Jacó is one of the two largest tourist towns on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It is a surfing town with a 4-km long black sand beach and several local surf shops where you can get a board or sign up for lessons.
Jacó Beach Costa Rica is about 130 km from San José's airport (SJO)
The closest airport from Jacó is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Along the Autopista del Sol highway, Jaco Beach is only a quick and scenic 1 hour 20 minute ride from the airport.
The safest and most worry-free way to get to Jacó from the airport is to book a private van/airport transfer service to meet and greet you at the airport and bring you directly to your hotel or vacation rental condo/home.
There are hourly buses going to Jacó from the Coca Cola bus station in downtown San José. Fares are about US$7 each way; however, you must first find a bus near the airport to take you into downtown San José, which is 30 minutes in the opposite direction, then wait for the next bus to Jacó, which is 2.5 hours by bus. While a bus is cheaper than a van, it's not worth the headaches and time it takes to get to Jacó by bus, and buses can also be dangerous (see "Stay safe" below).
Make sure you stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles River along the way, a prime spot to observe wild crocodiles. It is illegal to feed the crocodiles, as they are protected.
- Paradise Shuttes, ☏ . Shuttle from San Jose to Jaco. There are many shuttle services but this was the best deal as of 2022. $30, can pay online.
Transportation in and around Jacó 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. Uber is also available in Jaco. There's a taxi stand by the main grocery store, Mas por Menos. All official taxis have meters and are clearly displayed. ₡1,500 (colones) 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 ₡750. Ask a local if you are unsure of how much you should pay. Always ask the taxi driver to use the meter, or "Maria" as they call it here.
There are local buses that circulate from Herradura to Jacó every hour. The bus does not go through all of Jacó, it does not travel to the most northern side, but it you can get off at any spot in central Jacó, 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 Jacó 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/Jacó bus will take you to Central Jacó, and all the way to Herradura beach for less than it would cost to take a taxi.
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 Jacó or Herradura to San José, this is where you need to go to buy tickets. You can also purchase tickets online. 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 Jacó to San José 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 José by bus from Jacó, 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 Jacó 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.
Jacó 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 Jacó area. There is an art tour to explore the incredible large and small murals painted throughout the town. 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 Jacó, and is nearly a straight shot south along the Costanera highway. Also, ask locals directions to "El Muro", an abandoned structure up in the hill overlooking the southern end of Jaco. You can only get to it by walking or mountain bike.
- Mono Azul (The Blue Monkey) (S of Jacó on the road to Manual Antonio). Sloth rescue project, sponsored by Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Jacó 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. Jacó 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 Jacó'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 Jacó, including some excellent "sodas", the local traditional restaurant. At night there are numerous clubs and bars that stay open late.
- 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.
- 1 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.
- Jaco Ropes, Costanera Sur Hwy (Look for the motor cross track), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM-4PM. Adventure park that offers ziplining in the canopy. The ropes course has 12 obstacles that include bridges, tire swing, tight walk, surfing in the air, cargo net and Tarzan swing. For the adventure type you can also rappel and do a free fall jump. Free walking trails offer great visibility. US$20.
- Costa Rica Fishing Experts with more than 40 fishing charter to rent you can be sure you get the best fishing deal from Los Sueños and Jaco Beach phone [(506) 8310-8393] Inshore Fishing, Nearshore Fishing, Offshore Fishing, and Deep Sea fishing adventures available for half or full day fishing.
- 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 Jacó, 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.
- 2 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.
- Surf Synergy Academy & Retreat. 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 Marcel Olievera, five times national SUP surfing & SUP racing champion and 2018 national longboard surfing champion.
- 3 Academia Tica Spanish School, Calle Naciones Unidas #15, ☏ , email@example.com. 8AM-4PM. Spanish language school that offers group, private, surf and special courses such as the "crash course" for travellers (1 to 5 days). The school also offers cultural activities and excursions during the week to practice Spanish.
- Los Suenos Golf Course (~9 km N of Jacó). Resort golf course in the Marriott Los Suenos resort, Playa Herradura.
- Jaco Art Tour City tour of Jaco's art installations
- 4 CCM Cinemas Jacó. Have enough beaches and nature for the day? Cool off with a Spanish language movie. ₡ 3,000.
There are numerous, small shops and stands all along Jacó'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. Many stores offer Costa Rican handicrafts and souvenirs. A couple places that seem to offer more unique, higher quality offerings are TICO POD (art and gifts) and Fruity Monkey P*op, where you can sample different coffee drinks and buy the beans to take home too.
At nice place to sit and enjoy a coffee is Bohio Coffee on the main street.
- Haircuts. There are many places to get good haircuts here for cheap. Tony's and Medrano both are at the price listed. ₡ 5000.
- 1 Jacó Rustico, ☏ . One of the best places in town for cheap local Costa Rica food. Generous portions and wide variety of fresh and delicious food served cafeteria style where you point to what you want then pick form a variety of beverages and pay at the end of the line. Very popular with locals and tourists and always busy. ₡3000 (US$5.75) gets you a big plate of delicious food with a drink.
- 2 Isaga Bar-Restaurant (Across from Beatle Bar). 11AM-Midnight. Great seafood, steak, typical Casado dishes and great bocas (bocas are small portion appetizers). Perfect place to watch soccer games, have great food and cold beer and blend in with the locals. Very popular spot and usually pretty busy and bustling. Bar Isaga is a must-try location for anyone's Jacó bucket list. Prices are low for the quality and generous portions.
