Jacó: 117km (73 miles) W of San José; 75km (47 miles) S of Puntarenas

Jacó is a long stretch of beach backed by a dense hodgepodge of hotels, souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, pizza joints, and rowdy bars. The main strip, running parallel to the shoreline, is a crowded and congested collection of restaurants, shops, and small strip malls, where pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, cars, and ATVs vie for right of way both day and night.

Some people love Jacó but some hate it, primarily because it is packed with tourists, especially visitors from the U.S., and because of its reputation as a party town. If you’re planning a rowdy bachelor party or looking to meet young singles, this is not a bad place to go; if you’re hoping to get away from it all, you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Jacó is popular with surfers, who are drawn by the consistent beach break. The beach itself, consisting of dark-gray sand with lots of little rocks, is not the country’s most appealing, and the surf is often too rough for swimming. Still, given its proximity to San José, Jacó is almost always packed with a mix of foreign and Tico vacationers.

Known for its nightlife, Jacó has raging bars that offer everything from live music venues to chill lounge environments to beachfront sports bars with pool and foosball tables (and, yes, prostitution and drugs, for which Jacó is somewhat infamous).