Playa Jaco is the closest beach to San Jose, the Central Valley and is one of the most visited coastal destinations in Costa Rica. The beach is a 2.5 mile (4 km) strip which offers world renowned surfing and more. Much like Costa Rica's metropolitan areas, Jaco's offers most services, such as a post office, health center and branches of major banks. Furthermore, there are an abundance of surf shops, hotels and restaurants affordable for the budget travelers as well as those wishing to live a bit more luxuriously.
Activities include surfing, swimming, deep sea fishing, ATV tours, bicycle rentals, horseback excursions, crocodile safari, national parks and reserves, boat and kayak excursions, white-water rafting, canopy tours and popular night life. With all there is to offer it is no wonder Jaco is as popular as ever.
In the surrounding areas, Playa Herradura, just 4.4 miles (7 km) north, provides a more tranquil environment than Playa de Jaco. Also, just south of Jaco is Playa Hermosa, a quieter 6 mile (10 km) section of black sand beach loved by beach goers and surfers alike. This is where the International Quicksilver Championships are held every year in August. The Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Playa Hermosa) is the beach of choice for the Olive Ridley sea turtles that come ashore to nest every year. If a hotel with an undisturbed location is what you desire, these surrounding beach towns are recommended.
The Carara Biological Reserve (Reserva Biologica Carara) is located just 9.3 miles (15 km) north of Jaco. With several miles of trails open to visitors (some only with a tour group), it is a great place to view much of Costa Rica's wildlife. Early morning or around sunset is often the best time to see the wealth of scarlet macaws that rest among the mangroves. It is also possible to see caiman, white-faced monkeys, peccaries, coatimundis and a wide variety of birds. The park opens at 7 am and closes at 5 pm. The entrance fee is $6.
The Tarcoles River (RioTarcoles), which borders the park and flows into the Pacific Ocean, is an amazing place to witness the American crocodile close up. Boat tours are available to see the crocodiles, many of which grow to be several meters in length! At the mouth of the Tarcoles, the Guacalillo mangrove plays a vital role for the survival of many species of wildlife that may be viewed here.
Manuel Antonio National Park is within driving distance of Jaco as it sits majestically, 43 miles (69 km) to the south. Punta Leona Wildlife Refuge (Refugio de Punta Leona) is another place visitors have a good chance of seeing wildlife, which is located along the drive north from Jaco towards the town of Tarcoles.
There are, however, concerns in Jaco about drugs, crime and prostitution. Being aware of your surroundings and using common sense should help you to avoid any undesirable situations.
We stayed at Hotel Club Del Mar and it is amazing. Staff are fantastic, food great, right on the beach, took surf lessons, great sandy beach on the s end for good swimming, body surfing even for kids. Great beach walks, hikes just across the road. Easy to get to other places. Went ATV's, etc. Highly recommend and close to so many things including the airport.
Lemon Zest Restaurant was really good as was the Italian La Patio
We ate in some excellent restaurants - especially Graffiti, The Green Room and Taco Bar. We were disappointed to not be able to get into Lemon Zest without a reservation day in advance. Beach in Jaco is awesome.
Our favorite parts of Jaco were doing the Crocodile Man Tour (which was awesome!) and we also went to a nearby resort that built an amphitheater on a cliff where you can get food and drinks and watch the sunset. We stumbled on the place online while we were looking for a place to eat and what a pleasant surprise it was. We also made a visit to nearby Hermosa Beach which has black sand a massive waves and a very laid back vibe.
There are a lot of great restaurants in Jaco, the one that has the most interesting menu is definitely The Green Room. It has a beautiful decor, cool drink menu, and great food and ambiance. Tacobar is another "must go" to place. Delicious food, and the best sangria ! Namaste cafe is great for lunch, they have decently priced smoothies and meals. The staff is super friendly. Poseidon offers great food and service. Across the street from Poseidon you can get fresh coconut water during the day for just a few colones, they also offer different kinds of smoothies at a good price. I went by Tsunami sushi on a friday night, as they have their 50% off sushi rolls special. Be sure to make reservations as a lot of people show up. If you're looking for something different (in terms of stores) on the Main street stop by Fruity Monkey Poop. They have a lot of really beautiful stuff. El Paseos de los Surfistas has some of the nicest bracelets (I believe that's what it was called, down the street from the Poseidon). Finally, if you're looking to have a little fun I highly suggest you sign up for surfing lessons with Surfer Factory. They have some of the best instructors, you'll definitely be able to get up on your board and catch a few waves if it's your first time. Avoid Los Amigos restaurant, horrible service and food wasn't good at all!