Last Updated on February 26, 2023
Having a total population of just a few thousand people, it is a peaceful and serene place. Jaco can be reached by car. It’s just an hour-long drive from San Jose, the capital and the largest city in Costa Rica.
Here are some things you must do if you’re planning a trip to Jaco.
- 18 Best Things to Do in Jaco
- Aerial Nature Walk
- Visit the Carara National Park
- Stand-up Paddle Board (SUP)
- Waterfall Tours
- ATV Tours
- Herradura Beach
- Blanca Beach
- Visit the Tortuga Island
- Hiking to the Nauyaca Waterfalls
- Crocodile Tours
- Nightlife in Jaco
- Visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park
- Horseback River Tour in Jaco
- Villa Caleta Sunset Tour
- Surfing Competition at Hermosa
- Where to Stay in Jaco
- Is Jaco Worth a Trip?
18 Best Things to Do in Jaco
Aerial Nature Walk
Have you ever imagined yourself having a bird’s eye view of a tropical rainforest? Our guess is you haven’t. This tour will allow you to see the rainforest from a height. You get to see the bark and the treetops. Literally gliding above the rainforest, the tram can house a small group of about 10 people.
The aerial tram is just like a fenced balcony, and you can have a clear view of the rainforest below.
Hotel pickup and drop-off are provided, and every group has a guide to help the travelers. This tour must have 10 people otherwise it is canceled (albeit with a full refund).
Visit the Carara National Park
Situated South of Rio Tarcoles, this national park is 15 km from Jaco. You can find exotic species of birds and animals here.
The national park has vast numbers of scarlet macaws, anteaters, capuchin monkeys, kingfishers, parrots, and many more species. The flora is equally abundant, and you can find a lot of different trees and plants too.
The Carara supports both the Amazonian and Mesoamerican habitats and is only of the few places that have multiple habitats. No wonder there are exotic species here.
Tourists should get a tour guide. They’ll help you spot animals and birds you wouldn’t spot yourself.
There is a hiking trail so pack those sports shoes. Travelers are also advised to carry binoculars or small telescopes. Spotting animals in the distance or viewing treetops, binoculars come in very handy.
If you’re looking for a tour, there’s plenty to choose from. Here are a few you can check out.
Jaco, Costa Rica, is a surfing Mecca. This is one of the best places for beginners to try surfing.
The coast is relatively quiet with long consistent waves. Ideal for beginners, there are a lot of surf shops around where you can book surf lessons. The waves are consistent and have peaks of 3 to 4 feet.
Lasting for 2 hours, the beginners should head over to the south side of the beach, called Madrigal. The middle and North sections of the coast are meant for skilled surfers.
May to November is the best time to visit Jaco if surfing is top on your list. Surfing at Jaco is genuinely exhilarating.
Looking to take some surfing lessons out on the water? Check out these lessons that’ll whip you into shape in no time.
Stand-up Paddle Board (SUP)
If surfing is a little too much for you, here is a calmer option. The stand-up paddleboard is like a kayak. The sole difference is that you’re standing on this one.
You still get to surf some waves, although much less intense. Paddle near the shore to admire the white sand beaches. If Manta Rays are your thing, go a little farther into the ocean.
You’ll find a lot of them. Playa Mantas is your destination if you want to see dangerous live fish!
Stand-up paddleboard may be a little unintuitive and scary at the first attempt, but most tourists get the hang of it within minutes, so don’t be scared and walk away. These opportunities are rare.
Just outside of Jaco, there are mountains with several rivers where you can go rafting and waterfalls.
The adrenaline junkies can get to jump off waterfalls. If you’re an adventurer, Bijagual is definitely worth a visit. A 20-minute drive from Jaco should get you to Bijagual. There’s a nominally priced ticket since this is private property.
Those dollars spent on the ticket are totally worth it. You get an hour to admire the beauty of the waterfall. Horse riding is offered too at this property.
