A real surfers’ hostel, Nathon’s Hostel (Calle Central, tel. 506/2643-5415 or 8835-4359, www.nathonshostel.com , $10 pp dorm, $25 s/d private room) has an air-conditioned dorm with 12 beds, plus five private rooms with shared bath and cable TV. There’s laundry, lockers, a communal kitchen, and a bar with live music.
At the north end of Jacó , Cabinas Antonio (tel. 506/2643-3043, $15 s, $22 d low season; $18 s, $30 d high season) is a popular bargain for budget travelers, with 13 rooms offering fans and private baths with hot water.
Other backpackers’ hostels to consider include Hotel De Haan (Calle Bohío, tel. 506/2643-1795, www.hoteldehaan.com ), with dorms and private rooms, plus a swimming pool.
Danny, at Sunrise B&B (tel. 506/2643-3361, $15 s, $25 d), has simple rooms above the eponymous café on the main drag. The rooms have fans but no air-conditioning.
Villa Creole (tel. 506/2643-5151, www.hotelvillacreole.com , $60 s/d low season, $75 s/d high season) offers nine elegant, well-lit, air-conditioned rooms around a large pool with water cascade and an orchid garden. The rooms have orthopedic mattresses, Guatemalan fabrics, kitchenettes, security boxes, patios, and stone-walled private baths with hot water, plus WiFi. A minibus is on hand for tours, a rancho restaurant (open high season only) serves gourmet French creole cuisine. Rates include tax.
The prices are right at the Blue Palms Hotel (tel. 506/2643-0099, www.bphotel.com , from $56–61 s/d), a two-story modern hotel with a small swimming pool. Its 14 clean rooms vary, but all are nicely if simply furnished; avoid west-facing rooms, which get hot in late afternoon.
One of the best beachfront options is Clarita’s Hotel (tel. 506/2643-2615, www.claritashotel.com , $50–70 s/d low season, $60–80 s/d high season), with 16 rooms and one apartment with ceiling fans. Rooms get lots of light, and the batik fabrics are a nice touch. Some rooms are air-conditioned; others only have fans. Its bar-restaurant is one of the most colorful and lively in town, and it has a swimming pool with swim-up bar. Next door, Hotel El Jardín (tel. 506/2642-3050) is a good alternative.
The German-run Hotel Pochote Grande (tel. 506/2643-3236, www.hotelpochotegrande.net , $68 s/d low season, $85 s/d high season), on the north bank of the river, has 24 attractive beachfront rooms in shaded grounds with a pool. The clean, modern, modestly furnished rooms have private baths with hot water; four have air-conditioning.
The Canadian-run Vista Pacífico Aparthotel (tel. 506/2643-3261, www.vistapacifico.com , $55–150 s/d) is perched on a hill outside town, and run with loving concern by Greg and Jan Bertrand. The cozy rooms, studios, and one- and two-bedroom units have kitchens or kitchenettes, plus cable TV and WiFi. A poolside deck with barbecue is a lovely setting for enjoying the sublime views. It has a pet-friendly room.
The Dutch-run Hotel Mar de Luz (tel./fax 506/2643-3000, www.mardeluz.com , $75 s or $80 d low season, $90 s or $100 d high season), across the street, has modestly furnished air-conditioned apartments arrayed around a lush garden with a lap pool, kiddies’ pool, and solar-heated whirlpool tub. Some units are lined appealingly with river stones and have mezzanine bedrooms. Junior suites in a two-story structure have nicer furnishings. There’s a barbecue, laundry service, and games.
The Vista Guapa Surf Camp (tel. 506/2643-2830, www.vistaguapa.com , two-night packages from $700 s, $1,200 d including transfers, surf instruction, and meals), 400 kilometers inland of the beach north of town, is owned by former Costa Rican surf champion Alvaro Solano. A thoroughly modern surprise, this dedicated surf camp has a raised-ceiling clubhouse with glass walls, a spacious TV lounge, a huge cut-log table and chairs where meals are served, plus a large wooden deck with hammocks. There’s a small pool. It offers six air-conditioned rooms on a ridge (a steep hike); all are spacious, with heaps of light, terra-cotta floors, security boxes, tall wooden beds, modern tiled bathrooms, and glass french doors opening to wooden decks with hammocks. Choose from two- to seven-night packages, or specialized surfers’ packages. Free shuttles to and from San José  are offered on Saturday.
The French/Swiss-owned Hotel Poseidon (tel. 506/2643-1642 or 888/643-1242, www.hotel-poseidon.com , $75 s/d standard, $85 s/d premium low season; $105 s/d standard, $115 s/d premium high season) boasts a stunning frontispiece with carved wooden columns bearing Poseidon motifs and Persian throw rugs. There’s a tiny pool with whirlpool and swim-up bar. The 14 large rooms are delightfully furnished, and bathrooms have large mosaic-tiled showers. Upstairs air-conditioned rooms get the light; downstairs rooms (fans only) are a bit dingy.
