Jacó is about 130km from San Jose's airport, a beautiful drive of just over two hours.
From Juan Santamaria International Airport, follow the signs toward San Ramon. After 10km, take the exit toward Atenas and at the stop sign, turn left. Follow the winding street until you get to San Mateo. At San Mateo, the road jogs right a block because of one way traffic (towards you). Just follow the road around and you will get back on the main drag. When approaching Orotonia, a sign directs you to the right. Don't follow it! (you'll get lost in the business district). Stay straight until you see the sign on the right directing you to Jacó. Follow that road to Jacó. From here, it is just following signs to Jacó.
There are frequent buses going directly from the Coca Cola bus station in San José. Fares are about USD5 each way.
If you want to leave from SJO airport directly to Jaco you can use Easy Ride Shuttle Services. They run 3 times per day from 07:00 from SJO airport to Jaco. They also pick up at any hotel in San Jose downtown or Alajuela downtown.
Alternatively, drive from San Jose past San Ramon toward Puntarenas, until you get to Hwy 27. Go south on 27 and follow the signs to Jaco. It's further, but much faster since it is not a mountain road. Another plus is that you can stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles River along the way, a prime spot to observe wild crocodiles. Note, it is illegal to feed the crocodiles as they are protected.
Transportation in and around Jaco is quite simple. The city is small enough, that walking from one end to the other is not an impossible feat. But when it's hot, or it's dark, there are always plenty of taxis to take you down the strip wherever you might want to go. The taxis in Jaco are red. Don't get in a taxi that does not look official. Often there are pirate taxis that are generally safe, but it's best to stick with the official companies. There's a taxi stand by the main grocery store, Mas por Menos, or you can always pick one up easily outside of Beatle Bar. All official taxis have meters and are clearly displayed. CRC1,500 is a standard price to go just about anywhere in the town, or to Herradura, unless it's a short distance and then it's usually CRC750. Ask a local if you are unsure of how much you should pay.
There are local buses that circulate from Herradura to Jaco every hour. The bus does not go through all of Jaco, it does not travel to the most Northern side, but it you can get off at any spot in central Jaco, along the strip. The main bus stop to go to Herradura is located across the street and down the road a short distance from the grocery store, Mas o Menos. There is a bus stop there, and usually a congregation of people waiting for the bus to come. If you take the bus from Herradura to Jaco you can pick it up at Herradura beach, at the crossways of the Costanera in Herradura, or down the road at the Herradura gas station, otherwise known as La Bomba. The Herradura/Jaco bus will take you to Central Jaco, and all the way to Herradura beach for less than it would cost to take a taxi. The price to ride the bus in 2004 was CRC85.
At the north end of Jaco, across from the Best Western hotel, is the official bus station. If you want to take the bus from Jaco or Herradura to San Jose, this is where you need to go to buy tickets. There is a ticket window where you can purchase tickets, and it's recommended that you do so. Seats are assigned, but the Costa Ricans have no qualms about over-selling the bus. The trip from Jaco to San Jose generally takes 3-4 hours, and without a seat, you're forced to stand the entire, perilous trip, until someone gets off and there's an empty seat. This rarely happens. At this bus terminal you can also purchase tickets to other destinations such as Puntarenas and Quepos. Bus fare is inexpensive, and bus travel is always sure to be an adventure. If returning to San Jose by bus from Jaco, there are many places throughout Jaco that you can catch the bus: the bus terminal, of course, the bus stop in front of Mas o Menos, or various other locations along the Jaco strip. It's also possible to pick up the San Jose bus on the west side of the road at the crosswalk in Herradura. There are set times when the buses come and go, and for the most part they are usually on time. Be there a little early so you don't miss it. As always, be cautious with your belonging on the bus. There is storage underneath the bus for heavier and larger items, but people have been known to take suitcases and bags, from under the bus, that did not belong to them. Always keep an eye on your belonging inside the bus as well.
Jaco is fairly small, and it's easy to see the entire town in one day. But you can also just as easily take your time and spend several days exploring, shopping, going to the beach, surfing, dining out, going to bars, and taking tours in the Jaco area. If you have a rental car, a drive along the Western Costa, along the Costanera is very beautiful, and offers many opportunities to stop, take pictures, or find private, secluded beaches. Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica's National Parks, is an hour drive from Jaco, and is nearly a straight shot South along the Costanera highway.
