Jacó Costa Rica: From Sunny Shores to Thrill Seeking Experiences

Plan the Ultimate Vacation in Jacó

Known for its lively energy with a carefree party atmosphere that is much beloved by local Ticos and travelers alike. Jacó is a beach town with a little something for everyone!

Located an hour and forty-five minutes from San José on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific, Jacó beach is full of friendly locals, exceptional aquatic activities, and memories waiting to be made.

In addition to its beaches and unique atmosphere, Jacó has an animated nightlife scene, so it’s perfect for tourists looking for something fun to do after the sun goes down.

Check out popular bars, clubs, and other party spots after spending a day on the beach. Many people plan a getaway weekend or special event like a bachelor party in Jacó, giving it a reputation as one of the best party towns in the world.

Girl Surfer at Playa Jacó
Girl Surfer at Playa Jacó

If you’re more of a morning person, consider surfing the waves at Jacó beach or taking a hike through one of the nearby nature preserves like Carara National Park, where you’ll encounter hundreds of native and exotic species of wildlife and foliage.

You may also enjoy trying your hand at something more adventurous such as surfing, horseback riding, an ATV tour, ziplining, or even rappelling down a waterfall.

Tropical wide sandy beach of the town of Jacó
Tropical wide sandy beach of the town of Jacó

If Jacó sounds like the perfect spot for your next vacation, you’re in luck, as getting there is a breeze.

It is one of the most developed beach cities in Costa Rica and it is very close to Costa Rica's capital San José as well as the San José International Airport (SJO). The drive typically takes about an hour and forty-five minutes with a bus ride it can be a bit longer.

This gives you plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere and check out the scenery before you head out to one of Jacó's many exciting attractions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling by yourself, with kids or with a large group of adrenaline-seeking adventurers. Jacó truly has something for everyone and becomes a beloved travel destination for all who visit.

Things to Do During Your Visit to Jacó

Any visitor would be hard-pressed to run out of things to do in Jacó, given just how much there is to experience. With national parks, nightlife, beaches and more, Jacó Costa Rica is filled to the brim with activities for all ages and interests.

Walking along the raised trail in Manuel Antonio National Park
Walking along the raised trail in Manuel Antonio National Park

National Parks near Jacó

Jacó's convenient central location makes it a great base of operations for anyone looking to visit one or more of Costa Rica’s incredible National Parks and Wildlife Preserves.

One popular option is Manuel Antonio National Park, which is about a 90-minute or less drive in normal conditions from Jacó. Manuel Antonio is well worth the trip, as you’ll have the opportunity to hike through breathtaking rain forest scenery. With over 126,000 acres of pacific ocean and 1,700 acres of land, the park is teeming with plant and animal species, with plenty of spots perfect for swimming and snorkeling to boot.

Hiking in Carara National Park near Jacó
Hiking in Carara National Park near Jacó

Alternatively, the Carara Biological Reserve is just a 30-minute drive North of Jacó, and features its own wide variety of wildlife species. Here, you’ll have the chance to spot monkeys, jaguars, and crocodiles among the ancient hardwoods that stretch into the sky. You may even get to see the colorful scarlet macaw, one of the favorite birds for bird watchers visiting the area.

Carara National Park also encompasses multiple pre-Columbian archeological sites that date back to 2,000 years ago, so it’s a truly unique experience for history buffs.

Throughout the Central Pacific region, you’ll be treated to a number of incredible landscapes. From waterfalls, to beautiful beach shorelines, to park backdrops, to the majestic Arenal volcano, you’ll see the best that the Central Pacific Coast has to offer!

Nightlife in Jacó

The party doesn’t stop when the sun goes down in Jacó. Jacó is well known for its nightlife scene, with plenty of clubs and other party destinations to keep you entertained long into the night. Start off with a trip to one of Jacó's incredible restaurants for dinner, then head out to experience the town’s famed nightlife for yourself.

People come from all over the world to party in downtown Jacó, but you’re likely to encounter plenty of local Costa Ricas, or Ticos, as well. Check out the live music and do a little gambling at one of Jacó's casinos, or immerse yourself in a club crowd and dance the night away.

