Jaco is a fantastic vacation destination, well worth visiting for anyone heading to Costa Rica. Its location, only 1.5 hours from San Jose airport, makes it a favorite with everyone from first-timers to Costa Rica to locals wanting to escape the city for a beachside break.
The most developed beach town in Costa Rica, Jaco is packed with all the conveniences you might need but is still small enough to explore on foot. It’s a wonderful mixture of laid-back, beachy charm and thriving social hub, renowned for awesome surfing, wild nightlife, stunning natural scenery, great restaurants, and an almost endless list of adventurous activities.
With its family-friendly resorts, romantic getaways, and super social hostels, we think it’s the perfect spot for all kinds of travelers. So we’ve listed our top 7 reasons why Jaco is absolutely worth visiting on your next trip to Costa Rica!
The number one reason people visit Jaco is the surfing. It’s one of Costa Rica’s premier surfing destinations, beloved for its easy access from San Jose, its laid-back vibe, its waves for all abilities, and its great year-round surf.
Jaco Beach, located right in front of the town, has waves perfect for beginners and intermediates. The atmosphere is inclusive and more novice-friendly than at some other, less touristy spots. So if you’re a beginner, definitely start here. You’ll find plenty of surf schools and rental shops to help you get kitted out and onto the water. And you’ll meet plenty of other surfers willing to trade tips and stories over an after-surf beer.
More advanced surfers should head to nearby Playa Hermosa for bigger swell. This black sand beach is known for the consistency of its waves, and for regularly hosting hosts pro surfers and world-class competitions. Also check out Playa Esterillos, where there’s a range of breaks to choose from and some outer reefs that offer tow-in surfing for those with the skills for it!
Whether you want to sip sunset cocktails, listen to live tunes, dance till dawn, or hit up a casino, Jaco’s got the venue for you. Just take a walk down the main strip after dark to see how many bars and clubs there are vying for your attention. You’ll soon start to understand why this laid-back beach town has such a party monster reputation.
Take your pick from massive clubs complete with DJs, cage dancers, and VIP booths. Open-air beach clubs with swimming pools in the middle and dance floors in the sand. Sports bars, craft beer breweries, cocktail lounges, and traditional tavernas, there’s something for everyone in this town. Including the strip clubs, which have put Jaco on the map as a place worth visiting for bachelor parties in Costa Rica.
Many clubs claim a different night of the week for their own, so do a little research before heading out to make sure you hit the right bar on the right night. But honestly, if you’re in Jaco after dark, you’re never very far from the party. Be sure to kick your night off with a few Chili Guaros. This traditional Costa Rican cocktail shot is made from sugar cane liquor, tomato juice, hot sauce, and lime juice and is guaranteed to get your night off on the right track!
Nature and Wildlife
Jaco, Costa Rica is worth visiting for all nature and wildlife lovers. This little beachfront town is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, great swaths of Costa Rican rainforest, waterfalls, rivers, jungle topped mountains and pristine beaches.
Head north of Jaco to visit the lovely, horseshoe-shaped Playa Herradura, a sheltered cove perfect for children and families. Or try the stunning Playa Blanca, a beach not known to many tourists, which offers beautiful white sand and safe waters for swimming.
Away from the beaches, head to Carara National Park to hike through the tropical fauna and spot armadillos, howler monkeys, poison dart frogs, and over 400 species of birds. On your way there, peer over the bridge to see huge American Crocodiles in the River Tarcoles below.
Take a trip out to Costa Rica’s most popular National Park Manuel Antonio. There you can seek out the rare squirrel monkey and the iconic sloth as well as raccoons, anteaters, ocelots, snakes, toucans, parakeets, and hummingbirds. If that’s not enough animals for you, visit Neo Fauna wildlife rehabilitation center, they take in all manner of injured and abandoned animals so you never know what you might see there.
