The Costa Rica Star - At the recent World Travel Market fair in London, representatives from the national tourism boards of Central America and Mexico were anxiously waiting to hear the name of their respective countries called to receive the prestigious World Travel Award for best beach destination. Nominated for Costa Rica was Jaco Beach, a place that not long ago was pejoratively known as “Gringo Beach.”
Located in the province of Puntarenas, Jaco Beach has enjoyed being considered the darling beach of Costa Rica on and off from about the late 1970s to the 21st century. The dejection of derisively being called Gringo Beach began in the late 20th century due to the town’s reputation as a magnet for seedy nightlife activity, which was mostly given patronage by tourists from the United States. Things are changing, however, and Jaco Beach and the surrounding communities of Playa Herradura and Playa Hermosa are once again enjoying status as the crown jewels of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The negative attention is now shifting toPlaya Tamarindo in the province of Guanacaste, which has been unfairly labeled as “Tamagringo” by the growing hater class.
As one of the nearest coastal destinations to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in Alajuela, Jaco Beach has been transformed from a sleepy fishing and surfing village into an international resort city by eager foreign developers who realized the sheer potential of the area. Development was envisioned prior to 1980, and foreign investors flush with cash from Dot-Com Bubble earnings were able to break ground and complete the first set of luxury resorts and high-rise condominium towers that today make up the Jaco Beach seaside skyline.
The U.S. Housing Bubble of the early 21st century brought even more cash and tourists to the area, but it was during this time that Jaco Beach also lost a bit of its shine and gained a reputation as a party town with an atmosphere that seems to have inspired the film Runner Runner. A new wave of developers such as Rory Hascall of Croc’s Casino Resort and Alfredo Atmetlla of Jaco Walk have realized that the sleazy era of Jaco Beach is at the hangover stage now. It is time to once again focus on families, ecotourism, deluxe vacations, surfing, etc.
Organizers at the World Travel Fair nominated Jaco Beach in Costa Rica alongside other prime destinations such as Cancun in Mexico, Bocas del Toro in Panama, and Placencia in Belize. In the end, Cancun won the coveted award, but the fact that Jaco Beach was nominated is a step in the right direction for this charming beach community in Costa Rica.