Jacó, located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in the Puntarenas province, is one of the country’s most popular and lively beach towns. Known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and excellent surfing conditions, Jacó attracts a diverse crowd of visitors, from surfers and adventure seekers to families and eco-tourists. Its proximity to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, makes it an accessible destination for both international tourists and capitalinos looking for a beach getaway.

Jacó offers a dynamic mix of natural beauty, adventure, and cultural experiences. Whether you’re looking to catch the perfect wave, explore the lush rainforests, or simply enjoy the laid-back beach atmosphere, Jacó provides a vibrant setting for an unforgettable Costa Rican adventure.

jaco costa rica

Attractions and activities

Surfing: Jacó Beach, with its long stretches of sand and consistent surf breaks, is a haven for surfers. The beach offers waves suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers, and there are numerous surf schools and shops where visitors can rent equipment or take lessons.

Nightlife: Jacó is well-known for its lively nightlife, featuring a wide array of bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences. The town comes alive at night, offering everything from live music and DJ sets to casual beachfront bars.

Sport fishing: The waters off Jacó are rich in marine life, making it a premier destination for sport fishing. Anglers can charter boats to pursue a variety of game fish, including marlin, sailfish, tuna, and dorado.

Beaches and waterfalls: In addition to Jacó Beach, the surrounding area boasts several beautiful beaches worth exploring, such as Playa Hermosa and Playa Blanca. The nearby Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls offer a tranquil escape with lush gardens, spectacular waterfalls, and panoramic views of the coastline.

Beyond the beach: Beyond the beach, Jacó serves as a gateway to a range of outdoor activities and natural attractions. Adventure tours, such as zip-lining, ATV tours, horseback riding, and hiking in the rainforest, are readily available and provide opportunities to explore the stunning landscapes of the region. Nearby, the Carara National Park is a hotspot for birdwatching, especially known for its population of scarlet macaws.

Visit the nearby Carara National Park

The Cara National Park protectsthe river basin of the River Tárcoles. Among other things, it is famous for its large population of scarlet macaws.

The Carara National Park was established in 1978 as a biological reserve and was upgraded to national park in 1998. It is a part of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Conservation Area and located roughly 15 miles (24 km) north of Jacó.

The park contains a lot of primary rainforest and is a haven for birds, but also for the things many birds eat, so bring insect repellant and dress appropriately. Over 430 bird species and bird types have been reported from the park, including motmots, jacamars, antbirds, anhinga, heron, kingfisher, egret, Northern black-throated trogon, various hummingbird species, orange-chinned parakeets, and – of course – the scarlet macaws.

Both the park itself and adjacent parts of the Tarcoles River are inhabited by crocodiles.

Examples of other animals that live in the park are poison arrow frogs (green and black), collared peccary, puma, kinkajaou, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, brown-throated three-toed sloth, white-faced capuchin monkey, mantled howler monkey, and white-nosed coati.

There are also archeological sites to explore within the park; fifteen pre-Columbian sites from two different periods of occupation, the Pavas period (circa 300 CB – 300 AD) and the Cartago period (circa 800 AD – 1500 AD).

How to get to Jacó

  • Jacó is roughly 80 miles away from Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. By car, the drive takes between 2 and 2.5 hours.
  • Some tour companies have shuttles that leave from the airport, heading directly to Jacó. There are also shuttles who do pick-ups at the hotels in downtown San José.
  • If you are in San José, you can catch a public bus to Jacó from the Coca Cola bus station. At the time of writing, the fair is circa 5 USD each way.

Tip! There is an alternative route to Jacó from San José. You drive past San Ramon toward Puntarenas until you get to Highway 27. Go south on 27 and follow the signs to Jacó. This is a longer journey than the normal route, but some poeople prefer it since you do not have to do a moutain drive, and sometimes it is actually a lot faster despite being longer.

Travel tips

  • Jacó’s climate is tropical and warm year-round, with a dry season from December to April and a rainy season from May to November.
  • While Jacó is generally safe, as with any popular tourist destination, it’s wise to take standard safety precautions, especially at night.
  • Jacó offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxury resorts and vacation rentals to budget-friendly hostels. Many visitors choose to stay in beachfront hotels or condos to enjoy easy access to the beach and ocean views.
  • The dining scene in Jacó is varied, with options ranging from traditional Costa Rican cuisine and seafood to international fare. Many restaurants also offer stunning ocean views, especially at sunset.

Sustainability and community

In recent years, Jacó and its businesses have made strides in sustainability and community engagement, promoting eco-friendly practices and supporting local conservation efforts. Visitors are encouraged to respect the environment, support local businesses, and participate in community-based tourism experiences.