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Revision as of 16:23, 29 August 2012
Jacó is one of the two largest tourist towns on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Jacó is about 80 miles from San Jose's airport, a beautiful drive of just over two hours.
From Juan Santamaria International Airport, follow the signs toward San Ramon.
After 6 miles, take the exit toward Atenas and at the stop sign, turn left.
Follow the winding street until you get to San Mateo.
At San Mateo, the road jogs right a block because of one way traffic (towards you).
Just follow the road around and you will get back on the main drag.
When approaching Orotonia, a sign directs you to the right. Don't follow it!' (you'll get lost in the business district).
Stay straight until you see the sign on the right directing you to Jacó. Follow that road to Jacó.
From here on in, it is just following signs to Jacó.
There are frequent buses going directly from the Coca Cola bus station in San José. Fares are about US$5 each way.
If you want to leave from SJO airport directly to Jaco you can use Easy Ride Shuttle Services they run 3 times per day from7to SJO airport to Jaco they also pick up at any hotel in San Jose Downtown or Alajuela Downtown
Alternatively, drive from San Jose past San Ramon toward Puntarenas, until you get to hwy 27. Go south on 27 and follow the signs to Jaco. It's further but much faster since it is not a mountain road. Another plus is that you can stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles River along the way - a prime spot to observe wild crocodiles. Note, it is illegal to feed the crocodiles as they are protected.
Transportation in and around Jaco is quite simple. The city is small enough, that walking from one end to the other is not an impossible feat. But when it's hot, or it's dark, there are always plenty of taxis to take you down the strip wherever you might want to go. The taxis in Jaco are red. Don't get in a taxi that does not look official. Often there are pirate taxis that are generally safe, but it's best to stick with the official companies. There's a taxi stand by the main grocery store, Mas por Menos, or you can always pick one up easily outside of Beatle Bar. All official taxis have meters and are clearly displayed. 1,500 colones is a standard price to go just about anywhere in the town, or to Herradura, unless it's a short distance and then it's usually 750. Ask a local if you are unsure of how much you should pay.
There are local buses that circulate from Herradura to Jaco every hour. The bus does not go through all of Jaco, it does not travel to the most Northern side, but it you can get off at any spot in central Jaco, along the strip. The main bus stop to go to Herradura is located across the street and down the road a short distance from the grocery store, Mas o Menos. There is a bus stop there, and usually a congregation of people waiting for the bus to come. If you take the bus from Herradura to Jaco you can pick it up at Herradura beach, at the crossways of the Costanera in Herradra, or down the road at the Herradura gas station, otherwise known as La Bomba. The Herradura/Jaco bus will take you to Central Jaco, and all the way to Herradura beach for less than it would cost to take a taxi. The price to ride the bus in 2004 was 85 colones.
At the Northern end of Jaco, across from the Best Western hotel is the official bus station. If you want to take the bus from Jaco or Herradura to San Jose, this is where you need to go to buy tickets. There is a ticket window where you can purchase tickets, and it's recommended that you do so. Seats are assigned, but the Costa Ricans have no qualms about over-selling the bus. The trip from Jaco to San Jose generally takes 3-4 hours, and without a seat, you're forced to stand the entre, perilous trip, until someone gets off and there's an empty seat. This rarely happens. At this bus terminal you can also purchase tickets to other destinations such as Puntarenas and Quepos. Bus fare is inexpensive, and bus travel is always sure to be an adventure. If returning to San Jose by bus from Jaco, there are many places throughout Jaco that you can catch the bus: the bus terminal, of course, the bus stop in front of Mas o Menos, or various other locations along the Jaco strip. It's also possible to pick up the San Jose bus on the Western side of the road at the crossway in Herradura. There are set times when the buses come and go, and for the most part they are usually on time. Be there a little early so you don't miss it. As always, be cautious with your belonging on the bus. There is storage underneath the bus for heavier and larger items, but people have been known to take suitcases and bags, from under the bus, that did not belong to them. Always keep an eye on your belonging inside the bus as well.
Jaco is fairly small, and it's easy to see the entire town in one day. But you can also just as easily take your time and spend several days exploring, shopping, going to the beach, surfing, dining out, going to bars, and taking tours in the Jaco area. If you have a rental car, a drive along the Western Costa, along the Costanera is very beautiful, and offers many opportunities to stop, take pictures, or find private, secluded beaches. Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica's National Parks, is an hour drive from Jaco, and is nearly a straight shot South along the Costanera highway.
