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  • Writer's pictureLauren

What to do in Jaco, Costa Rica

There are a lot of different places to travel to in Costa Rica. It is a beautiful country with many beautiful natural landscapes and a ton of different activities. Jaco is a small beach town about an hour and a half from San Jose. For my first time in Costa Rica, I thought that Jaco was a best place to travel in Costa Rica. My trip to Jaco was the perfect chance to reset and start the new year on high note. Jaco is a small beach town in Costa Rica known for its beaches, surfing, endless parties and was a great introduction to a country with so much to offer.

Getting to Jaco

Jaco was only about an hour and a half from SJO airport, the largest in Costa Rica. There are many ways to get there at differing price points. We decided to do an airport transfer which costs us about $120. It was pricey, but we figured we knew nothing about the country and it would be the nicest way to travel after a long day of traveling.

Views from the airport to Jaco

Other ways of getting to Jaco

  • Taxi

  • Shuttle bus: This was my first choice option but I didn't realize that you were supposed to schedule this before you got there (very much a dumb moment)! You can go to the interbus website to schedule. This is like an airport transfer but shared with other people. it's about $45 each and will take you directly to your hotel with other travelers

  • Uber: After learning that Uber was not as illegal as we thought, we decided to call an uber on our way back to the airport. It was about half the price including a nice tip so I would definitely recommend this option. Our driver dropped us off before officially pulling into the airport so you may need to walk out to the street to get picked up in an uber.

  • Public bus

Where to stay

We traveled in the beginning of January which was the start of the high season in Jaco but were still able to find many affordable hotels to stay at. We decided to stay at Pulillio hotel and Jungle resort, which we both really enjoyed.

The hotel had everything you would need. When we checked in we were offered games or books to take back to our room (opted for scrabble, which we were shockingly bad at). The rooms at the hotel were spacious and each had a large balcony. The first night we were there we ordered from their delivery service for dinner since we were hungry and too tired to go out after traveling all day. The menu is sourced from local restaurants and then delivered to the hotel. The food we got was decent but a little cold once it finally arrived.

The hotel also has a really beautiful pool and outdoor area that has small waterfalls and is right against the jungle (we saw lots of lizards and butterflies). Some of the rooms have a private jacuzzi and after hearing from the other guests we were really wishing we had splurged a little for that option but there's always next time.

By far our favorite part of the hotel, which had nothing to do with the accommodations, was the daily breakfast. Each morning the chef would make a Costa Rican breakfast which included eggs, meat/protein, pancakes or waffles, plantains, and gallo pinto, which is a really good rice and beans dish.

Though not on the main beach strip, the hotel was only about 2 miles away and was a $6 taxi or $3 uber away for the food and beach, so it was worth being a little ways away in a peaceful jungle oasis. We were worried about getting around because before coming we had read that Uber is illegal in Costa Rica. While we were there we found that to be kind of true (IK confusing). It's technically not illegal but not legal either, but we opted for calling Ubers because the receptionist told us that it was a good option and it was super cheap (we tipped well!). One thing about it was during busier times around dinner it was much harder to find a car, we had to wait more than 20 minutes for one and ended up canceling another and getting a taxi because of the long wait time.

Other hotels we considered

  • Oceano Boutique Hotel

  • Hotel Mar de Luz

  • Room 2 Board Hostel

Things to do in Jaco

Beach Day

Our first full day in Jaco we decided to relax and enjoy the beach. We had a lazy morning of eating more gallo pinto than we should've and going to the pool and reading, then headed to Jaco beach. Jaco beach is one of a few beaches around Jaco and is a busy hub of shops, restaurants and clubs.

Oh, before we went to the beach Elijah, my boyfriend, insisted that we stop at KFC to see if it was different. It was definitely better than at home! With our fried chicken in hand, we got to the beach, rented some beach chairs, and spent a lazy day reading, listening to music, and watching people surf. Jaco is known for surfing and there are places along the beach that do lessons for around $50. Neither one of us did it that day but it looked really fun. I just didn't feel like falling into the ocean a million times that day.

Another thing that Jaco beach is known for is the sunsets. We stayed until sunset and though we were a little disappointed that it was kinda cloudy, it was still beautiful and worth the wait.

After sunset, we walked along the beach and found this sushi place called Ohana Sushi and Tapas. It was a cute outdoor restaurant with delicious sushi like I'm a sushi addict and this was some of the best. The prices were also pretty reasonable. We both got bowls (SpicyTuna and a Chicken Wok), Sushi Rolls, and a bunch of drinks for around $50.

