The Central Pacific region of Costa Rica is a long swath of gorgeous land, encompassing sublime coastline dotted with national parks and palm-lined beaches, and inland stretches of ranches, coffee plantations, small villages, and forested mountains. There's a reason this is a popular place to visit: the region has a lot of pura vida to offer.
If you're a first-timer to Costa Rica, this region is all about Manuel Antonio and the acclaimed national park of the same name. (Manuel Antonio and the Arenal Volcano in the Northern Lowlands make the classic "get your feet wet" visit to Costa Rica.) For Costa Ricans, the Central Pacific means Jacó, the closest beach town to San José, and an odd mix of burgeoning condo developments and surf shacks. But you need not limit yourself to these two anchors: Herradura, Playas Hermosa, Esterillos, and Bejuco along this stretch of coast offer a little more solitude, although development is slowly creeping up here, too.
The region has become more accessible than ever, thanks to the 2010 opening of the San José–Caldera Highway CR27, which connects to the Southern Coastal Highway CR34.