Costa Rica's Central Pacific in Depth

This post is part of our insider guide to Costa Rica section of our blog. In an effort to gain a greater handle on the ever changing landscape of Costa Rica, we have made several research trips throughout the country. This last trip takes us to the Central Pacific of Costa Rica, an area with lush rain forests, stunning beaches and abundant surf. Our trip started out in the town of Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio- This town has been on the tourist radar for many years now, so during peak holiday travel it can become flooded with travelers.  Don't, however, let this sway you from visiting the area. What brings people to this area are the gorgeous ocean views and the beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park. This protected stretch of coast land is home to hundreds of different species of birds, sloths and 3 types of monkeys. Since it is a mountainous coastline, the majority of accommodations are perched up high overlooking the Pacific ocean. Even though this area can get crowded, we consider it a must see if you are headed to Costa Rica's central Pacific area.  It is the ideal location for honeymooners, families and backpackers alike. Accommodation Suggestions: Costa Verde and Buena Vista Villas. Esterillos-  Although the sleepy town of Esterillos is just off the busy route from Jaco to Manuel Antonio National Park, you wouldn't know it when you are walking on the beach. Most travelers drive right past this idyllic stretch of tropical coastline. The area is divided into Esterillos Oeste (west) Esterillos Centro and Esterillos Este (east). Each area is separated by a nature rich estuary, but it is, otherwise, one long stretch of beautiful beach. We visited several beautiful villas while in the area and were quite impressed by the panoramic views and solid construction of many of them. There are also several beach front hotels to suit a wide range of budgets. If you are imagining Costa Rica as an untouched natural wonderland with pristine beaches, then this town would make a great location for your next trip. It is truly unspoiled and not touristy, which is exactly what we love about it. It has great surf too! Accommodation Suggestions: Xandari, Encantada and Casa Exotica

Playa Hermosa- This world renowned surf spot attracts hardcore surfers from around the world. Known for its wave consistency and hollowness, Playa Hermosa is the perfect place to go for the active traveler that can handle advanced surf. This black sands beach is situated just 6 miles south of Jaco, but has a distinctly different flavor. It is considerably smaller than Jaco and mainly composed of beach side hotels and restaurants. Accommodation Suggestion: Backyard Hotel

Jaco- Located just 1 hour from San Jose's Sanatamaria International Airport, it represents the closest beach stop for many city dwellers who are looking for a weekend getaway.  In the last 5 years or so, the town has experienced substantial growth with the addition of many new businesses and condo developments. Unfortunately, there are few zoning measures in this area and the new growth lacks any uniformity. Businesses use gaudy sign-age to attract the attention of would be customers and the result is rather hodge podge . What Jaco lacks in aesthetic and charm, it makes up for in amazing crafts and great bargains. We have found the best and most affordable souvenirs in this coastal town. If you are looking for something special to take home to loved ones, Jaco would make a great afternoon stop. Accommodation Suggestion: Doce Lunas