Jaco Beach: Surf, Swim & Fun in Costa Rica

Visiting Jaco, Costa Rica beaches are a must for any trip to Central America. With great surfing, incredible sunsets, and plenty of beaches, Jaco is a great place to spend a week enjoying la pura vida.

Jaco Beach is located along the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica and is the closest beach to San José, Costa Rica’s capital. 

It’s a cute town and a great beach popular with locals and travelers. If you happen to be in Jaco over a weekend, you’re bound to run into bachelor and bachelorette parties, San José residents looking for a break from the city, and plenty of tourists soaking up all of Costa Rica’s natural beauty. 

Best beaches in and around Jaco

Playa Jaco

Best beach if you don’t want to travel far and want a ton of food and drink choices

Jaco Beach Costa Rica aerial shot

This beach is home to huge waves, making it perfect for surfing. Swimming here isn’t great, as the water can be pretty rough, and there are occasional rip currents. However, you can hang out on the dark sand beach to soak up some sun, watch an epic sunset, and simply admire the surfers.

Playa Jaco is also great because it is located right in the town of Jaco. The main street in town is perfect if you love grabbing a cocktail or dinner with a view. The street backs up to the beach, and there are plenty of good restaurant options. 

Playa Hermosa

Best beach if you came to Jaco to surf

guy walking with surf board in Costa Rica

Playa Hermosa is most popular surfing beach located five minutes south of Jaco. Waves are pretty large and consistent, allowing surfers a guaranteed good ride. 

If you aren’t coming to surf, you may want to skip this beach. While it is beautiful, the beach isn’t developed much. There aren’t many amenities for sunbathers, and there is very little shade. The Costa Rican sun is pretty hardcore, so if you decide to come for a visit, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and your own shade.

Playa Herradura

Best beach for swimming 

Herradura beach in Costa Rica

This beach has a lovely sheltered area with calm water and beautiful views. It is quite rocky, but the water is so lovely you’ll want to spend all of your time wading anyway. 

Locals love this beach. It can get pretty busy when the weather is great. You’ll find Playa Herradura just north of Jaco, near the Los Suenos Marriott.

Playa Mantas

Best beach for water activities and calmer waters

Mantas Beach in Costa Rica

In a sheltered cove about twenty minutes north of Jaco, this beach is great for swimming, SUP enthusiasts, and kayaking. The water is the perfect shade of turquoise, and the sea is much calmer than Playa Jaco.  

The best way to get to Playa Mantas is to drive. It is a quick 25-minute drive north along Route 34. The road is well-marked, so you should have no issues finding it.

If you don’t have a car, it is also possible to grab a taxi for about $15-$20 each way.

Playa Esterillos Oeste

Best beach for a relaxing day without any hustle and bustle 

Drone shot of Playa Esterillos Oeste in Costa Rica

This secluded beach is the most beautiful in the area. Located about 15 km (9 miles) from Jaco, it is the best place to relax and enjoy an uninterrupted day at the beach. It is much quieter than other beaches in the area but has enough beauty to keep you coming back for more. There are also great waves here if you want to surf.

What to do in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

Crocodiles in Costa Rica

In and on the water

Of course, the first thing to do in Jaco is go to the beach. You can go surfing, catch some amazing sunsets, or simply relax and enjoy the surf and sand. If you want something else to do, check out Jaco’s adventure sports, including kayaking, SUPing, hiking, and 4x4ing. 

Playa Herradura, Playa Blanca, and Playa Agujas are great spots for kayaking or SUPing. The water is calm, and there are plenty of tour options if you’d rather go with a group. It is possible to book a tour in Jaco or head straight to the other beaches to organize a day of fun on the water. 

If you happen to be an avid fisherman, you’re in luck! 

Jaco and the surrounding beaches are known for excellent sport fishing.

Many companies help you charter a boat and spend a day trying to catch the best fish. Costa Rica is known as one of the best places to catch billfish. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to hook a roosterfish, blue marlin, or sailfish if you’re lucky.

Finally, check out the Tarcoles River. Take a half-day river boat cruise to explore the area and see loads of crocodiles and beautiful bird sightings.

On land

People horseback riding on the beaches in Jaco Costa Rica

If you are more of an adventure junkie, head to Vista Los Sueños. This adventure park has ziplining, ATV tours, and horseback riding on offer for its guests. No matter what you choose, you’ll be able to take in all of the gorgeous surroundings while having the time of your life.

Vista Los Sueños is only 8 km (5 miles) north of Jaco Beach, making it a great day trip option. You can easily drive it in about 15 minutes. 

Alternatively, if you plan to go to Playa Herradura, you can stop at the adventure park on the way. It is less than 2 km (1.2 miles) from that beach.

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, hike up Miro Mountain. The hill is just south of Jaco town, and it takes about thirty minutes to get to the viewpoint. It’s the best place to catch impressive views and an amazing sunset for the perfect Instagram shot.

You’ll know you’ve found the right spot if you see an abandoned building covered in local graffiti. 

Pro tip: Walk the entire way to Miro Mountain. There is no parking, so it is best to sweat it out all the way to the top.

Jaco Beach day trip excursions

Nauyaca Waterfall near Jaco Costa Rica

Jaco Beach’s location is perfect for a longer vacation because of its proximity to even more beautiful beaches, lush jungles, and epic national parks. So, base yourself there, but leave time to take these insane day trips.

