As an expat living in Costa Rica, I consider myself fortunate enough to have discovered the enchanting beach town of Jaco – the go-to spot for adventurers looking to party, budding food critics, and… surfing enthusiasts who’ve confused their board for an actual partner.
Conveniently located just a 1.5-hour drive from the San Jose International Airport, Jaco proves to be the perfect home base for your Costa Rican escapades.
Things to do in Jaco
Whether you decide to set up camp here for a few days or go full expat like yours truly, there’s a bundle of things to keep you entertained.
And, speaking of entertainment, let’s not dilly dally! Here are my personal favorites for your Jaco itinerary. Now, mind you, this isn’t a mere list of things to do.
Catch your first wave in Jaco
Surf’s Up! If you’re in Jaco and don’t take a crack at surfing, well, you’re just doing it all wrong. Known for its long, consistent waves, Jaco beach serves up surf lessons on a silver platter. Don’t worry, no one’s expecting you to be Kelly Slater on your first attempt.
For a mere $50, you can enjoy a 2-hour surf lesson that’ll leave you exhausted, exhilarated, and hopefully, upright. Our town is dotted with surf shops like School of the World, Surfer Factory, Selina, Tortuga, and Jaco Surf School that have a knack for transforming floundering fish into capable surfers. Head south for the beginner-friendly Madrigales or tackle the gutsier waves to the north if you’re already a wave whisperer.
If you thought Jaco was all about its stunning beaches, you’re in for a splashy surprise. Since Jaco is nestled among jungle mountains with rivers, there are waterfalls a short drive away.
My recommendation? Take a waterfall tour with Costa Rica waterfall tours. You can jump off waterfalls, swim in clear pools, and feel like Tarzan as you trek through the pristine rainforest.
An interesting spot is Bijagual, a mighty waterfall hiding just 20 minutes away from Jaco. Entry will cost you a crisp $20 bill, but it’s well worth it. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, you can take a horseback ride there.
Miro Mountain View Point
Ever wanted to feel on top of the world? Head to Miro Mountain. It’s an abandoned building that now serves as the town’s unofficial viewpoint. Unfortunately, the road has been closed, so you’ll have to park and hike up.
Warning! It’s a bit of a steep hike, not recommended for those who break a sweat just climbing out of bed! Early birds will be rewarded with a small parking spot and an even better view, especially during sunset and weekends. Remember to lock your car and take your valuables with you unless you want to donate to the local monkeys!
Vista Los Sueños Adventure Park
If your middle name is ‘adventure’, you’ve come to the right place. Ten minutes outside of Jaco, you’ll find Vista Los Sueños, an adventure park that has the adrenaline junkie in you covered. Zip-lining, horseback riding, canyoning, ATV tours – they’ve got it all. After a day full of thrills, wind down with their cultural chocolate tour. Or don’t, if the thought of chocolate makes your heart race too!
Birdwatching: No, it’s not just for your grandma. The jungles outside Jaco are a bird watcher’s paradise. You might spot a majestic toucan, birds of prey, and the real showstopper, the Scarlet Macaw. Carara National Park boasts the largest breeding area for these stunning creatures. So grab your binoculars and channel your inner ornithologist!
SUP (Stand up paddle board)
If surfing is too extreme for you, try stand up paddle boarding instead. It’s like yoga on water, with more splashing involved.
Visit Playa Blanca/Punta Leona and Herradura Beach
These beaches may not rival the Northern counterparts, but they hold their own charm. Playa Blanca, the lone white sand beach, is perfect for a day out, and the Herradura Beach is a lovely spot for SUP and fishing.
Surfing Competition at Hermosa: Hang out at the Backyard Hotel and Bar on Saturdays to witness an intense surf competition while nursing a cold beer.
Tortuga Island Cruise
If you fancy a day trip with picturesque white sand beaches and snorkeling spots, then hop on a cruise to Tortuga Island.
Villa Caleta Sunset and Happy Hour
Visit Villa Caletas for happy hour cocktails and one of the most stunning sunsets Costa Rica has to offer.
Take a Day Trip to the National Parks
Manuel Antonio and Carara National Parks are nearby and perfect for hiking and wildlife watching. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sloth!
Jaco Deep Sea Fishing
Head to Herradura Beach for some deep-sea fishing, and you might just reel in a marlin, sailfish, or tuna.
Nauyaca Waterfalls Day Trip from Jaco
Take a trip to the Dominical area and explore one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica.
Gambling: Fancy a game of blackjack or roulette? Try your luck at Croc’s Casino Hotel.
Nightlife: When the sun sets, Jaco’s nightlife awakens. Hit the clubs, visit the Beer House or Puddlefish Brewery for some craft beer and good food.
Food: Jaco has something for everyone, from Graffiti and Koko Gastro Pub for foodies, to Tacobar and Green Room for those who fancy a more relaxed dining experience.
Jaco Walk: This open-air shopping centre is perfect for a leisurely stroll, with live music, stores, and a variety of restaurants.
And there you have it, folks! My all-encompassing guide of things to do in Jaco. Don’t just read about it – come experience the magic of Jaco, Costa Rica!