Jacó beach and town is one of the most visited beach vacation locations in Costa Rica. It is popular for both Costa Ricans and tourists. Many Costa Ricans have their vacation homes in Jacó or along the Pacific coast in this region. The town is framed by the backdrop of green hills and mountains against the aqua blue ocean lined with white cresting waves. Jacó, like all of Costa Rica, is a wonderful and world-recognized ecological travel paradise.
The beach town of Jacó is about an hour and a half drive from the capital city of San José, and a little less from the main airport just outside of the city of Alajuela. If you are taking a bus, it is a couple of hours. Buses in Costa Rica are safe, comfortable, and pleasant to ride. They are equipped with reclining seats, air conditioning, and on-bus Internet service. The ride takes you from Costa Rica's Central Valley passed mountain landscapes of countless shades of green. Notice the nearly vertical coffee fields and changing terrains as you travel to the Pacific coast. I recommend that you put your phone away (unless you are taking photos, of course!), so you do not miss the awesome scenery.
It is likely that your route from San José to Jacó will take you through the town of Orotina and over the Tárcoles River Bridge. Take a moment to walk the bridge and look down at one of Costa Rica’s largest rivers below. Have your binoculars in hand because you will see a lot more than river down there! This area is the ecological habitat of some Jurassic-sized crocodiles and there are more than just a few. Look up and you are very likely to see scarlet macaws, flocks of (noisy) lime-green parakeets or toucans flying overhead.
Jacó appeals to all ages from the youngest baby beach-goers (and their parents!) to esteemed seniors. Whether you are traveling by yourself, with kids or with a large group of adrenaline-seeking adventurers, Jacó truly caters to all tourists. There are lots of budget and style choices for places to stay, eat, shop and be entertained. Jacó is one of the best surfing locations in Costa Rica. So, if you are looking for a surfing beach close to San José, go to Jacó. In between your surfs, and for non-surfers; there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, too. Jacó is a favorite day trip or weekend getaway from San José.
To learn more about Jacó, read “The Best of Jacó.” In the meantime and in no particular order, here are 8+ “must do” things while you are in Jacó:
Ready for a thrill? The parasailing boat and sail teams are on the beach, so go talk to them to get a time slot for your sail. Love to paddle board? Or, think you would love to paddle board? Well, you can rent the boards near the beach and even take a SUP class or tour.
Take advantage of being on the coast and right next door to many fishing communities. Besides the best lobster of the Pacific, there’s fish, shrimp, octopus and shell fish. Common types of fresh fish include red snapper (Pardo rojo), sea trout (Trucha del mar), Mahi mahi (Dorado), sea bass (Lubina) and different varieties of Tuna. Whatever you order, it will be prepared to your preferences. My favorite is a whole fish grilled (a la parilla). By the way, do not be surprised that a “whole” fish is served “whole” --from nose to tail. Enjoy the best seafood cuisines in Costa Rica! For the food, beach view, and the atmosphere El Hicaco is one of my favorite restaurants.
El Miro is a nature hike up into the hills behind Jacó to the ruins of an abandoned ornate construction known as the Miro Ruins. Even though you can see the ruins from the beach, it’s still kind of a secret. Not many people seem to know that they are there or that you can actually hike up here. Your reward will be a wonderful panoramic view of 4 km of the Jacó coast as well as the beautiful wildlife you will likely see along the way.
Zip lining or aerial trams are an exhilarating thrill and wonderful way to experience a rainforest canopy. There are many locations offering zip lining tours and activities around the country. Each one is a different, worthwhile eco-adventure. Zip lining and aerial trams allow you to explore every level from the ground to the treetops of the tropical transitional forests in Costa Rica.
Given the many volcanic mountain formations in Costa Rica, there are many spectacular waterfalls to see. Each one is different and amazing. Many of them are deep or high in the rainforests. To discover them you will usually need to hike, ride on horseback or in a 4×4. There are about 10 waterfalls relatively close to Jacó. Bijagual Waterfall is a large one and the closest to Jacó. It is a 20-minute car ride from Jacó and about an hour hike.
As its name implies it’s known for the whales that seasonally congregate twice a year. It is also famous for the unique and awesome natural tombolo formation that appears and disappears daily. It’s called "Moses’ Pass” or is known locally as the Whale Tail beach. Bring binoculars!
Fortunately, there are several national parks very close to Jacó that have excellent hiking and wildlife watching: Manuel Antonio National Park (1 hour from Jacó) and Carara National Park (20 min. from Jacó). Manuel Antonio National Park is the jewel of the Pacific Coast and continues to be one of the top ecological beach destinations in Costa Rica. You will never forget the amazing natural and pristine beauty of the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park.
Carara National Park is full of wildlife and one of the best bird watching locations. Unfortunately there is not a direct bus to Carara so we recommend renting a car or booking a tour.
Last, but for sure not least! While this #8 “must do” speaks for itself --and would be truly difficult to miss! Do make an effort to watch the evening sunsets every day. They are beyond spectacular. Given that Costa Rica is so close to the earth’s equator, the sun rises and sets at the same every day of the year, between 5:30 and 6:00.
The “plus 8” means that there are many other things to do in and around Jacó. Ask around and discover other popular activities like kayaking, water taxis to Santa Teresa or turtle beaches, sport fishing, marine whale tours and bird watching.
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