The best thing about Jaco, located just 90 minutes from the Costa Rican capital, is that you are never short on things to do or adventures to be had. This seaside town is one of the most popular holiday spots in the country – attracting an eclectic mix of tourists, expats and josefinos (residents of San Jose looking to have a break from the city). Visitors are enticed in by Jaco’s undeniable beauty, from stunning beaches to jungle-draped hillsides.
Jaco Beach is regarded as one of the top surfing destinations in Costa Rica, while the lush mountainous interiors nearby play host to majestic waterfalls and epic zip-lines. Not only is adventure tourism a thriving industry here but you can also find fantastic restaurants and a festive nightlife. Many backpackers come for the surf and stay longer because of the parties.
If standing up on a surfboard has always been on your bucket list, this is an ideal place to learn at one of the many surf schools in town. For those who prefer land to water, you can hike trails through Carara National Park to witness amazing wildlife. Or to get your adrenaline pumping, why not go on an ATV tour with the awesome team at Adventure Tours Costa Rica. They are Tripadvisor’s only “Hall of Fame” travel agency in this country.
As you can see there is something for everyone, no matter what type of vacation you are after. But with so many activities to choose from it can be hard to know where to start – especially if you are only visiting for a few days and need to prioritize time. So in order to narrow down your search we have put together this Jaco guide which will give you a few cool ideas.
We haven’t just jotted down the most popular activities or copied common recommendations from other travel blogs. These five experiences are all unique and oftentimes overlooked by travelers heading to Jaco. With help from our friends at Adventure Tours Costa Rica, we give you the five coolest things to do in Jaco – perfect for your first visit or your fifteenth! Read to the very end of this article for some helpful travel tips on this epic little town.
5 Cool Things To Do in Jaco
1. Go on an ATV Adventure Tour
ATVs are all-terrain vehicles otherwise known as quad bikes. These bad boys provide a great way to explore the hidden gems of the Jaco area, well off the beaten track. Plus they are so much fun! There are a couple of exciting ATV tours that you can book with Adventure Tours Costa Rica. They have five options in total for Jaco but the best two that we suggest are:
- El Tour del Rey: Full Day ATV Tour in Jaco – An epic six hour adventure that can cover up to 100 kms. Expect to navigate through spectacular nature such as riverbeds, rainforest, waterfalls and beaches while also coming across mountain villages tucked away from the world. Lunch will be enjoyed at the rural town of Mata de Platano and afterwards many more pueblos will be passed such as Montelimar and Bijagual.
- Signature ATV Canopy Waterfall Adventure – Another full day ATV tour in the Jaco and Los Suenos area that will get the blood flowing and heart racing. This trip combines an ATV ride, zipline adventure and nature experience all together for one of the most unforgettable days you will have in Costa Rica. Soar across the Los Suenos ziplines, uncover secret waterfalls and be awe-inspired by exotic wildlife in the rainforest.
2. Jump Onboard a Rainforest 4×4 Tour
The Signature Rainforest 4×4 Tour offers an outstanding half day excursion where guests ride through rainforest, and get the chance to swim in many natural pools and jump in from the top of waterfalls. It kicks off in the mountains of Agujitas and Carara National Park where the 4×4 slowly makes its way up the mountain passing mini waterfalls and farms.
At the top of the mountain, panoramic vistas open up with views of the Nicoya Peninsula and Pacific Ocean. By this time you have warmed up a bit – and what better way to cool down than by taking a refreshing swim in a natural pool or under the spray of a waterfall. All these experiences will make you feel like you are well and truly in the land of “Pura Vida”. The tour ends with an authentic Costa Rican meal at Paz del Campo Restaurant.
3. Interact with White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys
Costa Rica is known for its rich wildlife and one of the cutest animals you can see is the capuchin monkey. These friendly primates interact safely with people of all ages – so this experience is one of the best for families with children. The Jaco Monkey Mangrove Tour with Adventure Tours Costa Rica enables you to get up close and personal with these playful capuchins. It’s a two hour tour that travels by riverboat to find the monkeys.
An alternative to that two hour tour is the Manuel Antonio and Monkey Mangrove Combo Tour which lasts for eight hours and takes you to see capuchin monkeys as well as an array of other creatures such as macaws, sloths and iguanas that roam around Manuel Antonio National Park. If you haven’t visited this park yet then this tour is very suitable because you can’t come to Costa Rica without visiting Manuel Antonio at least once!
4. Fly Like a Bird on a Zipline Canopy Tour
Everyone who visits the Jaco or Los Suenos area should take a zipline canopy tour. It’s an exhilarating activity that the whole family can enjoy, from grandparents to grandchildren. Fly from one canopy to the next on the Los Suenos Canopy Tour and soak in the pristine nature. Being up high on elevated platforms means you can spot wildlife like colorful scarlet macaws and cheeky capuchin monkeys. Everything about this tour is epic!
5. Spot Crocodiles in the Tarcoles River
You don’t have to travel all the way to Australia to see crocodiles in person as Costa Rica, more specifically the Tarcoles River, is home to the largest concentration of crocs in all of Central America. The mix of river, swamp and ocean that occurs at the mouth of the Tarcoles River creates an attractive home for many wildlife species including crocodiles and birds. One way to see these crocodiles safely is on the Crocodile Mangrove Tour from Jaco.
Experienced guides take you to crocodile hotspots where you can safely spot the crocs from a distance. The guides with Adventure Tours Costa Rica are professionals who know how to handle themselves around potentially deadly animals like crocodiles. They provide plenty of info and facts along the way, so you finish the tour a little wiser about the natural world.
Tips for Visiting Jaco
The best time to visit Jaco is when there is less chance of rain and that happens to be during the dry season – from December to March. April to November is still a good time to come as well but just know that technically it would be the wet season. If you are traveling on a tight budget and need to save pennies at every opportunity, consider coming in the rainy season because prices will be lower for things like accommodation and eating out.
When we say the “wet season”, it’s not raining the entire time. In reality, there is an occasional shower every other day but it will still be hot when the sun comes out. Another thing to keep in mind is that Jaco is a popular place for Costa Ricans. They tend to visit on the weekends when they need a break from the hustle and bustle of San Jose. You can expect larger crowds on Friday and Saturday nights at the restaurants and bars.
Keen surfers should know that the wet season offers bigger waves. The crowds at the beach during this time are much smaller which creates a nice atmosphere to ride the waves unobstructed by others. For those learning how to surf, the dry season is preferable due to the gentler waves and beginner-friendly swells. Yet, you might be competing for space with others who are learning how to surf. This is another thing to weigh up.
Jaco can be reached from many places such as San Jose and Puntarenas. Renting a car and exploring the country at your own pace is easily the best option in terms of transport. Although, that might not be feasible for backpackers. In that case, buses run regularly from San Jose and are known to be stress-free and affordable. You could fly into the capital and take the bus to Jaco to kickstart your trip. It wouldn’t be a bad way to start!
Our final tip is on the duration of stay. Most travelers hang around for two or three days to enjoy the beach, explore the area and book an adventure tour or two. That being said, if you want to learn how to surf you could stay here for a week and take lessons everyday. Jaco is also a handy place to base yourself for nearby destinations like Carara National Park and Manuel Antonio. Give yourself at least five days to discover secrets of the wider area.