Beautiful Jaco Beach from the sky
Beautiful Jaco Beach from the sky

When you're planning what to do in Costa Rica, your to-do list is probably as big as the Arenal Volcano! Although you wish you could spend two weeks exploring my homeland, chances are you only have a few days to pack in the fun. That's why I'm here! Jaco is a must-see beachside gem close to San Jose, but there is a lot going on in this bustling destination. If you only have 24 hours in Jaco, here are some of the activities you simply can't pass up!

Get up close with Animals

During the early morning, you may want to head to a wildlife park within the area, as this is the best time to view many animals. Driving just minutes outside of Jaco will offer you the opportunity to explore the Carara National Park in its Reserve, Tortuga Island or the Damas Island Estuary. Carara is less than 10 miles north of the city, and is a great place to catch a glimpse of wildlife in action. This living laboratory is a must-see for any nature or animal lover and who isn't?. This park sits between a tropical moist forest and wet forest in the Pacific lowlands, so it's like visiting two ecosystems in one unique place! A diverse variety of animals live in this park, including ocelots, white-nosed coatis, howler monkeys and sloths. You may even see some of my distant relatives and friends!

Jaco beach to the north
Jaco beach to the north

Get Sandy

Once you've got your fill of flora and fauna in the area, it's time to hit the beach! Jaco is famous for its sandy beaches and great surf - so you need to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun, no matter how long your trip lasts. Located along the Pacific Ocean in the Central Valley, Jaco stretches 2.5 miles and offers some of the best surfing conditions around for novice riders. One of the first things you'll notice at the beach in Jaco is its famous black sand. Even if you've never jumped on a surfboard here, there are plenty of surfing lessons available in Jaco, so you can still join in on the fun. Not interested in surfing? You can go on a horseback excursion, ATV tour, bicycle ride through town, swimming or deep sea sport fishing.

Jaco can get fairly crowded, but you can take a quick drive to Playa Hermosa or Herradura for a more tranquil experience if time permits. Herradura is a great spot for swimming because the waters are calm, but experienced surfers may prefer Playa Hermosa, as the waves are big and heavy along this stretch.

Wave at Playa Hermosa in Puntarenas
Wave at Playa Hermosa in Puntarenas

Go Out!

Jaco is known for its legendary nightlife, so you must spend a night out on the town to cap off your stay here! Once the sun goes down, the high-energy and diverse nightlife kicks into gear along Pastor Diaz, a popular strip in Jaco. Peppered with dozens of bars, clubs and restaurants, this strip offers a little something for every traveler. Do you like gambling? I love coming here to watch people play at the tables at one of the casinos along this stretch. Whether you're a low-key partier or high-class outings, you'll find a bar or club along Pastor Diaz to enjoy.

There may seem like a lot to do in Jaco, but you can pack the best of the best all into 24 hours here! Like some other places in Costa Rica, Jaco is popular because of its outdoor adventures and amenities so you'll want to prepare with a good dose of sunscreen and perhaps bug repellent. If you've been to Jaco, I'd love to hear your stories of the best way to spend 24 hours here!

Jaco Beach relaxing chairs
Jaco Beach relaxing chairs