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The Best Things To Do In Jaco, Costa Rica


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Meggi Rutledge



Welcome to Jaco, Costa Rica’s vibrant beach town located on the Pacific coast. Nestled between lush rainforests and pristine beaches, Jaco offers a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re a surfer seeking the perfect wave, a nature enthusiast looking to explore diverse ecosystems, or simply a traveler in search of a laid-back beach destination, Jaco has something for everyone.


With its close proximity to San Jose, Jaco has become a popular getaway for locals and international visitors alike. This bustling town is known for its lively nightlife, delicious cuisine, and of course, its world-class surf breaks. But there are also plenty of other activities and attractions to discover beyond the waves.


In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica. From catching epic waves to exploring national parks, encountering wildlife, and indulging in delicious local cuisine, Jaco is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.


So grab your sunscreen and sense of adventure as we dive into the exciting world of Jaco, Costa Rica.



Jaco is renowned for its incredible surfing opportunities, making it a paradise for wave enthusiasts. With consistent year-round swells and a variety of surf breaks suitable for all levels, Jaco attracts surfers from around the world.


Whether you’re a beginner looking to catch your first wave or an experienced surfer craving an adrenaline rush, Jaco has the perfect spot for you. Playa Jaco, the main beach in town, offers a wide sandy beach break with waves that are ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers.


If you’re seeking a more challenging ride, head to nearby Playa Hermosa. Just a short drive south of Jaco, this beach is known for its powerful waves that attract professional surfers from around the globe. The consistent beach breaks and powerful offshore waves provide a thrilling experience for advanced surfers.


For those who want to learn how to surf or improve their skills, Jaco is home to numerous surf schools and experienced instructors who can provide personalized lessons. They will teach you proper techniques, safety precautions, and how to read the waves, ensuring a fun and safe learning experience.


When you’re not in the water, Jaco offers a vibrant surf culture with surf shops, cafes, and beachfront restaurants where you can relax and soak up the laid-back atmosphere. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, surfing in Jaco is an absolute must-do activity during your visit to Costa Rica.


Explore Manuel Antonio National Park

Just a short drive south of Jaco, you’ll find the stunning Manuel Antonio National Park, a biodiverse paradise that will captivate nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. This protected area is Costa Rica’s smallest national park but offers an abundance of wildlife, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches.


Upon entering the park, you’ll be greeted by a network of scenic hiking trails that wind through the dense jungle. As you walk along the well-maintained paths, keep an eye out for the vibrant bird species, playful monkeys swinging through the trees, and even the elusive sloths lazily hanging from the branches above.


One of the highlights of Manuel Antonio National Park is its stunning beaches. Picture-perfect and surrounded by lush vegetation, these beaches offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city life. Playa Manuel Antonio is the main beach within the park, where you can relax on the golden sands, swim in the crystal-clear waters, or snorkel among the vibrant coral reefs.


For a bit more adventure, consider taking a guided tour through the park. Knowledgeable guides will share interesting facts about the ecosystem, point out hidden wildlife, and enhance your overall experience. Additionally, they can lead you to hidden gems, such as secluded waterfalls and natural pools, where you can take a refreshing dip and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of nature.


Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park is a one-of-a-kind experience that allows you to connect with Costa Rica’s remarkable biodiversity. Whether you’re strolling along the trails, basking on the beach, or spotting wildlife, the park offers a magical experience that will leave you in awe of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.


Experience the Tarcoles River

For a thrilling and unique wildlife experience, make sure to visit the Tarcoles River during your stay in Jaco. Known as the “Crocodile River,” this scenic waterway is home to one of the largest populations of American crocodiles in Central America.


A boat tour along the Tarcoles River will take you up-close and personal with these impressive reptiles. As you cruise along the river, you’ll spot crocodiles basking on the banks or gliding stealthily through the water. The experienced guides will provide fascinating information about these ancient creatures, their behaviors, and the ecosystem they inhabit.


Keep your camera ready as you may also come across a variety of bird species, including herons, egrets, and kingfishers. The lush vegetation along the riverbanks provides an ideal habitat for these beautiful creatures.


In addition to crocodile sighting, the Tarcoles River offers stunning mangrove forests and scenic landscapes that are worth exploring. The unique ecosystem of the mangroves supports a diverse array of marine and bird life. You may also have the opportunity to see other wildlife species, such as iguanas, capuchin monkeys, and even sea turtles.


