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Jaco is on the Costa Rican Pacific Coast and about 80 miles from San Jose. Known for beaches and surfing, it certainly sounds like our kind of spot.
Caitlin, of the blog Circumnavi-Cait, is doing a 4-year study abroad program and currently is in Costa Rica. She recently wrote about Monteverde, Costa Rica and San Jose, Costa Rica. Here are her tips for those visiting.
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Jaco is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica as it is the closest beach to San Jose, where the main airport, Juan Santamaria International (SJO), is located. Here visitors can bask in the sun on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean as well as find the adventure and ecological activities that Costa Rica is famous for.
Getting There and Around the Area
As Jaco is such a popular spot in Costa Rica, there are plenty of ways to get there, including car rentals, shuttles, and buses.
Renting a car is a convenient option that allows for the most flexibility, but it can also be dangerous in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are typically very nice, but they are also notoriously aggressive drivers. Additionally, Costa Rican road conditions can be hit and miss so take caution when considering driving in Costa Rica. There are several rental company options near the airport.
Interbus is a great shuttle option for visitors looking for simple and direct transportation to Jaco. They have pick up points near the airport — one-way trips to Jaco cost $44 USD per adult and $22 USD per child. The trip takes about 2.5 hours. There are also shuttle options to Jaco from other major destinations around the country.
The cheapest option for transportation to Jaco is a bus from the 7-10 bus terminal in San Jose. Bus tickets cost about $5 each way, and can be bought in advance online or on the second floor of the bus terminal with cash or card. There are 7 departures from San Jose on weekdays and over a dozen departures on the weekends. The trip to Jaco from the terminal takes roughly 2 hours.
Jaco is relatively small so walking is a great option, but if you are looking to go farther than a typical walk, then I recommend taking taxis or Ubers. Official taxis are red with a yellow triangle on the side. Both can be taken for very low fares and drivers will often accept local currency or U.S. dollars.
Where to Stay
Jaco has some of the best options for accommodations in the whole country, from hotels to massive mansions to backpacker hostels. There are dozens of hotels that can be found on websites such as expedia.com or hotels.com. Most feature pools and some are even all-inclusive options, meaning they include food and unlimited drinks. All-inclusive resorts are a popular option for many visiting Jaco.
If you are looking for your own place for you and your group while visiting Jaco, consider using Airbnb, VRBO, or other private home rental sites. There are options from small condominiums to mansions in gated communities.
For the budget traveler, hostels are the best option. My personal recommendation is Selina Hostel Jaco. This hostel has dorms starting from around $12 USD per night and private rooms starting from $60 per night. Selina is a chain of hostels that is extremely nice, and while it costs a bit more than a typical hostel, it is worth the couple extra dollars per night. The Jaco location is right on the beach, has a pool and bar, offers surfboard and bike rentals, and the rooms are nicer than most hostels I have come across. However, Selina does tend to be a party hostel so if you are looking for something more low key, there are a great deal more options on hostelworld.com and hostels.com.
What to Do
First and foremost, go to the beach! The beaches of Jaco are littered with driftwood perfect for sitting on and looking out at the waves. There are several stretches of beach in and near Jaco, where you can find solitude or only have the company of a few other visitors. One of the best beaches in the area is Playa Hermosa, known for its gorgeous black sand. Each Saturday, Playa Hermosa hosts a surf competition that visitors can watch along with a stunning sunset.
If you get tired of hanging around on the shore, consider taking a surf lesson. Many hotels, hostels, and tour companies offer surf lessons and surfboard rentals. Guides can patiently teach you how to ride the waves in both Spanish and English. If surfing isn’t your thing, try stand up paddle boarding.
Getting away from the beach, visitors can explore waterfalls, go bird watching, ride ATVs, or visit the nearby Carara National Park. Visitors can find many of these activities on their own or book them through one of the many tour companies in Jaco. There are also several adventure parks nearby Jaco where visitors can go horseback riding, canyoning, and ziplining.
What to Eat
Jaco is a haven of delicious food. Visitors will not be disappointed by the many offerings in the beach town.
Rugula, a small restaurant with outdoor seating, offers fresh food options, kind staff with tendencies to offer free snacks, and absolutely delicious arepas.
The Beer House has good pub food along with vegan and vegetarian options and great craft beers. For wine people, the Graffiti Restro Café and Wine Bar has more high-end dishes and good wine offerings. It is recommended that you make a reservation for Graffiti Restro, especially during the high season, as they fill up quickly.
If you are looking for traditional Costa Rican fare, check out Soda Jaco Rustico. Sodas are always the best way to go when looking for authentic Costa Rican dishes – they are locally owned and typically low-priced. Soda Rustico offers Costa Rican casados, which are dishes including rice, beans, meat, salad, and sweet plantains. This restaurant is buffet-style with different options so they are a good choice for those who like to pick and choose exactly what they want.
Jaco is well-known for its nightlife; the main road in the beach town is lined with bars and night clubs so it is a great destination for those looking for excitement after dark. The Orange Pub and Monkey Bar are great for dancing and the Green Room has the best music. Most bars and clubs have no entry fee, but some may charge $2-4 USD for a wristband or cup for unlimited select drinks. Additionally, if you go out before 11 pm, chances are good that women can find several bars offering free drinks for ladies.
When you tire of dancing and drinking, stop by the Pizza Shop for an early morning slice of pepperoni.
When at one of the many beaches in Jaco, be cautious of the riptides. There have been many drowning incidents recently in Jaco as a result of the rip currents, but fortunately there are ways to stay safe and escape the currents. If you find yourself caught in a riptide, which can happen even in waist deep water, it is important that you remain calm and do not try to fight against the current. Then swim parallel to the shore until you reach waves that you can come into shore with.
Additionally, it is important that travelers stay aware of their surroundings. Do not leave belongings unattended in hostels, on beaches or buses. For women, it is especially important that they stay aware, particularly at night. Cat-calling is exceptionally prominent in Jaco, and it is best that women ignore harassers and get away from them. They should also walk in groups and/or take taxis or Ubers at night.
Lastly, Jaco is unfortunately also known for being a haven for prostitutes and drugs. It is a safe bet to avoid both of these while traveling in Jaco.
U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Jaco, from restaurants to taxi drivers. Credit cards are also widely accepted at most restaurants and stores. If you would like to have some Costa Rican currency on you, the current exchange rate is about 565 colones to $1 USD, and they can be taken out of one of many ATMs in Jaco.
English is spoken just about everywhere in Jaco, but if you would like to try your hand at the local language, here are some simple words and phrases.
- Hola = Hello
- Buenos días = Good morning
- Buenas tardes = Good afternoon
- Buenas noches = Good evening
- Adíos = Goodbye
- Hasta luego = See you later
- ¿Dónde está…?= Where is…? Useful for asking directions or where something is (¿Dónde está el baño? Where is the bathroom)
- ¿Habla Inglés?= Do you speak English
- ¿Cuanto cuesta? = How much does it cost?
- Sí = Yes
- No = No
About the Author
Caitlin is a student at the Global College of Long Island University, a four-year program that allows students to pursue a major in Global Studies and live around the world for seven semesters. She is currently living in Heredia, Costa Rica and travels any opportunity she gets. When she isn’t traversing the globe, she is reading as many books as she can get her hands on, kickboxing, or taking as many photos as possible. You can follow her on Instagram at @caitlinepstein and my blog Circumnavi-Cait.
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