Jaco, Costa Rica: Bustling Beach Town Travel Guide

Jaco, Costa Rica is a bustling beach town on the Central Pacific Coast. This a great jumping-off point for tons of adventure and fun activities.

jaco costa rica view
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Jaco is one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica due to how close it is to the San Jose International Airport.

Within 1.5 hours of leaving the airport, you can be relaxing on this Central Pacific coast beach. This 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 to be too hectic, dirty etc. However, it is a great jumping-off point for other adventures. 

If you are questioning if this 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!

Overview of Jaco Costa Rica

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

Best Hotel

Hotel Los Ranchos

Grocery Stores

There are multiple grocery stores in town. We suggest the Mas X Menos which is located a block from the beach. It has the best selection. 


We suggest the BCR or BAC if you need cash. Please be aware of your surroundings when taking out money here.

Gas Stations

Servicentro Jacó or Delta Jacó

(keep in mind all gas stations here are full-service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).


Map Of Jaco

Jaco is a Pacific Ocean beach town. It is located just south of the resort town of Herradura and north of the surfing village, Playa Hermosa.

This town is located in the Puntarenas Province on the Central Pacific coast. It is the closest major beach town to the San Jose area. 

Jaco Weather

When it comes to weather, you can expect a tropical climate typical that is typical of this Central Pacific Region.

The year is generally divided into the dry season, from December to April and rainy season from May to November.

During the dry season the days are sunnier and there’s virtually no rain. However, it is the most popular time to visit so things book out fast and prices are higher.

On the flip side, the rainy or “green” season brings brief afternoon showers, though mornings often remain sunny. The lush surroundings become even more vibrant during this time.

Regardless of the season, temperatures typically hover between 75°F to 90°F (24°C to 32°C).

In our opinion, this area is generally OK to visit throughout most of the year. I would probably avoid planning your visit for September, October, and the first half of November because they can be the rainiest times of year.

However, I think that from May through August, even though it is rainy season the weather is usually decent. Just get up early and enjoy the morning before the short afternoon rainstorm rolls in.

If you would like more info, check out our complete guide to weather in Costa Rica.

Things to Do in Jaco, Costa Rica

Because Jaco is such a hub for tourism, there are a ton of fun things you can do near here.

Most of these activities are not located in the downtown area but are within an hour’s drive.

So you will need a rental car or will need to book day excursions with transportation.

Some other fun things to do include:

Take a Day Trip to Isla Tortuga

isla tortuga close up

Isla Tortuga is a beautiful uninhabited island located off the Pacific coast. We love taking a day trip here by boat.

During your tour, you will stop for some snorkeling in calm waters before arriving at Tortuga Island, located off the Gulf of Nicoya.

Here you can enjoy relaxing on a white sand beach dotted with palm trees. You can also go hiking, rent kayaks, enjoy a beach front cocktail, and more. 

We suggest a day tour with Turismo Marítimo del Pacífico. This tour also includes a stop to at Rio Tarcoles to see crocodiles, a stop at the Puntarenas lighthouse, a stop at a wildlife reserve to see monkeys, and lunch while on Isla Tortuga.

It’s awesome!

Arrange Your Tortuga Island Trip with Turismo Marítimo del Pacífico Here 🌴

Take a Day Trip to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is about a 45-minute drive from Jaco. This is the most popular national park in the country. It is home to TONS of wildlife, beautiful beaches, nice hiking trails, and a waterfall. 

You can drive your rental car and visit the park on your own. Just note that you will need to pre-book tickets. You can do that on the Costa Rica National Park website.

If you will not have a rental car, you can always book a day tour with transportation included.

We suggest this tour from Tucanes Tours. It’s great! It includes transportation from Jaco, lunch, an experienced guide who will show you tons of wildlife, and admission to the park. 

↪ Book Your Manuel Antonio National Park Tour 🐒

Visit Carara National Park

Carara National Park is a short drive from downtown Jaco (about 20-minutes away). The trails are flat and should be no problem for most skill levels. This is a popular place for bird watchers. 

You can visit this place on your own without a guide. You don’t need to pre-book tickets. Just note that the national parks in Costa Rica are going cashless, so you will need to pay the entry fee with card.

The mammals you may see at Carara National Park include; white-tailed deer, agouti, kinkajous, monkeys (Panamanian white-faced capuchin monkeys and mantled howler monkeys), sloths (Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths and brown-throated three-toed sloths), red brockets, collared peccaries, and white-nosed coatis.