While the crocodiles may steal the show, the Tarcoles River is not just about wildlife encounters. The serene atmosphere, the sounds of nature, and the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscapes make this experience truly unforgettable.


When planning your visit, it’s recommended to book a tour with a reputable operator to ensure safety and responsible wildlife interaction. These local guides are knowledgeable about the crocodiles’ behavior and can provide valuable insights throughout the tour.


Experiencing the Tarcoles River is a thrilling adventure that allows you to witness the raw power and beauty of Costa Rica’s wildlife. It offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and create memories that will stay with you long after your visit to Jaco.


Visit Carara National Park

Located just a short drive north of Jaco, Carara National Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. This tropical rainforest sanctuary is renowned for its incredible biodiversity and is home to a multitude of plant and animal species.


Carara National Park is particularly famous for its abundance of birdlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Over 400 species of birds have been identified in the park, including the resplendent scarlet macaws, toucans, and hummingbirds. As you hike through the trails, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open to catch a glimpse of these colorful and exotic avian species.


In addition to its feathered residents, Carara National Park is also home to a variety of other wildlife. You may spot monkeys swinging through the trees, sloths lazily hanging from the branches, and agoutis scurrying along the forest floor. The park is also known for its rich butterfly population, adding a touch of vibrant beauty to your nature walk.


There are several well-marked trails in the park that allow visitors to explore its natural wonders. The park’s close proximity to Jaco makes it an easily accessible day trip, and guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the flora and fauna from knowledgeable local guides.


One of the highlights of Carara National Park is the Tarcoles River, which runs through the park. This river is not only a popular spot for crocodile sightings, but it also offers boat tours where you can observe the rich mangrove ecosystem and the wildlife that inhabits it.


Visiting Carara National Park is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Costa Rica’s biodiversity and witness firsthand the wonders of a tropical rainforest. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a tranquil escape into nature, a visit to Carara National Park is sure to leave you awestruck and inspired.


Take a Canopy Tour

If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush and a unique perspective of the rainforest, a canopy tour is a must-do activity in Jaco. The dense jungles surrounding the town are the perfect setting for an exhilarating zip-lining adventure that will take you soaring through the treetops.


A canopy tour typically involves a series of zip lines that are set up between sturdy platforms high up in the trees. As you glide from one platform to another, suspended in the air, you’ll have the opportunity to marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the rainforest from a whole new perspective.


During the tour, expert guides will provide you with all the necessary equipment and ensure your safety throughout the experience. They will also share interesting facts about the flora and fauna of the jungle, making the canopy tour not only thrilling but educational as well.


Aside from the exhilarating zip lines, many canopy tours also include other exciting elements such as hanging bridges and rappelling. These additional activities add a touch of adventure and diversity to the overall experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural surroundings.


As you navigate through the canopy, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings. It’s not uncommon to spot monkeys, sloths, and a variety of bird species during your tree-bound adventure.


Canopy tours are suitable for people of all ages and levels of experience. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply looking to enjoy the beauty of nature from a unique vantage point, a canopy tour in Jaco is an unforgettable experience.


Pre-booking your canopy tour is recommended to ensure availability, and it’s advised to choose a reputable operator that prioritizes safety and environmental conservation. So, put on your harness, take a leap of faith, and prepare for an exhilarating journey through the treetops of Jaco’s lush rainforest.


Enjoy Wildlife Viewing

One of the greatest highlights of visiting Jaco is the opportunity to witness Costa Rica’s incredible wildlife up close and personal. The region is known for its rich biodiversity, and there are several ways to enjoy wildlife viewing during your stay.


One popular option is to embark on a guided nature hike through the surrounding rainforests. Accompanied by knowledgeable guides, you’ll have the chance to spot a plethora of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, toucans, and colorful frogs. The guides are skilled at locating and identifying the creatures that call this area home, ensuring a memorable and educational experience.


If you prefer a more leisurely approach, consider taking a wildlife boat tour along the mangrove-lined rivers and estuaries. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to see crocodiles sunning themselves on riverbanks, herons and egrets wading in the water, and maybe even a few playful dolphins or sea turtles. These boat tours offer a unique perspective of the diverse ecosystems and provide ample opportunities for wildlife photography.


