If you want to take a great tropical vacation, then Jaco might be the perfect tourist destination for you. Jaco is a tiny coastal town located just outside the capital of Costa Rica (San Jose).

Forget your ironed clothes and high heels because all you need is your great sense of adventure and a love of nature. In this article, we’ll list the top tourist attractions in Jaco, as well as, famous restaurants and lodgings.

An Overview of Tourist Attractions in Jaco, Costa Rica

Jaco is a popular tourist destination for its magnificent tropical forests, immaculate beaches, and exciting surf. Visit the Herradura Beach and Playa Hermosa to surf their challenging waves. Get close to the wild Scarlet Macaw in the rain forests of Carara National Park where tours are offered.

Compared to other smaller towns, Jaco has safe drinking tap water and it’s free of tropical diseases, like dengue and malaria. For a small town, it provides all of the amenities a modern city gives. It surely is a good place to get close to nature and unleash your great sense of adventure.

Tourists usually take the 120-kilometer route from San Jose using a rented vehicle. However, it can be expensive with the high gas consumption and rental fee. If you have a limited budget, ride a private or public bus from San Jose. You can also ride the airport shuttle to go to Jaco straight from the airport.

We’d say the best means of transportation is a private bus ride. Compared to driving yourself, a private bus ride is worth your time and more cost-efficient. If you’re driving from San Jose to Jaco, take Highway 27 and Highway 34. You’ll see departures for Herradura and Tarcoles along the way.

Where to stay and dine isn’t a problem in Jaco. The town has some of the most excellent hotels and restaurants. The nightlife is also a great escapade on its own.

Jaco Beach is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. It has strong waves, making it more ideal for surfers than swimmers. Jaco’s surfing industry has turned this lazy town into a famous tourist destination. If you can’t surf, don’t worry. You can enjoy other exciting activities, such as sports fishing, Bungee jumping, and trekking.

Ten Tourist Attractions in Jaco

Rainforest Aerial Trams

If you thought that a roller coaster ride was fun, then think again. The Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica Pacific’s Aerial Tram is an exhilarating ride high above the ground. The ride allows you to get acquainted with the beautiful Costa Rican nature.

This 222-acre rainforest is surrounded by tiny, gushing waterfalls and breathtaking sights of the Pacific Ocean. The tours will lead you to the intersection between the tropical rainforest and the unique tropical dry rainforest. In this limited stretch, you’ll find the country’s most exotic fauna and marvelous plants.

The tour is led by an expert guide and available in two languages, Spanish and English. It includes a tram ride above the forest, trekking on preserved paths, and a thrilling zip line back down. You can book directly online to save money on tickets and Rainforest Adventure will arrange transportation from your hotel.

Captain Bear’s Sports Fishing

If you love the ocean, then you need to get into Captain Bear’s Sports Fishing. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the coast which includes fishing for marlins, watching the mesmerizing ocean sunset, or diving in the clear ocean.

The company provides boats that are well equipped with proper fishing equipment except for circle hooks to release the fish back into the ocean. Its fleet includes more than 15 boats in different sizes. You’ll surely make a great fishing experience with your friends and family.

Jaco Beach

Jaco Beach is one of the most famous Costa Rican beaches with a jungle atmosphere and mountains surrounding it. If you’re learning how to surf, this beach is perfect for you. Its waves aren’t as cruel as Playa Hermosa.

We recommend that you visit by day because nighttime walks might be dangerous. There are many cases of tourists getting robbed at night.

Manuel Antonio

Sitting on top of a mountain is Manuel Antonio, a hilly town discovered by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1519. This hilly town is famous for its large monkey population which even outnumber the human population residing in the area.

Playa Espandilla is the main beach found in this town. It’s usually visited in the morning when the tide is calmer. Eat some conventional shaved ice and buy souvenirs for your loved ones back home.

A good restaurant in the place is El Avion, meaning airplane, and is actually constructed inside a military cargo aircraft. This unenclosed restaurant offers a menu that not only enumerates its delicious meals but also tells about the history of the plane and its travel to the mountaintop. As you eat, you can also enjoy the breathtaking view of the seaside.

Another main attraction in this town is the Manuel Antonio National Park which is the second most famous park in the country. Built in 1972, this park is famous for its beautiful trails and receives about 150,000 visitors annually.

The park also encloses four beaches: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Playita, and Teldoro. The former two include tidal pools that are good for snorkeling. You can also go to Punta Catedral by hiking from Espadilla Sur. A variety of tours are available to discover more offerings of the park, like river rafting and horseback riding.

Not only that, the park is also abundant with diverse wildlife, with more than 100 species of mammals and more than 180 species of birds living on its territory. You can observe various species of monkeys, lizards, and dolphins. There’s even a whale occasionally visiting its marine reserve.

Manuel Antonio is about a 3-hour drive to San Jose. It’s closed on Mondays.