An Exciting Beach Destination

There are amazing beaches all along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and each Jacó beach is something truly special to behold. Playa Jacó is one of the closest beaches, while Playa Hermosa and Playa Herradura on the picturesque Herradura Bay, are only a short drive away.

Popular Jacó beach activities include surfing, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, rafting, catamaran boat rides, and even deep-sea fishing. Whether you prefer a relaxing beach day spent lounging in the sand or a more adventurous day spent in the surf, Jacó is the perfect spot for easy access to tour some of Costa Rica’s best beaches.

As a flourishing beach town, each of the shorelines in the area offers something special to visitors!

Learn a little more about the three most popular beaches in the area, that of Jacó Beach, Playa Herradura, and Playa Hermosa and consider a visit to two secret Jacó beaches for a truly memorable experience!

Hazy Day at the Beach in Jacó
Hazy Day at the Beach in Jacó

Jacó Beach

Jacó Beach, also known as Playa Jacó to the locals, is typically populated by lots of tourists. Despite its popularity, it is well-looked after and clean, with lots of sand and space to stretch out. Enjoy all the usual beach day activities, from tanning and surfing to beach volleyball and sunset catamaran tours.

Note that while it is possible to swim at Playa Jacó, there is an especially strong riptide here, so it’s not suitable for beginner swimmers and young children. Be cautious and avoid swimming too far from the shore.

Playa Hermosa beach near Jacó
Playa Hermosa beach near Jacó

Playa Hermosa

If you’re interested in surfing, be sure to head to the famous surf spot Playa Hermosa, especially during the green season when the waves are larger. This beautiful beach tends to be more crowded on the weekends, so if you want to get some uninterrupted surfing time in, your best bet is to visit on a weekday during high tide.

In 2016, Playa Hermosa hosted the World Surfing Championship, which originated in 1966 in San Diego, CA. This showcases how great the waves at Hermosa Beach truly are, and the resulting buzz frequently attracts local surf pros and surfers from around the world to the beach. Even if you’re not a surfer yourself, you can have fun watching the experts from the beach or on a boat.

Playa Herradura beach and Los Sueños Marina
Playa Herradura beach and Los Sueños Marina

Playa Herradura

Unlike the Hermosa and Jacó beach crowds, Playa Herradura is more low-key, with a secluded location and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to escape the bustle of the town and wind down toward the end of your vacation, enjoying the sun and sand.

Even the waves are calmer here, which makes it suitable for swimming and other water activities like snorkeling. If you’ve come to Costa Rica for its world-class sportfishing, you’re in luck! Full or half-day sportfishing tours are available and exotic nature boat rides are available as well if you and your family want to get on the water but aren’t into fishing.

The area also has a relaxing resort known as the Los Sueños Resort and Marina, with its own golf course and rainforest reserve.

Hidden Jacó Area Beaches

Punta Leona, is just north of Herradura and about a 15-minute drive from Playa Jacó.

This 500 meter long hidden white sand treasure in the Gulf of Nicoya is a beautiful beach set in a cove that features palm trees and calm waters great for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is not to be confused with the Playa Blanca which is approximately 75km away to the southeast along the coast in the lush city of Manuel Antonio.

Playa Mantas, just 18km to the northwest of Jacó is also a fantastic Costa Rican beach destination for those looking for something a bit off the beaten path.

Getting there can be a bit tricky as you have to drive down a 5km unpaved road. You may have to pay for parking, but the beach itself is free and well worth the trip. Monkeys frequent the beach and are fun to watch but please don’t feed them.

Best Places to Stay in Jacó, North Puntarenas

If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Jacó, Puntarenas, there truly is something for all needs and desires. From family-friendly accommodations to hostels and everything in between, you’re sure to find something that works for you!

Pool at Sunset at Hotel Club del Mar Oceanfront
Pool at Sunset at Hotel Club del Mar Oceanfront

Hotel Club del Mar Oceanfront

Hotel Club del Mar Oceanfront is perfectly placed between the Pacific Ocean at the gorgeous southside Jacó Beach and the lush green rainforest, offering a truly authentic Costa Rican feel.

Great for families, couples and even honeymooners, the hotel offers a pool with a Tiki bar serving meals and drinks at the pool or on the beach. Don’t miss the luxurious world-class Spa Del Mar offering a full menu of services for your convenience.