Here are some tours that’ll take you to the best waterfall spots, you can even hop on a horse to explore!
Not all adrenaline junkies like to jump off waterfalls. If that’s not your speed, you can rent an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to off-road your way through the natural beauty.
The trails go all the way up to the mountains and are pretty rough terrain. Though very beautiful, with rivers and jungle excursions, you cannot go up this route on foot. ATV is your only option.
Many ATV companies provide the services here. See below for some ATV tours.
Herradura beach offers a breathtaking view and has a horseshoe-like shape. It is located on the Central Pacific Coast. You may visit Herradura as a day trip, or it could also be your home base in Jaco.
It’ll take you an hour and a half of highway driving. There are shared shuttles from San Jose, which will cost about a hundred bucks for two individuals. For the indulgent, a private shuttle service is also on offer, though it may cost more than twice that of the shared shuttle.
This beach has dark sand and is calm enough for a swim or stand-up boarding.
Herradura beach being a trendy place, may get very crowded during weekends and evening hours. Morning hours on weekdays will see lesser people.
This is the only white-sand beach in the area and is a must-visit. You need to climb the Playa Mantas during low tide to reach here.
Proximity to the rainforest makes Jaco lush green, and the wildlife and avian population dramatically increase. Enthusiasts from all over the globe visit Jaco for birdwatching.
There is a large population of Scarlet Macaws. These birds are amazingly beautiful with their red-yellow-blue combination.
If you’re a bird lover, pack up your equipment. There are upwards of 800 species of birds in Costa Rica. Even those who aren’t into bird watching will surely enjoy seeing birds they may never have seen before. There are so many unique sounds these birds make.
Wanting to scan the skies and see the bird for yourself? Check out these birdwatching tours.
Visit the Tortuga Island
You’ll be picked up by an air-conditioned bus which will drop you at the dock. Tourists get a traditional Costa Rican breakfast. The most exciting part is the catamaran journey. After breakfast, you get on a catamaran and head towards Tortuga island, crossing the Gulf of Nicoya.
Those interested in watersports will be delighted here. You can get onto banana boats. The Tortuga also offers an excellent opportunity to snorkel, so if you’re interested in peeking inside the ocean, take your equipment, or enquire beforehand where you can rent it. Plan to go a little farther if you want to see the marine life and the reefs.
During this day trip, you also are given a tour of the Gulf’s protected islands like Cedros, Guayabo, Jesusita, Sugarloaf, and many more.
The notable is San Lucas Island. It was once a maximum-security prison.
This combo provides you with 2 hours of ATV riding in the forests followed by two hours of canopy ziplining experience.
You glide downhill, and it feels like floating in the air above the forest. Truly a fantastic experience, even beginners can do this without fear.
Hiking to the Nauyaca Waterfalls
The Nauyaca are the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica. Tourists would need to hike a considerable four kilometers or more before they can experience this. The terrain is muddy, and those who feel they cannot make it on foot can opt for the truck.
There are 4×4 trucks available at reasonable prices which take you all the way in about 20 minutes. If you take a tour, the trucks are included.
Ask tour guides or your driver. There are some parts of the fall where you can swim. While on smaller parts you can jump off the cliff into the lake.
This is something unique. Crocodile Man Tours, the company which operates this program organizes tours for tourists. The tours take place on the Rio Grande of Tarcoles.
This area is home to over 2000 crocodiles. The largest of them can reach a staggering 15 feet and weigh about 1500 pounds.
Crocodile Man Tours offers five slots during the day starting from 8 A.M. The slots are 8 A.M., 10 A.M., 12 P.M., 2 P.M., and 4 P.M.
It is recommended that the tourists book their slot well in advance. The operator does accept walk-in customers, but you may have to wait for the next free slot, thus wasting precious time.
They also have excellent private facilities, multiple transport options, a restaurant, and souvenir shops.
