Quiet, intimate and safe,
Vista Pacifico Hotel
with a Swimming Pool
set in tropical gardens has
Studios, One and
Two Bedroom units
with Cable TV, WiFi, Kitchens,
Hot Water and Fantastic Views.
Rooms from $55 - $150 /night for 2 people.
A Paragliding Story
from Hotel Vista Pacifico, Jaco, Costa Rica
Where Strangers Can Become Friends
By Peter and Nancy, Washington State
From: The Rainier Paragliding Club Newsletter - May 2009
Nancy and I decided to visit Costa Rica this winter. Our goal was to fly and surf daily if possible, and to hike-explore occasionally. Nancy is a new surfer and I am a new P-3 pilot. We selected the coastal town of Jaco (pronounced “Haco”), because of its reputation for mild surf and its proximity to several paraglider sites. We stayed at Hotel Vista Pacifico, a small Canadian-run hotel, located on a hilltop some 200 feet (80 meters) above the valley and less than a mile from the town and beach. From the pool deck, one can see the local paraglider launch site just 1.7 miles away and, with binoculars, you can even make out the wind streamers. Cool on-shore breezes keep things comfortable even during the hottest parts of the day. Breakfast is included (during the high season) and most rooms have kitchenettes with microwave oven, refrigerator and hot plate. A communal barbeque is located on the pool deck.
As this aerial picture of Hotel Vista Pacifico was taken by a Paraglider,
we took the liberty of photoshoping one of our guest pilots into the shot.
We rented a little Suzuki 4x4 Jimmy, which was expensive but essential for flying and surfing. It served us well. There are several flying sites within an hour’s drive of Jaco but, in the end, all my flights were at the Jaco site. On day one we checked out the launch. With no local pilot to give me a site briefing, I was reluctant to take the leap, so we scouted only. The launch is at 860 feet, on a ridge that climbs from the valley floor. It is an easy 13-15 minute drive from the hotel on a paved single-lane road that seems to have no clear purpose or destination. The diurnal on-shore breeze, so welcome at the hotel, was not evident at launch, even though both locations faced southwest. Instead, we found thermal cycles, usually light and well spaced. The LZ was any of several large pastures immediately below or, if one were to venture towards the beach, 2.5 miles away, a number of open areas would serve as well.
On the second day, we were delighted to find a new guest at the hotel, Don Herres, a BC pilot from Nanaimo, Canada. He and his family were also on a two-week Jaco holiday. Perfect! Don has been flying for 15 years and proved to be a great companion and coach for this mostly Torrey Pines pilot with little thermal flying experience. We soon settled into a comfortable blend of air and sea with daily trips to the beach and the launch. We usually flew once a day but multiple launches were certainly possible. Flights ranged from less than 10 minutes to close to an hour. On many days there was significant development, usually behind launch, but sometimes overhead. Cloud base was usually 3,000 to 3,500 feet AGL. Some days were cloud free.
Thermals were typically “punchy little bullets”, according to Don, lifting along the ridge. If one could stay with them enough to get 300 - 400 feet over launch, they seemed to “coalesce”, according to Don, making things much easier. I was getting a good education. Nancy was our driver. We were the only pilots flying until the last couple of days of our visit. By our third flying day, I was getting a bit more comfortable with all the bumping around up there. As usual, I was in and out of those “bullets”, sometimes below launch, then working my way back up to a couple hundred over. This day, I finally hitched a good one that took me to 1,500 feet. It was a very good day for me since I launched first and landed after Don, who had “lawn darted”, as he says. That was the only time I can claim altitude on Don. From then on, he was always the high guy.
The next day Don launched first at 09:15. In ten minutes, he was at 3,000 feet and on his way to the beach. I did my usual bobbing around below and above launch before finally finding the “up” switch. At 2,000 feet my wing got whacked (no collapse) enough to mellow my confidence a bit, but it was still a great flight. Nancy picked me up at the most distant pasture and off we went to Clarita’s Beach Bar where we celebrated Don’s flight with margaritas.
Three days later, the cycles were very light. Don finally caught one and worked his way to 3,500 feet . . . off to the beach again – Bye Bye. An hour later, I was still on launch, geared up and waiting for the next cycle (I am not kidding. I didn’t dare get out of my gear for fear of missing the next one and I was NOT going to drive down). Finally, I got off but with little hope of anything more than a sled ride. To my surprise, there they were, those nice little “bullets”. I was really beginning to like those little guys. It took me 30 minutes but I eventually made it to 3,000 feet and headed for the beach, passing through four more thermals along the way. I was over Clarita’s with about 400 feet of altitude, toured the beach a bit, and then made a dandy landing right in front of the bar. That was the last time I even came close to making the beach (Don went three times) but for me, that was the frosting.
The cake was the daily flying experience in those punchy little thermals. For the two weeks we were in Jaco (middle of March) the flying conditions were good to great almost every day. We could have flown much more if we wanted to. Your results may vary.
If you want a bit more information, here are some links:
Hotel Vista Pacifico, Jaco, Costa Rica- "Hotel Vista Pacifico"
Jaco Surf Report - "http://www.surfline.com/surf-report/playa-jaco-costa-rica_5789/"
Association of Free Flight, Costa Rica (Spanish) - "http://www.parapente-costa-rica.org"
YouTube video (not me) - "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZaiAP8fqek"
C O U N T E R S