- Mono Azul (The Blue Monkey) (S of Jaco on the road to Manual Antonio). Sloth rescue project, sponsored by Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Jaco is not very big, but there are plenty of things to do there. Surfing and boogie boarding are extremely popular, and it's fairly inexpensive to rent a board for the day. Jaco is known for being one of the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica for the beach breaks (sand bottom) and good waves during high tides. There are lots of surf camps and surf schools in the area, make sure you choose one that is credible and especially certified to guarantee quality. There are also many shops along Jaco's main street that offer surfboard/boogie board rentals. Lying out on the beach and swimming are nice. The beach is beautiful, however the black sand at midday is scorching hot. There are some fantastic restaurants in Jaco, including some excellent "sodas", the local traditional restaurant. At night there are numerous clubs and bars that stay open late.
- Del Mar Extreme. Fitness vacations and sport adventure tours including stand up paddling, stand up paddle surf lessons, mountain biking tours and beachfront fitness classes (yoga, boxing, pilates, TRX, beach boot camp, circuit training, butts and guts and capoeira).
- Del Mar Surf Camp. Surf camp and yoga retreat owned and operated by local Costa Rican surfer, Maria Del Mar. Premiere and certified surf camp featuring surf lessons, surf coaching, surf tours, private surf lessons, family surf lessons day packages and surf camps including all inclusive surf packages, women's surf, and yoga camps, and surf and detox retreats. Locally certified Costa Rican school with ISA, CPR, first aid and water rescue with no more than two students per instructor.
- Herradura (North of Jaco). Herradura village offers a beautiful cove-style beach, that is often less crowded than the beach at Jaco. The beach was the site of the filming of the movie 1492, and one can tell why by its rustic beauty. As there are many rivers flowing into Herradura Bay, at times there are crocodiles that swim in the bay to feed. They are difficult to see, as a result of the black sand, so be very cautious when swimming there.
- Playa Blanca (N of Jaco). The entrance to this beach is extremely difficult to find, and it's best to have a local point it out to you. The road is quite bumpy and filled with potholes, so go slowly and cautiously. Since all the other beaches in the Jaco area are made up of black sand (volcanic rock) Playa Blanca is a welcome change. This beach, also part of the Punta Leona Resort, is virtually closed off from the rest of the world. Although you can get there for free down the hidden road, you can also pay to use the beach through the Punta Leona Resort.
- Playa Hermosa (The first village S of Jaco). Considered one of the best surfing locations in the world, the beach is extremely dangerous. People die here every year, as they do in Jaco as well, and the riptides and large waves in Hermosa are notorious. Be extremely careful when swimming in Hermosa. The black sand at midday is scalding hot, and will burn your feet. But the beach is beautiful and uncrowded. Most people prefer to spend their time in Jaco, and Hermosa is largely ignored. A great place for a drink or a snack while in Hermosa is the Backyard Bar. In contrast to the rowdy bars of Jaco, this one has a very mellow, surfer vibe.
- River Tarcoles (N past Punta Leona). The river is famous for one thing, its crocodiles. Park alongside the road and walk along the bridge to view the hundreds of crocodiles lying below. Many of the local resorts and hotels offer crocodile tours to Tarcoles where you can see the creatures up close. If that's a frightening idea, the view from the bridge is impressive enough.
- Vista Guapa Surf Camp. Stand up paddle and surf lessons for beginners and experienced surfers, individuals and groups. The camp has its own accommodation in comfortable air-con bungalows with great ocean views. Also offers adventure tours including mountain bike, yoga classes, and packages with trips to national parks. Run by Alvaro Solano, seven times national surf champion and current champion of the masters category.
There are numerous, small shops and stands all along Jaco's main strip that runs parallel to the water. Most of these stalls offer similar things: jewelry, fabric, surf clothes, knick-knacks, and traditional Costa Rican gifts. There is also a small mall, El Galeone, along the main street. There are a few unique stores in the mall, as well as an ATM on the second floor. Many stores offer Costa Rican handicrafts and souvenirs. A couple places that seem to offer more unique, higher quality offerings are Guacamole (clothing and accessories) and The Costa Rica Coffee Experience [dead link], where you can sample coffees from various growing regions and buy the beans to take home too.
- El Bohio. For a more elegant seafood meal on the beach, a person can easily spend an entire afternoon in its shady beachside bar, sipping ice cold USD3 beers.
- La Hacienda. Great sandwiches, steaks, and burgers.
- Izaga Bar-Restaurant (Across from Beatle Bar). Great seafood combined with casados and bar snacks. Perfect place to watch soccer games.
- Jacos Tacos. Open 24 hours. Serving up traditional Mexican food, including tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas. Check their sign out front for USD5 specials. Breakfast is fantastic, try the chorizo and eggs. They serve it up with a side of potatoes and fresh, handmade tortillas.
- Lemon Zest. The best duck in Costa Rica.
- Pancho Villas. Mexican food.
- Rustico (Down the street from Yummy's chicken). Popular casado place with buffet style, ready to order food. Amazing value and best deal in town. All locals come here for the quality. Average USD4 for a casado and drink.
