Jaco vs Tamarindo: The Coastal Towns of Costa Rica

A sand beach at sunset via Pixabay.
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When someone says Jaco or Tamarindo, you may first think of surfing. However, the two coastal towns have a lot more on offer than just surfing opportunities. With vivacious nightlife, plenty of tourist activities, and Costa Rican sun, settling a debate between Jaco vs Tamarindo can be difficult.

Both Jaco and Tamarindo are excellent choices for those wishing to party in Costa Rica, and visitors can expect an excellent tourist infrastructure. Being coastal towns, Jaco and Tamarindo offer visitors effortless beach access – perfect for soaking up some Vitamin D when you want a quiet day. And Costa Rica itself is a significant tourist destination, famed for its jungles and exotic native wildlife.

Following that quick comparison, it is easy to see why people struggle to decide between Jaco vs Tamarindo. To help guide you to your best choice, we have compiled a straightforward complete comparison between the two. So, Jaco or Tamarindo – let’s see which destination is right for you.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Nightlife

When considering Jaco vs Tamarindo, nightlife is a distinguishing factor. The cocktail here is in a transparent glass with mint, ice, and lime, against a black background.
A cocktail via Pixabay.

To muddy the waters, Jaco and Tamarindo nightlives rival each other, with both destinations great for tourists looking to party. However, the atmosphere does differ between Jaco and Tamarindo – which is something you should consider.

Tamarindo has plenty of nightlife (and daytime partying) venues. Visitors looking to wine and dine can expect restaurant-bars such as Ocho Beach Bar and El Be. If you are looking to catch a sports game or find a base for a lad’s holiday, Sharky’s Sports Bar will be great for you. Whereas, if you are chasing a classic club night out, El Garito is the place. Overall, Tamarindo has a relatively condensed nightlife, making it easy to explore on foot. Tamarindo’s atmosphere encapsulates the ‘something for everyone’ lines and can facilitate romantic drinks out or a raving all-nighter.

On the other hand, Jaco is a nightclub heavy, larger destination with a central strip that comes alive at sundown. Popular club venues in Jaco include Jaco Blu, Republik Lounge, and XTC. Jaco is also known for its strip club venues, which attract bachelor parties and male partying crowds. Although for an upmarket date night, you can opt for bar-style drinks at venues such as the Martini Ultra Lounge & Tapas.

Overall, Tamarindo is best for those wanting a rounded nightlife experience, whereas Jaco is best for those chasing a hardcore nightlife or bachelor destination.

Winner: It’s a close call, but Tamarindo wins this round, as its nightlife is suited to a broader range of partiers.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Accommodation

White lounger cushions on a wicker frame overlooking a pool with a plate of fruit on a wooden stand.
A poolside bed via Pixabay.

When booking accommodation in Jaco or Tamarindo, the best way forward is to look in advance – especially as they are popular places with tourists.

As a general rule, Tamarindo is cheaper than Jaco for accommodation. On average double room in Jaco costs $80 per night and $66 in Tamarindo – creating an average of a $14 price difference. Of course, if you book in advance, you can take advantage of better deals and more accommodation options in Jaco since it is larger than Tamarindo. However, overall, you will find Tamarindo cheaper for accommodation.

Both Jaco and Tamarindo have backpacker-style accommodation options and hostels that provide surf camps at low costs. The Tama Hostel & Surf Camp is worth considering in Tamarindo, while the Selina Jaco & Surf School is similar in Jaco.

For upmarket hotels and resorts, Jaco has several four-star properties. Bahia Encantada, the Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery, and Macaws Ocean Club have rooms available for upwards of $120 a night for those seeking extra luxury. Tamarindo also has many upscale resorts and hotels. Casa Puros Dieces, Jardin Del Eden, and Tamarindo Diría are all worth exploring if you want luxury accommodation.

Overall, settling a debate over accommodation options in Jaco vs Tamarindo is hard. The destinations have plenty of hotels across the budget spectrum, with backpackers hostels and luxury hotels available in both. However, Tamarindo wins this round as it is cheaper on average than Jaco.

Winner: Tamarindo wins this round as it is cheaper for accommodation than Jaco on average.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Nature

Two Scarlet Macaws perch on a branch. Colored with red, yellow, green, blue, and white, they cut a distinctive image.
Scarlet Macaws via Pixabay.

When visiting Costa Rica, you are guaranteed a treat when it comes to experiences in nature. And, visiting Jaco and Tamarindo will ensure no less.

Jaco is close to the Rainforest Adventures theme park, which combines nature and entertainment to make a great day out. Visitors can opt to explore the rainforest from the sky with a zipline or aerial tram tour.

Jaco is also a great base to explore nature on a budget, with local waterfalls such as Bijagual attracting visitors for their beauty. Birdwatching is a further draw to the area, as the nearby Carara National Park is home to the famous Scarlet Macaw – aka the largest parrots in the world.

In terms of animal experiences, if you want to spot turtles, Jaco and Tamarindo both have turtle sanctuaries and reserves just outside of the cities. Similarly, you can opt for tours to see crocodiles, sloths, and monkeys from both destinations.

