Jaco, Costa Rica

The closest beach destination from San Jose& a great jumping off point for adventure!

The Jaco Vibe

Jaco is one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica due to how close it is to the San Jose airport.

Within 1.5 hours of leaving the airport, you can be relaxing on this Central Pacific coast beach.
Jaco is great for beach walking, surfing, enjoying plenty of delicious restaurants, nightlife, and more!

In all honesty, Jaco is not on our list of must-visit places in Costa Rica. We find it too hectic, dirty etc. However, it is a great jumping-off point for tons of activities. 

If you are questioning if Jaco is the right spot for your vacation, feel free to reach out to us. We are happy to try and provide some clarity. 

Now on to the rest of the Jaco, Costa Rica travel guide!

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Map Of Jaco

Jaco is located in the Puntarenas Province on the Pacific coast. It is the closest major beach town from the San Jose area. 

Jaco at a Glance

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose

Popular Things to Do

surfing, enjoy the nightlife, relax on the beach, go zip lining

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, walking in the downtown area

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April

 

Getting to Jaco

Flights to Costa Rica

The easiest way of getting to Jaco is by flying in to the San Jose International Airport. From San Jose, it is about a 1.5 hour drive to Jaco. 


Renting a Car

We suggest renting a car if you plan on traveling to other places and want the flexibility of not having to depend on tours. 

We suggest booking your rental car with Adobe. They are the most trustworthy company in this country (in our opinion) and we have partnered with them to get a 10% discount for you on your rental car. You can find out more here. 

FIND OUT HOW TO GET UP TO 10% OFF YOUR CAR RENTAL IN COSTA RICA!

From the airport, it will only take you about 1.5 hours to get to Jaco. The highway is well maintained and easy to navigate. Just be warned this is a toll road. If you don’t have colones you can pay in dollars and they will give you colones as change. I like to pay with a $10 bill and then the change is enough for me to pay the rest of the tolls in colones.

About an hour into your drive you will cross over a river called Rio Tarcoles which is usually lined with people. Pull your car over and walk back onto the bridge to check it out. You’ll see huge crocodiles below waiting for a tasty meal. 🙂

You do not need to rent a 4×4 for this route. The roads are all paved.

Private Transfer

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private transfer is always a good option. Adobe Car Rental now provides an excellent transfer service. You can find out more and get a price quote here

Public Bus

If you are only going to Jaco and not planning on traveling to other places, the bus from San Jose is your cheapest option.

The public bus will only cost you a few dollars and runs several times a day.

It’s not the most comfortable and if it’s full you could be left standing for the whole ride, but hey, it’s cheap!

Getting Around in Jaco

If you’d like to do a lot of exploring in the Jaco area we suggest renting a car. Otherwise, you’ll have to depend on pre-packaged day tours. 

If you plan on just exploring downtown Jaco and relaxing on the beach, you don’t need a car. The downtown area is very walkable.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving from San Jose to Jaco, but would like a car while you explore Jaco, you can rent a car from Adobe and input Jaco as your pick-up location.

They have an office directly in the downtown area of Jaco. In the comments section of the rental car reservation, you can specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel. Adobe will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their location.

Book Your Transportation

Jaco Weather

Jaco’s climate is the perfect example of Costa Rican seasons.

From December until mid-Aril there is hardly any rain and the weather tends to be very hot. Just keep in mind that this is also prime tourism time and Jaco tends to be one of the most crowded beach towns in the country.

From mid-April until the end of July you can expect sunny and hot days with a daily afternoon thunderstorm. The rain usually rolls in around 2 pm and typically does not last for more than a few hours. Even after the rain ends for the day it tends to stay hot here.

From August until December the weather is a complete surprise. Sometimes there will be nice sunny days and other times there can be nonstop rain.

Keep in mind that this is also the least popular time to travel so there are fewer tourists and everything is cheaper.

Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide

(with great Jaco tips)

Jaco Hotels

High-End Hotels

Hotel Villa CaletasLuxury at its finest! The views here are incredible. The property has a victorian design and there is an infinity pool, two restaurants, and concierge service.

Best Western Jaco (All Inclusive)Located directly on the beach, this resort features pools, a volleyball court, tennis courts, and multiple restaurants. This is the perfect place for the whole family.

Croc’s ResortThis resort features multiple pools, restaurants, a bar, and more! It is located directly on the beach.

Mid-Range Hotels

Vista Guapa Eco Surf CampNice hotel away from the action of downtown Jaco. There is a swimming pool and a fitness room.

Pacific Suites Boutique HotelLarge hotel with a pool, restaurant, and fitness center in downtown Jaco.

Budget Hotels

Perlita: There is also an outdoor pool for guests to enjoy. It is about a 10-minute walk to the beach in Jaco.

Buddha House Boutique Hostel: This hostel has private rooms with shared and private bathrooms. There is also a shared kitchen and small pool on-site. It is located close to the beach.

Jaco Villa Rentals

If you are traveling with a large group, renting a villa can be a great way to enjoy your vacation in Jaco.

We suggest staying at Los Suenos Resort located in the small town of Herradura, just next to Jaco. Los Suenos is a large resort property with marina and golf course run by Marriott. There is a huge variety of villas at all price points here. For a ton of options, check out VRBO.

If you would prefer to book directly from Marriott, you can check out these two villas:

Villa La Perla – Four bedroom, five bathroom, sleeps eight. There is a private pool, grill, and hot tub on the private property with access to resort amenities. 

Harmon Estate  – Six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, sleeps twelve guests. There is a private pool, pool table, and access to resort amenities.

Things to Do in Jaco

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Chill on the Beach

Jaco beach is perfect if you want a large open beach. If you’d like a bit more privacy head to the northern part of the beach. It tends to be empty there.

For more beach variety, head south to Playa Hermosa or north to Playa Herradura. Both beaches are also very nice and tend to be less crowded.

Go an ATV Adventure

Go with an experienced guide for a thrilling ATV experience through dense jungles. Along the way you might see some wildlife like sloths and monkeys.

 

 

Try Out Zip Lining

There are a few different places to zip line near Jaco. All are excellent with well maintained, safe courses that will give you a nice thrill.

 

 

Go Paragliding

Try out a tandem paragliding experience over the beautiful Central Pacific coast. This is not for the faint of heart, but is sure to be an experience you’ll never forget!

 

Go Partying

If you are into the nightlife scene, Jaco is where it’s at. Because this area is pretty saturated with backpackers there are tons of clubs and bars along the main stretch downtown.

Go Whitewater Rafting

There are two places to go white water rafting near Jaco. The Savegre River is for less experienced rafters and has class II and class III rapids. The Naranjo River is for more experienced rafters and has a class of III and IV.

 

 

Take a Surfing Lesson

There are tons of companies that offer surfing lessons in Jaco. Just walk the downtown area and you will find plenty of options.

 

 

Try a Combo Tour

A combo tour is a way of combining many activities in one fun day. We are huge fans of combo tours in Costa Rica! Often they will save you money instead of booking many different separate activities. Plus, they save you the hassle of planning many things on your own. Here are a few of our favorite combo tours in Jaco.

 

 

Watch the Sunset

Grab a beer at one of the many convenience stores and sit on Playa Jaco for sunset. We’ve never had a bad sunset view in Jaco.

Take a Day Trip to Isla Tortuga

Isla Tortuga is a beautiful uninhabited island located off the Pacific coast. We love taking a day trip here by boat! You can enjoy snorkeling, hiking, rent kayaks, and eat a tasty lunch on the beach.

 

 

Hike Miro’s Mountain

A secret hidden gem when visiting Jaco is the hike up Miro’s Mountain. Search for “El Miro” on your GPS or in Google Maps and it should come up.

The trailhead is not marked, but it is located directly across from the gas station in the south part of town. If you can’t find it just ask someone for help.

