It's Pronounced 'Ha-Ko'

Jaco Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 12 › view all entries

Well, here I am back in Costa Rica.  I flew from GC into San Jose, where I met Kindermann, at the air port, and we spent a night there, before going off to Jaco.  Jaco is some sort of surf town, and although I was warned here and there not to bother with it, that it was dirty and seedy and doesn't even have great surfing, Garrett wanted to check it out anyways, and well, he only has a week whereas I had a month, so off we went to Jaco.  Wow.  I knew what I was expecting, but I was not expecting that.  Jaco is a failed tourist experiment.  Let me go over how it usually (and hopefully) goes. 

The backpackers find a great place.  They do so by accident, or by recomendation by the locals, and they show up.  It's usually paradise (this is anywhere in the world btw) and it's dirt cheap.  They lay on the beach or meditate on the mountian or whatever it is they have found, and they move on, or stay, but one curious thing happens.  More Backpackers come, and usually backpackers, while rugged enough to sleep on a dumpy bed and eat local food, will always pay 300% more for a pizza (making it 3 dollars instead of 1).  Who wouldn't?  So, as more backpackers come, there is more money available, and there are more pizza places.  Then a bar opens up, and more hotels, and eventually you have a nice little backpacker town.  Usually this isn't the worst thing, as the locals like the money coming in, and the backpackers love having a place to themselves.  Sometimes it ends here, which is nice, but it is the curcial point in time: this can make or break the tourist town. 

If things progress, in a good way, the town keeps getting better facilities, and more and more upscale places, eventually driving out the backpackers with higher end places which are more money.  This has happened all over Costa Rica, Spain, Greece, Thailand, and so on, and the backpackers simply move on.  The money is a good thing for the economy, and (opinions differ on this) everything is good.  Personally, I try to avoid these cities, because they are too expensive, but you have to like what is done for the economy.  The other possibility, however, is what happened, clearly, to Jaco. 

So, go back to the divide, and instead of it being slowly built up, the town, for some reason, tried to grow too fast, and the drugs and prostitution moved in, rather than the upscale restaurants and hotels.  Backpackers and Surfers will dabble in drugs, but the culture of hookers and cocaine only really appeals to partiers, and this is what Jaco decided (unwittingly?) to attract.  The places all became too expensive to cater to good natured hippie backpackers, and too seedy for good money to come in...I would, personally, never ever consider taking my family to Jaco, with the whispers of cocaine and girls coming from every guy on a bike riding past you.  Even Bangkok has the common decency to keep it to one or two neighbourhoods.  The beach was dirty and full of old Americans with young Costa Ricans, or, more likely, Nicas and Panamanians, and there was a real smell of a city that was dying a slow death, with desperate adds for condos which will probably never be bought.  Perhaps I was just there during the low season, when everyone and everything was desperate...god I hope so. 

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2,170 km (1,348 miles) traveled
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photo by: anlis