The 10 Best Things to Do In Jaco, Costa Rica
If you’re hoping to visit Costa Rica, and you’ve been doing your research, it’s safe to say you’ve probably heard about a little surf haven called Jaco. Located on the Pacific Coast just south of San José, the town is well-known with locals and travelers for its year-round surf conditions and great party atmosphere, but what exactly is Jaco, Costa Rica, like? We’re about to tell you!
In this guide, we'll take a look at:
- 1. Go surfing
- 2. Jump on a rainforest waterfall tour
- 3. Explore Jaco nature on an ATV tour
- 4. Try stand-up paddle boarding
- 5. Go on a hiking or zip-lining adventure
- 6. Visit Playa Blanca
- 7. Explore Tortuga Island
- 8. Meet the crocodiles of Carara National Park
- 9. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
- 10. Experience the nightlife in Jaco, Costa Rica
- 11. FAQs
It’s no surprise that the first thing on our list of things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica, would be to grab a surfboard and head down to the beach! Known for its year-round conditions, practicing your surf skills in Jaco, Costa Rica, is one of the best ways to kickstart the experience at some of the top surf spots in Costa Rica.
With different beaches like Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa just a few minutes away, both beginner and experienced surfers can enjoy pristine conditions that make any surf experience in Jaco absolutely unforgettable. Spots like Playa Hermosa, for example, are great for advanced surfers who are confident enough to tackle taller waves with tons of power. That’s why we consider that grabbing a surfboard and hitting the water is one of the best things to do in Playa Hermosa!
Jump on a rainforest waterfall tour
Costa Rica is well-known for its lush green landscapes and beautiful natural sights. Jaco is no exception: the surrounding area is great for nature lovers and adventurers who want to come up close and personal with local flora and fauna in their natural habitat.
Not far from the main town, Las Monas Rainforest is a sight to behold. Home to over 12 waterfalls, as well as a few monkeys, reptiles, and butterflies, trekking through the jungle and scaling the slippery waterfall rocks is one of the best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica.
Craving more? Bijagual Waterfall, known as the highest waterfall in Costa Rica, is just 30 kilometers outside of Jaco. Standing at 600 meters tall, the waterfall roars deep within the serene landscape and falls to the turquoise waters below.
Explore Jaco nature on an ATV tour
Four wheels is always better than two – that’s why signing up for an ATV tour is one of the best Jaco, Costa Rica, activities you should add to your list. These tours are usually very popular around town because of the muddy, back roads that take you all the way up and around the mountain landscape. Plus, ATVs are also guaranteed to take you to places that aren’t easily accessible by foot or with a car, meaning you’ll have more opportunities to explore.
An ATV tour is perfect for adrenaline junkies who don’t necessarily want to rappel off waterfalls or dive straight into surfing in Jaco. Combine speed with mud, steep hills, rivers, and wild animals and you have an exciting day out in Jaco!
Try stand-up paddle boarding
Are you a fan of the water, but not a surf aficionado? Thankfully for you, Jaco also has other activities you can enjoy. One of these is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Also one of the best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica, this is a much calmer option that doesn’t require as much skill. That said, it’s not necessarily easy either – so be prepared to tip over once or twice!
Some of the best beaches in Jaco to try your hand at SUP are Playa Herradura and Playa Mantas. While Playa Herradura is quite calm and perfect for people who also want to do a little fishing, Playa Manta has a little something extra: manta rays swimming around you. Stay by the shore if you’re just looking for a little fun in the sun, or head out further into the ocean if you’re hoping to see one of these marine creatures in all their glory.
Go on a hiking or zip-lining adventure
One of the adrenaline capitals of the world, Costa Rica has plenty of great things to do if you want to get your heart racing.
Let’s start with the milder of the two: hiking and trekking. With direct access to natural trails and mountains, there are a lot of places to go hiking near Jaco, Costa Rica. One of these trails will lead you to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. Located roughly 115 kilometers away from Jaco, these majestic waterfalls are surrounded by dense greenery and local wildlife. Reaching the Nauyaca Waterfalls requires a 4 kilometer trek directly through the jungle, so make sure you’re prepared for a walk. If you’re not up for the trek, you can also ask about the 4×4 trucks that will take you to the base of the waterfalls for a very reasonable price. Once there, entrance to the waterfalls costs about 8 USD per person.
If what you’re looking for involves a little more speed, there are also plenty of places to try your hand at zip-lining! Glide through the treetops as you fly past the ground below and enjoy a birds-eye view of Jaco’s impressive natural scenery from a completely new perspective.
Visit Playa Blanca
The only whitesand beach in the area, Playa Blanca might be a little hard to reach – but it’s definitely worth it. One of the most beautiful beaches in Jaco, Costa Rica, Playa Blanca is located a 20-minute drive from well-known Playa Jaco. Once there, you need to trek through Playa Mantas at low tide in order to reach it and enjoy its clean sands, palm tree lined shore, and azure waters.
Keep in mind that you need to buy a day pass in order to enter Playa Blanca. These can be purchased at Punta Leona resort where visitors can also find delicious meals, 3-star accommodation, and a massage center to heal those sore muscles. Alternatively, you can also bring your own food and water to enjoy by the water without having to leave your spot in the sun.