- Lemon Zest, ☏ . 5PM-10PM. Top-rated five-star dining and international cuisine owned and operated by gourmet American chef Richard Lemon and his wife Nelly. Fine dining and vast menu with outstanding seafood dishes, steak, poultry, pasta. US$15-18 per plate average. Full bar on site.
- Sunrise Breakfast. 6:00AM-1:00PM and 6:00PM - 6:00AM. The place for large American-style breakfast. ~$6 for Typical Breakfast.
- Tsunami Sushi (central Jaco). The place for sushi, with daily deals. Wednesdays from 6PM-9PM. Half-off most of the sushi rolls on the menu.
- Hola India. Noon-10PM. A restaurant with relatively bland (be sure to ask for spicy sauce) Indian food located near the parking lot of Jaco Walk. $13 for most curries (+$5 for rice).
- 3 Sabress Kosher Restaurant, 150 m east of Pops Playa Jaco, inside Hotel Las Orquideas, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM-8PM. Daily, Shabbat & holiday dinners.
- 1 Los Amigos Sportsbar & Grill (Los Amigos) (South of Pop's Ice Cream on Ave Pastor Diaz), ☏ . Daily 11AM-1AM. Non-smoking air-conditioned dining and drinking, and open air outdoor seating for smokers. Serving lunch and dinner from 11AM-11PM Su-Th and 11AM–1AM 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.
- Cocal Hotel & Casino. Where most of the city's working girls congregate and "party".
- Hotel Trident (Bar and Restaurant), Calle Bohio 50 Mts West (towards the beach) Jaco Costa Rica (In front of el Paso Parking lot), ☏ , email@example.com. 7:00-22:00. US$1-10.
- Green Room. Live music daily and a large selection of local brews both on tap and bottle. Great food, too!
- The Beer House (Behind the Pizza Shop near the bridge). A small place with a large beer selection.
Many people come to Jaco to party and there are plenty of clubs with loud music and dance floors to accommodate. On weekdays there may not be enough people in the clubs to make it worth going but on the weekends there is a good crowd. It seems like no place consistently charges a cover but many places seem to charge them based on how they feel the moment you walk up. As of February 2022, there is a midnight curfew and places are required to close then. When the main clubs close you'll find many folks on the street handing out fliers for after parties. Be extra careful at the after parties as phones seem to be lost much more often there then at the other clubs.
- 2 Le Loft. The official after-party place of Jaco Beach. Featuring the best music, DJs, and club scene in town. Bottle service reservations get the best tables. Very good vibe mixed crowd locals and tourists.
- 3 The Back Room. Big leather couches, hip hop music, good air conditioning. They don't seem to charge cover even on busy nights. In February 2022 this club went from being called "Man Cave" to "The Back Room".
- 4 Republik Lounge. The vibe was like an EDM club with lasers and heavy base but playing Caribbean and Reggaeton music with a little Hip Hop. The floor had tile and things looked to be going for a modern/clean aesthetic. No cover fee was requested.
- 1 De Haan Hotel, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, 20 m from the beach. No AC available. US$12-30 - cash only.
- 2 Room2Board Hostel and Surf School, email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. $22/night with AC - cash only.
- 3 Wipeout International Hostel, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. $27/night.
- Izu’s Place, 150 Metros Este de Pops, Jaco Centro, 33345 Jacó, Costa Rica, ☏ , email@example.com. Hotel Las Orquideas is a boutique kosher hotel open all year round. The hotel is located in the center of the beach and surfing town, Playa Jaco. minutes walk from the ocean and footsteps from the restaurants, nightlife and all the attractions that Jaco has to offer. Enjoy your stay at this new property that has been refurbished in 2017. $70+.
- 4 Selina Jaco. Fun place to be with a coworking space too. $16 for 8 person room.
- Tuanis Hotel. $75+/night.
- La Palmera Jaco (400m E of the Del Edificio Municipal), ☏ . La Palmera Jacó is 90 minutes from the international Juan Santa Maria airport. This charming hotel offers 15 standard rooms. From US$56.
- Hotel Mar de Luz (Bejuco Beach), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. $91/night for a double.
- Hotel DoceLunas of Jacó. DoceLunas has five acres of landscaped gardens and only 20 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. 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. Four-star amenities and service. DoceLunas is the second highest rated hotel in Jaco, second only to a budget hotel that is rated tops in Central America. From US$120.
- Punta Leona/Playa Blanca. (north of Jaco and Herradura) A beach community surrounded by 750 acres of tropical forest reserve and home to Playa Blanca, one of the most beautiful white-sand and azure water beaches on Costa Rica's Central Pacific coast. Condominiums and houses available for rent. $250/night+.
- 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. $300+.
- 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. $250+.
Buses are very popular places for thieves and pickpockets to steal luggage and backpacks from unsuspecting tourists. They may be stolen from the storage underneath the bus, but always keep an eye on your belongings inside the bus as well.
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.
- National Park Manuel Antonio: There are many photo opportunities travelling south along the Costanera, and 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.
- Playa Hermosa - A popular surfing beach 5 minutes South of Jaco.
- Esterillos - A beach town about 30 minutes South of Jaco.