With so many tourists flocking to Jaco each year, it’s no surprise that the restaurant scene rapidly expanded to cater to all tastes. In this relatively small town, you’ll find an astounding array of global cuisines. You can choose from sushi, tacos, and pizza, alongside artisanal bakeries, contemporary fusion food, and traditional Costa Rican menus. You’ll also find dedicated vegan, vegetarian and kosher restaurants and menus offering organic ingredients, gluten-free, and dairy alternatives. And this being Costa Rica, you won’t walk far without finding an excellent coffee shop.
There’s a spot for every budget too. To find the traditional ‘sodas’, family-run Costa Rican restaurants serving cheap, delicious, authentic food, you’ll have to head down the smaller side streets. But you’ll find some less traditional budget eateries on the main strip. If it’s high-end cuisine you’re looking for, check out the public restaurants attached to the upmarket resorts. Or head to Jaco Walk where you’ll find expert chefs serving up inventive menus with exquisite local ingredients.
If you’re keeping costs down on a self-catered holiday, check out the Jaco Farmer’s Market to stock up on supplies.
The stunning landscape surrounding the town is basically an immense adventure playground. And one of Jaco’s biggest draws is the almost endless array of activities, trips, and tours on offer to explore it.
Adrenaline junkies can scale waterfalls, go canyoning, ziplining, and go ATV touring. Or, for something a little more peaceful, take a gondola trip through the rainforest and view it from the height of the treetops. Animal lovers can take a dolphin and whale watching trip or go crocodile spotting on a river cruise. And of course, no trip to Jaco would be complete without at least one surf lesson!
And if you’re watching your budget, indulge in the free activities like hiking through the rainforest or up Miro Mountain to enjoy glorious views of Jaco Beach. One of the most popular activities in Jaco is to head to the beach in the evenings to watch the stunning sunset. Do as the locals do and take a blanket and few beers with you to make a night of it.
Jaco enjoys a tropical climate that includes two seasons, the wet season from April – November and the dry season from December to March. In the dry season, you can expect endless days of sunshine with temperatures of up to 34°C (93°F). Perfect for sun worshipers and beachgoers. But even in Costa Rica’s coldest month, you won’t find temperatures dropping much below 24°C (75°F), making Jaco worth visiting at any time of year.
And don’t be put off from traveling during the ‘wet season’. The name sounds ominous, but it doesn’t mean constant rain. You’ll still get plenty of sunshine, generally in the mornings, with dramatic, tropical showers happening later in the day.
It can be wonderful traveling during the rains, they are the reason that Costa Rica is so lush and green, they replenish the rivers and waterfalls and bring out much of the wildlife. Plus, during the wet season, Jaco is quieter, accommodation is cheaper, and the surfers rejoice because the waves are bigger!
Unfortunately, Jaco’s popularity means that it’s more expensive than some other destinations in Costa Rica, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. Its popularity also means that there is plenty of variety with options for all budgets.
There are lots of gorgeous, 5-star, beachfront resorts in Jaco, but also loads of surf camps and hostels that cater to the backpacker’s budget. Hostels aren’t just a cheaper option. They’re brilliant, sociable places, perfect for solo or first-time travelers or anyone who loves making travel friends. And if you’re not sure about staying in a dorm room, then look for private or family rooms. They’re still much cheaper than staying in a hotel or resort.
Similarly, you can pay top dollar for activities or choose to do the free ones; take a fully guided tour of the national parks or hike around them on your own. Pay for sunset cocktails at a beachfront bar or bring your own drinks and sit on the beach. You can eat in high-end restaurants or budget eateries, drink in the backpacker bars, or get bottle service in the VIP booths. Whatever your budget, you can find a way to stick to it in Jaco.
So, whether you’re planning another trip to Costa Rica or are visiting for the first time, consider heading to Jaco, a place that is definitely worth visiting. It’s perfect for surfers, partiers, adventurers, animal lovers, and foodies. It’s got something for couples, lone travelers, families, and anyone looking to experience a little of the Costa Rican Pura Vida.