The Ultimate Guide to Jaco

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The Ultimate Guide to Jaco

Hola 👋

Welcome to our guide to Jaco Beach and Playa Hermosa. Jaco is a high-energy beach town on the Central Pacific Coast. Due to its abundant nightlife, it has a reputation as a place for younger travelers, but it still has activities for everyone. If you want to experience Jaco with less of the hustle, you can stay in Playa Hermosa, which is 5 minutes down the road, and venture into town for the day.

Jaco is one of the places we’ve passed through and visited but not documented very well. Most trips were made before we started this blog, and we always preferred the laid-back vibes of Playa Hermosa right down the way. We’ll update this with new photos of Jaco when we’re back there this September.

Below are many of the area’s popular restaurants, activities, and lodging. You’ll also find a guide map that visually displays the town and points of interest. Drop us a comment below with any questions you have, and we look forward to hearing about your adventure. Enjoy this guide to Jaco and Playa Hermosa.

Sleepy Playa Hermosa
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Our sleepy Playa Hermosa

Getting There

From San Jose Airport

Jaco Beach is usually around 1.5-2 hours from San Jose. There is one direct route that consists of highways 27 to 34. Just like most of Costa Rica, it’s an easy enough drive during the day but can be difficult at night or in severe weather. It’s best to stay overnight in San Jose at one of the nearly airport hotels if you’re getting in late. Wake up fresh and start the drive with a clear head.

The most popular midway point to break up the drive is the Crocodile Bridge over the Tarcoles River. There are a few Sodas (local Costa Rican restaurants) with markets, and you can stretch your legs by taking a short walk over the bridge to look at the crocodiles below. It’s actually really cool to see the crocodiles, and you can book a tour later if you want to see them even closer.

This route does have tolls, so make sure you have some colones ready. We always try to order some small bills from our bank before we get there. You can always use the airport ATM in San Jose (SJO). Just make sure your credit/debit card doesn’t have excess fees for using an international ATM. Also, be sure to select Colones if you use the ATM because it can also disburse USD. I’ve made that mistake before and the machine gave me $200 in USD 20’s which are useless at the tolls.

View the route from San Jose here.

From Everywhere Else

Flying into Liberia (LIR) only makes sense if you’re going to visit other areas on the way to Jaco, like La Fortuna or Monteverde. We’ve been told by nearly all rental car employees that Waze is the best navigation app for driving in Costa Rica. We’ve had a nearly flawless experience with Waze, but Google Maps has always worked well for an easy route like this. Apple Maps doesn’t navigate in Costa Rica, so be prepared if that’s your usual go-to nav app.

An easy drive from SJO

Economy Rental Car at SJO
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Picking up the war wagon


Rental Cars

If this section sounds a bit repetitive from other city guides you've read... it is. We've synchronized the rental car section in our destination posts to provide you with the most up-to-date changes when we have something to add here, and the info applies to any place you'll be visiting.

Rental cars are honestly the best way to get around Costa Rica, and Adobe Rent A Car is now our recommended company. Their fleet of cars is refreshed every two years, keeping them in good condition. Plus, they have 13 offices in most of the major towns in case you need help with the vehicle.

We used to roll with Economy Rent A Car and have always had a good experience with them. Unfortunately, we've received too many complaints and can no longer recommend their general booking site. We have a contact at Economy who still sets up many of our rentals. Shoot us a message through Facebook or Instagram if you want his contact.

Confusing insurance requirements are the most frequent complaint about rental cars in Costa Rica, so we really like how Adobe displays their additional insurance options at checkout. It’s pretty hard to be surprised when you get there.

Rental car insurance in Costa Rica is complicated and often leaves you feeling burned at the rental counter. There are various levels of undisclosed insurance. Check out our full guide to renting a car in Costa Rica here to avoid some major frustration later. Also be sure to use our booking link here to receive an exclusive discount at Adobe Rent A Car.


Private Driver – There are a ton of private drivers in the area. We’ve never used one here, but a quick search on a Costa Rica Facebook Group will get you many options.

Taxi – Taxis are fairly easy to get in Jaco. If you don’t have a rental car, it’s best to arrange return transportation before you go out to the surrounding areas.

Shuttle – A shuttle could be an option for larger groups with a lot of luggage. We’ve used ILT Costa Rica for all of our shuttle needs when traveling with large groups. The drivers are prompt and professional.

The Backyard Hotel in Playa Hermosa
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The no-frills “Backyard Hotel”


Jaco Beach is home to many hotels and vacation rentals ranging from surf hostels to 4-Star Hotels, and everything in between. Personally, we prefer to stay in Playa Hermosa for the beautiful open black sand beach and more laid back vibes. Then it’s an easy 5-minute drive back into Jaco for some fun. We’ve stayed in a few of these places over the years, and have listed a few of the higher-rated options here in both Jaco and Playa Hermosa, according to TripAdvisor.


  • Hotel Jaco – Informal all-suite hotel offering a spa, an outdoor pool & a restaurant, plus direct beach access.
  • Hotel Perico Azul – A small budget aptartment-hotel on the south end of Jaco Beach, with its boutique-like looks and private location close to the mountains. 
  • DoceLunas Hotel – A nice Four Star hotel with five acres of tropical gardens at the base of a cool jungle covered mountain.
  • View a full list of Jaco Beach hotels.

