With its varied landscape of both wet and dry tropical rain forests and a sun-drenched coastline teeming with big fish and even bigger surf, the central Pacific coast is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica for hikers, anglers, surfers and sun-worshippers alike. National parks hug the coastline providing refuge for rare species of animals such as the squirrel monkey and scarlet macaw, while more commonly sighted creatures like iguanas and white-faced capuchins ensure that every outing is memorable. The region also boasts well-paved roads leading from San Jose and the Central Valley out to the coastline, so it’s no surprise that Ticos flock to the Pacific looking for the perfect weekend escape.
Not surprisingly, this stretch of the Pacific has always been popular with the North American package holiday crowd as it’s easy to squeeze in a one week retreat and be back to work on Monday. In recent years however, North American Baby Boomers nearing retirement began snatching up property, lured to Costa Rica by a combination of good weather, safety and a low cost of living. Beach towns like Jaco that were once the exclusive enclaves of vacationing Tico families are now quickly being colonized by American-style strip malls, gated communities and 4x4 car dealerships. Foreign investment blessed this region with continuous development and solid infrastructure, though Ticos are starting to wonder if they will soon feel like tourists in their own backyard.
Things are indeed changing quickly, and it’s difficult to say which interests will win out in the end. A new marina at Quepos will bring in a larger volume of tourists visiting Costa Rica on cruise ships, though it’s difficult to imagine that the authenticity of the coastal fishing villages and palm-oil plantations could ever be lost.