Explore Tortuga Island
A tropical paradise just 120 kilometres off the coast of Jaco lies Tortuga Island (or Turtle Island). With a prime location on the Gulf of Nicoya, Tortuga Island is a great tucked-away spot for snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, or simply lounging under the sun for a much-needed dose of total relaxation. Grab a pair of goggles and dive in to meet the angelfish, morays, needlefish and tons of other tropical residents who call Tortuga Island their home. Once you’ve had your fill of underwater exploration, hop on a kayak and circle the shore as you venture out further into the sea.
The catamaran journey from Jaco to Tortuga Island takes about 90 minutes and the tour can be done in a day. Personal coolers are not allowed on board, but the catamaran companies have all sorts of amenities available on board for guests to purchase throughout the day. This means all you really need to bring on board is your swimming gear, sunscreen, and a hat.
Meet the crocodiles of Carara National Park
You’ve probably heard of the infamous crocodile bridge in Costa Rica, right? High above the Rio Grande of Tarcoles, tourists gather on the edge of the bridge to take a peek at the giant beasts that lurk below.
Located about 25 kilometers from Jaco, Costa Rica, on the road between town and San Jose, the bridge is the perfect place to admire the crocodiles that lounge by the shore. The surrounding area is said to be home to over 2,000 crocodiles (some as large as 680 kilograms). The bridge is easy to recognize: keep an eye out for parked cars, tour buses, and a few souvenir shops dotted around.
Located just outside the entrance to Carara National Park, it’s worth making a quick stop by the river before heading inside the park for a day out in nature. Much less visited than many of the other National Parks in Costa Rica, Carara is a great way to interact with the country’s natural beauty and beat the crowds at the same time.
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
Located an hour south of Jaco, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica. Perfect for birdwatching and monkey watching, the park is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 AM to 4 PM.
Make your way through the park’s many trails as you go from the rainforest to the beach and keep your eyes peeled for many of Manuel Antonio’s residents lurking just above your head. From colorful birds to swinging monkeys, reptiles, and the occasional sloth, you’ll want to take your time as you explore the grounds.
Once you’ve made your way through the greenery, cool down with a quick dip in one of the park’s pristine beaches. Some of our favorite picks include Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.
Experience the nightlife in Jaco, Costa Rica
Once the sun begins to set is when Jaco, Costa Rica, really comes to life. Also known for its lively party atmosphere, the town is brimming with clubs and bars where you can unwind after a long day spent outside or out in the water.
Some of the best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica, at night include hitting up some of the late-night restaurants, dancing the night away at a popular club, or diving into a local pool party. If you’re looking to keep it simple, head over to Man Cave. Part sports bar, part part club, the venue is a great way to enjoy a night out without too much of the insanity that clubbing entails. For a great pool party we recommend you hit upn Jaco Blu: great DJs, fresh drinks, and a party atmosphere that stretches out well into the night. Lastly, if you’re looking for a good meal and a few drinks, we recommend you check out Graffiti Restro Café and Wine bar or The Green Room Café. While the first has a delicious blend of French and Costa Rican meals on the menu, the later caters to vegetarians.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica, that are great for every type of traveler to enjoy their time in this small beach haven. So whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, nature, or a little bit of everything, Jaco is a great destination to experience the magic of Costa Rica in all its glory!
Where should I stay in Jaco, Costa Rica?
There are plenty of accommodation options on Jaco, Costa Rica, that are suitable for every budget and every style of traveler. However, if you’re looking for a place that combines local charm with an international vibe, we suggest you head over to Selina Hostel Jaco Costa Rica.
Selina has both private and community rooms available as well as a dedicated wellness area, a beachfront bar, a swimming pool, and a state of the art coworking space where you can catch up on emails, phone calls, and other pending projects.
How do I get to Jaco Costa Rica?
Getting to Jaco, Costa Rica, is quite simple. If you fly into San Jose you can make the 98-kilometer trip via shuttle, private car, or public bus. If you’re looking for a hostel in San Jose to stay the night, Selina is a perfect choice.
Shuttles depart twice a day: one at 8 AM and one at 2:30 PM. The drive takes roughly 3 hours and they’ll pick you up directly from your accommodation in San Jose for about 50 USD. Private car rental rental is also an option and will set you back about 30 USD for 24 hours. The last option, traveling by public bus, is also the cheapest. Tickets cost around 5 USD and operate every day from 7 AM to 7 PM in two-hour intervals.
What is the best time to go to Jaco, Costa Rica?
The best time to go to Jaco, Costa Rica, is between December and early April. During these months, the humidity is relatively low and the days are quite dry. The highest temperature recorded during this time is around 32ºC/91.4ºF, while the lowest temperature is about 17ºC/62.6ºF.
Why is Jaco, Costa Rica, worth visiting?
Due to its proximity to San Jose, the town of Jaco is a great place to escape the big city buzz and stay for a few days. Close to so many natural attractions, surrounded by great beaches, perfect for surf aficionados, and with a lively nightlife, Jaco, Costa Rica, ticks all the boxes most travelers hope for in one small destination.
How expensive is Jaco, Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is one of the more expensive destinations in Central America. With this in mind, you should plan to spend around 64 USD a day on accommodation, food, and other activities. However, it is definitely possible to spend much less depending on your travel style. Choosing community dorm rooms, cooking your own meals every now and then, and avoiding going out every night are just some of the ways you can make your stay much cheaper.