Two Sides to the Story

Published: October 28th 2013
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Costa Rica. Just saying the name conjures up images of lush, tropical forest, of pristine, palm-lined beaches, of cheeky monkeys and big, blue butterflies. Ever since the first time I visited Costa Rica over nine years ago, I’ve loved every inch of its natural beauty. There was only one place in the entire country that I avoided like the plague, a tiny black spot on its map of greens and blues. This place was Jacó.

In 2004, halfway through my first stroll in downtown Jacó, I could already feel an overwhelming contempt creeping into my system. What I saw disgusted me. I saw an Americanized, hedonistic cesspool; a place for college spring-breakers to get f**ked up without fear of the law; a place for perverted pensioners to find cheap sex, a place of feces-filled waterways, robber-filled streets, and drug-filled veins.

After two days, I’d had enough of the place to last me a lifetime. Even reading the name Jacó was enough to send shivers down my spine. Granted, at this time in my life, I was young and idealistic, ready to change the world, starting on a global scale. But it didn’t take someone which sensitivities such as mine to see that Jacó was a legitimate shithole (excuse the language, but no word exists in the thesaurus to describe it as well).

When I moved back to Costa Rica in January, I got an invitation from a friend to come visit his new home in Jacó. As much as I wanted to see him, I couldn’t stomach the thought of returning to the place I so despised. I got busy and the invitation became lost in the back of my mind. Nine months later, a series of seemingly unrelated events coincided and I found myself standing on the Pan-American Highway, hitching a ride to Jacó.

From the looks of it, not much had changed. A few of the ever-expanding construction developments had been finished, while many others remained as concrete skeletons, steel reinforcement bars sticking out like a bad hair day. But something was different. Maybe it was the town or maybe it was me, but suddenly Jacó didn’t seem like such a bad place.

I love that moment when I realize that I’ve started to love something that I previously held in disdain. It’s a magical moment of opening and acceptance, of realizing that even things that are flat still have two dimensions. Besides a length and a width, there are also shapes, angles, textures, patterns and shades that we often don’t take time to consider. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure - and both are tales worth telling; both are tales worth listening to.

Now, I'm able to see a Jacó that I never saw before. I see a Jacó that is both accepting and offering, that opens its doors to any and all - origins and proclivity to human vice aside. I see a town that is wonderfully malleable, allowing each resident or visitor to shape it as he or she chooses. Whether you come looking for the perfect wave, the perfect score, or just a really good bowl of locally produced granola topped with unpasteurized goat’s milk yogurt, you can find it here. Good things are happening in Jacó. And I might just keep showing up to watch them develop.

P.S. The most beautifully ironic part of the whole story to me, is that the one building that most offended me almost ten years ago as a symbol of the expansive avarice to be found in Jacó, now houses me as a guest. To Corey for offering refuge and illuminating the silver lining of the cloud that has darkened this corner of Costa Rica for far too long. Thank you.

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28th October 2013

I was just thinking of you yesterday as I sat at the counter. Alone eating breakfast I recalled our last conversation, short, like two ships passing in the night. It is good to read that you are well, happy, safe, and at peace. It is good to see your smile (and the wonderful pictures you capture). Is there a book in the making about your travels and lessons learned, or do we have to wait until you are an old woman sitting in a rocker spinning tales? Love, hugs and kisses to you. You are missed.
28th October 2013

Greetings from Venice. Looks like you will be in Costa Rica for a while? How is your nephew doing? Thanks for the update!
28th October 2013

Good to know
Thanks for painting a realistic picture of Jaco for me. I've been to many parts of Costa Rica but always kind of avoided Jaco, as you did, since I've heard too many negative comments. But some of these "corrupted" places have their own unique charm, and some great people as well. So maybe I'll pick up on the next travel deal I see that heads to the Jaco beach. By the way, I like your writing style -- very thoughtful. And I love Malaysia. You can find me at

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