Costa Rica: Hanging out in Tárcoles y Jacó

Although there are so many awesome day trips to take in Costa Rica, you can also find amazing things to do right where you are–at least that was the case for us.  As much as we wanted to go and see the jungles and volcanoes, we were also happy to stay close to our rental house in Playa Agujas.   I mean, who needs a major road trip when just 15 minutes north would take us to Tárcoles and 15 minutes south gets us to the tourist city of Jacó??  Not me!

Crocs, Fish, and Shopping in Tárcoles

We did not spend a lot of time in Tárcoles, but we made three stops there during our trip.  The first was, of course, to see the crocodiles beneath the Tárcoles Bridge.

tarcoles-bridge

crocs

The second trip to Tárcoles was to buy some fresh fish from the fishermen’s co-op.  This was quite the excursion, as we couldn’t find it on the GPS and we found ourselves taking the scenic (aka: major backtracking) route there.  But still totally worthwhile, because once we found the little side street down to the beach, we were enchanted!  It doesn’t hurt that we made it there in the early evening, right as the fishermen were bringing the boats back in against the backdrop of an amazing sunset and lush green hills!  Coope Tårcoles itself was completely unassuming, just a small building where we asked a guy about what fish he’s got hiding in the back.  Then once we ordered, we were sent to another building and pay what seemed like juuuuust a little too much, but that’s okay because it’s always good to support local business and we were loving the experience!

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Boats out in front of Coope Tárcoles (the fishermen’s co-op)
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This reminds me a little of St. Lucia.  Beautiful!

It’s funny that this little trip down the highway was meant to be just a quick trip for fish, but it has stuck in my head as one of the coolest places we saw.  Maybe because it was not a typical touristy adventure, but just a quick glimpse into everyday life in a small little village.  If we ever end up back in the area, I will try to head back to the fishermen’s co-op!

Our last foray into Tárcoles was in search of souvenirs.  It was one of our last days in Costa Rica and we realized that we needed to getting our shopping in before it was too late.  So into town we went in search of the perfect little gifts and knick knacks.  Interestingly enough, this little trip also took us on a “scenic route” as we tried to follow our Air B&B host’s typical Costa Rican directions of “go 5 kilometers past the bridge and there are great stores on the left.”  So we drove what seemed like an hour (waaay more than 5km) and found zero stores on either the left or right.  So back we headed to try our luck from the other direction.  Still nuthin’.  But it all worked out because we ended up stopping at the stores that are right next to the bridge.  Maybe he meant 5 meters???!!!

Eating, Shopping, and Hiking in Jacó

The other area we spent time in was the tourist town of Jacó.  This is where we did our grocery shopping, a couple of meals, and a little more souvenir shopping.  Jacó was a great town with a fun vibe.

Our first trip into Jacó was on morning #1 when we awoke to rumbling stomachs and zero groceries in the house.  So we got directions from our host to a good and inexpensive breakfast buffet “called Maria something that is right off the main highway before you get to Jacó. Go past the 2nd blinking light where you’ll see a police station and a school, and the restaurant will be on the right.”  Okay, sounded easy enough.  So we drove the main highway, searching for blinking lights, police stations, schools, and anything with “maria” in the name.  Hmmmm… Then we saw the sign telling us to turn right to go to Jacó.  Did we pass the restaurant??  Maybe he meant it is on the road TO Jacó?  So we turned toward the city and kept looking.  Nothing!  Oh well, as soon as we were on the main strip we saw several restaurants, so we parked in the first place where we could find 2 parking spots near each other and headed to the first place we saw: Sunrise Breakfast Place.  img_0614

Pretty random little place for breakfast (pizza, sunrise breakfast, and hot dogs?!?!) but it wasn’t lacking for patrons and we were hungry!  So we got our group of 12 all settled at a couple of picnic tables outside and got to ordering.  The menu was not extensive, but we were all able to find something we would like.  I got the “typical breakfast” of eggs, gallo pinto, and tortillas, and it was pretty good.  Some other items ordered were the surfer burrito, fruit plate, pancakes, and the Big Toto.  It was all what you would expect for diner food: full plates of satisfying food.  We also ordered two Costa Rican drinks that we had been excited to try: batidos (delicious fruit smothies) and coffee.  The batido was delicious and appreciated on a warm morning.  The coffee was… (drumroll, please)… diner coffee. 😉  All in all it was a good breakfast and a great start to our first full day in Costa Rica.

