surfer at sunset

Explore Jacó, Costa Rica

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Only a 1.5 hour drive from San José, the town of Jacó is a popular beach destination located on the Central Pacific coast.  The 4 km long stretch of dark sand beach and lively nightlife are a popular getaway for locals, and nearby Playa Hermosa (not to be confused with Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste) draws people from around the world to surf in the consistent waves that can reach a height of 13 feet.

Along with the area around Tamarindo in the Guanacaste province, it is the only place outside of San José where you will find international brand hotels including Best Western All-Inclusive and the Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort, located in nearby Playa Hermosa.  

Getting There

Jacó is easily accessible by bus from San José.  The ride will take approximately 3.5 – 4 hours and cost about $6 – 10 US.   

If you have a rental car it is an easy 1.5 hour drive from San José toward the Pacific via highway 27 and then south on the Costanera Sur highway 34. 

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 You can also take a shared shuttle service for about $45 US via Caribe Shuttle or Interbus, or hire a private shuttle.

Climate

Jacó has a typical tropical climate that follows the wet and dry seasons.  Rainy season generally runs from May through November.  Peak/dry season is from December through April, although it can rain periodically throughout the year due to the high humidity of 80 – 90%.  Temperatures range from a high of 24 – 32 C (75 – 90 F) to a low of 24 – 26 C (75 – 79 F), so it stays relatively hot throughout the year.

What to Do

The famed Manuel Antonio National Park is located just one hour to the South and is a great day trip from Jacó.  Others include the sleepy surf town of Dominical and nearby Nauyaca Falls

Another nearby biological reserve is Carara National ParkIt is located 35 km north of Jacó and is home to one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws in the country, as well as many other bird species.  It has 3 easy walking trails, including one specifically designed for people with disabilities.

If you prefer to stay in the local area there are still plenty of activities for an adrenaline rush, nature walk or just enjoying the sand and surf.

Beaches

There are many beaches in the area where you can find a quiet getaway, take a surf lesson, or just soak up the sun and play in the sand.

Host of the International Quicksilver Surfing competition each August, Playa Hermosa lies just 9 minutes to the south.  The heavy surf is suitable for experienced surfers only and strong rip currents make swimming dangerous here, but you can always head a little north of Jacó to Playa Herradura for a quieter beach and gentler wave. 

Playa Hermosa Puntarenas
Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas

 

Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca are quiet little gems that are popular with the locals and located off the main highway just 17 km north of Jacó.  If you head 30 km south of Jacó you can discover the pristine expanse of black sand beach at Playa Bejuco (Esterillos Este).

Playa Bejuco Puntarenas
Playa Bejuco, Puntarenas

Tours & Activities

If you’re looking for a kick of adrenaline and want to do some ziplining, hanging bridges, high ropes or take a tram through the jungle, look no further than Rainforest Adventures.  On the other hand, if you prefer something more grounded, take an ATV tour through the rainforest with Adventure Tours Costa Rica.

For something a little different, visit the ruins of El Miro.  This old, deserted building site offers a moderate hike to a fantastic vista of the ocean overlooking Jacó.

Want to spend a leisurely day in town?  Visit the Jacó Walk open air shopping center and many other local shops, get a lounge chair on the beach, and grab a bite to eat at one of the great variety of restaurants.

Paseo de los Surfistas
Paseo de los Surfistas (Surfer’s Walk), Jacó

Where to Stay

There are several hostels in the area for those who are on a budget or prefer simple accommodations.  Buddha House Boutique Hostel is just 100m from the beach and right in the middle of the action, sleep in your own private cylinder at Selina, or ride the waves with Room2Board Hostel & Surf School.

In the midrange, Vista Guapa Eco Surf Camp offers surf and SUP (stand up paddleboard) lessons and private bungalows.  Find a pet-friendly suite with kitchen at Oceano Boutique Hotel, or a standard room or kitchen suite at Hotel Mar de Luz.

If you are looking for a little luxury, Hotel DoceLunas is located on 5 acres of rainforest garden serenity, Croc’s Resort & Casino is a 4-star full service resort, and Zephyr Palace boutique hotel and mansion offers an unforgettable experience.

Great Eats

There is a fantastic variety of restaurants in Jacó that cater to every taste, with international flavor.

Jacó Juice and Taco Bar is a great spot for breakfast with their granola, acai and pitaya bowls, and breakfast sandwiches and burritos.

When the sushi craving hits visit Tsunami Sushi for a veggie Tico roll or check out Ohana Sushi Tapas Bar – both have a selection of vegan options.

One of my favorites is Green Room Cafe where you can find delicious and healthy food like their vegan bowl, veggie tofu ramen, falafel burger, hibiscus vegan taco and a featured vegan dessert, or head to its sister restaurant Juanita’s for a vegan wrap with almond cheese

Hola India is a fantastic spot for Indian cuisine with a well-labeled menu that includes vegan samosas, dals and curries. 

acai bowl
Acai bowl

 

If you’re in the mood for Asian influence, Jerah Gastronomy offers a selection of Thai and Balinese meals with several vegan options.  

Falafel, hummus, pita lover?  The restaurant at Sabress Kosher Jewish Center serves up amazing Mediterranean food!

A little local flavor can be found at Soda Garabito.  I love that they have a zero plastic policy, only using biodegradable packaging, and that they offer some vegan options.

Dying for a healthy burger?  Check out Casa Vegan.  They also offer sandwiches, wraps and of course fries.  Frozen, take home is available here as well.  Another great vegan restaurant is Karma Café & Restaurant, and don’t miss their chocolate cake if your sweet tooth is calling.

Vida Pura is a vegetarian restaurant that offers some really unique dishes including plenty of raw options and delicious desserts.

For unique gift ideas and local organic coffee check out the funky Fruity Monkey Poop shop, or visit Rebelissimo for organic, hand crafted gelato including vegan options.

If you’re heading to Playa Hermosa, be sure to visit Vista Hermosa Restaurante where you can enjoy a beautiful ocean view.  They offer a vegan menu in additional to standard fare.

Ocean view at Vista Hermosa Restaurant
Ocean view at Vista Hermosa Restaurante, Playa Hermosa

 

The Covid-19 pandemic is an evolving situation. Be sure to confirm availability and health protocols with your destination prior to arrival.

Featured image credit: Zachary Shea on Unsplash

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