-6 feet, Jaco was perfect. There were a lot of spots for beginners, but what sets Jaco apart from other surf destinations I've been to is the ease and frequency of waves. Unlike many places, you don't have to spend much effort paddling past the break to get to the waves. It's a very easy paddle out, then depending on the tide (high tide was sunrise and sunset our entire time there), there were plenty of long rolling waves to catch. Instead of exerting all your joules paddling, you can actually spend the whole time surfing.

Did I mention the water was warm, too? Cuz it actually got warm with the rash guard. Pristine.
Pete crushing waves like he does the ladies!
Giving my girlfriend a quick tutorial on how to surf. This is described in ye' olden days as "the blind leading the blind."
Like a gentleman, I'm helping her hold the 7'10 board.
Success! Who needs to stand? 
I do! These waves weren't even during high or low tide. You have to be more patient, but a few sets would still consistently trickle in. 
One of our sunset sessions were solid. Another, not as much. The waves tended to crash far quicker at sunset for whatever reason, and Pete (behind me) and I were victims more than a couple times.
Playa Herradura. 5 minutes north of Jaco. Not worth a visit. This makes it look better than it is.
Manuel Antonio Beach. It's considered a tourism destination near Jaco but I still think it's worth going. It's around an hour south of Jaco, you have to pay to get in - I forget what admission is but there's a lot of bartering for parking and skipping lines. Just go, you bum! What else are you going to do?
Outbreak Monkey says hello from Manuel Antonio National Park! You now have Motaba! I actually Googled "Outbreak movie disease" to keep that joke accurate. Who says journalism is dead?! This monkey kept trying to grab my GoPro which was attached to a monopod. Ahem - monopod, not a selfie stick. Totally different!
In a less aggressive state.
Sloth butt!
Smiles! Joy! G'times! #Weeee
Hey Zac Brown, toes in the sand!
Shrimp pasta at Lemon Zest, a very gringo restaurant option in Jaco, but good enough. Very hearty. Like every restaurant in Central America, the service runs on Island Time (even though CR is not an island), which means "I'll bring you your food whenever I'm done finishing the Tico Times crossword puzzle of the day." I also think our waiter was tweaking out on Four Loko and cocaine, but that's another story.
New Years Eve revelers at midnight in the streets of Jaco. A lot of residents from San Jose (the capital of CR) drive down to Jaco to celebrate the new year. It's just a 2-hour drive. Getting service on Jan 1 and 2 takes forever, which is really saying something in Costa Rica.
Forget about the epic Asian lantern festivals to celebrate the lunar new year, we've got a CR version! Several locals were lighting up lanterns and sending them off their way. Evidently there's an art to it because I saw a lot of struggling. The fireworks behind us were a free for all. I don't know if there were any official fireworks being set off, it just seemed like we were surrounded by explosions set off by every 5-year-old in a 100-foot radius. Many locals drove onto the sand and just set up shop with picnics, drinks, etc. The celebration epitomized Costa Rica's attitude of Pura Vida. 
The locals can't get enough of Costa Rican Pete.
Hello 2016.
And scene.

Go Pro video.

Next: Exploring one of National Geographic's top 5 places to whitewater raft in the world.


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