Jaco is not very big, but there are plenty of things to do there. Surfing and Boogie Boarding are extremely popular, and it's fairly inexpensive to rent a board for the day. Jaco is known for being one of the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica for the beach breaks (sand bottom) and good waves during high tides . There are lots of surf camps and surf schools in the area, make sure you choose one that is credible and especially certified to guarantee quality. There are also many shops along Jaco's main street that offer surfboard/boogie board rentals. Laying out on the beach and swimming are nice. The beach is beautiful, however the black sand at midday is scorching hot. There are some fantastic restaurants in Jaco, including some excellent Sodas, the local traditional restaurant. At night there are numerous clubs and bars that stay open late.
- Del Mar Surf Camp , Surf Camp and yoga retreat owned and operated by local Costa Rican surfer, Maria Del Mar. Premiere and certified surf camp featuring surf lessons, surf coaching, surf tours, private surf lessons, family surf lessons day packages and surf camps including all inclusive surf packages, womens surf and yoga camps and surf and detox retreats. Locally certified Costa Rican school with ISA, CPR, First Aid and Water Rescue with no more than two students per instructor.
- Del Mar Extreme , Fitness vacations and sport adventure tours including stand up paddling, stand up paddle surf lessons, mountain biking tours and beachfront fitness classes (yoga, boxing, pilates, TRX, beach boot camp, circuit training, butts and guts and capoeira).
- Vista Guapa Surf Camp  - Stand up paddle and surf lessons for begginers and experienced surfers, individuals and groups. The camp has its own accommodation in comfortable a/c bungalows with great ocean view. Also offers adventure tours including mountain bike, yoga classes and packages with trips to National Parks. It is run by Alvaro Solano, seven times National Surf Champion and current champion of Masters category.
There are numerous, small shops and stands all along Jaco's main strip that runs parallel to the water. Most of these stalls offer similar things: jewelry, fabric, surf clothes, knick-knacks, and traditional Costa Rican gifts. There is also a small mall, El Galeone, along the main street. There are a few unique stores in the mall, as well as an ATM on the second floor. Many stores offer Costa Rican handicrafts and souvenirs. A couple places that seem to offer more unique, higher quality offerings are Guacamole (clothing and accessories) and The Costa Rica Coffee Experience , where you can sample coffees from various growing regions and buy the beans to take home too.
Jaco has many great restaurants to choose from :
- Isaga Bar-Restaurant, Located on the entrance street across The Beattle Bar, this is the most typical-local food place besides Rustico, they have a great offer of seafood combined with casados and bar snacks. Also there are different offers in food and drinks per day for different menu, perfect place to watch soccer games due to its populatiry among forgeins and locals. Definitely the best overall food and tastes at the best price!.
- Los Amigos . Sports Bar and Grill, Located on Calle Pastor Diaz in the center of town across from POP's, Open from 11am - 11pm 365 days a year. With six flatscreen TV's and three large screen projectors, great place to catch all the games. Great meals like USDA burgers, fine steaks and seafoods, traditional Thai dishes or sample the largest beer selection in Jaco.
- Lemon Zest, Straight from the shores of Miami, Lemon Zest restaurant offeres the best fine dining cuisine in Jaco Beach. Ask your server for the nightly food specials, the best duck in Costa Rica!
- Sunrise Breakfast, The place for large American-style breakfast.
- Rustico, Located down the street from Yummy's chicken, it is the neighborhoods most popular "casado" place with buffet style, ready to order food. Amazing value and best deal in town. All locals come here for the quality. Average $4 for a casado and drink.
- La Hacienda, Great sandwiches, steaks and burgers.
- El Bohio, For a more elegant meal with seafood on the beach, a person can easily spend an entire afternoon in its shady beachside bar, sipping ice cold $3 beers.
- Pacho Villas, The best option for Mexican food.
- Wahoo´s Seafood Saloon, Serves breakfast all day from about $3 and has fantastic seafood and steaks
- Jacos Tacos', Also a favorite, and is open 24 hours a day, serving up traditional Mexican food, including, of course, tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas. Check their sign out front for $5 specials. Breakfast is actually fantastic, try the chorizon and eggs, they serve it up with a side of potatos and fresh, handmade tortillas !
- Tsunami Sushi, The place for sushi, in central Jaco with daily deals. Everyone's favorite night, Wednesdays from 6-9 PM, half off most of the sushi rolls on menu.
The average price of a sit-down meal ranges from $7 to $10 USD. Sodas, the traditional Costa Rican restaurants, are becoming fewer and far between, but if you can find them, the price is around $5 with a pop.
Jaco is loaded all varieties of night-life entertainment. The average cost of a beer is $2 USD.
