If you are not confined to the comfort of a bus that's simply getting your from point A to point B, there are some great stops to make on the coastal highway! Of course I discovered these AFTER my friends had rented a car and drove the 7 hours south to visit me in Zancudo. If you're in a private shuttle, you can ask the driver to stop at Jaco and Tarcoles.
Driving south from San Jose ....
Crocodile Bridge, TárcolesAbout 1 hour 20 minutes outside of San Jose is an unassuming cement bridge that spans the Río Tárcoles and is also known as Crocodile Bridge.
Park on the north end of the bridge and (carefully) walk both sides of the bridge to view a lot of very large and very wild crocodiles sunbathing and swimming in the polluted river.
On most days there are anywhere from a dozen to 30 crocodiles that you can see from the bridge. It's a safe distance and you can get some great photos; especially if you have a good zoom lens!
See Río Tárcoles Crocodile Bridge for more details.
JACO Viewpoint, JacoAbout 20 minutes after you leave the crocodiles, you can't miss the large colored letters spelling out J-A-C-O with sculptures of the local wildlife on each letter on the side of the road. There's a big enough parking area to pull over and enjoy the expansive view of Jaco beach.
It's a grey sand beach with a few large hotels. It's honestly not the most amazing view I've ever seen but it's a nice way to break up a drive and take the obligatory photo with the sign.
Grab a SnackAt any of your stops, you can find some great local snacks.
Pipa (PEE-pah) is a young green coconut that is full of refreshing coconut water. You can get these for $1 from roadside carts. They are kept chilled and vendor will cut the top off and give you a straw.
You also want to keep an eye out for Copo or Granizado carts which is a cup of shaved ice with sweet syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and other goodies.
Watch the Sunset & Surfers, Playa HermosaTake a small detour and drive into the town of Playa Hermosa. It's a great surf spot where you can watch the locals and gringos alike catch some big waves.
If you're there in the evening, you can see the sky turn shades of pink and orange as the sun sets over the water. There sure are some great sunsets in Costa Rica.