Tarcoles

For a unique experience, watch the most exciting crocodile shows in Tarcoles. This is located along the banks of the Tarcoles River, whose water landmark covers almost half of Costa Rica. Although the river has been polluted by the sewage of the country’s larger cities, it’s still a residence to several animal species, such as the American crocodile, iguanas, and the American Pygmy Kingfisher.

Actually, the Tarcoles River has the largest population of crocodiles in all of the America’s. This means it’s dangerous to swim in this area. (People have gone for a swim only to lose their head – no bs.)

The Carara National Park is one of the few places that the Scarlet Macaws take refuge. You can hear these rare birds fly at dusk. The park provides guided tours and opens from 8 am to 4 pm every day.

Prospering in this crocodile sanctuary is the Crocodile Man River Tour, whose guide will show you how to feed large crocodiles by hand. This is really scary to watch because the crocodiles can attack at any moment. If you want to watch crocodiles enjoying the sun, go to the Tarcoles Bridge.

Playa Hermosa

With a name that means beautiful beach, Playa Hermosa is a tiny surfing village. Located about 10 minutes south of Jaco, it’s known as one of the best surf beaches in the country. It even hosted the largest event to date in the province, the 2009 ISA Billabong World Surfing Games.

The black beach offers surfing all year round and has been known to turn tourists into ex-pat locals. You can reach the place about 7 km by car. Alongside the beach, you’ll find a lot of houses.

The Backyard

The best restaurant to dine in Playa Hermosa is the Backyard. This al fresco restaurant is situated next to the Backyard Hotel and serves meals on a terrace in front of the ocean. Breakfast is available from 8 am to 11 am. From 11 to 10 pm, lunch and dinner are available.

Their best dishes for lunch are chicken wings, fresh seafood, and salads. For dinner, try the lobster, tuna, or the large shrimp. If you don’t like seafood, try their local dishes, like the Arroz con Camarones.  Or, you can of course always opt for the local pinto!  For a great experience, visit the bar and drink while looking the ocean sunset.

Caliche Wishbone

Another great place to dine in Jaco is the Caliche Wishbone, a Mexican food restaurant that offers fresh ingredients all the time. This restaurant uses no preservatives, artificial flavors, and other fillers. From seafood to homemade pita bread sandwiches, this restaurant offers a variety of dishes that are bound to please the most fastidious customers. Truly, you can enjoy the fun and casual ambiance of this restaurant while eating their specialties, like tuna steak with mango salsa and sesame-crusted tuna.

Hotel Pochote Grande

Built in 1990, this German-owned resort is a great place to stay for your tropical vacation. Its named after the huge Pochote trees found close to the barbecue place. This kind of tree is a haven for a variety of birds and animals including tropical birds and squirrels.

The hotel is situated about 15 minutes from the town’s center and Jaco Beach. The distance is amiable for sightseeing without getting mixed up in a large crowd at night. Around the resort, you can find tropical gardens, old trees, and long miles of the sandy beach.

The resort provides 24 rooms on beautiful beachfront property. Every room comes with two queen beds and several amenities including a private bath, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. Free parking is also provided along with free access to the beach.

The house restaurant serves a good breakfast and delicious barbecue dinner. In front of the hotel, you can take a walk along the Bay of Jaco and watch the magnificent sunset. Together with the ocean backdrop and rugged mountains, the sight will be really unforgettable.

Nightlife

Don’t expect the luxury of Vegas clubs, the nightlife in Jaco is as wild as it can be. You can find wild dancing and prostitution around the place. Keep in mind that the total population of Jaco is around 10,000 people, so these girls roam around the city when tourists are many.  Currently, Le Loft is the spot, as well as Man Cave.  They have the same owner and are close to each other.  Amigos bar is a nice place to start your night, especially if there are sporting events on television.

You can still have a great nightlife in Jaco, just stay aware of your surroundings and avoid the working girls. The best places for nightlife are clubs that play reggae, house, salsa, and many more. If you know how to have a good time on the dance floor, then the Jaco nightlife will entice you.  Just know that after dark, it can get dangerous, so stay in the well lit areas and avoid any shady business dealings.  Crime is quite high in small town Jaco, so keep your guard up and your eyes open.

Final Thoughts

Jaco is a tiny town in Costa Rica and is a popular surfing destination. With high green mountains surrounding the beach, it seems like you visited the beaches of Jurassic Park. Advanced surfers shouldn’t settle with Jaco Beach and instead travel further to Playa Hermosa where great waves are waiting to be challenged.

From the pristine beaches to surfing and rainforest tours, Jaco provides a variety of attractions. Don’t skip the Crocodile Man tour in Tarcoles where you can observe a man feeding large crocodiles for your delight. Manuel Antonio is also a great place to visit for observing monkeys—just visit during the day for your safety.

The nightlife itself is as wild as its surrounding jungles. To have great fun, be aware of your surroundings and don’t pick up random girls. Overall, Jaco is a great place to visit, especially if you love adventure and wild experiences.