Jacó Beach Jaco Beach Map Costa Rica

Few places in Costa Rica generate such divergent opinions and paradoxical realities as Jacó. Partying surfers, North American retirees and international developers laud it for its devil-may-care atmosphere, bustling streets and booming real-estate opportunities. Observant Eco tourists, marginalized Ticos and loyalists of the ‘old Costa Rica’ absolutely despise the place for the exact same reasons.

Jacó was the first town on the central Pacific coast to explode with tourist development and, despite ups and downs over the years, it remains a major draw for backpackers, surfers, snowbirds and city-weary josefinos (inhabitants of San José). Although working-class Tico neighborhoods are nearby, open-air trinket shops and tour operators line the tacky main drag which, at night, is given over to a safe but somewhat seedy mix of binge-drinking students, weed slinging surfers and scantily clad working girls.

While Jacó’s lackadaisical charm is not for everyone, the surfing is excellent, the restaurants and bars are generally great and the nightlife can be a blast. Tourist infrastructure here is among the best in the country, and all around the greater Jacó area you can expect some high-quality service for your money. Despite its more off-putting features, it’s impossible to deny Jaco’s good side, which put it on the map in the first place: the sweeping beauty of the beach, the consistently fine surf and the lush tropical backdrop.


Jacó has a special place in the hearts of Ticos, as it is the quickest Oceanside escape for landlocked denizens of the Central Valley. Many Ticos recall fondly the days when weekend shuttle buses would pick up beach-seekers in the city center and whisk them away to the then-undeveloped Pacific paradise.

The secret got out in the early 1990s, when Canadians on package tours started flooding in, though for the most part tourism remained pretty low-key. Things picked up a bit in the late 1990s, when surfers and anglers the world over started visiting Costa Rica en masse, though Jacó remained the dominion of Central Valley Ticos looking for a little fun and sun. However, things changed dramatically as soon as retiring baby boomers in search of cheap property began to relocate here.

In only a few years’ time, Jacó became the most rapidly developing town in all of Costa Rica. Plots of land were subdivided, beachfronts cleared and hillsides leveled, and almost overnight Jacó became the exclusive enclave of moneyed expats. Ticos were happy that development brought coveted Western institutions such as paved roads and fast-food restaurants, but as the initial flash of cash and glitz started to fade, some began to wonder if they had inadvertently sold out the ground beneath them. The global economic crisis of 2008 was in some ways a blessing in disguise for little Jacó, halting construction of high-rise condo developments, whose empty shells now languish amid razed open space.

Jacó’s future is anything but certain. Optimists point out that the town is simply experiencing growing pains, and argue that drugs and prostitution have subsided with the increasingly stable infrastructure. Pessimists are quick to retort that wealth attracts opportunism, especially of the illicit kind, and that the problems in Jacó are just getting started.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, what is certain is that the country is casting a watchful eye on Jacó, and will ultimately point to the city as either an example of development gone awry or a success story of wealth creation.



Jacó is generally safe for swimming, though you should avoid the areas near the estuaries, which are polluted. Be advised that the waves can get crowded with beginner surfers who don’t always know how to control their boards, so keep your wits about you and stay out of their way. Riptides occasionally occur, especially when the surf gets big, so inquire about local conditions and keep an eye out for red flags marking the paths of rips.


Although the rainy season is considered best for Pacific coast surfing, Jacó is blessed with consistent year-round breaks. Even though more advanced surfers head further south to Playa Hermosa, the waves at Jacó are strong, steady and a lot of fun. Jacó is also a great place to start a surf trip as it’s easy to buy and sell boards here.

If you’re looking to rent a board for the day, shop around as the better places will rent you a board for US$15 to US$20 for 24 hours. There are too many surf shops for us to list them all. Our favorite place to rent is Carton Surf Shop (Tel 2643-3762;. www.cartonsurfboards.com;.Calle.Madrigal;.h 8am-5pm. Mon-sat,.10am-3pm.sun), run by the friendly Villalobos brothers, near the beach at the southern end of the main drag on Calle Madrigal.