Nightlife in Jaco
For tourists who want to have the best of both worlds – nature in the daytime and party at night, Jaco is the ideal destination. Jaco is not just about waterfalls.
The city lightens up at night for clubbing and bar-hopping. The pubs which open around 8 P.M. remain open till the late hours.
Black Marlin Beach Club is one of the most popular party places in Costa Rica. They have theme nights, runway shows, and talented DJs to keep the club alive. Tourists can experience the local party culture. The club remains open till early morning so you can dance the night away.
Visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park
Tourists staying at Jaco can enjoy a day trip to the Manuel Antonio National Park. Located in a small corner of Costa Rica, the park is a unique blend of nature and modern life.
Explore the wildlife landscape and spot native animals like sloths and monkeys in their natural habitat. You can even take a tour just for the sloths!
You have a local guide with you who will help you spot these animals in the wild. Once again, carrying a pair of binoculars is recommended. The unaided eye can see only so far.
This tour includes pick-up charges, entry fees to the national park, and lunch. Most tour operators pick up tourists from all hotels in Jaco. Though, before making a booking, it is recommended to ask for all terms and conditions.
Children cannot visit the Manuel Antonio National Park alone and must be accompanied by an adult.
Just like many other excursions in and around Jaco, a minimum of four people is required per booking.
Horseback River Tour in Jaco
This is an amazing and unique experience. While tourists may have ridden horses before, this is undoubtedly different. The tourists are picked from their accommodation and are headed to Ocean Ranch Park.
Trained and professional guides will help you saddle up a Costa Rican horse. During this unique ride, you pass through the jungle, pass by the rivers, and the endpoint is El Encanto.
This is a waterfall – 180 feet high.
Along this ride, you get to see huge trees and animals in their natural habitat. Toucans and Macaws are birds frequently spotted during the horseback river tour.
The tourist returns back to the horse ranch which has a “Jurassic Park” like setting.
Though there are horses instead of dinosaurs, you’d be more interested in hydrating yourself with drinks and fruits rather than searching for dinosaurs.
Villa Caleta Sunset Tour
Sunsets along the ocean are an incredible sight. The Villa Caletas Hotel has an amphitheater where tourists can enjoy the sunset. This amphitheater faces the sea and is one of the best places in Costa Rica to witness the sunset.
You can enjoy happy-hours cocktails and also plan a meal at the fine dining restaurants at the hotel.
Surfing Competition at Hermosa
Though an ideal surfing spot, some may not be able to surf due to fear or health reasons. For them, the Hermosa Surfing Competition is a way to quench that thirst. Every Saturday, a surfing competition is held at Hermosa beach.
Beginners and skilled alike, you will love the competition, especially with so many people doing it at the same time.
Hermosa, which is considered the best surfing beach in Costa Rica, has international surfing competitions too.
On Saturdays, you not only get to see the surfing competition but also get a chance to interact with the locals. The Backyard Hotel and Bar is a place frequented by locals for beer.
Where to Stay in Jaco
Looking for a place to stay during your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these hotels in Jaco.
Is Jaco Worth a Trip?
To say that Jaco is a beautiful place would be an understatement. Costa Rica is brimming with natural beauty, and Jaco is witness to that.
For nature lovers, this place is a paradise – From hundreds of species of birds and animals to having bird-eye views of the rainforest, it can delight any individual. It’s also a surfers’ abode.
Because of the calm waters, beginner surfers have nothing to worry about. Explore the forest and river in the muddy terrain using all-terrain vehicles.
Waterfalls are plenty and beautiful. The most impressive is on private property, and you get to enjoy food too. Tourist packages at Jaco generally include a pickup and drop at your hotel.
Dining at restaurants and participating in the nightlife of Jaco is a great way to be immersed in the local culture.
Horseback riding programs guide you through the natural beauty in a completely traditional way.
Jaco in Costa Rica is a heavenly place and should be on everyone’s bucket list. After all, only a few places on Earth can offer the uniqueness that Jaco does.