We study the problem of efficiently constructing a curve $C$ of genus $2$ over a finite field $\mathbb{F}$ for which either the curve $C$ itself or its Jacobian has a prescribed number $N$ of $\mathbb{F}$-rational points.

In the case of the Jacobian, we show that any ‘CM-construction’ to produce the required genus-$2$ curves necessarily takes time exponential in the size of its input.

On the other hand, we provide an algorithm for producing a genus-$2$ curve with a given number of points that, heuristically, takes polynomial time for most input values. We illustrate the practical applicability of this algorithm by constructing a genus-$2$ curve having exactly $10^{2014}+9703$ (prime) points, and two genus-$2$ curves each having exactly $10^{2013}$ points.

In an appendix we provide a complete parametrization, over an arbitrary base field $k$ of characteristic neither two nor three, of the family of genus-$2$ curves over $k$ that have $k$-rational degree-$3$ maps to elliptic curves, including formulas for the genus-$2$ curves, the associated elliptic curves, and the degree-$3$ maps.

Supplementary materials are available with this article.