The small beach town of Jaco in Puntarenas province is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. No matter what time of the year you visit Jaco, it’s buzzing with activity.
Jaco is known for its great waves, nice beaches, and a plethora of nearby activities. Jaco has always had a reputation for being a party city, but you can still find many outdoor activities and other things to do in Jaco if partying is not your top priority on holiday.
We’ll be honest, Jaco is probably our least favourite destination in Costa Rica. It’s busy, a little seedy, and it’s definitely not a place for slowing down and enjoying the natural beauty of Costa Rica. But we know many other travelers that love this vibrant town and come back to enjoy this popular destination on a yearly basis.
If you are trying to plan your first visit to Jaco, here is some info to help you orient yourself.
When is the Best Time to Visit Jaco Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has two main seasons: the wet season and dry season. The weather in Jaco is no different.
The Costa Rican weather also depends on the coast. Each coast gets the same amount of rain, but some months are wetter on the Pacific Coast and drier on the Caribbean side.
On the Pacific Coast, the wet season starts in June and continues until early December. During the wet season, it rains heavily for an hour or so mid-morning or afternoon. It also rains at night. Planning your day is easy when you can predict weather patterns better.
In Jaco, the dry season starts in December and ends around April, which makes this time of the year, the most popular time to visit. If you’re not afraid to get a little wet, you’ll be glad to know that airfare is a lot cheaper during the wet months.
READ MORE: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
How to Get to Jaco, Costa Rica
The easiest way to get to Jaco is by car. The town is located less than 2 hours away from San Jose, making it a popular weekend destination with San Jose residents as well as travelers. If you’re travelling from Tamarindo, the drive takes a little longer with a 4.5 hour journey.
If you are not comfortable driving in Costa Rica, you’ll be happy to know that Jaco is one of the best-connected towns in Costa Rica, with plenty of public transportation options. Check out Bookaway to book busses, shuttles, and ferries and to find the best way to get to Jaco from San Jose and other parts of Costa Rica.
Top Things to Do in Jaco, Costa Rica
Jaco, Costa Rica may be known for its great nightlife, but there are plenty of other things to do in Jaco to keep outdoor lovers busy during the day.
Hike to Nearby Waterfalls
The roads in Jaco may have gotten a bit more paved, but luckily, the waterfalls are still accessible to anyone looking for an outdoor activity in Jaco.
Tres Piscinas waterfall is a set of three waterfalls with natural pools. This waterfall is between Jaco and Parrita, approximately 45 km (28 mi) south on highway 34. The entrance fee is $4 per person, which includes parking.
Catarata Bijagual, also known as Manantial de Agua Viva, is one of Costa Rica’s tallest waterfalls. It’s a moderately difficult hike, with a natural pool that you can soak in to cool down after the hike. Catarata Bikagual is located outside of Carara National Park. The entrance fee is $20 USD for foreigners and $10 USD for Costa Rica residents.
It is easy to get to the waterfalls on your own if you have rented a car for the duration of your time in Costa Rica, otherwise, you can visit the waterfalls on one of these organized tours:
- Canyoning and Canopy Tour: This tour will take you hiking, ziplining, and swimming. You’ll see waterfalls and even rappel down the waterfall in a sturdy harness.
- Extreme Adventure Waterfall Tour: This tour will take you to five different waterfalls in the Jaco area giving you the option to cool down in many of the natural pools throughout the day.
- Sky Bridge & Waterfall Climbing Rainforest Tour: This will take you on a nice hike to the top of a waterfall. It also includes an awesome zipline experience and a chance to walk on a hanging bridge.
- Explorer Waterfall Tour: Will show you great rivers that lead to smaller waterfalls around Jaco. You’ll hike across bridges and bathe in swimming holes.
- Zip Line and ATV Adventure Tour: Get your adrenaline pumping as you ATV and zip line through the rainforest before arriving at a stunning waterfall.
Enjoy Jaco Beach
There are lots of things to do in Jaco Costa Rica, but in our opinion, nothing beats enjoying the beach. Take a break and work on your tan while in town.
