With a skyline that is rapidly approaching Miami Beach levels, Jaco is a mini-city where fast food restaurants, high-rise condos, casinos and bars are continuously sprouting up. Its consistent breaks have always been a magnet for surfers from around the world, and its nightlife knows no bounds.
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With dark colored sand and an overcrowded town, despite the relative unattractiveness of Jaco Beach, its closeness to San Jose has led Tico surfers and die-hard partiers trapped in the city to turn this into a surf day trip or weekend destination. You will notice that the town fills up as Friday approaches.
Although Jaco waters have dangerous riptides, the waves here, particularly towards the southern end of the beach, are much more manageable for amateur surfers than the neighboring Playa Hermosa. There are scores of surf schools and board rentals to choose from in town and right on the beach.
Because there is no shortage of restaurants in town, it’s a good idea to branch out and try something new every day.
In recent years Jaco has accrued a reputation as Costa Rica’s Sin City by the sea, and it is likely that during your stay you will notice that both prostitutes and drugs are readily available here. However, if you are here to surf or have wholesome fun, you shouldn’t be directly affected.
Planning a vacation to Playa Jaco
We recommend a 3 – 4 day stay for your vacation in Jaco. There is plenty to do, but staying lonegr thatn this will take away from your overall experience in Costa Rica. There is simply a lot more to see and do in the rest of the country.
There are plenty of hotels in Jaco, though no real resorts in town. For mid-range hotels, we recommend Hotel Club del Mar or Hotel Amapola. There really are not any luxury accommodations in town, though the Marriott Los Suenos is located about 15 minutes north of town. Budget accommodations are plentiful, though few are recommendable. Of we were to recommend one, it would be the Blue Palms. There are many condominium projects and just as many scams. Many of these places are not even open to public, but have websites to accept your money. When in doubt, check recent reviews.
If surfing is not your thing, scores of tours and activities can be arranged in Jaco, including ATV tours, horseback riding, kayaking and sport fishing. The more adrenaline hungry might enjoy a scenic paragliding adventure over land and water, canopy ziplining, scuba diving at nearby dive sites or bungee jumping with the tour company in town, Pacific Bungee. A quiet day of sunbathing, lounging by the pool or hitting Jaco’s spa, the Serenity Spa, for a well-deserved massage and a facial, is another heavenly possibility.
You will not need a rental car for Jaco. There are plenty of transportation options to get there and cabs are readily available. Getting around will never be an issue.
Reasons to visit
- The surfing is great
- Plenty of nightlife
- It is a singles’ paradise
- There are casinos
- Plenty of dining options
- Conveniently located 1.5 hours from San Jose
Reasons NOT to visit
- High crime rates including drugs and prostitutes
- Not family friendly
- It is not a swimming beach
- It can be loud at night, especially on weekends
- It is very Americanized, lacking a Costa Rican feel
How to get to Playa Jaco
From San Jose: Drive west on Autopista del Sol (the Caldera Highway) until you reach the toll booth at Pavon. Take the Costanera Sur Highway here and follow the signs to Jaco. This destination is only about 1.5 hours away from San Jose.
Weather and packing list
If you visit Jaco between December and April, get ready for non-stop sunshine! This is the driest period here, but rain in this area varies by month. Year-round temperatures are fairly stable in Jaco, ranging between the upper 80s to low 90s during the daytime and dropping to the upper 70s at night.
Don’t forget to pack all your surf gear, a swimsuit, flip flops, a hat, a beach towel, shorts, t-shirts, rain gear, insect repellent and sunblock to lather up constantly and protect against the beating sun. Our Costa Rica packing list is loaded with more ideas.
Fun Fact: In recent years Jaco has accrued a reputation as Costa Rica’s Sin City by the sea and has a rapidly growing skyline overlooking the surf.