DRIVING TIME: 8.1 hours
HWY: CA 1
After finishing your entry requirements, follow the signs on CA 1 to Liberia. From Liberia, continue south 128 km to Esparza. At Esparza, head for San Mateo, which is the junction point for San Jose or the Pacific coast. Beach or city?
Those traveling to the Pacific coast must turn right at the junction point of San Mateo and head for Jaco. The three main travel destinations on this route are Jaco, Quepos, and Dominical. All three locations are worth a visit. You can also drive to the Panamanian border via this route, but the roads are worse the further south you travel.
Jaco is your first coastal town within striking distance of San Jose. This is where all the local Costa Ricans go for vacation and weekend holidays. Playa de Jaco is a great place to relax during the week, but on the weekends, the ambiance changes to a festival of loud discos and drunken calamity. This is a large coastal town with all the amenities of any resort location.
Quepos is a much quieter town than Jaco. It is located about one hour south of Jaco and is the home of Manuel Antonio National Park. Another 1-2 hours south is Dominical, a small coastal town with a great atmosphere. You will want to check out this place if you are a surfer. Even when there is no swell, it’s thumping.
If you want to get away from the tourists and into the outskirts of Costa Rica, keep heading south toward Golfito and the Panamanian border. From Dominical, it’s another six-hour drive. Head for San Isidro and then south toward Golfito. For those surfing enthusiasts, there is a great break at Pavones. If you’re in Dominical and a swell comes in, pack the surfing gear and head for Pavones and surf some long left-handers. Traveling during the rainy season, the road to the south of Dominical may not be passable. Ask the local Ticos for road conditions before you make the long trek.
Hotel & Eats
Right in front of Playa de Jaco, you can find one of the best beachfront hotels, Cebollinos..J or Hotel Cocal and Casino. Aside from the enjoyable traffic of people, it has incredible views, friendly staff, and surprisingly good food. The rooms also have a modern take and are thoroughly cleaned so that you can guarantee top-notch rest.
You can find traditional Costa Rican rice specialties in Rustico. It is a soda with mouthwatering offerings, such as rice with chicken, beef tongue, beans, and other dishes served buffet style.
Down in Domical, you can take a quick yoga retreat at Waterfall Villas, a serene boutique hotel with delicious vegan options and a space for open yoga. Even if you are not into yoga, you will undoubtedly find this place a paradise escapade from the nearby bustling towns.
If you are driving past Jaco, ensure your spare is in working order. These are some of the worst roads you will encounter in Costa Rica. The roads are passable, but they are muddy and filled with potholes during the rainy season.
Next Section of Drive
Costa Rica Border – San Jose