- Sunrise Breakfast. The place for large American-style breakfast.
- Surf Dogs Bar & Restaurant ( Jaco restaurant) (In front of Budget rent a car and Mandarina), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00-02:00. USD10.
- Tsunami Sushi (central Jaco). The place for sushi, with daily deals. Everyone's favorite night is Wednesdays from 18:00-21:00. Half-off most of the sushi rolls on the menu.
- Wahoo´s Seafood Saloon. Breakfast all day from about USD3 and has seafood and steaks.
- Los Amigos Sportsbar & Grill ( Los Amigos) (In the center of town at Pastor Diaz & Calle Pops), ☎ . Daily, 11:00-01:00. Non-smoking air conditioned dining and drinking as well as open air outdoor seating for smokers. Serving lunch and dinner from 11:00-23:00 Su-Th and 11:00–01:00 F-Sa, 365 days a year. Seven 42-inch plasma TVs, 3 projectors, 6 satellite feeds hosting every sporting event known. Over 45 local and imported beers, a full liquor bar, and some of the best food & service on the Pacific coast.
- The Beatle Bar. Where most of the city's hookers troll for business.
- Club Vibe. 12:00-all night. The official after-party place of Jaco Beach. Featuring the largest dance floor in town, guest DJs every weekend, nightly drink specials.
- Monkey Bar. 09:00-02:30. The place to start your party. Spinning great music all night long, nightly drink specials.
- Surf Dogs Bar ( Jaco Bar) (In front of Budget car rental), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 11:00-02:00. USD1-10.
- Canciones del Mar. Is a wonderful place, with a decent swimming pool and spacious accommodations. Breakfast is served daily and you can enjoy beachfront views of the ocean while dining. Happy hour in the evenings and a courteous staff that will accommodate any needs. Be wary of your bill, the exchange rate may fluctuate accordingly. Overall, a great comfy place to stay.
- De Haan Hotel. One of the cheapest hotels/hostels in town. Dorms and rooms (with up to 6 beds, with private bathroom and hot shower!). Swimming pool, kitchen, 20m from the beach. USD12-30.
- Hotel DoceLunas of Jaco. DoceLunas has five acres of landscaped gardens and only twenty rooms. The hotel is at the base of a jungle covered mountain and the canopy has been preserved through the hotel, so guests include kinkajou, coatimundi, arboreal anteaters and a wide variety of birds. The mountain and the trees shade the hotel and keep it cool but of course every room has air-con and it is maintained frequently for fresh clean air. The hotel has a large pool with a sun moon mosaic design and a waterfall cave. All this and four star amenities and service will cost you the same as most three star hotels in Jaco. DoceLunas is the second highest rated hotel in Jaco, second only to a budget hotel that is rated tops in Central America. USD120+.
- Hotel Mar de Luz (Bejuco Beach), ☎ .
- Morgans Cove Resort and Hard Rock Casino (200m S of the Municipalidad), toll-free: . At this beachfront entertainment resort in the midst of exotic tropical fauna you can play among monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, toucans, macaws, and more while enjoying the two large swimming pools, 9km stretch of beach, and two large sport-fishing boats. The property also features the Hard Rock Costa Rica Casino with 12 beachfront rooms overlooking a pool, restaurant area, and a spectacular view of the beach.
- La Palmera Jaco (400m E of the Del Edificio Municipal), ☎ . La Palmera Jaco is 90 minutes from the international Juan Santa Maria airport. This charming hotel offers 15 standard rooms. USD56+.
- Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort (20 min away in Herradura), ☎ . Travel and Leisure magazine calls the Los Suenos Marriott one of "the best in the world." This luxurious hotel features 6 restaurants and lounges. The spacious accommodations and unmatched service and amenities make the Los Suenos Marriott one of the top choices among Costa Rican hotels.
- Villa Caletas (N after Herradura). Gorgeous hotel perched on top of the mountain, and is reminiscent of traditional colonial style architecture. Go to the hotel right before sunset and sit in the amphitheatre, cliff side, for the most amazing sunset experience you'll ever have. Enjoy a delicious cocktail while you take in the breathtaking views.
- National Park Manuel Antonio: There are numerous photo opportunities travelling south along the Costanera, as well as many secluded beaches. If you continue an hour south you will eventually come to the National Park, Manuel Antonio. It can be a bit confusing winding through the town of Quepos to get there, but simply follow the signs, or ask the locals for directions. Manuel Antonio boasts 6 or 7 secluded, white sand beaches. Be aware of the tide variations as they can change from season to season. Also be on the lookout for monkeys as Manuel Antonio is an excellent place to see them up close. Avoid feeding them, even though they're cute, as they come to depend on this food and risk danger by getting so close to humans.