Here are some other beaches that you can visit around Jaco.

  • Playa Hermosa

  • Herradura Beach

  • Isla Tortuga: have to take a boat here!

Horse Back Riding

Day two started the same as day one. This was a relaxing vacation for us so we didn't stuff our days and instead opted to chill in the mornings at the pool and take our time getting ready. In the afternoon we decided to do horseback riding at Vista Los Suenos Adventure Park.

Horseback riding through the jungle

This was my first time really horseback riding not at a state fair and it was a fun experience. It made me want to buy a ranch and a horse so I can casually take it out and about at home. The guides were super friendly and helpful about how to best handle the horses and the horses were beautiful, well-trained creatures. We rode horses through a jungle patch and then we walked up to a waterfall. We spent about 20 minutes up by the waterfall and swimming pool before walking back down to our horses. I enjoyed the experience and riding my horse Sazon, as we rode we saw some other horses, cows and lizards. There honestly wasn't too much to see besides trees but I thought the experience was a relaxing way to be in nature. The whole excursion was about 2-hours and it was fun to be trying something new.

The adventure park also has packages where you can combine the horseback riding experience with another, we were leaning towards the chocolate tour but spent too much time waiting to book and missed out on it.

For dinner, we ate at Amancio's Pizza, Pasta and Drinks, an Italian restaurant. Why we got Italian food in the middle of Costa Rica I cannot explain, but we were hungry and it was good. It was definitely pricey though so we considered this as our "fancy" night out.

Manuel Antonio Park

On our final full day in Costa Rica we actually had to get up early, but don't worry we got our great breakfast to go. We woke up early to do a tour of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Manuel Antonio is one of the best parks in Costa Rica and is about an hour from Jaco. It is one of the best places to vacation in Costa Rica. We booked this tour through our hotel and it included transport to and from the park, which came for us early in the morning. Before getting to the park we stopped at the large Jaco sign and then were on our way.

When we got there a tour guide met us and took us into the park. Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica and an interesting fact about it is regrown from an abandoned plantation, so all the vegetation there was cut down and then grew back again.

I'm usually a DIY kinda girl, but having the guide was super helpful, he showed us all types of animals that we wouldn't have been able to see ourselves, snakes, lizards, crazy spiders, bats, even sloths that were hiding high above the canopy. He showed us through a spyglass type thing and even took pictures for us too. The only thing that I could see with my own two eyes was monkeys!

And that was my favorite part and my main motivation for doing this tour and they did not disappoint. We saw howler monkeys but the real stars of the show were the white-faced capuchin monkeys that were everywhere swinging, jumping, and playing. I was in loooveee, monkeys are my favorite animal so it was great. After the guided you we had two hours to hang out at the beach before heading back to our transportation. The beaches at Manuel Antonio are some of the top 20 beaches in the world and for good reason. Unlike the beaches in Jaco these beaches were white sand and were surrounded by the jungle on one side and cliffs on the other. We grabbed some snacks and stayed at the beach but there were also hiking trails that you could walk as well.

After heading back to the truck we went to a restaurant that was on the cliffs of Manuel Antonio beach at this hotel called the Mariposa. The food was pretty good but what really made it great were the outstanding views of the beach. It was breathtaking.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel, the day trip was exciting and exhausting so we crashed and chilled at the hotel for a while and met some other people staying there by the pool before heading out for a late dinner. We were hoping to go to this place we saw that had 12 tacos for $12 an out-of-this-world deal, but it was closed on Wednesdays! So instead, since it was late we opted for Ridiculous Burger, which was cheap, filling and truly was a ridiculous burger.

We ate a lot of different cultures of food on this trip but there was a lot of that around Jaco especially since it is a more vacation place, the lunch we had in Manuel Antonio was probably the most authentic Costa Rican food we had besides our daily fill at breakfast. Though Jaco is also known for its party scene, we decided to try to be responsible people and try to avoid covid, so we didn't end up going to any of the clubs.

That really ended our vacation time in Costa Rica, the next day we took an uber back to the airport, got our Covid tests (and after anxiously testing negative) we went home.

Jaco was a great introduction to Costa Rica. There was a lot more that we didn't do that we wanted to but even so we had a relaxing and fulfilling time there and I would recommend it for a quick trip. I'm hoping to explore more parts of this beautiful country in the future but I would definitely come back to Jaco for some fun!

If you're looking for more ideas of what to do in Jaco check out this list I wrote while I was researching things we were going to do! It also has some notes on getting around and different hotels to stay at!

On that note,

Pura Vida!

Jaco, CR
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