The Ancient Ruins of Jaco, Costa Rica
The El Miro Ruins
By Ashtyn Steele
The structure of the El Miro ruins are high in the mountains, but worth the hike. Image taken from Amche Payn.
The hot Costa Rican sun beat down on my arms, and I felt my pale skin turning a light shade of burnt red as the sun’s rays reached down to greet me. SPF 85 it is. My hair grew about 10 times its normal size as a wave of heat greeted me when I stepped off the plane from a 2.5-hour flight. I traded my winter coat in for a two-piece bathing suit, which I stuffed about 20 pair of in my carry-on, and I headed straight for the beach.
The white Florida sand I typically sink my toes into turned to black dirt that stuck between my toes like mud. The seashells I collect on the coasts of Florida turned to rocks I tucked into my pocket as souvenirs. Mountains lined the corners of the beach and palm trees swayed in the tropical oasis I had been dreaming of for months.
This wasn’t Florida anymore.
Best Times to Visit:
The north end of town is widely populated with surfers. Walking along the edge, you can see tourists taking lessons or a local riding the waves.
Jaco, Costa Rica, is a growing travel destination for tourists in the central area of Costa Rica. The friendly culture greets tourists with warmth as quickly and generously as the hot sun that beats down on the west coast. Drive along the edges of the city and you meet the Pacific Ocean. Drive an hour and a half east, and you are in the capital city of San Jose.
The footprints of tourists begin leaving their marks in the black sand beginning in December, and a steady flow lasts through April. Rather than the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall; Costa Rica has two seasons: dry and rainy.
According to the Costa Rica Travel Guide, the dry season is the peak time for tourists to visit because it promises long days of sunshine, surfing and adventuring. However, this is also the most expensive time to visit because it is the best season for tourism. The weather averages about mid-70s. However, you will want to bathe yourself in sunscreen and watch the humidity, or you’ll be bathing in sweat.
The rainy season consists of short days where dry patches of the earth are watered daily. Bookings are typically cheaper and easier to come by in the months of May through November. The weather stays consistent, averaging in the high 70s.
Way of Life:
The heat beats the sun at 6:30 a.m. as it rises in the sky. Grab your sunscreen!
I woke up to the sun beaming through the balcony window at 6:30 a.m. Even at 7:30 a.m., the streets were quiet and most restaurants were just opening their doors. It’s a testament to the “Pura Vida” (simple life) lifestyle.
Jaco is known for three things: the beaches, surfing and nightlife.
A local man throws a football with his dog, soaking in the warm morning sunshine.
The waves on the beach break as they crash against the shoreline. Locals and tourists walk under the shade of the palm trees and let their feet sink into the sand. Children play in the waves close to shore, careful not to go too far out because of the rip tide. The currents in the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica are strong and should be swam with caution. Pebbles of various colors line the shore and tourists bend down to stow them away in their pockets as souvenirs.
Playa Jaco, the main beach, is surrounded by four other beaches to explore.
Many surfing competitions take place on Playa Jaco. Image taken from The Next Somewhere.
Walking along the shoreline, you can see the silhouette of a surfer in the distance. The surfing in Jaco is known by locals and tourists as some of the best surfing in Costa Rica. The dry weather and big waves are perfect for an experienced professional or a learning rookie. Lessons are taught daily, and many tournaments are held there.
Locals and tourists roam the streets of downtown. Image taken from Way Tribe.
The downtown area bustles with crowds, living up to its nightlife reputation. Cars drive the two-way streets honking, tourists’ shoulders brush against each other as they pass on the sidewalk, and music blares from the small shops. The gift shops, restaurants and adventure spots are run by the almost 10,000 residents in Jaco; and they are visited by many of Costa Rica’s 1.7 million tourists who visit each year.
El Mira Ruins:
A wide view of the El Miro ruins. Not pictured: the monkeys swinging from the trees overhead. Image taken from Atlas Obscura.
Among the many things there are to explore in Jaco, the El Mira Ruins present a beautiful piece of history. Many say the ruins are from a mansion built long ago by a man who died before his project was completed.
We had one more full day of touring, and we used it to explore these ruins. The beaches of Jaco extend about 2.5 miles. Our hotel was on the far north side of the beach stretch, and the ruins were all the way on the south side.
Pachi's Pan has pastries, sandwiches and desserts. So many options and only so many days to eat it in! This picture is of a ham, egg and cheese pastry.
Halfway between the north side of the strip and the ruins is Pachi’s Pan, a downtown bakery. Stop for breakfast and sit on the balcony as you watch the cars speed by and the people pass by. The ham, egg and cheese-filled pastry was the best meal of the whole trip. The thick egg had layers of ham on the inside of a soft, flaky pastry with cheese that created hot strings when I bit into the bread. It was a satisfying breakfast of protein and fulfillment for anyone with an obsession with pastries, like me.
Four tourists walk along the coast, dipping their toes in the water occasionally to cool off. Walking along the ocean is cooler than walking on the hot cement in the middle of the day.
After leaving Pachi’s Pan, keep walking another mile and cross the highway. Walk past the gas station towards Quepos. There is no clear sign on where the trail starts, so look for an incline with people walking along it.
Climbing El Mira
The incline to the mountain is steep. Many locals and tourists run the trail because it’s shaded and the incline makes it a good combination of cardio and muscle building.
The first peek of the view of the mountain is a great area to take a break.
Halfway to the top is a lookout with white columns painted over with graffiti. There are a few benches placed along the lookout to sit on and catch your breath. The ocean view is spectacular and leaves you questioning how the view can be any better. It gives the motivation to keep walking up to find out.
As you continue up, there will be two paths to choose from. One leads to a restaurant, and the path to the left leads to the top.
The art on the white mansion is always being replaced! Every few months the graffiti changes as artists paint over it, wanting to make their mark on the ancient ruins. Image taken from Piko Travel.
The end of the trail leads to the white column three story ruins of a mansion. This, like the walls, has graffiti painted over it. Usually, graffiti can look trashy; but it looks to be a form of art here. The ruins overlook the beach below allowing you to see the whole city. Monkeys swing through the trees above and become easy to make friends with. There are tourists weaving in and out of the pillars supporting each level of the colorful structure.
The walk down is easy, and you’ll definitely be ready for another meal when you reach the end. Make sure to schedule this as one of your first excursions- you don’t want to be sore and have to climb up the incline. I’m speaking from experience.
The whole town gathers on the sand to watch the sunset on the beach.
At exactly 5:50 p.m., watching the sunset became an unmentioned appointment in our imaginary itinerary. The sky turns a bright tangerine orange as the sun sinks below the horizon and casts a golden glow on the sky around it. As the sun sinks, the tangerine mixes with the blue sky and slowly turns to pink, which fades to purple. The sun slowly sunk down below the horizon as I sunk in the memories of the trip. I like to claim sunsets are part of my love language. When you see them in Jaco, I think they’re everyone’s love language.
Jaco, Costa Rica is a beautiful city filled with passion for life and adventure for the soul. If you ever get the chance to go to Jaco, GO! Be ready for the adventure and the history that awaits you.
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