For me, Jaco is the go spend one or two days to surf, eat great and skate, kind of beach. I like the town during the day, it is actually the best place to buy and repair surf boards and the food is really good… in fact, my favourite restaurants are there! But the beach itself isn’t so nice, it is not that clean, and if you are searching for waves, playa Hermosa right next to it is better. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jaco… my best friend’s aunt lives there so we go a lot: we surf, we move around either with a bicycle or a skateboard, we do yoga and we eat delicious! But if you are visiting from out of the country and want to see beautiful places, trust me, you can do better.
- On the way to Jaco from San Jose, make sure to stop at the Tárcoles Bridge and watch some pretty big crocodiles.
- It is not the best place for a family vacation, nor to surf or yoga, its good to eat and go fishing if you are into it.
- Jaco beach is actually really close to Marriott Los Sueños Resort and Marina, so if you are going on a fishing or golf trip, make sure you go to Jaco at least for dinner because the food is excellent.
- If you are already in Jaco and want to visit a lovely place, drive or take a bus to Manuel Antonio National Park (1h), and if you are up for it, do parasailing! It is not as extreme as it looks and the view is great.
- There are pharmacies everywhere so don’t worry about that, the nearest hospital is in San Jose or in Quepos, but there is a private clinic called Oceans Medical.
- The cleanest side of the beach is the end left side, but the best waves depending on the swell, are on the top right side.
- You can find all kinds of supermarkets, surf, souvenir and clothing shops. And all kind of restaurants, with low prices starting at $4 all the way to over $20.
- Some other time, you see crocodiles on the sea because of the vicinity to River Tárcoles, so if you want to go to the ocean, pay attention.
- Remember the sun in Costa Rica is really strong, so make sure you wear sunblock all the time, and I say this because every time I go to the beach, I see tons of tourists with a painful sunburn.
- If you have never been to a beach with waves, you need to know to be careful with the currents (don’t go too deep).
What is there to do
The beach: Jaco is a 4km beach, where you can find many frontside hotel, houses and condos, a brownish kind of sand, great frontside restaurants, good waves and surfing lessons, and a lot of costa rican tourists. You can walk or run through this beach during the day, but it is better to avoid doing so at night because it can be kind of dangerous is you are alone. During the day, you can work out you tan, enjoy the sun and ocean view, or walk through the town and look at all the artisans crafts it offers. Check below the close places to visit section for information about Hermosa and the vicinity.
Surfing: The surfing can be really good, or not depending on the swell. If you are beginner to intermediate this is your place, if you are an intermediate or advance surfer, drive to Playa Hermosa, Bejuco or Esterillos. The tides change significantly all the time so make sure you have your Surfline or Magicseaweed report. Also, the waves are fast and could be big and barrel. It is a beach break but usually, you don’t have to swim too much to get to the lineup so the beach is full of beginners. My recommendation, if you think you can handle it, definitely Hermosa is your choice! There is another beach that is really close, where there is one perfect wave, and you can enter by crossing around some rocks, its called Escondida (the entrance is private but the beach isn’t). If you are up for it, you can ask around for directions and give it a try.
Hiking and waterfalls: There are some waterfalls close to the beach, I know there is one right there on the mountain but I haven’t been there, and there is one called Bijagual, that is like on a 15min drive and a 1h walk downhill. You can also hike up a little right entrance that is on the main highway like on the way to Hermosa Beach, and you find the Jaco lookout (see the photos). Another good place to go hiking is Carara National Park, that is like 30min away.
