West from San José, it is a short journey to the Pacific ocean, reaching the sea close to the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya. Going south from here, good beaches begin almost immediately but are at first rather busy, being the closest to San José.
Jacó, with its discos and nightlife, is the closest beach to the capital and is popular with surfers, backpackers and week-enders; rip tides make swimming inadvisable. Beyond Jacó things start to ease, Esterillos Este, a little further south, is much quieter: a stunning undeveloped stretch of sand with a few hotels and restaurants but not much more.
Contuining on south the beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park, where verdant tropical forest teeming with wildlife opens onto picturesque white sand beaches, is much visited. Most hotels are strung between Quepos and the park along 7km of road that runs through the forested hills; there's a mini realestate boom underway here. Quepos itself offers restaurants, cybercafés and lively bars.