Six-time national surf champion Álvaro Solano runs the highly respected Vista Guapa Surf Camp (Tel 2643-2830,. in. USA. 409599-1828;. www.vistaguapa.com), which is recommended by readers. Weekly rates including full board start at around US$1000. Check the website for directions.


A popular local pastime is following the trail up Mt Miros, which winds through primary and secondary rainforest and offers spectacular views of Jacó and Playa Hermosa. The trail actually leads as far as the Central Valley, though you only need to hike for a few kilometers to reach the viewpoint. Note that the trailhead is unmarked, so ask a local to point it out to you.

Horse Riding

Be wary of winging it here; readers have reported incidents of horse abuse in Jacó and visitors will see malnourished and mistreated animals on offer near the beach.

Discovery Horseback Tours

(Tel 8838-7550;. www.horseridecostarica.com;. rides. from.US$75) Nearby beach and rainforest rides are available through this highly recommended outfit, run by an English couple who offer an extremely high level of service and professionalism.



Jacó has long been on the radar of Tico families looking to swap the congestion of San José for the ocean breezes of the central Pacific coast. Therefore, you’ll find that your children are very well cared for in Jacó, and there is enough going on to keep even those with the shortest attention spans amused for days on end.

Families flock to the beach, and, compared with more famed surfing destinations up and down the coast, the waves here are modest. As with any water-based activities, the usual amount of parental watch is required, though young children can safely splash about on most days. However, strong surges often accompany ill weather, so it’s always best to survey the scene and inquire locally about conditions.

Beyond the beach you’ll find a laundry list of activities on offer, and a good number of operators offer discounts for young children.

There is a tremendous diversity of accommodations in the Jacó area, and aside from the more backpacker-oriented youth hostels and the upmarket boutique hotels, the vast majority welcome children. Smaller, more intimate B&B types are good for maintaining a comfortable, familial atmosphere, while larger resorts have a range of child-friendly amenities. If possible, book in advance if you need to reserve child beds or have other special requests. Hotels with pools can save the day, especially when the mercury starts to rise.

Eating out with children is a breeze, since nearly all of the places in town offer English menus and/or have English-speaking staff, and there are plenty of familiar takeout options. Fruit smoothies are an excellent way to keep your kids properly hydrated and happy.


Kayak Jacó

(Tel 2643-1233,. 8869-7074;. www.kayakjaco.com;. tours.from.US$70) This reliable company facilitates kayaking and sea-canoeing trips that include snorkeling excursions to tropical islands, in a wide variety of customized day and multiday trips. Though it does have a presence at Playa Agujas, 250m east of the beach, it’s best to phone or email in advance.


Serenity Spa

(Tel 2643-1624;. www.serenityspacr.com;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;.h9:30am-7pm.Mon-sat,.to.5pm.sun) Serenity Spa, east of Calle Bohío, offers the full range of spa services.


School of the World

(Tel 2643-2463;. www.schooloftheworld.org;.1-4. week. packages.US$540-2225) This popular school and cultural-studies center offers classes in Spanish, surfing, yoga, art and photography. The impressive building and activities center also houses a cafe and art gallery. Rates include kayaking and hiking field trips and onsite lodging. Spanish and surfing are the most popular programs. See the website for directions.


Tours around the area include visits to Parque Nacional Carara (from about US$50) as well as longer-distance trips around the country. Another popular destination is Isla Damas – you can organize tours here or in Quepos, further south. Isla Damas is not technically an island but the tip of a pointed mangrove forest that juts out into a small bay just south of Parrita. During high tide, as the surrounding areas fill with water, this point becomes an island, offering an incredible opportunity for bird and other wildlife watchers. Boating tours can be arranged from Jacó for around US$70 per person, but more avid adventurers can opt for a sea kayaking expedition with several operators that work with local hotels.