Skateboarding: There is one public bowl on the beginning of the Jaco, ask a local where to find the recreation park (its on the top right side of town, on one of the exits to the highway. If you want to skateboard privately, there is a private bowl as well called Maluco Beleza Skate Park. And you can always just move around on a skateboard like I do 🙂
Lookouts: There are more than one lookout to visit. If you like hiking, the most famous one you can hike up the mountain or drive in a 4×4 car. It is located on an entry near Carton’s board shop. When driving through the highway towards hermosa, instead of taking the right exit to where Carton’s surf shop is, you keep driving like 25m and you will see a gas station on the right and a small entrance on the left. Take that entrance and start climbing the mountain! Eventually you will get to the place. There is a small lookout that looks like an abandoned place, and if you keep going up, you will get to the real one! It is worth taking the time to visit if you like lookouts! The other one is a 30min drive from Maxi Pali to the mountain, but it is private property so sometimes it is closed.
Diving: There are two dive enters in the area, one on Herradura called Herradura Divers and the other in Jaco, a new one actually, called Jaco Watersports. They will take diving mostly around Herradura or to Isla Tortuga. It’s not that good, but if you love to be underwater is better than nothing, and Tortuga island is beautiful (plenty of fishes and some hawksbill turtles), besides the island is a wonderful place.
Close places to visit: The best thing about Jaco is how close it is to a lot of places! You are a 5min to 2h drive to a lot of beautiful places. You are 5 min away from Herradura Beach, where Marriott Los Sueños Resort and Marina, Faro Escondido and Escondida Beach are at (surf, golf, fishing, food and tours). About 15 min away from Punta Leona (canopy, a recreation area with beach volleyball, a floating island for kids and a beautiful beach right around the corner), and a little bit further away the Bijagual Waterfalls, Carara National Park and the Tárcoles Bridge (to see crocodiles-You can take a tour and the locals will get you closer to them). On the other side of the highway, you are 5 min away from Hermosa Beach, one of my favourite beaches because you can admire the strength of the ocean, ride good waves and it has black sand so I love how different from the rest of the beaches it is. If you keep driving, you can go to Esterillos, Bejuco, Bandera, or all the way to Manuel Antonio or the Nauyaca Waterfalls.
Golf: If you are into golf, go to Marriott Los Sueños Resort and Marina.
Canopy and others: There is a place called Jaco Ropes where you can canopy, rappel and do those kind of things. Also you can drive to Punta Leona and they offer canopy tours as well (Just make sure you call them first or they won’t let you in).
Avoid Playa Azul, being alone at night, estuaries, walking in lonely places, hardcore nightclubs.
For me, the nightlife of Jaco Beach is a little hardcore. I mean, if I want to go out at night, I would just go to have dinner, or would drive to Hermosa to Backyard, but only on Wednesdays or Saturdays, when they have surf tournaments or lady’s night. In Jaco itself, the Green Room is the only place I would go at night. But that is me and because I am a woman and it can be dangerous. If you are a bunch of guys, go ahead and visit a nightclub or a casino, or whatever you feel like.
The food in this area is great! My favourite restaurant is called Caliche’s Wishbone. If you like tuna, you should try Caliche’s Poke (it is like eating a giant sushi haha), if you don’t, go ahead and order a vegetable and chicken bowl. Keep in mind this restaurant’s prices are around $19. Other great places with similar prices are El Hicaco oceanfront restaurant, Graffiti, SideStreet Bistro (great place for a brunch!) and Hamburguesia. If you are into sushi, your best choices are Tsunami sushi and Arigato.
If you are looking to spend less on food, my favourite option is Los Amigos. You can order one of their wraps or burgers which are great, and a big ass smoothie! And trust me, that is more than enough to fill full for the rest of the day. Other lower budget, good places around are Taco Bar, the pizza in Rioasis, Mandarina and the pizza place in front of Caliches.
For dessert, I like to buy ice cream at Marsician Gelato Lounge and El Barco ice cream parlours (I would recommend the blackberry ice cream from El Barco). But, if you don’t mind driving, my favourite place is the cafeteria in Marriot Los Sueños Marina.
It is a 1.5h drive from San Jose. You can ask for a hotel transfer from the airport, rent a car and drive through the 27 highway (make sure you bring cash for the tolls) or take a bus (about $6) from downtown San Jose (see schedules here). Another good option would be to coordinate with Interbus for transfers between beaches and hotels.