Jaco is one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica because of how close it is to the San Jose airport. Within 1.5 hours from leaving the airport you can be relaxing on this beach.
Jaco is not our favorite place because it is overrun with tourists and has a big party feel. That being said, if the backpacking party vibe is your thing, this might just be the spot for you. There are also many nice fancy resorts and eco-adventure day trips you can take from here.
If you want a chiller vibe, head a few minutes south and stay in Playa Hermosa.
Now on to the rest of the Jaco budget travel guide!
GETTING TO JACO:
If you are only going to Jaco and not planning on doing much else, 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!
Pro Tip: Download the free app Off The Grid Traveler for complete bus schedules.
If you’d like a more comfortable trip, you should rent a car. If coming from San Jose you can rent a car from close to the airport (but free transportation to the rental car office is provided from the airport).
We suggest using Adobe because they are the most trustworthy company in this country and we have partnered with them to get a 10% discount for you on your rental car. You can find out more here.
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 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. 🙂
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 expensive pre packaged day tours. In our experience, it almost always comes out cheaper to rent a car and do things on our own.
If you plan on just exploring downtown Jaco and relaxing on the beach, you don’t need a car.
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.
After some nightmare rental car experiences with other companies, we have partnered with the only company we fully trust, Adobe, to bring our readers a 10% discount. You can find out more about it here!
THINGS TO DO
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 pretty empty there.
Go partying: If you are into the nightlife scene, Jaco is where it’s at. Because this area is pretty saturated wth backpackers there are tons of clubs and bars along the main stretch downtown.
Take a surfing lesson: There are tons of companies that offer surfing lessons in Jaco. We have not personally tried out any of these companies, so we can’t give you a good recommendation, but check here on TripAdvisor for the top companies.
Try SUP: Carton Surfboards in Jaco has stand up paddle boards you can rent. They cost $25 per hour or $35 for a half day. Just ask at Carton and they will direct you to some good spots to explore on your SUP.
Walk the beach: Jaco beach may not be the most beautiful beach in the world, but it is long and is a great place for a long beach stroll.
Watch the sunset: Grab a beer at one of the many convenience stores and sit on the beach for sunset. We’ve never had a bad sunset view in Jaco.
Check out Playa Hermosa: If you are looking for a more relaxed vibe head a few minutes south of Jaco to Playa Hermosa. This little seaside village is the perfect getaway from the action in Jaco.
Hike Miro’s Mountain: A secret hidden gem in 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 trail head is not marked, but it is located directly across from the gas station at 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.
Reboot Resort: For about $25 you can get a small room with bunk beds for two people and a private bathroom. There is also a pool and a shared kitchen which guests are welcome to use. This hotel is not located in Jaco, but in Playa Hermosa (6km from Jaco). Playa Hermosa has a calm vibe and we like it more than Jaco. Oh, and this hotel is a few minute walk to the beach!
La Perlita: For about $50 you can get a room with a kitchenette for two people. 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 place has a super cool vibe to it. For about $30 you can get a double room with a shared bathroom. There is a common space with a kitchen which guests can use. There is also a small pool and it is located only a few minute walk from the beach.
Hotel El Paraiso Escondido: For about $55 per night you can get a double room. There are rooms with kitchenettes as well, but those are about $65 a night. There is a pool and barbecue facilities for guest to use. The beach in Jaco is a few minute walk away.
PLACES TO EAT
There is no shortage of food options in Jaco! Here are our faves. Taco Joint: On point tacos at a reasonable price. A great lunch spot. The Pizza Shop: Seriously top notch pizza at a good price. Tacobar Jaco Beach: The food is decent, but the vibe here is the best. Side Street Bistro: Our go-to lunch spot in Jaco. Not the cheapest, but cool vibe and a good place to spend a long lazy lunch. Plus they have a great drink menu! Soda Jaco Rustico: A great dinner spot if you want an authentic meal at a really good price. Green Room Cafe: We haven’t eaten here but they have a great craft beer menu and a chill vibe. There s also live local music here on some evenings. Amphitheater Restaurant: This restaurant is located at the Villa Caletas hotel and is expensive, but we suggest just going for a drink around sunset. Just ask at the front desk and they’ll direct you. You can sit in their outdoor Roman amphitheater on a cliff above Jaco and watch the sunset here. It doesn’t get better than this.
ARTICLES ABOUT JACO
WANT TO CHASE FAB VIBES AROUND COSTA RICA ON A BUDGET?
Of course you do!
Join our 30,000 monthly readers in planning your dream travels in Costa Rica with our newsletter. Plus, we will send you our travel planning packet which will keep your travels super organized.