Let there be no doubt! Costa Rica is a tropical paradise. In fact, Costa Rica is recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the most beautiful ecological travel hotspots in the world! If you only have a day, but still want to get in some time Pacific surfing or lounging on the beach, Jacó Beach is your best choice. Jacó is a dazzling beach and an active town. This makes Jacó a favorite vacation destination for both Costa Ricans and adventuring tourists. By the way, the name “Jacó” is pronounced /”Ha-ko”/.
Jacó is a little over an hour drive from the capital city of San José and around an hour 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. I recommend that you put your phone away (unless you are taking photos, of course!) so you do not miss the awesome scenery. Your ride takes you from Costa Rica's Central Valley through rolling green mountains, nearly vertical coffee fields, and changing terrains as you go to the Pacific coast.
Bring sunglasses and plenty of sunblock, of course; as well as SPF apparel and beach shoes that stay on your feet in the water. The sand on the beach can get pretty hot and sometimes there are stones at the edge of the water. If you are fascinated by wildlife, bring your binoculars. You might see whales, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, dolphins, and lots of birds and butterflies. You might want to pack hiking shoes for a spontaneous hiking adventure!
Once you arrive in Jacó you can go straight to the beach or stroll through town and shop a bit. It is about a 20 minute walk from one end to the other IF you do not stop for a drink or to wander through a souvenir store (which is almost impossible!). The main road is lined with souvenir stores where you can find everything from typical Costa Rican souvenirs and crafts to colorful tropical clothing and lots of handmade jewelry. Everything you need (or don't need!) is there! You can read here about souvenir shopping in San José: Stroll Around Downtown San José. Sometimes souvenirs in Jacó and outside of San José are priced a little less. However, this isn’t a rule so if you like it, buy it!
The beach at Jacó (Playa Jacó) is 2.5 miles of wide, dark sand that leads to enchanting clear blue waters. It is fun to swim and to surf because there are almost constant surfing waves. For surfers: Jacó is a beach break known for its lefts and rights. It is a perfect spot for surf beginners. The waves are strong and consistent enough for intermediate surfers, but not too powerful to overwhelm young surfers or those who are new to surfing.
Whether you are traveling alone, as a family with young children or teens, are young or older tourists; Jacó is an excellent choice for first time visitors to Costa Rica. The beach is wide and clean, and the ocean is delightful with boating activities and parasailing available. The waves and tides are known for being strong. The town itself offers extensive options for accommodations from hostels like Selina to many 5-star hotels. Although we recommend trying as many typical Costa Rican foods as you can, restaurants abound offering a variety of dishes.
Of course, there are plenty of bars. Happy Hours are promoted everywhere, often with music. Make it a point of your vacation to find a place with a beach view and have your drink in hand to watch the sunsets. Jacó is on Costa Rica’s west coast, so you will have a front seat view to a complete and magnificent sunset. The town has a lively nightlife. If you do not have 2-3 days to take it all in, I suggest you head for Jaco Walk.
Jacó Walk is Jacó‘s newest shopping plaza, complete with banks & ATMs; a variety of restaurants including coffee and ice cream bars; healthcare providers; and even a fitness center owned by Susetty Tabash; Costa Rica's Body Figure National Champion. There is also a children's playground and a refreshing ecological sports walk under the full shade of native trees and shrubs. It is on one side of the plaza and offers outdoor exercise machines along the way that lead to a relaxing hammock in the shade. Be on the lookout for scarlet macaws or white-faced monkeys overhead.
Finally, Jacó is close to many natural attractions. Although going to Jacó is an easy day trip from San José, most visitors stay for a couple days or longer. Jacó is a good base to explore fishing towns and other beautiful beaches along the coast of Costa Rica. Further south are the popular coastal parks of Manuel Antonio National Park and the Ballena (Whale) National Marine Park. For suggestions of “must do” activities in Jacó, read “Playa Jacó Costa Rica: 8+ Things to Do.”
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