Frontier Airlines flies direct from Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica and back only on Thursday and Sunday for $450. Not half bad. The best time to do this is probably New Years Day through January 5. I would have preferred MLK weekend but I was summoned for jury duty on January 9. If I am selected, that puts the kibosh on all my plans for that weekend. Hotels are affordable and there will be no rental car expense.
I will have to spend the night in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. The 1/1 flight leaves at 6:33AM so that means a 4 AM wake up call. Costa Rica is in Central Time Zone so I re-gain an hour. It's a 4 hour flight so I land just after 9:30 AM local time. The next step is to take a cab to the bus station. The buses to Jaco Beach run every 2 hours from 5 AM to 5 PM. I should have enough time to catch the 11 AM bus but that is barring a delay or any issues with Immigration. I lean towards waiting until 1 PM. The bus station doubles as a shopping mall and has plenty of fast food restaurants and certainly an ATM to get some Costa Rican money and get some food. Lastly, since the bus ride is 2 hours, I will arrive just about on time for check-in to my hotel.
As for the hotels, I have plenty of options. There are a few hotels within walking distance of the bus station but they are much more expensive. I would lean towards taking a cab to a couple miles down the road to save maybe $60-70 per night. If I do so, I'll be within walking distance of Miro Mountain but a bit away from the main drag. Word on the street is that 2-3 days is enough to do justice to the city. I will use my Spanish but it should not be necessary in a tourist town.
I do want to hike Miro Mountain and take in the local culture and food as well as to enjoy a couple of drinks out on the town but most of my time will be spent in the surf. It will be around 90 degrees every day and it's the dry season with virtually no chance of rain.
Getting back could be a bit dicey. The flight leaves San Jose at noon. I have 2 options: 1) Leave Jaco at 5 PM the previous night and get a hotel near the airport with a free shuttle service. Doing so will allow me to sleep in a bit but I'll have some dead time.
2). Enjoy another night out in Jaco and get up early to catch the bus. If I choose this option, I will move to a hotel in the main drag so I can walk to the bus station. A 7 AM departure should give me plenty of time to catch my flight but because it is International, I figure I should be extra cautious and shoot for the 5 AM departure. Again, I'll have dead time but will be able to get a sit down meal at either the bus station or the airport. I'd lean towards this option. The flight lands in ATL just after 5PM so I'll get home at a decent hour.
I have not booked this trip yet and will decide within the next week or two but I am leaning towards going. It will be country #7. EDIT: Leaning towards a hotel within walking distance of the bus station in Jaco every night.