Croc's Resort & Casino Bridge over Swimming Pool
Croc's Resort & Casino Bridge over Swimming Pool

Croc's Resort & Casino

The Croc's Resort & Casino is a 5-star, beachfront resort that features a Vegas style casino. With a massive ocean-front pool, restaurants for all tastes plus a great location less than 1.5 miles from the Jacó Walk, this hotel has it all.

Pool and Chairs at Beach Break Resort Jacó
Pool and Chairs at Beach Break Resort Jacó

Beach Break Resort Jacó

The Beach Break Resort Jacó is a beach front, pet-friendly hotel that features lush gardens as well as 2 fantastic pools.

You can expect spacious, Caribbean-style rooms, many with balconies and all near the beach.

Cylinder Rooms at Selina Jacó
Cylinder Rooms at Selina Jacó

Selina Jacó

Selina Jacó is a great choice for solo and budget travelers.

Officially a hostel, the property features free WIFI, a shared kitchen, a year-round outdoor pool and terrace and a more communal atmosphere for mingling with fellow travelers and adventurers.

Patio and Pool at Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery
Patio and Pool at Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery

Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery

If you’re looking for a boutique Costa Rican experience in Jacó, then Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery may be just the place for you!

The family-friendly hotel is a condo style hotel featuring extras like kitchens with ovens, dishwashers, dining areas and more. The property also has a wonderful pool, spa and wellness center. WIFI and parking are both offered free with your stay.

Solo travelers love it, but it can also be an excellent choice for families and couples alike.

Jacó is for Everyone

Unlike some vacation destinations that are centered around a single activity, Jacó and the rest of North Puntarenas have tons of activities that appeal to people from all walks of life.

The town is best known for its coastline and the many beautiful Costa Rica beaches that are easily accessible from Downtown Jacó, but there’s much more to do in Jacó beyond the standard offerings. Therefore, it’s an ideal vacation spot for all kinds of people, especially those looking for adventure, parties, and natural beauty.

Parasailing in Jaco Beach
Parasailing in Jaco Beach

Thrill Seekers

Jacó offers almost every thrilling outdoor activity under the sun, which is the perfect getaway from a monotonous day job if you want to let out your inner daredevil.

With various adventure tours like the Vista Los Sueños Rainforest Tour and the Waterfall Canopy Zipline Tour, you can experience a day of fun without getting caught up in planning. Alternatively, you can pick and choose what activities you’d like to try.

Popular options include an ATV tour, horseback riding, a canopy tour, rafting, ziplining, and waterfall rappelling excursions. There are also boat tours that allow you to get a closer look at potentially dangerous animals like crocodiles and jaguars from a safe distance.

Having cocktails in a pool in Jaco
Having cocktails in a pool in Jaco

Partygoers

Any partygoer is sure to love their time in Jacó thanks to the incredible nightlife scene!

With plenty of opportunities to drink, dance, and be merry, you’ll have an unforgettable experience in this truly unique vacation, whether you arrive to celebrate a special occasion or just to get a taste of an authentic Costa Rica vacation party.

Sunset on Jacó beach
Sunset on Jacó beach

Nature Lovers

With extensive amounts of natural splendor to immerse yourself in, nature lovers will find plenty to appreciate all across Costa Rica, but especially in Jacó. Go snorkeling off the coast and check out the tropical fish species and vibrant coral reefs, or take a tour of a nearby National Park and snap photos of the local wildlife.

Tips for Improving Your Trip to Jacó

Streamline your trip planning with these helpful tips, which let you cut down on stress and fully relax on your Costa Rica vacation.

Stay Safe at Night

Jacó is a fairly safe town with welcoming locals, but it’s important to keep an eye on your surroundings if you’re going clubbing and partying. Don’t go for a swim under the influence, and steer clear of any dangerous wildlife.

Book a Hotel Close to the Action

There are plenty of boutique and luxury hotels in Jacó, as well as more family-friendly resorts.

Check out our favorite places to stay in Jacó like the Croc's Resort & Casino, which embodies Jacó's nightlife spirit and features all-inclusive resort amenities as well as an outdoor pool.

Know that in Jacó, there are dozens of options to suit every visitor’s preferences.

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Distance: 12 miles / 20 km
Drive Time: 18 min
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Drive Time: 1 hr 30 min
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