Site Guide: Jaco, Las Terrazas
Jaco, Costa Rica
This small ridge in Jaco is the perfect place for beginners to get off the ground and for all pilots to enjoy some relaxed flying with views of the ocean.
This is the original flying site in Jaco known as Las Terrazas, a new higher launch was developed in 2018 to host the first annual Jaco Air Fest. This small ridge located behind the town of Jaco will surprise you with it’s flying when it’s turned on and the thermals are working but normally you get what you see here, the ridge. The site is ideal for beginners with large open fields below for plenty of landing space on glide and an easy drive up to squeeze in lots of small flights when first learning.
Landing: Sea Level
Altitude Record: 1820m
Jaco is a combination of soaring and thermalling on the small ridge. On good days it’s possible to thermal to cloud base which can reach beyond 1000m, these magical days are what the local pilots dream of, making it possible to glide over the city of Jaco and land at the beach. On days where cloud base is lower, the flying is generally restricted to the ridge and any thermals out in front.
A big open area with little obstacles make this take-off a nice, easy one. The wind direction can vary slightly on launch but is generally from the south-west. Pilots should check the wind sock prior to launching to get an understanding of which direction to launch in. The launch itself has been improved in recent years with the dark rock added to protect gliders from the typical red dirt found in this area.
This site is also a tandem site with operations daily, locals pilots request that tandems are given priority when taking off and once in the air for thermalling.
Directly below the take-off and along the ridge are several large fields, all appropriate for landing in. There is always a landing on glide here from the ridge, giving beginners piece of mind when flying here. If farmers are working in our ploughing the field then we do advise to choose one of the alternatives but there are no landing restrictions from any of the landowners for the immediate fields.
Pilots should to avoid landing in one part of the field immediately below the ridge where the road joins the ridge to start going up to take-off. This part of the field is behind a small ridge line and several pilots have been caught in rota when landing here.
Other landing options include Jaco beach but pilots will have to be nice and high to reach it on glide and patiently thermal up. If you’re on your way to the beach and not going to make it there are several bailout LZs on the way but after a certain point, it is all town before the beach.
The landing fields are also plenty big enough for pilots to practice ground handling and improve their kiting skills and this is why we always bring our beginner pilots here for their first few days of training.
Wait for a visual on a thermal before taking off here or good wind for soaring, otherwise it will be a quick sled ride to the LZ below. As far as XC goes, this isn’t the best place for it as climbing out of the valley there it very technical. Pilots looking for cross country should head to Los Indios in Rivas for mountain flying and potential for big XC. What makes Jaco special is that it’s one of the only flying sites in Costa Rica that consistently has glass off in the evenings throughout the Costa Rican summer.
There is a top landing restriction at this site, which includes the two plateaus above the take-off. Please respect these requests from the local and tandem pilots. A full list of site rules can be found at the entrance to the take-off.
How To Get There
From the main highway (Costanera) turn away from the town towards the mountains when you reach Pura Vida #2 Restaurant. Follow the road up the ridge until the top and take-off. 4x4 is not required for this road although it will help.
The flying site has a launch fee of $4 per day for pilots and $10 per tandem.
All images courtsey of Allan Candella. Contact Allan for site guidance in Jaco.