If you are looking to see a lot of wildlife, we suggest taking a tour with Maurice. 

↪ Book Your Carara Tour with Maurice 🦜

Visit the Crocodiles on Rio Tarcoles

Rio Tarcoles is located nearby. This river is home to huge crocodiles. One of the best ways to see them for free is by going to the Rio Tarcoles Bridge and looking down. 

Alternatively, you can take a Tarcoles River boat ride with an experienced guide to see them up close. 

This tour is actually one of the coolest things we think you can do in Jaco. It’s a full-day experience that includes a visit to a butterfly garden, seeing monkeys up close, lunch, and seeing the crocodiles on Rio Tarcoles.

↪ Arrange Your Crocodile Adventure 🐊

For more ideas check out our guide to 26 Fun Things to do in Jaco. 

Jaco, Costa Rica Beaches

The Playa Jaco is several miles long and is perfect for relaxing, walks, surfing, and some water sports.

If you are interested in trying out surfing for the first time, this is a good place for it.

Jaco is sandwiched between two smaller beach towns, Playa Hermosa and Playa Herradura and close to one of our favorite white-sand beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Blanca.

Playa Hermosa is great for those of you who are more experienced surfers and want bigger waves.

Playa Herradura is a good place to stay if you are looking for a luxury hotel stay. It is home to Los Sueños Resort by Marriott.

We created a guide to the six best beaches in Jaco Costa Rica area to give you more ideas of spots to visit. 

Transportation to Jaco Costa Rica

Flights to Costa Rica

The easiest way of getting to Jaco is by flying into the San Jose International Airport. 

We usually have the best luck with booking our flights through Skyscanner. They are our go-to flight booking site for great rates.

Renting a Car to Jaco

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

Our favorite Costa Rica rental car company, Adobe, has given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you.

🚗 Reserve Your Rental Car with 10% discount 🚗

Shared Shuttle

A shared shuttle to Jaco is an easy way to get to the beach town without the stress of driving or the higher price tag of a private shuttle.

We always have the best luck finding convenient shuttles on the website Bookaway.

🚐 Reserve Your Shared Shuttle to Jaco 🚐

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.

A trusted driver will take you from the airport (or any other place in the country) directly to your place of choice. 

Get a Private Transfer Price Quote

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!

Driving to Jaco from San Jose

To drive from San Jose International Airport to Jaco, Costa Rica, you can follow these general directions:

Exit the airport and head southwest on Route 1 (also known as the Interamerican Highway) towards San Ramon. You will be driving on the highway for approximately 15 miles.

After 15 miles, you will reach the intersection with Route 27 (also known as the Caldera Highway). Take the exit to the right onto Route 27.

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Continue driving on Route 27 for approximately 43 miles until you reach the exit for Jaco. The exit is well-marked, and you will see signs for Jaco Beach.

Take the exit for Jaco and merge onto Route 34.

Continue driving on Route 34 for approximately 22 miles until you reach Jaco. 

As you enter town, you will see signs directing you to the town center and the beach area. 

A Few Things to Note

Just be warned that Route 27 is a toll road. If you don’t have colones you can pay in US 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.

Also, the scary thing on Route 27 is that it sometimes becomes two lanes for passing and then quickly cuts back to one lane again. Keep an eye on the merging signs because it can happen suddenly. 

About an hour into your drive, (while on Route 34) 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.

Here is a map from the San Jose Airport. 

For more info, check out our guide to transportation from San Jose to Jaco. We get into detail about all your transportation options and fun places to stop along the way.

Transportation 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 day tours with transportation. 

If you plan on just exploring the downtown 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, 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. 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.

Restaurants in Jaco

There are lots of restaurants in Jaco for all budgets and cuisine desires.

This town is also known for its vibrant nightlife scene. Along the main strip it’s easy to find lots of restaurants and bars that feature live music at night. There are also several nightclubs.

Here are our favorite places to eat and drink in Jaco:

Fine Dining

Adventure Dining: We love the concept of this place! They will pick you up from your hotel 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!


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


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

⤷ For more ideas we created a complete guide to restaurants in Jaco which details exactly where to go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Jaco Costa Rica Hotels

Top Choice: Hotel Los Ranchos

The rooms feature air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and a private bathroom. There is a pool on the property and breakfast is included in your stay. Plus, this place is located just next to the beach and the staff are amazing.