Virtually every shop, hotel and restaurant in town books tours, as Jacó operates on a lucrative commission-based system. As you’d imagine, it’s hard to know who is greasing whose palms and who is running tours, though usually it works out. Still, you shouldn’t book anything from touts on the streets, and if an offer from a vendor seems too good to be true, then most likely it is.

In Jacó there is also a handful of competing companies offering similar package canopy tours.

Gray Line Tours

(Tel 2220-2126;. www.graylinecostarica.com;. Best. Western. Jacó. Beach. resort,. Av. Pastor. Díaz) Gray Line Tours is one longstanding agent that receives good reviews. It books tours throughout the country as well as private intercity transportation.

Vista Los Sueños Canopy Tour

(Tel 2637-6020,. in. USA. 321-220-9631;. www.canopyvistalossuenos.com;.tours.from.US$80;.h hourly. tours.8am-3pm) The longest zip lines in the area belong to Vista Los Sueños, which offers 14 cables accessed by tractor cart though the lush hillside.

Festivals & Events

Mid-January in Jacó brings with it the Jungle Jam music festival. Featuring international acts (heavy on the reggae) as well as local up-and-comers, the four-day event is based at Docelunas (p366) but hosts shows throughout Jacó’s venues.


Jacó has hosted a variety of tourists for years, and there’s a wide spread of places to lay your head. From spare concrete-block dives with little more than a bed and a fan to upscale resorts with full amenities, there’s a lot to choose from in just a few blocks.

The center of town, with its many bars and discos, can mean that noise will be a factor in where you choose to stay. The far northern and southern ends of town have more relaxed and quieter accommodations.

Reservations are highly recommended on weekends in the dry season and become critical during Easter, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and in mid-January during the Jungle Jam music festival.

The rates given are high-season rates, but low-season rates could be as much as 30Tel to 40Tel lower. If you plan on a lengthy stay (more than five days), ask about long-term rates.

Buddha House

(Tel 2643-3615;. www.hostelbuddhahouse.com;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. dm. US$15,. d. with/without. bathroom. US$65/35;.paWs#) An oasis of calm in the midst of hustling Jacó. Bold colors and modern art create an artistic atmosphere at this ‘boutique hostel’. Communal areas include a breezy patio and a spotless kitchen. This place is perfect for budget travelers who don’t want the party in their living room.

Jacó Inn

(Tel 2643-1935;. www.jacoinn.com;. Av. Pastor. Díaz. near. Calle. Bohío;. dm. US$12,. r. US$25-45;. p W ) Situated down a shaded alley in the middle of town, Jacó Inn is a fantastic deal for the price. Cozy dorms in the main house share a chilled-out living area and homey kitchen, while private rooms in the hangar-like addition are spare and spotless. Surfboards can be rented and surf lessons arranged with the friendly staff, who foster a welcoming vibe.

Cabinas Antonio

(Tel 2643-3043;. cnr. Av. Pastor. Díaz. &. Bulevar;. s/d. US$30/40;.pWs) Something of an institution among shoestringers and local Tico families, this clutch of cabinas at the northern end of Jacó is one of the best deals in town. Basic rooms are uninteresting at best, but they are clean and cozy, and come with private cold shower and cable TV. Most importantly, they’re just steps from the surf.

Camping El Hicaco

(Tel 2643-3004;. Calle. Hicaco;. campsites. per. person. US$7;. p ) The only proper campground in town: there are picnic tables, bathrooms and a lockup for gear, though its proximity to the bars and clubs means you might not get much shut-eye. Don’t leave valuables in your tent as theft is a big problem here.

AparHotel Vista Pacífico

(Tel 2643-3261;. www.vistapacifico.com;.d.incl.breakfast. US$68-121;. p n i W s ) Located on the crest of a hill just north of Jacó (off Bulevar), this gem of a hotel is run by a warm young Canadian couple. Homey, comfortable rooms and suites with kitchen facilities come in a variety of configurations. Its favorable elevation offers not only panoramic views of the coastline and valley but also blessedly cool breezes.