Jaco Beach is the main beach in town where you’ll find restaurants, surf shops, bars, bicycle rentals, smoothie shops, and more.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Learn to Surf
If you’re interested in learning how to surf, there are many surfing schools to choose from in Jaco. Each surfing school is local and family-owned. You have the option of choosing from Tico Surf Lessons, Jaco Surf School, or Tortuga Surf School.
If you already know how to surf, you can always rent a board and hit the waves on your own.
Visit Carara National Park
Carara National Park, located about 30 mins outside of Jaco was established as a biological reserve back in 1978 but upgraded to a National Park in the early 90s.
Carara National Park’s forest is denser than Manuel Antonio National Park. It creates an ideal environment for birds like the Scarlet Macaws, parrots, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers. It also has more bugs and mosquitos found throughout. Other exciting features of the park include about 15 pre-Columbian archaeological sites that date back to 300 BC to 400 AD.
Best Hotels in Jaco, Costa Rica
Considering Jaco, Costa Rica is growing rapidly there are lots of accommodation options available in town. With so many hotels to choose from, here are our recommended eco-friendly options.
Ocean View Sustainable Lodge
If you don’t mind staying tucked away from the crowds in an isolated lodge overlooking the city, you can take a look at an Ocean View Sustainable Lodge. This lodge, set amongst the Costa Rican rainforest has a green roof, which creates a cool atmosphere inside. It means there is no air conditioning as they try to minimize their carbon footprint. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom. This lodge is perfect for a small family or a party of two.
Selina Jaco Hostel
If you’re interested in unique, beachside accommodation near the centre of town, a hostel like Selina Jaco may be a good option. Selina Jaco is half a hostel, half regular hotel. It’s very popular because of its unique young vibe. This hostel has rooms for every type of traveller.
If you’re travelling with a group, you have the option to choose a room with bunk beds, hostel style. You can choose a regular style room with a good size bed. Selina Jaco also has a few cylindrical pods with beds in case you want something different. There is a communal kitchen, restaurant, and work areas.
Even with all of the amenities, the hostel is an open space. It’s built to blend into the surrounding environment and features a yoga terrace.
If you’re looking for eco-friendly things to do in Jaco Costa Rica, nothing beats staying in an eco-lodge that has assisted in boosting the population of the Scarlet Macaw in the area. That’s why staying at the Macaw Eco-Lodge inside the Carara National Park is incredible.
The Macaw Eco-lodge is located deep inside the jungle and was built with nature in mind. It was also made to help the birds nest and reproduce. While you’re here, you can learn all about the environment inside Carara National Park and see many types of birds.
The lodge offers Wi-Fi, yoga classes, and decent-sized rooms with air conditioning. The hotel also takes pride in educating its guests on sustainable practices in the area.
READ NEXT: Best Places To Stay In Costa Rica
Best Restaurants in Jaco, Costa Rica
You’ll find every kind of cuisine in Jaco, from traditional Costa Rican restaurants to raw, vegan and vegetarian options. Here are a few Jaco restaurants worth a visit.
Costa Juice is a one-stop-shop for carnivores and herbivores alike. It has tasty smoothies and salads. Located at Avenida Pastor, near Casa Del Camino BCR, Costa Juice serves a cacao açai bowl that will make your friends jealous.
If you’re looking for a great restaurant with worldly cuisine, check out Jerah a family restaurant making it big. This restaurant uses sustainable and ethical food practices. They also only use organic and in-season fruits.
If you’re looking for a vegan-only restaurant, you can find Casa Vegan near Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach). Everyone raves about their diverse vegan menu. This restaurant also delivers. It’s cash-only so make sure you have come Costa Rican Colones ready.
For a well-decorated, chic, adult beverage, check out Le Loft. This classy establishment is excellent for groups heading out for a night on the town. Le Loft is more of a club. However, it’s located in the centre of town, with many other bars and clubs to make the best of your Jaco Costa Rica nightlife.