Jacó has a special place in the hearts of Ticos, as it is the quickest oceanside destination for landlocked denizens of the Central Valley. Many Ticos recall fondly the days when weekend shuttle buses would pick up beach-seekers in the city center and whisk them away to the then-undeveloped Pacific paradise.

The secret got out in the early 1990s, when Canadians on package tours started flooding in, though for the most part tourism remained pretty low-key. Things picked up a bit in the late 1990s, when surfers and anglers the world over started visiting Costa Rica en masse, though Jacó remained the dominion of Central Valley Ticos looking for a little fun and sun. However, things changed dramatically as soon as retiring baby boomers in search of cheap property began to relocate here.

In only a few years’ time, Jacó became the most rapidly developing town in all of Costa Rica. Plots of land were subdivided, beachfronts cleared and hillsides leveled, and almost overnight Jacó became the exclusive enclave of moneyed expats. Ticos were happy that development brought coveted Western institutions such as paved roads and fast-food restaurants, but as the initial flash of cash and glitz started to fade, some began to wonder if they had inadvertently sold out the ground beneath them.

Jacó's future is anything but certain. Optimists point out that the town is simply experiencing growing pains, and argue that drugs and prostitution have subsided with the increasingly stable infrastructure, and developments such as Jacó Walk, a recently erected, family-friendly plaza full of great restaurants, art and potted plants, certainly seem promising. Pessimists are quick to retort that wealth attracts opportunism, especially of the illicit kind, and that the problems in Jacó are just getting started.