For a truly unique wildlife encounter, visit a nearby animal sanctuary or rescue center. These facilities focus on rehabilitating and protecting injured or orphaned animals and provide a safe haven for a variety of species. You can learn about the conservation efforts in place and even have the chance to interact with some of the resident animals, such as sloths, monkeys, and colorful parrots.


It’s important to be a responsible wildlife viewer and maintain a respectful distance from the animals. Always follow the guidance of your guides and never attempt to touch or feed the animals. Remember, we are guests in their natural habitats, and our presence should have minimal impact on their behavior and environment.


Whether you prefer a guided hike, a boat tour, or a visit to a wildlife sanctuary, Jaco offers ample opportunities to appreciate and learn about the incredible flora and fauna that make Costa Rica so unique. So, keep your eyes and ears open, and get ready to be amazed by the wonders of nature.


Relax on the Beach

When it’s time to unwind and soak up the sun, Jaco’s beautiful beaches offer the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. With its golden sands, turquoise waters, and palm-fringed shores, Jaco is a haven for beach lovers.


Playa Jaco, the main beach in town, stretches for miles and provides ample space for sunbathing, beach games, and leisurely strolls along the water’s edge. You can find a quiet spot to unwind or join in on the energetic beach culture and socialize with fellow travelers and locals.


If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, head a bit further south to Playa Hermosa. This picturesque black sand beach is known for its tranquility and natural beauty. It’s the perfect spot to disconnect from the outside world, listen to the soothing sound of the waves, and bask in the serenity of the coastal paradise.


Jaco’s beaches are not only ideal for relaxation, but they also offer a range of water activities for those seeking a bit more excitement. From surfing and stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking and jet skiing, there are plenty of water sports to indulge in. Equipment rentals and lessons are readily available, making it easy for both beginners and experienced enthusiasts to enjoy the ocean.


As you spend your days at the beach, make sure to take advantage of the beachfront restaurants and cafes that dot the shoreline. Indulge in delicious seafood dishes, sip on refreshing tropical cocktails, and witness breathtaking sunsets while enjoying the laid-back beach vibes.


Remember to pack your sunscreen, hats, and beach towels, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Whether you prefer lounging under an umbrella or taking a dip in the sparkling waters, spending time on the beaches of Jaco is the epitome of relaxation and a quintessential part of the Costa Rican coastal experience.


Go Sport Fishing

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique adventure on the open seas, Jaco offers excellent opportunities for sport fishing. With its prime location on the Pacific coast, the waters surrounding Jaco are teeming with an abundance of fish species, making it a popular destination for anglers.


Jaco’s fishing charters provide everything you need for a successful and thrilling fishing excursion. From experienced captains and knowledgeable crew members to top-notch equipment and well-maintained boats, you’ll be in good hands as you set off for a day of fishing.


Once you’re out on the water, you’ll find a variety of fishing techniques to try. From trolling the deep waters for marlin and sailfish to bottom fishing for snapper and grouper, there’s something for every angler’s interests and skill level. The thrill of landing a big catch and reeling it in is an experience you won’t soon forget.


Jaco’s fishing trips offer more than just the thrill of the catch. While you wait for your next bite, you can soak in the breathtaking coastal views, indulge in snacks and refreshments, and even take a dip in the warm ocean waters. Keep an eye out for other marine life as well, as dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales may make an appearance during your journey.


Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner, the fishing charters in Jaco cater to all levels of expertise. The experienced crew members are there to assist and guide you, ensuring a safe and enjoyable fishing experience.


It’s important to note that sport fishing in Jaco operates under sustainable practices, promoting the conservation of fish populations and minimizing the impact on the marine environment. So you can enjoy your fishing adventure knowing that you’re contributing to the preservation of the ocean ecosystem.


So, grab your fishing gear, set sail, and get ready for an unforgettable day of sport fishing in the bountiful waters of Jaco. The thrill of the hunt, the beauty of the ocean, and the possibility of a trophy-worthy catch await you.


Discover Jaco’s Nightlife

When the sun sets in Jaco, the town comes alive with a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene. Whether you’re in the mood for dancing, live music, or simply relaxing with a few drinks, Jaco offers a range of options to suit every taste.