Vacation Rentals

Playa Hermosa

  • The Backyard Hotel – The Backyard Hotel is located in Playa Hermosa, just 4 kms south of Jaco Beach. This tropical paradise boasts one of the country’s most well-known surfing and sunbathing beaches.
  • Marea Brava – A small boutique hotel with rooms, suites, and villa-type condominiums nestled next to a spectacular back sand surfing beach.
  • Vacation Rental
  • View a full list of Playa Hermosa Hotels

Jacó Guide Map

Take a look at our interactive map to start the inspiration. It isn’t an absolute list, but we’ve put together some of the most popular places to visit in Jaco, Costa Rica.

Map created with Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android


Jaco has a good mix of activities to entertain any type of group. Below are some traveler favorites.

Surf Lessons at Jaco Beach – Rent a board or take a lesson from one of the surf shops in Jaco. Rain or shine, their friendly instructors will have you standing up in no time.

ATV Waterfall Tour – Explore the jungle on ATVs.

The Full Day Ultimate Adventure Tour – This may be the best all-around tour if you’re staying in Jaco. You can zipline, ATV, and explore waterfalls… all in one day.

Jungle Crocodile Safari – You may have already stopped to look at the crocodiles when passing over the Tarcoles River, but this tour will get you up close and personal with them.

Zip Lining – Cruise on zip lines over the jungle canopy. Keep an eye out for the monkeys!

El Miro – An hour’s hike up to the abandoned ruins of an old hotel.  You’ll pass by artistic graffiti, animal life, and a nice view at the top. It’s a great free activity in Jaco.

Surfing around the Jaco area
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Searching for empty waves near Jaco


Sodas – Local Costa Rican restaurants are called “Sodas.” There are tons around here, and they offer cheap local meals that shouldn’t be missed if you want to try the local flavors of Costa Rica.

Public House Jaco Grill – A high energy pub in the middle of town. Enjoy a brew and a burger after a day in the surf.

Karma Cafe and Restaurant – One of the highest rated restaurants in Jaco. It’s a vegan spot and people mention the ginger margaritas and fresh flavors.

Sea Salt – A beachside restaurant with ocean views. It’s located next to Hotel Jaco if you’re walking from the main beach.

La Artesanal – Our go-to little coffee and breakfast cafe.

Jet Fuel Coffee Shop – Another great coffee shop with simple food offerings.

The Beer House – A hidden taproom in Jaco Beach with elevated pub food. Are you a hop head? Check out our guide to Costa Rican Craft Beer.

Restaurante Vista Hermosa – A fun beach restaurant in Playa Hermosa. We usually find ourselves here at least once when visiting the area.

Volcano Brewing In Tamarindo
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Our favorite little breakfast spot in Jaco


Mega Súper Jacó
A large chain market in the middle of town that’s great for bigger shops.

Another large chain market in the middle of town that’s great for bigger shops.


Hopefully, you won’t need any of these, but we’ve listed them here just in case. Depending on the type of trip you’re booking, travel insurance could be a helpful peace of mind. We’ve used Safety Wing Travel Insurance. It’s affordable and covers most activities you’ll encounter on your trip to Costa Rica. Check their coverage here and see if it’s right for your trip. If you’ll pay an extra $50 to pick your seat on the plane, why not $25 to cover your butt for the whole trip if anything happens. 


Clínica De Jacó – A small 24-hour urgent care. It’s okay for minor injuries, but anything significant may require transportation to a larger hospital in San Jose.

Rush Urgent Care – Another small urgent care facility in central Jaco.


Premier Dental Care Center – Located near the heart of town. There are a few dental offices, but this one has 300+ 5-star reviews.


Farmacia Sophia – A highly-rated pharmacy with the essentials.

Don’t Forget

You can buy almost anything you need in the area, but the prices of some items may surprise you. Sunscreen can cost upwards of $20 USD for a normal size tube at the local market. Some of our don’t forget items are listed below.

Sunscreen – Reapply all day when you’re outside. The sun is no joke here!
Bug Spray – Bugs are minimal in the day but mosquitoes often come out in the evening.
Quick-dry towel – These quick-dry towels are also sand free.
Waterproof hat – I like this floating hat, but anythig works.
Polarized sunglasses – They don’t have to break the bank. Check out these polarized sunglasses by Blenders.
Waterproof phone case – Great if you’re going to be on the ocean.

Let’s Go

Jaco Beach is one of those places that you’ll love or hate. It’s a great spot to pick up a board and try surfing, but it’s a bit far from the national parks you may be looking for like Manuel Antonio or Marino Ballena. We’ll be updating this guide to Jaco in September but feel free to drop us a comment if you have any questions before then.

Thanks for your support 🤙

We just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU. This 100% all-content, junk-free website’s biggest source of support is when you use our affiliate links for any purchases. It helps us continue sharing our guides and tips, without any ads. There is no extra cost to you and it’s the easiest way you can support us. We truly appreciate it!

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Cody & Anna

Cody and Anna Traxler

We’re Cody and Anna, and we’ve fallen in love with Costa Rica over the past decade. We’re not experts in every part of the country, but our countless adventures have inspired us to create this travel guide. Our goal is to share our experiences and help you jet off on your own unforgettable journey. Enjoy Ultimate Pura Vida and start planning here 🤙

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