Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 8: Massage, Music & a Spectacular Sunset

Destination: Jaco

Jaco beachfrontThe staff and guests at Canciones del Mar were abuzz with excitement this morning. A beachside wedding was planned for sunset, and preparations were being made to ensure the ceremony was an unforgettable experience. It looked to be an intimate gathering, with around 50 friends and family. Linen-covered tables adorned with flowers accented an already tropical backdrop.

After a tasty buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant, I nipped out for stroll on the busy streets. The weekend had arrived, and with it came hundreds of Ticos from the city. Ready for some sun and fun, they set up tents and hammocks along the beach while salsa and reggae blared from nearby houses. Everyone was gearing up for the big reggaeton concert that evening, and shops played Daddy Yankee's Gasolina song over and over, in anticipation of the singer's performance.

View from rooftop terraceI treated myself to an invigorating deep-tissue massage at one of Jaco's day spas, where my therapist spent a good hour kneading every bit of tension from my shoulders. The spa menu included treatments like ginger-lime body scrubs and lemongrass wraps, with delicious natural ingredients that probably tasted as good as they smelled.

Rayna had been craving a good hamburger all week, and we finally found it at Jaco Taco of all places. This Tex-Mex restaurant hosts DJ parties, ladies' nights and happy hour with two-for-one drinks, and is a popular tourist hangout.

We returned to Canciones del Mar, where owner Peter showed us the hotel's brand new roof-top terrace, complete with Jacuzzi and ocean view. Slated to open the first week of February, the terrace will serve Spanish tapas, or savory appetizers, Jaco amphitheateralong with a nice selection of wines -- the perfect accompaniment to a Jaco sunset.

By 5 pm, the outlying road to Jaco was packed with cars overflowing from the concert's parking area. While the music didn't appeal to either of us, a part of me wanted to go, to people watch if nothing else. We decided instead to watch our final Jaco sunset from the Greek-inspired amphitheater at Villa Caletas, a luxury hilltop hotel 15 minutes outside of town.

Looming high above the Pacific Ocean, the amphitheater had a 180-degree panorama of Jaco, Herradura and Punta Leona. Racing past reception, we arrived just before twilight. New Age music drifted from the speakers as guests relaxed with cocktails and cappuccinos, Jaco sunsetwatching the sky take on different colors.

Waiters ran up and down the steep amphitheater steps, refilling glasses while artfully dodging small children. Between the Zen music, Greek architecture and flowing cocktails, the whole experience seemed dreamlike.

After a low-key dinner in town, we headed back to the comfort of Canciones del Mar, where the wedding party was just winding down. A few speeches and Lionel Richie ballads later, and the celebration was over, or at least was moving somewhere else.

Jaco BeachJaco, with its rapid development and huge influx of tourists, has gotten a reputation as nothing more than a party town. In our week of adventure tours and explorations, it was clear that Jaco is just like any other destination -- exactly what you make of it.

Stay out each night until dawn and you will always remember it as a "spring break" destination. Spend your days making sandcastles with your kids and you will walk away thinking of Jaco as a family-friendly spot. For me, the Jaco experience meant creature comforts, fabulous food, great surf and tons of adventure opportunities.

Day 8: Massage, Music & a Spectacular Sunset in Pictures

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