A Jaco waterfall tour is a great way to take in the area’s stunning scenery and visit several different waterfalls deep into the heart of Puntarenas province. You’ll have the option to hike or take a 4×4 truck to over ten different waterfalls. You can even jump off the top and swim in the refreshing pools to cool down. 

A waterfall you must see is the Nauyaca waterfall. It’s one of the furthest waterfalls from Jaco, and takes about two hours to get there. However, it is definitely the most beautiful and worth the trip!

Manuel Antonio National Park is another excursion to add to your list. It is the most famous national park in Costa Rica and is easily accessible by direct bus. This park is also the northernmost rainforest in the entire country.

smiling sloth eating a leaf

Once inside the park, you can go hiking and watch out for some impressive flora and fauna, go swimming, or simply lay out and relax on the beautiful beach. Hire a guide to help point out a variety of monkeys, sloths, iguanas, butterflies, and so much more. 

Carara National Park is another national park not to be missed. There are plenty of great hiking trails, and it also has an abundance of wildlife. It’s one of the best places in the world to see the endangered scarlet macaw. There is so much beautiful bird life at Carara National Park that it is a bird watcher’s dream. 

Unfortunately, there is no direct bus to Carara National Park, so the easiest way to get there is by renting a car and driving. 

Best Jaco Beach nightlife

people clinking their glasses

Jaco is also known for its nightlife. There are plenty of bars and clubs for night owls looking to extend their good time.

In recent years, Jaco has become a hotspot for bachelor and bachelorette parties because of the variety of places to go, plus there is always something to do once the sun goes down. 

Jaco Blu is a fantastic beach bar that shifts into a club once the sun goes down. It is right on the beach and has a serious party vibe. 

XTC is the perfect spot if you are looking for a ladies’ night. They have drink specials every day (except for Mondays and Tuesdays, when they are closed), and the place attracts a wide array of people. 

Cocal Casino is a hotspot with great food and delicious cocktails. It is also a great place to go from day to night, as there are some pretty impressive pools to hang out at during the day. Think Vegas pool party. The casino offers a lively atmosphere to gamble and enjoy a drink or two. There are even luxury rooms available for booking if you have one too many.

Of course, there are many other options near Jaco, so check local guides for daily specials and pop-up parties.

Weather in Jaco Beach

surfers on the beach in Costa Rica at sunset

Jaco Beach weather is very hot and humid most of the year, and the area experiences a wet and dry season.

Dry season runs from December to April. March and April are the warmest months. This is very similar to the rest of Costa Rica.

It’s a great time to travel to Jaco because the weather is great, and there is plenty to keep you busy. However, prices tend to be higher as it is peak tourist time. 

Rains typically begin in May and last through November. September, October, and November are the wettest months, so avoid traveling to Jaco at this time if you plan to spend most of your time on the beach.

Like many tropical climates, the rainy season usually sees heavy rain and thunderstorms during the afternoon, with bright and sunny mornings and clear evenings. So, if you don’t mind an afternoon siesta, traveling during the rainy season could be a great way to save money on accommodation and activities.

Where to stay in Jaco

There are plenty of options for accommodations in and around Jaco Beach. 

Places range from inexpensive hostels to bed and breakfasts to luxury resorts. It is even possible to rent a condo in Jaco Beach.

No matter your budget, you will find a place to rest your head at night! 

Packing list essentials for Jaco

surf boards standing up on the beach

Besides your standard swimsuit, sunscreen, and shades, be sure to pack a hat to keep your face protected from the sun.

You may also want to bring a rash guard (surfing t-shirt) to protect your torso while you’re catching some waves.

Water shoes are another smart addition to your packing list, as most of the beaches are rocky.

The water is so clear here you’ll want a GoPro or a waterproof pouch to keep your phone safe and allow you to take plenty of pictures. 

If you’re traveling alone, consider bringing an anti-theft beach bag, so you aren’t a target to anyone hoping to score some loose valuables. 

How to get to Jaco

woman sitting next to her bike looking at the water

Conveniently located less than 100 km (61 miles) from San José International Airport, Jaco is one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica. 

You can easily take a bus from San José to Jaco, starting around $15 per person. There are several different companies to choose from with several departure times.

You can also easily get to Jaco from Liberia, Costa Rica. It is an easy three-and-a-half-hour drive, so if you have a rental car, this will be a piece of cake. 

You could even organize a private transfer from Liberia to Jaco. This would be a great option if you are traveling with a group of friends or family but don’t want to rent a car. 

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica, is an amazing place to visit and should be at the top of your Central American bucket list. You are guaranteed a good time here, no matter what you do!

Check out all the places Bookaway can take you throughout Costa Rica.

FAQ

Is Jaco Beach safe?

It is a well-known tourist destination and very safe during the day. However, like many places, be more cautious at night. Don’t walk alone and avoid poorly lit areas. You should also avoid swimming after dark.

What is Jaco Beach known for?

Jaco is known for beautiful beaches, surfing, and nightlife. It is very close to San José as well, making it the perfect beach town to visit without a lot of hassle.

Can you swim at Jaco beach?

If you are a confident swimmer, you’ll have no problem. Strong currents and rip currents are common, though, so be sure to stay in the shallows or ask about currents before going for a dip.

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