11 Things to Do in Jaco: Costa Rica’s Liveliest Beach

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There is much more to do than just soak up the sun in Costa Rica’s most popular and liveliest beach town! Situated on the Central Pacific Coast, Jaco Beach in Costa Rica serves up blissful sandy beaches, invigorating waters, abundant jungle, and endless fun. During the day, visitors will find an array of exciting water sports and land-based adventures. By evening, parties and other electrifying nightlife activities take over, inspiring travelers to let loose like never before.

Only two hours away, Jaco is the nearest beach to San José and makes a superb destination in itself or a great extension to any Costa Rica trip. Below is our list of top things to do while in Costa Rica's Playa Jaco.

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1. Visit Carara National Park

Home to some of Costa Rica’s primary rainforest, Carara National Park is a major sanctuary for wildlife near the beach. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the country’s famous jungle critters, this is one of the top destinations to visit in the country. Frequent sightings include monkeys, sloths, coatis, macaws, and parrots. There are four trails inside the park that leads to different parts of the forest.

  • Tip: Be sure to stop at the famous Tárcoles River Crocodile Bridge for an opportunity to see masses of these wild animals swimming and basking in the sun. Take a tour for a wild experience of viewing crocodile feedings.

2. Explore Catarata Bijagual Waterfall

Catarata Bijagual waterfall is located near Jaco beach Costa Rica
Take a short hike up to the waterfall and enjoy a dip in the natural pools.

Perhaps the most beautiful spectacle near Playa Jaco in Costa Rica, Bijagual Waterfall plunges 600 feet over the side of a lush green mountain. Enjoy the refreshing mist after the short but challenging walk to the falls, take in the vista from atop of the falls, or indulge with a swim in the natural pools.

  • Tip: The hike is strenuous in some areas and an experienced guide is recommended here for safety.

3. Hike Mount Miros

The 2.7 km hike up Mount Miros is definitely Jaco’s best-kept secret. Being one of the best hiking destinations in Costa Rica, you’ll encounter some of the best views of the bay. Two different trails lead to overlooks of Jaco Beach and Playa Hermosa. You’ll likely encounter birds, lizards, and monkeys along the way too.

  • Tip: Hike up to Mount Miros in the late afternoon and watch the sunset from there. 

4. Go fishing

Jaco beach in Costa Rica is also ideal for sportfishing
Jaco beach is one of the best places to go fishing on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Jaco is home to incredible sportfishing opportunities. Charters leave for half and full-day tours for both inshore and offshore adventures. The area is well-known as one of Central America’s top places for catching record-breaking billfish, dorado, tuna, and wahoo.

Tip: December to April is the peak season, so make sure to reserve a charter in advance.

5. Try surfing and paddleboarding

Beginner and expert surfers alike flock to Jaco for its excellent variety of waves. Surfing in Costa Rica is certainly one of the most popular activities and that is especially true for Jaco Beach, heavily influencing the balanced chill-party vibes of the town.

Tip: Besides surfing, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the beach’s fastest-growing activities and offers a calmer alternative to hitting the hard waves.

6. Kayak or canoe in the Pacific Sea

Paddling out in the Pacific sea can give you unmatched views of the coastline and lead you to spots less discovered. Jaco Beach has one of the best kayaking spots in Costa Rica. Head over to nearby secluded bays, explore rocky nooks, or consider combining your adventure with fishing or snorkeling. Canoeing in Jaco is particularly unique with the popularity of Hawaiian-style outriggers available at the beach.

Tip: Combine a canoe trip with snorkeling or fishing to get the most out of this activity.

7. Scuba diving and snorkeling

The shimmering waters of Jaco aren’t just for viewing from above. Underneath, a whole world is teeming with tropical marine life. The water is warm and inviting with mostly rocky headlands. The area is great for spotting soft coral, blowfish, and schools of pelagic fish.

Tip: Nearby Tortuga Island is just a boat ride away and is a popular spot for snorkeling with frequent sea turtle and dolphin sightings.

8. Extreme adventuring

Rappeling activities are available near Jaco Beach
Go rappeling in the waterfalls
Ride around the beaches and rainforest of Jaco in Costa Rica
Ride an ATV through the beach
When it comes to Rafting in Costa Rica consider Sarapiqui River.
Raft the Tarcoles river from Jaco
Parasailing in Jaco beach, Costa Rica is a perfect way to enjoy the beach
Parasail in the sea

It goes without saying that many visitors to Jaco are thrill-seekers at the core. So, it’s not surprising that it’s home to an unrivaled selection of extreme adventure activities on land and at sea in Costa Rica. Popular activities include canyoning, rappelling, ATV, rafting, skydiving, parasailing, and bungee jumping, just to name a few. However you prefer to get your adrenaline pumping, Jaco will awaken your senses.

Tip: Several adventure parks are available in Jaco and it is possible to do more than one activity a day so plan accordingly.

9. Experience a rainforest canopy tour

A day on the beach is certainly one of the appeals of traveling to this region, but a vacation here wouldn’t be complete without a trip through the rainforest canopy. After all, Costa Rica is essentially famous for its ziplining tours through the thick canopy. Soaring through the trees and open-air will offer a welcome break from the sun and give you a special glimpse into the rainforest habitat.

Tip: Make sure to carry binoculars to spot wildlife in the treetops.

Though the Jaco area is highly developed and busy, there is no shortage of interesting wildlife in the area. In addition to the animals you may see in passing on the beach or in the jungle, many outfitters provide expert-guided tours for increased chances of animal sighting. Birdwatching tours are quite popular in the area as well.

Tip: If you wish for activities near the water, opt for a dolphin-spotting tour instead.

11. Indulge in the nightlife

We would be remiss not to mention the epic nightlife in Jaco Beach in Costa Rica. Once a sleepy surf town, this place is booming with an emerging music scene, bars, discos, and plenty of epic parties. No matter the day of the week, there’s endless entertainment to be found.

Tip: Full moon parties in Jaco Beach are quite popular. If you like to party, make sure to visit one during your stay!

Best time to visit Jaco Beach

Jaco Beach in Costa Rica is one of the liveliest beaches in the country.
The liveliest beach in town is also the closest beach to San Jose.

The dry season, December to April, is the best time to visit Jaco Beach as there is low humidity. However, the beach tends to get really crowded during this season, so consider traveling on the tail-ends of the season.

For a more in-depth seasonal overview of the country, head on to our travel guide on the best time to visit Costa Rica.

Good to know

  • Jaco sports 4 km of gorgeous beach. Although it is a popular destination, there is plenty of space to enjoy.
  • There are several accommodations available near Jaco Beach that suit every budget. Several hostels are also available for those willing to share the accommodations.
  • Although Jaco is a popular beach destination in Costa Rica, it is possible to find good, cheap Costa Rican meals such as casado, gallo pinto (a Costa Rican staple), and international cuisines in many of the sodas or local restaurants.
  • Be prepared that if asking for directions from a local, you will likely be directed using local landmarks. The town’s street-name signs that have been placed are mostly for tourists' comfort and are largely unused by the local residents.

Jaco Beach in Costa Rica is the country’s most popular beach and for good reason. With its sandy, palm-lined beaches, inviting waters, and endless options of things to do, your trip is sure to leave you energized.

Make sure that the length of your Costa Rica trip is enough to fit all the recommended activities. To learn more, check out our travel guide on how many days to spend in the country. Feel free to contact our local travel experts who will help you customize your next trip to Costa Rica as per your liking.

Published by Sofie, updated on March 10, 2022

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