Posada Jacó

(Tel 2643-1951;. www.posadajaco.com;. Calle. las. Olas;. r. US$100;. p a W s ) Surprisingly quiet for being steps from Jacó’s main drag, this tiny creekside hotel has a well-kept garden and pool area with a communal barbecue. Suites are the best deal here, complete with kitchenettes and terraces in low-key, friendly environs.

Sonidos del Mar

(Tel 2643-3912,. 2643-3924;. www.sonidosdelmar . com;.Calle.Hidalgo;.houses.US$250;.p a i W s ) Set within a mature tropical garden, these guesthouses may be two of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. The design is impeccable, from the vaulted Nicaraguan hardwood ceilings to the hand-laid volcanic-rock and pebble showers. Owner Lauri is a skilled artist and a collector who has lovingly filled each room with original paintings, sculptures and indigenous crafts.

Each house comes with a fully equipped gourmet kitchen and secure parking, and the beach is only 50m away. The houses can accommodate up to six people each, though they can more comfortably put up eight between them. Cheaper weekly and monthly rates are available.

Doce Lunas

(Tel 2643-2211;. www.docelunas.com;. Costanera. sur;. d/junior. ste. incl. breakfast. US$169/197;.) Situated in the foothills across the highway, ‘Twelve Moons’ is a heavenly mountain retreat consisting of only 20 rooms sheltered in a pristine landscape of tropical rainforest. Each teak-accented room is uniquely decorated with original artwork, and the luxurious bathrooms feature double sinks and bathtubs. Yoga classes, offered regularly, are free with room rates.

A full spa uses the hotel’s own line of beauty products, and you can swim in a free-form, waterfall-fed pool. The open-air restaurant serves everything from marlin ceviche to vegan delicacies. To reach the hotel, make a left off the Costanera just after the third signed entrance for Playa Jacó.

Hotel Poseidon

(Tel 2643-1642;. www.hotel-poseidon.com;. Calle Bohío;. d. incl. breakfast. from. US$107;. p a i W s ) It’s hard to miss the huge Grecian wooden carvings that adorn the exterior of this small American-run hotel. On the inside, sparkling rooms are perfectly accented with stylish furniture and mosaic tiles, and include amenities like fridges and hair dryers. There’s a pool with swim-up bar, a small Jacuzzi and an open-air restaurant serving some of the best food in Jacó.

Hotel Mar de Luz

(Tel 2643-3259;. www.mardeluz.com;.Calle.Mar.de. luz;.d.incl.breakfast.US$109;.p a i W s ) This adorable little hotel with Dutch-inspired murals of windmills and tulips has tidy and attractive air-conditioned rooms (outfitted with fridges, microwaves and coffeemakers) that are perfect for a little family fun in the sun. The friendly Dutch owners (who also speak Spanish, English, German and Italian) offer two swimming pools, several BBQ grills and plenty of useful information.

The owners are also extremely committed to fighting drugs and prostitution in Jacó, and are at the forefront of an admirable campaign to clean up the city.

Best Western Jacó Beach Resort

(Tel 2643-1000;. www.bestwesternjacobeach.com;. Av.Pastor.Díaz.btwn.Bulevar.&.Calle.Ancha;.s/d.from. US$160/240;. p a i W s ) Though there are excellent smaller lodges for families in Jacó, the Best Western remains a solid choice for its all-inclusive resort packages. Rooms are predictably bland but comfortable and well maintained. The pools, beach access, myriad resort activities and bounteous meals more than make up for the slightly dated accommodations. It pays to check for internet specials.


The quality of fare in Jacó is high, and aside from the Quepos and Manuel Antonio area, the city proudly boasts the most diverse offering of international cuisine on the central Pacific coast. While the vast majority of eateries cater primarily to Western palates, there are still a few local spots that have weathered the storm of change.