From there we headed to the Mas X Menos grocery store.  We knew it was on the same strip, so we figured we would just head down until we found it.  We decided to split up so some could drive and the rest could enjoy a nice walk.  All was well until–you guessed it!–we could not find the store.  A nice vendor on the street told us it was “just 2 blocks up, right past the Banco Nacional,” so we kept walking, but the Banco Nacional was nowhere to be seen.  THEN we see one of the cars coming back down the street to tell us that (1.) he drove all the way up and never saw it and (2.) the other car had been pulled over by the police.  GAH!   But fortunately, my brothers drove by shortly (having been pulled over for just a routine check) and we all found the store pretty quickly after.  Phew!  🙂

The Mas X Menos is a pretty decent grocery store.  It is pretty crowded and unfamiliar for those used to a big American grocery store, but we managed to get everything we needed for a week’s worth of meals for 12 people loaded into only three shopping carts and costing a little less than 222,000.00 US Dollars.  Errr wait, I mean CR Colones!

The second trip into Jacó was a hiking adventure on Miro Mountain.  We were not able to go since we had the little ones, but everyone said it was amazing.  The hike was pretty steep and muddy in places, but had amazing views over the ocean.  There is an abandoned restaurant that was never completed and has become a showcase of graffiti on the unfinished walls of the building.  I will show off some of the pictures that everyone took.miro-2

Our last trip into Jacó was for shopping and dinner.  We headed in toward the late afternoon and spent an hour or two wandering the main strip before dinner.  There are so many stores filled with beautiful and brightly colored souvenirs.  There is also a lot of woodwork and jewelry.  Most of our group did some good shopping here, but I learned that these stores are NOT for little ones since the majority of the stores have narrow aisles, breakable goods, and everyone’s favorite sign (you break it, you buy it!).  Needless to say, I found it much safer to window shop from the outside!

My favorite shop was the Fruity Monkey Poop store.  Not only is it awesome because of its name, but also because they were selling my kind of souvenirs like chocolates, coffee, soaps, lip balms, etc.  To be fair, the other stores probably sold this stuff too, but I didn’t notice because (1.) I was too distracted keeping my kid’s hands to himself and (2.) the other stores didn’t have “fruity monkey poop” in the title!img_4181

After shopping, we hit up TacoBar for dinner.  I was very excited to try it after reading about it on tripadvisor.com and this stellar review on My Tan Feet.  We really enjoyed the food here!  It is definitely not a budget meal, but it is a nice treat.  Most of us got the 3-taco dinner, which includes the salad bar.  All of the tacos were delicious and even the salad bar was really good. I was also pretty impressed with the kids’ meals that are inexpensive, tasty, and come with a batido for the drink.  And as good parents who care about our children’s health, we made sure to limit their sugar intake by drinking half of the delicious smoothies ourselves! hehe!  If we were to come back to this part of Costa Rica, I think we would be sure to come back to Tacobar!

A quick Side Note About Finding Your Way Around in CR:

Since I have mentioned the wacky Costa Rican directions multiple times, I thought I should make a couple of clarifications.  First of all, it is NOT that our Air B&B host was a poor direction-giver!  What we had read about beforehand and then learned by experience is that addressed and street names are not the best way to find your way around in Costa Rica.  In fact, sometimes they are nonexistent!  GPS and landmarks seem to be the primary way to get around.  Here is an article we read in the Wall Street Journal: “When Getting Directions, It Is Best To Know Where The Fig Tree Was”.  This gave us a pretty good heads-up of what to expect when we got there.  Secondly, it turns out that there are two streets into Jacó and sure enough there is a blinking light, a police station, a school, and a restaurant called “Maria Something” right there before the second street into town!  Looks like our Air B&B host had it right!  😉

Next Up:

Hiking through the rainforest for some fun in the waterfalls and kayaking on a perfect morning…

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