Our Jaco travel guide introduces you to one of the most vibrant, busy beach towns in Costa Rica. Jaco and its sister town of Playa Hermosa are home to world-class surf, cinnamon- and black-sand beaches, excellent restaurants, exhilarating activities, and epic nightlife.
- Area: Central Pacific
- Average Temperature: 79-83º F (26.9-28.5º C)
- Closest Airport: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), 1.5 hours
- Can’t-Miss Attractions: Beaches, Carara National Park, Tortuga Island Tour, Manuel Antonio, Playa Hermosa
- Hot Activities: Surfing, Mountain Biking, Mangrove tours, Sport Fishing, Nature Tours, Waterfalls, Kayaking, Learning Spanish
- Great for: Families, Couples & Honeymooners, Surfers, Nature Lovers, Backpackers, Parties
Playa Jaco is the closest beach town to the capital of San Jose, and the largest beach town as a result. Many of the conveniences lacking in other beach towns are available in Playa Jaco, such as larger markets and a movie theater.
Looking for something adventurous? Jaco is surrounded by natural beauty and a short drive from two national parks; Carara National Park to the north and Manuel Antonio National Park to the south. Both of these parks are accessible via day tours from Jaco. In town, you will find much to do and an array of choices for lodging and dining.
Our Jaco travel guide introduces you to the best of the area’s must-see spots, from black-sand surfing beaches to red-hot nightlife, and from beachside hotels to the area’s best restaurants.
What to do in Jaco
Playa Jaco offers a good beach break for beginners and experienced surfers. Surf schools for lessons and surfboard rentals are available at many hotels and around town. For something more challenging, experienced surfers can head down the road to Playa Hermosa.
With beautiful mountains nearby, zip lining is an exciting experience. Also, check out the rope swings and the “Aerial Tram” for an alternative form of site seeing.
For hikers and bikers alike, this is a fun way to get a good view of Playa Jaco from above. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the forest around you and for the beautiful Scarlet Macaws as they fly above.
Another great way to explore the wildlife, a tour up the many estuaries will bring you through mangroves full of birds, monkeys and crocodiles.
Carara National Park
This national park has a large, diverse bird population due to the environment of the park and it’s unique location, bordering the northwestern Tropical Dry Forest and the more humid tropics of the central pacific coast. Hiking trails provide a great opportunity to scout out some of these birds, as well as a possible sloth, armadillo, deer or anteater.
Manuel Antonio Day Tour
A well-known National Park just south of Jaco. Sign up for a tour in Jaco and the shuttle driver will do all the work. Manuel Antonio is located on the coast, so it’s a great opportunity to explore the jungle and get some sunshine on the white sands of Manuel Antonio Beach.
Los Suenos Resort & Marina
A short drive north of Jaco and you can find yourself in the luxurious Los Suenos Resort & Marina. Los Suenos is home to The Marriot Hotel, single family homes, condos and of course a large international marina full of fishing boats and private yachts. In addition there is a club house, golf course, private rainforest preserve, and at least seven places to eat.
Tortuga Island Tour
For a luxurious and adventurous tour, board the Tortuga Island Cruise Yacht and take a ride to the beautiful Tortuga Island. There you will spend four hours either relaxing on the white sand beaches, or taking your adventure further with canopy tour, hiking or kayaking.
If you are an experienced surfer, you will want to take some time to visit Playa Hermosa, a short 5 minutes from the town of Jaco. The black sand beach is known for having good size waves that break close to shore.
Need a break from the hot sun? Playa Jaco is one of few beach towns with a movie theater. Located in Plaza Coral, this cinema offers four screens.
Jaco Travel Guide to Bars and Restaurants
Caliche’s Wishbone – This restaurant is on the main road and has been in Jaco for many years. It’s a great choice for a nice sit-down meal of tacos, pizza, fish dishes, beer and more.
Ohana Sushi Tapas Bar – Jaco has some great sushi places, but Ohana is one to fall in love with. The attention to detail and friendly service is a wonderful addition to delicious sushi and tapas.
Marea Baja Soda – at the south side of the main strip, this typical Costa Rica restaurant is a wonderful surprise in both flavor and price.
Pops Ice Cream – A favorite in all of Costa Rica, Pops ice cream is a great place to refresh with a cold treat.
Taco Bar – this taco restaurant has been around for many years and is a favorite to locals and tourists alike. They specialize in fish tacos and have swing seating that adds to the laid-back atmosphere.
Side Street Bistro – If you are looking for a good microbrew and a burger (or sandwich) check out this bistro boasting local, organic ingredients and “artisanal homemade breads”.
Lemon Zest – For a special occasion, check out Lemon Zest. The French cuisine is highly recommended and they will cook up your daily catch if you spent the day fishing. Be prepared to spend some money, and plan ahead by making a reservation if you want to guarantee a table.
Jaco Travel Guide to Hotels
Jaco Laguna Resort & Beach Club – a clean, up to date option on the south side of playa Jaco. With a spa, restaurant, the beach right out front and the center of town just up the road, this a great option for convenience and access.
Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery – this ultra-modern atmosphere provides top notch accommodations in an art gallery themed hotel. Guests can reserve a standard room or a suite with a kitchen. Design and furnishings are all selected with a modern interior design and appreciation-of-nature concept. Bike rentals are available.
Hotel Mar de Luz – for a comfortable, homey feeling hotel, check out Hotel Mar y Luz. Each room is unique with colorful decoration, high ceilings or a couch and pillows for extra relaxation. Rooms open up to a pool and the grounds maintain a playground. This is a great option for families.
Hotel Poseidon – Located conveniently between the main strip and the beach, Hotel Posiden has a Sky Lounge Bar up top and an onsite restaurant on the main floor. This hotel has complete, standard hotel rooms at a decent rate, hot breakfast included. Package rates include 3 meals a day and limited parking (although you won’t need a car for getting around in town)
Budda House Boutique Hostel – an inexpensive option on the main strip, this hostel is bright and colorful. With the option of a private room or a bed in a shared dorm room, this can be a comfortable option for travelers on a budget.
Playa Jaco, or Jaco Beach, is located directly west of San Jose. Just an hour and a half from the largest airport and the largest city, Playa Jaco is a popular destination for tourist and locals alike. From here visitors can explore much of the central pacific.
As part of the central pacific, you will find that Playa Jaco gets significantly more rain than the beaches to the north. This means the area is bursting with greenery, yet there is plenty of sunshine at the beach. Temperatures range between 72 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest months being March to May. Precipitation is greatest June thru October. June, July and part of August consist mostly of dry mornings and rainy afternoons. If you visit in these months, plan your activities early and your relaxation under a roof later in the day. If you’re hoping for milder temperatures and long sunny days, visit December, January or February.
Getting to Jaco
An easy drive from San Jose, or a short shuttle ride. Public buses are available as well. If you are flying into San Jose Airport, check out Ticoride.com for a complete list of shuttle options.
Ready for Costa Rica, but not so sure about the jungle? Jaco is the city at the beach where you can explore it all.