It’s worth pointing out that hours can fluctuate wildly, especially in the rainy season, when many shops close sporadically, so it’s best to eat early.

Taco Bar

(Tel 2643-0222;. Calle. Pops;. meals. US$6-12,. breakfast . f r o m . U s $ 3 ; . h 7 a m 1 0 p m . tu e s u n , . n o o n 1 0 p m . Mon;.W v ) A one-stop shop for Mexican, seafood, salads and smoothies. Get your drink in the gargantuan 1L size or your greens at the salad bar featuring more than 20 kinds of exotic and leafy components. And, of course, there’s the obligatory fish taco, which may be one of the planet’s greatest food combinations.


Soda a Cachete (Tel 8633-1831;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. meals. US$4-8;. h 7am-7pm. thu-tue) Although many of the local sodas have been pushed out by gringo palates, this little place survives through its loyal following, who drop by for huge, excellent breakfasts and set lunches. A few bucks will get you rice, beans, a fish or meat dish of the day and some juice. It’s across from the Red Cross.

Más x Menos (Av. Pastor. Díaz;. h 8am-9pm. Mon-fri,. to. 10pm. sat,. 7am-9pm. sun) This Western-style supermarket has an impressive selection of fresh produce, and local and international culinary items.

oGraffiti (Tel 2643-1708;. www.graffiticr.com;. mains. US$822;. h 5-10pm. Mon-sat;. v ) The decor is what you might expect from the name, and live music on weekends ups its game, but the spotlight here is fixed on the plate. Those in the know come for the famous cacao-and-coffee-encrusted filet mignon, macadamia-and-passionfruit catch of the day, decadent cheesecake and creative cocktails. Reservations are highly recommended.

Caliche’s Wishbone (Tel 2643-3406;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. meals. US$9-18;. h noon-10pm.thu-tue) Overseen by the charming Caliche, this has been a Jacó favorite for years and years. The eclectic menu includes pizzas, pitas, stuffed potatoes, pan-seared sea bass and tuna-sashimi salads, though its justifiable fame comes from the fact that everything is quite simply fresh, delicious and good value. It’s south of Calle Bohío.

Rancho Santana (Tel 2643-4234;. Calle. Hidalgo;. mains. US$5-9;. h 11am-midnight) Though slightly out of the way, this Tico-run spot is worth a leisurely dinner under the breezy rancho (house like building), with its tree-trunk beams, thatched roof and rustling palms. Traditional fare – the casados and ceviche rule – is served by friendly staff in a completely unpretentious setting.

Tsunami Sushi (Tel 2643-3678;. www.tsunamisushicr.com;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. meals. US$10-30;. h 5-10pm. sun-thu,. to. 1am. fri) Reservations are recommended at this popular sushi spot, one of the best on the central Pacific coast. Play your cards right and the half-off specials throughout the week can save you some serious colones. Find it in the mall Il Galeone.

Rioasis (Tel 2643-3354;. Plaza. Jacó,. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. pizzas. US$9-13;.h 11:30am-10pm;.W ) Admit it – sometimes pizza seems like the best thing ever in the moment. When it comes to Rioasis’ wood-fired pie, topped with all kinds of gourmet goodness, it usually is. The place is next to BCR.

El Hicaco (Tel 2643-3226;. www.elhicaco .net;. Calle. Hicaco;. mains. US$15-30;. h 11am-midnight) This oceanside spot brims with casual elegance and is regarded as one of the finer dining experiences in Jacó. Although the menu is entirely dependent on seasonal offerings, both from the land and the sea, the specialty of the house is seafood, prepared with a variety of sauces highlighted by Costa Rica’s tropical produce.

