I am a single women and I took my three boys ages 19,18 and 10years. I with had been to Jaco 4 years previously with my boyfriend. I rely heavily on reviews for everything and felt it was my obligation to share mine. I did a lot research for this trip to get the most for my money.
I rented two phones in case my older boys wanted to explore by themselves. I used Costa Rica Cellular Connection. www.costaricacellularconnection.com Their representative met us at the airport in San Jose when we arrived with the phones. The instructions were very easy to use and understand. I think once we rented the phones, to call anywhere in Costa Rica was $10 a day. No problem with the phones. I had my Sprint HTC Pro2 phone (which is an international phone) set up with a international phone plan for one month so I could use it there. My service was great no problems. Actually though my son uses AT&T and he had no problem calling anywhere as well as getting and receiving texts from home without an additional plan. I will add that his bill was $60.00 higher, so a plan or phones would be best.
I hired a driver to pick us up Juan Carlos Castillo [--] I picked him over Gray Lines as he was cheaper and more willing to pick me up when I arrived. Gray lines wanted me to wait for a scheduled pick up that was two hours after we arrived. Juan Carlos was right there with our name on a sign when we walked down to the exit. The van was comfortable, clean and a private ride for my family only. Both of his drivers were awesome. They were very, nice, clean, and knowlegeable on the history of costa rica and pointed out many of the plants and other points of interest as we drove to Jaco. I was impressed. I gave the driver a $20 on the way to Jaco and the other driver $20 on the way to the airport from Jaco.
We stayed at the Best Western at the end of town. We had two rooms next to each other. The older boys in one and my youngest and I shared a room. I like that it was on the beach and we could walk out to the beach. There was an awesome buffett breakfast each morning. I had stayed there previously so I knew the rooms are not luxurious. They are not. For me and my three boys it was good, actually probably better then a higher rated hotel. We always had a more then enough towels, blankets, hot water, AC, TV and comfortable bed. The maids cleaned the room everyday and even made towels in to animals sometimes using local flowers like they do on cruise ships.
Our first adventure was of course a canopy tour. We used Canopy Vista Los Suenos. I liked them a lot. I thought they were very safe and we had a great time. My 10yr old, who I thought might be scared had no problems. All boys even did the zip line upside down once time. I used their photographer for our photos. I also took pictures, but I didn't want to have to worry about "catching the moment" and wanted to enjoy the time with my children. There was an additional fee. It wasn't much and they delivered the photo CD to the hotel that night. Well worth it and the picdtures were great.
The boys also took surf lessons. I used Jaco Surf School. I paid for private lessons. So each boy had their own instructor. Again I paid for their photographer-smart move again because he had a high powered lens. We have pictures of a lifetime. Jaco has a much more relaxed atmosphere so at first I was a little skeptical of the little stand on the beach and the bohemian looking photographer. The surf instructors spoke English, they knew exactly what they were doing. They were right there by my children the whole time. By 45min in to the lesson they boys were begining to stand up by themselves on the board and surf short distances. By the second hour they were surfing!
That was a "everything was worth it" experience. Just watching your childrens confidence grow while having fun and bonding. The photos were spectacular. Great shot after great shot again delivered to us on CD to our hotel. Afterwards we had a late lunch with Gustavo Castillo (dutch) at the resturant behind the school. Just hanging out with the local crowd.
We also did a horseback riding trip. It was up the mountain trail with beautiful views of the coast. We had lots of fun and we saw monkeys and toucans on the trip
We took several trips in to Jaco during our stay. A cab for the four of us was about one US dollar from one end of town to the other. We walked all over Jaco shopping. Never did we feel threatened walking around on our own. Like any city be aware of your surroundings. I will say the latest we would walk around and shop was 7pm (dark). If we went after that it was to a resturant and back to the hotel by cab.
My children and I had a great time. I wanted them to see another culture where people spoke another language. I booked the hotel and airfare myself on Expedia. The whole trip for 5 days including air, hotel, food, surfing, canopy tour, horseback riding and spending money was about $5000