The hike is a little over a mile one way. Make sure to walk far enough to get to the abandoned restaurant. It’s super cool! Plus you’ll get a great view of Jaco.

Check out the Farmers Market

Every Friday from 7am to 2pm next to the soccer field in the center of Jaco there is a farmers market.

We love the farmer’s markets in Costa Rica because you can find tons of exotic fruits you’ve probably never seen before.

Visit Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica and it is only a short drive from Jaco. We have a complete guide for how you can visit here.

Visit Carara National Park

This national park is located just north of Jaco. We love hiking here for bird watching. It is the perfect spot to potentially spot tons of scarlet macaws. We have a complete guide to visiting the Carara biological reserve.

Head South to Manuel Antonio National Park

The drive to Manuel Antonio National Park will take about 1.5 hours. It is completely possible to visit this Costa Rican highlight as a day trip.

 

 

Go Sport Fishing

If in shore or deep-sea fishing is your thing, Jaco is a great place to take a trip from.

We suggest booking your trip with Captain Jorge on the Barrileta out of Herradura (just north of Jaco).

During your trip, you might catch mahi-mahi, wahoo, dorado, red snapper, and more.

Jaco Restaurants

There is no shortage of restaurants in Jaco! Here are our faves.

Fine Dining

Adventure Dining– We love the concept of this place! They will pick you up from your hotel in Jaco in a shuttle van that takes you to a beautiful property at the top of a high hill with amazing views. A fine meal with an open bar is served followed by dancing. This is truly a super fun experience!

Amphitheater Restaurant- This restaurant is located at the Villa Caletas hotel in Herradura. We suggest going here at sunset.  You can sit in their outdoor Roman amphitheater on a cliff above the ocean. The food is also amazing.

Adacus Mediterranean Cuisine– Delicious restaurant located in Croc’s Resort. The food is excellent and the restaurant has a great view of the ocean.

Mid-Range

Ohana Sushi Tapas– There is nothing better than enjoying sushi when the fish was just caught that day. This place is excellent. 

The Beer House– Great craft beer, live music, and tasty food. A great spot to spend a relaxed evening.

Sabress Kosher Restaurant– Delicious and fresh Middle Eastern food. They also have tons of vegetarian options.

Jerah– Amazing Thai food! Just note that they only accept cash. 

Budget-Friendly

Taco Joint: On point tacos at a reasonable price. A great lunch spot.

The Pizza Shop: Seriously top-notch pizza at a very reasonable price.

Soda Jaco Rustico: A great dinner spot if you want an authentic Costa Rican meal at a really good price.

Digital Nomads in Jaco

If you plan on working while in Jaco there are a few things you should know.

– In general the internet is usually decent, but it’s always a good idea to ask about the internet speed before booking a place.

– If you need a co-working space check out Selina Hotel. They offer co-working spaces for $10 per day, and you don’t need to be a guest. 

Packing for Jaco

Bug Spray – The second the sun goes down the mosquitos come out in full force. Don’t forget, aerosol cans are not allowed in luggage, so bring spray in a normal spray bottle. 

Sun Protection – Costa Rica is not too far from the equator. The UV index here is high! We suggest bringing a wide brimmed hat, UV protecting shirts, and of course high SPF sunscreen.

A Rain Jacket – If traveling during rainy season you might have some rainy afternoons. We like to bring a lightweight jacket because even when it rains it stays hot!

…for more packing tips check out our complete packing list for women and our packing list for men.

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Jaco Travel Tips

– Be careful when swimming. In certain spots, there are strong currents. It is best to ask at your hotel before swimming so they can direct you to the calmest areas. 

– This area can get really crowded during peak travel time. It is always best to book your hotel early.

– If you want more relaxed vibes and are interested in surfing, we suggest staying just south of Jaco in Hermosa

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2 Responses

    1. Yes! You will have no problems in Jaco. All the roads are well paved and frequently traveled. Also, the highway from San Jose to Jaco is well maintained as well.

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