Book Your Stay at Hotel Los Ranchos

Luxury 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. 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.

Check out our guide to hotels in Jaco for more amazing options

Vacation Rentals in Jaco

We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.

Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double check before booking.

High End

16 Bed Compound Oasis – An 8 bedroom/ 4 bath home that can sleep 18 guests just steps from the beach. The property amenities include a private pool & hot tub, basketball court, steam room, pool table, outdoor bar, foosball table, & an outdoor movie theatre

Villa Montine – A 9 bedroom/ 11 bath home (yes….11 bathrooms!) that can sleep up to 18 guests. This property is located directly on the beach and there is a courtyard with a private pool.

Custom-Built Villa – A 6 bedroom/ 5 bath home that sleeps 12. It is just steps from the beach and there is a private pool. 


Spacious, Modern Home – A 4 bedroom/ 4 bath home. There is a main house with two bedroom and two apartments attached with one bedroom each. There is a private pool and you can walk to the beach in about 7 minutes. 

Luxury 3 bedroom – A 3 bedroom/ 3.5 bath condo. There is a shared pool and it is located directly on the beach.  

Beachfront Home – 3 bed/ 3 bath home that sleeps 8 guests. There is a private pool and direct beach access. 

Manhattan hits Jaco – A 3 bedroom/ 3.5 bath condo with views of the Pacific coast. Everything is modern and top notch here. There are 3 balconies, a fully equiped kitchen and shared pool access. 

Budget Friendly

Studio Apt – A modern studio apartment located just steps from the beach. There is a kitchenette (not full kitchen). 

LA PERLITA Studio Pivert – A private studio apartment with fill kitchen. It is a 4 minute walk to the beach. 

Check out our guide to vacation rentals in Jaco for more amazing options

Jaco Vacation Packages

Take the planning, stress, and guesswork out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

#1 Tour Pick

Costa Rica’s Natural Wonders Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  11 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • Take a boat tour in Tortuguero National Park to observe wildlife.
  • Trek the renowned Arenal Volcano or indulge at a spa in La Fortuna.
  • Discover the unique beauty of Manuel Antonio National Park.
  • Relax, bask in the sun, and have a leisurely day at Jaco Beach.

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 visit here, always look up in the trees. This area is known for scarlet macaws. Sometimes you’ll see trees just full of them. It doesn’t get any more tropical than that!
  • If you want more relaxed vibes and are interested in surfing, we suggest staying just south of Jaco in Hermosa
  • Heymondo travel insurance is or go-to insurance for Costa Rica. We think travel insurance is always a must have. You never know what will happen in a foreign country. Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage.  ↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Should You Stay in Jaco for Your Vacation?

Typically I would say that you can skip Jaco on your Costa Rica vacation. However, there are a few exceptions to that.

  • This is a great place to stay for a bachelor or bachelorette party. There are tons of large vacation rental properties available and usually at a very fair rate. Plus, the nightlife scene is on point.
  • If you are heading to the South Pacific from San José and want a place to stay for a night or two to break up the drive, Jaco is a good option.

The downtown area is not really our vibe, but maybe you’ll love it.

I just suggest exploring a lot nearby. There are some amazing national parks, beaches, waterfalls etc. within a short drive.

Our guide to things to do in Jaco can help you plan that.

Packing for Jaco Costa Rica

This is a very relaxed beach town. Nobody will judge you for wearing anything you want.

The sun is powerful here, so we try to wear as much UV protection as possible.

Also, there is a decent nightlife scene. If you plan on partying we suggest lightweight pants and non-wrinkle tops.

Our go-to Jaco packing list includes:

For Women:

For Men:


Check out our Jaco Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials. 

Articles About Jaco Costa Rica

monteverde zip line

Costa Rica Zip Line – Adventure Guide

Zip lining in Costa Rica is a thrilling way to see the lush jungle canopy landscape of the country from a different perspective. Soar above cloud forests, enjoy volcano views, and more!

You Might Also Like Visiting

Herradura: A small beach village that is home to one of the most popular resorts in Costa Rica

Puntarenas: A bustling city that is home to the Pacific coast cruise port

Quepos: A bustling small city that serves as a gateway to Manuel Antonio

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Central Pacific Coast for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount

☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?

Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!

We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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  1. Is driving in Jaco easy?

    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.