Tamarindo is located between two halves of the Marino Las Baulas National Park, meaning it’s closer to a national park than Jaco. This proximity may be something you wish to consider if you want to explore nature independently or are short on time, especially since you can spot similar native animals in both areas.

However, Jaco wins this round, as it has a blend of entertainment and natural experiences. Those who want a touristy immersion in nature can opt for the Rainforest Adventure Park, while visitors can still experience native animals in remote habitats.

Winner: Overall, Jaco wins this round.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Entertainment

Are you debating Jaco vs Tamarindo? Stand-up paddle boarding is a great activity in both. This image shows the ocean at sunset with a lone male paddle boarding in stripy board shorts.
Paddle boarding via Pixabay.

Jaco and Tamarindo have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment. Whether you love the nightlife, surfing, adrenaline sports, or animal sightings, both destinations will keep you busy from sunrise to sundown.

Since they are coastal areas, you should look into water sports when visiting either. Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, or even scuba diving are popular alternatives to surfing. Visitors can book activities online or find a local activity operator on arrival. Jaco and Tamarindo benefit from strong tourist infrastructures, meaning there is plenty of flexibility when booking and finding activities.

On a rainy day, you can head to the cinema since Jaco and Tamarindo showcase films in Spanish and English. More popular rainy day activities include yoga, self-defense classes, art galleries, and brewery tastings.

Overall, when considering Jaco vs Tamarindo for entertainment, you are in a good position. However, to narrow it down, Jaco wins this round. Jaco is larger than Tamarindo, so it has more tour options and tourist venues.

Winner: It’s a close round, but Jaco wins here, as it is bigger than Tamarindo and has slightly more entertainment options.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Weather

You should consider weather in your Jaco vs Tamarindo debate. This image shows pinks flowers drenched by heavy rain.
Flowers in the rain via Pixabay.

Costa Rica experiences a dry and wet season. For general guidelines, the dry season takes place from January to April and the wet from May to December. Although seasons depend on whether you visit the Pacific or Caribbean side of Costa Rica, as the Caribbean follows less of a pattern and experiences more rain on average throughout.

When debating Jaco vs Tamarindo, consider that Tamarindo is in the Guanacaste province and Jaco is in the Puntarenas. Tamarindo is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, while Jaco is on a more central section of the coast, further east than Tamarindo.

While Jaco still follows the Pacific seasons, you can expect slightly cooler temperatures and more rain. Tamarindo is generally a couple of degrees warmer year-round and experiences less rain. In particular, visitors should note that the monthly rainfall in April, the backend of the dry season, differs highly between the two destinations. Weather 2 Travel states that Jaco has an average of 93mm compared to 33mm in Tamarindo – creating a difference in rainfall of 60mm in April. Wet season comes quick and early in Jaco, with considerably more rain throughout the wet season, so Tamarindo will be a drier option in these months.

Winner: In this round, our winner is Tamarindo for its drier year-round weather.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: Prices

A blue Debit Mastercard and folded money note in a dark jean pocket.
Cards and money in a back pocket via Pixabay.

While tourist accommodation may be cheaper on average in Tamarindo, don’t be fooled. Jaco is a more budget-friendly option for those looking to rent more permanently, use public transport, and eat and drink out.

Compiling data from Numbeo, we have curated a comparative table to give you an idea of price differences between everyday purchases. In general, Jaco’s living costs are much cheaper than Tamarindo’s, which you may wish to consider when choosing between Jaco vs Tamarindo.

 A domestic beer ($)Taxi tariff start ($)Basic utilities ($)A mid-range meal for two ($)
Tamarindo2.501.60107.8356.05
Jaco1.920.9652.4736.82
Difference ($)0.580.6455.3619.23

If you can find a budget-friendly hotel in Jaco, you should see your short stay cheaper than you would in Tamarindo. When planning a visit of a month or more, Jaco should be a definite consideration as price differences show drastically for basic monthly utilities.

Winner: Although hotels are often cheaper in Tamarindo, Jaco wins this round for its more affordable living costs.

Jaco vs Tamarindo: To Conclude

Jaco is larger with a more intense partying atmosphere, making it ideal for bachelor parties and backpackers. Visitors to Jaco should find it much more budget-friendly, especially if they book accommodation in advance. If you plan to visit Jaco, you should check the average rainfall by month to avoid the wetter periods if you prefer dry weather.

In Tamarindo, you can expect a mixture of nightlife venues suiting a wider range of guests. The area attracts backpackers, holidaymakers, and families – signaling its excellence as a good all-round destination. Accommodation prices tend to be cheaper, although the cost of living is higher. You should choose Tamarindo if you want to splurge on a rounded atmosphere and drier, warmer weather.

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Eibhlis Gale – Coleman is a freelance writer from the UK who is driven by a fierce love of adventure, unique cultural experiences, native animals, and good coffee. She is a passionate traveller and has explored Europe, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Australia.