With its own beachfront pool and lawns, the otherwise unremarkable two-story Hotel Tangeri (tel. 506/2643-3001, www.hoteltangeri.com , $104–276 s/d) offers 14 pleasantly furnished rooms plus villas. It has a swimming pool, plus its own sportfishing boat and shuttles.
The remodeled Hotel Canciones del Mar (tel. 506/2643-3273, www.cancionesdelmar.com , $95–190 s/d low season, $115–225 high season) offers heaps of personality in its design; the 11 one- and two-bedroom suites have lovely tropical furnishings plus WiFi. It’s known for its rooftop bar (with live music) and lovely little courtyard pool and sundeck. Chef Olman Mejías does a great job producing nouvelle cuisine in the restaurant.
The U.S.-owned Hotel Cocal and Casino (tel. 506/2643-3067, U.S. tel. 800/732-9266, www.hotelcocalandcasino.com , $85–120 s/d low season, $135–160 s/d high season) is also appealing, although there’s nothing remarkable in its decor. The hacienda-style hotel is popular with charter groups. Arched porticos grace 43 spacious air-conditioned rooms surrounding a courtyard with two pools and a bar. An upstairs restaurant overlooks the beach, and there’s a small casino. No children are permitted.
If a large-scale resort hotel is your thing, consider the Best Western Jacó Beach Resort (tel. 506/2643-1000, U.S. tel. 800/780-7234, www.bestwestern.com , from $109 s/d), at the north end of the drag. It has 126 air-conditioned rooms, all with pool or garden exposures. Amenities include a discotheque, car rental, swimming pool, floodlit tennis court, volleyball court, and water sports.
Also to consider in this price range, the uninspired Hotel Oz (tel. 506/2643-2162, www.ozbarandhotel.com , $65–85 s/d low season, $75–95 s/d high season), inland of the beach, has 13 well-lit, air-conditioned rooms with fans, cable TV, and colorful furnishings.
Adult couples might check into the contemporary beachfront The Copacabana Hotel & Suites (tel. 506/2643-1005, www.copacabanahotel.com , call for rates), an adults-only, clothing-optional resort. It has 12 one-bedroom oceanfront studios, suites, and junior suites, as well as a sports bar, swim-up bar in the pool, and a spa.
Elegant and contemporary, the Hotel Club del Mar (tel. 506/2643-3194, www.clubdelmarcostarica.com , $134–362 s/d low season, $153–383 s/d high season) nestles beneath the cliffs at the southern end of Jacó . It has eight hotel rooms, 22 one- and two-bedroom condos, and a penthouse suite. The spacious, conservatively furnished condos have huge lounges with green tile floors with throw rugs, rich hardwoods, king-size beds, twin bathrooms, and full kitchens. The suite has a quasi-Asiatic motif. Three rooms are wheelchair-accessible. There’s a pool and kids’ pool in lush grounds, plus a sunken horseshoe-shaped tapas bar and the Serenity Spa.
The contemporary beachfront Hotel Balcón del Mar (tel./fax 506/2643-3251, www.hotelbalcondelmar.com , $113–137 s/d low season, $136–158 s/d high season) has 47 modestly furnished and air-conditioned rooms (in three types) in a five-story unit, each with refrigerator, private bath, and hot water, plus balcony. There’s an elegant Mediterranean-style restaurant serving seafood, plus a small pool and Internet access.
Inland, the upscale Amapola & Casino (tel. 506/2643-2255, www.hotelamapola.com , $117–258 s/d low season, $173–306 s/d high season) is an all-inclusive hotel with two-story condo-style units in beautifully landscaped grounds some distance from the beach. It has 60 standard rooms, seven suites, and three fully equipped villas. Facilities include two swimming pools, a pool bar, and a whirlpool tub, plus a casino and a disco.
Yoga fans will appreciate Docelunas Hotel Restaurant & Spa (tel. 506/2643-2211, www.docelunas.com , $125–225 s/d low season, $140–225 s/d high season), a two-tier hotel with 20 spacious and elegantly furnished rooms (all with WiFi), spa, yoga studio, and open-air thatched gourmet restaurant facing an exquisite pool complex.
New in 2010, El Paso de las Lapas (tel. 506/2643-5678, www.elpasodelaslapas.com , $150 s/d low season, $200 s/d high season), midway between Jacó  and Playa Herradura , bills itself as a deluxe boutique hotel. (Well, actually it’s midway between Jacó and Playa Herradura.) The 10 huge suites have open kitchen-balconies overlooking two gorgeous landscaped swimming pools. The decor is a bit eclectic.
The 13-story Sonesta Jacó Resort (tel. 506/2208-6000, www.sonesta.com ) looks like it may finally open by 2012, bringing the first real luxury accommodations to town. The condo-hotel will offer 190 suites, all with whirlpools and gourmet kitchens. Still, its location beside the main highway leaves me scratching my head.