The hub of Jaco’s nightlife is located along its main strip, Avenida Pastor Diaz. Here, you’ll find a plethora of bars, clubs, and lounges that cater to both locals and tourists. From lively beachfront bars to trendy nightclubs, there’s something for everyone.


If you enjoy dancing and socializing, head to one of the energetic nightclubs where you can move to the beats of international DJs or local live bands. These venues often feature themed nights and drink specials, creating a non-stop party atmosphere.


For a more laid-back experience, cozy up at a beachside bar and enjoy the cool breeze as you sip on your favorite cocktail. Many of these chill spots also offer live music performances, allowing you to relax and take in the local talent.


Jaco’s nightlife scene is not just limited to bars and clubs. The town also boasts a variety of international restaurants that come alive at night, offering a unique dining experience. From fresh seafood to international cuisine, there’s no shortage of delicious food to complement your night out.


As with any nightlife scene, it’s important to exercise caution and drink responsibly. Stick to well-known establishments and be mindful of your surroundings. If you prefer a more low-key evening, there are plenty of options to relax and enjoy a quiet dinner or a sunset walk along the beach.


Jaco’s nightlife scene caters to a diverse range of tastes, ensuring that everyone can find their groove after the sun goes down. So, put on your dancing shoes, gather your friends, and immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Jaco’s nightlife for a memorable evening on the town.


Indulge in Local Cuisine

One of the highlights of visiting Jaco is the opportunity to indulge in the delectable flavors of Costa Rican cuisine. From traditional dishes to fusion creations, Jaco offers a culinary experience that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.


Start your culinary exploration with the national dish of Costa Rica – gallo pinto. This iconic breakfast dish consists of rice and beans stir-fried together with onions, red bell peppers, and spices. Pair it with a side of scrambled eggs, ripe plantains, and a cup of freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee for a truly authentic start to your day.


Jaco is also known for its fresh seafood. Head to one of the beachfront restaurants and savor the catch of the day. From grilled fish to ceviche, the flavors of the ocean are expertly prepared and served with a side of traditional pico de gallo salsa and a squeeze of lime.


For meat lovers, make sure to try the traditional dish called casado. It typically consists of white rice, black beans, a choice of meat (such as grilled chicken or pork), plantains, and a fresh salad. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish is a true representation of Costa Rican cuisine.


Don’t forget to sample the delicious street food that can be found in Jaco’s vibrant markets and roadside stalls. Sink your teeth into a mouthwatering empanada filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. Enjoy a piping hot tamale wrapped in a banana leaf. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with a traditional dessert like arroz con leche, a creamy rice pudding infused with cinnamon and vanilla.


To truly immerse yourself in the local food culture, consider taking a cooking class where you can learn to prepare authentic Costa Rican dishes. Not only will you have the opportunity to savor your own creations, but you’ll also gain valuable knowledge about the ingredients and techniques that are unique to the local cuisine.


Whether you’re exploring the traditional dishes or enjoying innovative culinary creations, Jaco offers a rich gastronomic experience that will leave you fulfilled and satisfied. So come with an empty stomach, an adventurous palate, and get ready to embark on a delicious journey through the flavors of Costa Rica.



Jaco, Costa Rica is a destination that offers an incredible array of activities and experiences for travelers of all interests. From the thrill of surfing the Pacific waves to the tranquility of exploring lush national parks, Jaco showcases the beauty and diversity of Costa Rica’s landscapes.


Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Jaco has something to offer. Explore the rich biodiversity of Manuel Antonio National Park, witness the power and beauty of crocodiles on the Tarcoles River, or soar through the treetops on a canopy tour. For those looking to unwind, Jaco’s pristine beaches provide the perfect backdrop for leisurely sunbathing and rejuvenation.


In the evenings, Jaco’s vibrant nightlife comes alive with its bustling streets filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants. Dance the night away to Latin beats, enjoy live music performances, or simply savor the local cuisine that showcases the flavors of Costa Rica.


Jaco is a destination that embraces Costa Rica’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventurous spirit. Whether you’re a nature lover, a thrill-seeker, or a food enthusiast, Jaco offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave you with unforgettable memories.


So pack your bags, put on your sense of adventure, and prepare to immerse yourself in the wonders of Jaco, Costa Rica. Whether you’re riding the waves, exploring the rainforests, or savoring the local cuisine, Jaco is sure to captivate your heart and leave you longing for more of this enchanting coastal town.