Lemon Zest (Tel 2643-2591;. www.lemonzestjaco.com;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. mains. US$10-30;. h 5-10pm;. a W v ) Chef Richard Lemon (a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Miami) wins many accolades for Jacó’s most swish menu. The roster of upscale standards – including Caribbean-style jerk pork chop and seared duck in blackberry sauce – might lack a creative concept, but the dishes are carried out with due sophistication, accompanied by a well-matched wine list.

Drinking & Nightlife

Jacó isn’t the cultural capital of Costa Rica: it’s where people go to get hammered and party the night away. There are numerous raging bars and dance clubs that cater to good-times-seeking expats and travelers, but choose your venues carefully, as prostitution figures prominently.

Le Loft (Tel 2643-5846;. Av. Pastor. Díaz;. cover. US$10;. h9pm-2am) The Loft is Jacó’s sleekest nightlife venue, offering some much-needed urban sophistication. Live DJs spin essential mixes while the pretty people preen and be seen. There’s a calendar of special events and a balcony perch for checking out the street life.

Monkey Bar (Tel 2643-2357;.Av.Pastor.Díaz;.h 9pm-2:30am.tuesun) Attracting a younger crowd of locals and visitors, Monkey Bar pumps with good times, reggaetón and pheromones.

Bohio Beach Bar & Bubba’s Fish Tacos (Tel 2643-3112;. Calle. Bohío) Fortification for a surf session (or a long day of lounging on the beach) is sometimes an immediate need. In such scenarios, Bohio Bubba’s meets the basic requirements: huge fish tacos, ice-cold Imperials and a beachfront locale. Decidedly better during daylight hours.

Clarita’s Beach Hotel and Sports Bar and Grill (Tel 2643-3327;. www.claritashotel.com) Catch the game on the big screen, day-drink with a fun crowd, enjoy live Tico-style music played by local oldsters and stay the night if you don’t want to leave – the hotel is quite comfortable and offers rooms (set back from the raucous beachfront bar) from US$60. It’s at the western end of Bulevar.

As the closest beach to San Jose, Jaco is a bustling beach town known for its party-like atmosphere and laid-back attitude. In less than two hours, travelers can make their way from the nation's capital to this region that welcomes travelers with open arms, and is known for having bustling nightlife, eclectic dining and outstanding aquatic activities. As one of the most visited destinations in Costa Rica, Jaco has a diverse array of lodging options, from affordable hotels to luxurious resorts or amazing vacation rentals, to tailor anyone's travel needs.


Jaco is hugely popular because it is a one-stop-shop to experience everything Costa Rica has to offer. From nightlife to wildlife to activities, Jacos got it. There are plenty of opportunities for ATV tours, boat and kayaking, white-water rafting, safaris, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing and surfing in Jaco. Catching waves is by far one of the most popular activities in the area because the surf breaks can quite large just a few kilometers south of Jaco in Playa Hermosa.


Playa Jaco may be bustling with tourists, but it is a very clean and calm beach. Stretching about three kilometers long, this picturesque beach is one of several in the area. Travelers should be aware that there is often a strong rip tide, and that swimming should be done with caution. However, Playa Herradura is just about seven kilometers north and has a more tranquil environment. Playa Hermosa sits just south of Jaco, a famous surfing location, which is the site of the International Quicksilver Championship every year.


Jaco has a big reputation for partying and nightlife, which could attract anyone to this destination.The atmosphere here is very relaxed, and the locals are welcoming. Because of this, Jaco is very traveler friendly overall, with international cuisine, plenty of internet cafes and banks and countless aquatic activities to keep anyone busy for their entire stay.

National Parks

Manuel Antonio National Park and Punta Leona Wildlife Refuge are both within driving distance from Jaco. Manuel Antonio may be one of the smallest parks in the country, but it is considered to be one of the most pristine examples of preserved wildlife. Covering 1,700 acres of land and 136,000 acres of ocean, this park is one of the most biodiverse in the world. Other nearby natural attractions include the Carara Biological Reserve, which is less than 10 miles away. Both of these parks allow for ideal opportunities to witness rare wildlife and unique flora.


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