A Week in Jaco as a Room2Board Volunteer
I’ll start by introducing myself; I am a 22-year-old Dutch girl, currently volunteering at the Room2Board hostel for three months. Back home I study Medicine and live with two other Dutch girls. In my gap year I wanted to travel the world and surf, and there is no better way to combine these two than with the R2B volunteering program. Enough about me now, let me take you along in my adventures of this week. Here is a week in Jaco as a Room2Board Volunteer.
Monday is recovery day from the busy weekend. The best way to get back in the routine is to go and grab a coffee at one of the many little coffeeshops in Jaco Centre. Costa Rica is known for its delicious coffee so make sure you try the traditional Café Chorreado. On the way back I always walk by the beach and try to spot surfers catching awesome waves. At 5PM m
y evening shift starts, and together with another volunteer we check in the last guests. As the sky starts to turn pink, I sneak out to the beach for a quick picture and the result is unbelievable. The sunsets in Jaco are breathtaking.
On Tuesday I am going on a tour to Tortuga Island with one of the guests that is staying with us in the hostel. It’s very easy to make new friends here because many backpackers are solo travelers. We take the boat to the beautiful Island and when we get there it just feels like paradise. After a 40-minute hike we relax a bit and then it’s time for the banana boat. Not one of us is able to withstand the bouncing of the boat against the waves and we end up getting swooped into the air. After some swimming and snorkeling we finish the day with a nice Piña colada and head back home.
Wednesday morning, I start work at 7AM. A lot of guests arrive before check-in time which gives them time to take a swim in the pool or rent a surfboard and catch some waves. This is always a nice time to get to know the guests a little and talk about the must-see’s around Jaco. The hike to the ruins of an old mansion called El Miro is one of them and it so happens to be on our schedule for today. A group of guests decide to join us, and it takes us around one hour from the hostel to walk up there. The Aztec-artwork and graffiti that you encounter on your way is astonishing. Once you arrive at the first panoramic viewpoint you can see the whole of Jaco town and beach, and it is an amazing spot to watch a romantic sunset. There is an option to walk even further where you would be able to see both Jaco beach and Playa Hermosa. Exhausted from the hike we settle down in on the comfortable booths at the sushi restaurant on the main street. On Wednesdays and Fridays they offer a 50% discount on almost all sushi rolls, that’s why we always get a big group and make it a night out on the town.
It’s Thursday and it’s about time to go and catch some waves. One of the surfing instructors is giving me a lesson and we’re going behind the line-up, the still water behind the waves, for the first time. He makes sure I know how to do a turtle roll to get past the bigger waves. Once we are behind the line-up I can relax and enjoy the amazing view. A good wave is coming and he tells me to start paddling, he gives me a little push and here I go. Before I know it, I’m standing and riding the wave down the line. Everybody in the water is yelling and encouraging me as I turn the board around and jump into the wave. Later tonight we are going to go the open mic night at a place in town where people with (or without) musical talent can grab a guitar or the microphone and perform. It’s one of my favorite nights of the week where you can just hang out with friends and listen to life music and relax.
On Friday morning I go to the farmers market to get the best freshly pressed orange juice and homemade banana bread. The farmers sell local fruits such as papaya, pineapple, mango, starfruit and rambutans and vegetables such as sweet potato and cassava. It’s the best place, and the cheapest, to stock up for the week. In the afternoon I have the day shift in which we check most of the guests into their rooms and start promoting the karaoke night that the hostel organizes every Friday. Around 9 we get together, and we start the night off good with a chiligauro shot. The combination of the local rum, made from sugarcane, and the tomato juice with spices is just the thing that gets the party started. The karaoke night turns out to be a success and we’re celebrating a guest’s birthday by singing happy birthday in 5 different languages.
On Saturday it is time to get a workout in. I wake up at 8 o’clock and put on my trainers. Running alongside the waves and with a beautiful view of the forest clears the mind. After a refreshing shower, me and the other volunteers head to the main street to get lunch. We eat at a so-called soda, which stands for a small, family-like Costa Rican restaurant. Here you get to try the traditional recipes. The most typical one is “casados”, a dish which is made of salad, plantain, eggs or chicken, fish or beef and pinto (rice and beans). Costa Rica is also very vegetarian-friendly and considered a global leader in sustainability. There are many animal sanctuaries and low-emission farms to visit to learn about the indigenous wildlife and agriculture.
As unusual as it sounds, on Sunday we have the party of the week: beach party at Playa Hermosa. But before we get ready to show our dance moves, we go on a crocodile tour on the river Tarcoles. There are many tours available in the area and you can choose from adventurous ones such as zip-lining, ATV riding and canyoning but also from the more relaxed ones such as the coffee/sugarcane and chocolate tour. A guided tour through the national park of Manuel Antonio is also one of my favorites. On the nature tours you will get stunned by the rich flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Many beautiful animals like sloths, toucans, monkeys, butterflies, and macaws still live out in the wild. The guide will point them out for you and use his scope to amplify the animals.
Pura vida is the best way to describe my week in Jaco.