- Club Vibe, Open 12-all night, The official afterparty of Jaco Beach. Featuring the largest dance floor in town, guest DJs every weekend, nightly drink specials.
- Monkey Bar, The place to start your party. Spinning great music all night long, nightly drink specials open 9:00-2:30am!
- The Beatle Bar, looks quite welcoming from the outside, is actually where most of the city's prostitutes spend their time.
Other bars in town include,Pancho Villa, and The Backyard Bar, located just South of Jaco in Playa Hermosa. Many of the local restaurants are excellent spots to sit down and have a cocktail as well. The Beatle Bar, however, is notorious for prostitution (so it has that going for it). For late nights, Monkey bar is open until 2:30, Club Vibe goes all night until 6am! Most restaurants serve alcohol, but when the kitchen closes so does the bar; after that only clubs that are open for alcohol consumption are Monkey Bar, Beatle Bar, and Club Vibe. You can purchase liter-sized bottles of Imperial (the local brew) for $2 at grocery or liquor stores.
- Los Amigos Sportsbar & Grill (Los Amigos), Jaco Central across from Pops (dead smack in the center of town at Pastor Diaz & Calle Pops), ☎ 011-506-2643-2961, . 11am - 1am. Located in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica…Smack Dab in the center of downtown Jaco. Los Amigo’s proudly offers a non smoking air conditioned dining and drinking experience as well as open air outdoor seating for all you dedicated smokers. Serving lunch and dinner from 11am - 11pm Sun thru Thurs and 11am – 1am Fri & Sat 365 days a year! 7 – 42” plasma TV’s, 3 projectors, 6 satellite feeds hosting every sporting event know to man or women, an extreme sports VOD (Video on demand) system and local DJ’s…mix this with over 45 local and import beers, a full liquor bar and some of the best food & service on the Pacific coast and you really don’t have an excuse not to join us. moderate. (9.614412,-8462803)
- De Haan Hotel. One of the cheapest hotels/hostels in town. Dorm is 12$ per person and Rooms are 30$ (with up to 6 beds, with private bathroom and hot shower!). Swimming pool, kitchen, 20m from the beach.
- Four Star Hotel DoceLunas of Jaco,  DoceLunas has five acres of landscaped gardens and only twenty rooms. The hotel is at the base of a jungle covered mountain and the canopy has been preserved through the hotel, so guests include kinkajou, coatimundi, arboreal anteaters and a wide varitey of birds. The mountain and the trees shade the hotel and keep it cool but of course every room has A/C and it is maintained frequently for fresh clean air. The hotel has a large pool with a sun moon mosaic design and a waterfall cave. All this and four star amentities and service will cost you the same as most three star hotels in Jaco. Rates start at $120 in green season. DoceLunas is the second highest rated hotel in Jaco, second only to a budget hotel that is rated top in Central America.
- Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort, ., 506 2630 9000., Travel and Leisure Magazine call the Los Suenos Marriott one of "The Best in the World." This luxurious Costa Rican hotel features 6 restaurants and lounges, as well as 11 meeting rooms. The spacious accommodations and unmatched service and amenities make the Los Suenos Marriott one of the top choices amontst Costa Rican hotels. Los Suenos is not actually in Jaco, but is only 20 minutes away in Herradura.
Cheap hostels abound near the beach in Jaco.
- Hotel Mar de Luz, Bejuco Beach, Jaco, Costa Rica, ☎ (506) 26 43 30 00, .
- Morgans Cove Resort and Hard Rock Casino ., 200 Meters South of the Municipalidad, Jaco Beach, 1.888.828.6745, At this beachfront entertainment Resort in the midst of exotic tropical fauna you can play among monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, toucans, macaws, and more while enjoying the two large swimming pools, five-mile stretch of beach, and two large sport-fishing boats. The property also features the Hard Rock Costa Rica Casino with 12 beachfront rooms overlooking a pool, restaurant area, and a spectacular view of the beach.
- Canciones del Mar,  is a wonderful place, with a decent swimming pool and spacious accommodations. Breakfast is served daily and you can enjoy beachfront views of the ocean while dining. Happy hour in the evenings and a courteous staff that will accommodate any needs. Be weary of your bill, the exchange rate may fluctuate accordingly. Overall, a great comfy place to stay.
- Vacation House Costa Rica - Costa Rica Beach Vacation Rental,  - This Beach house is located in Esterillos Oeste (West), 20 minutes from the Los Suenos Resort, and from the beautiful beaches of Playa Herradura, Playa Hermosa, Jaco, Playa Bejuco, and Manuel Antonio. Enjoy Costa Rica and experience the adventure of a lifetime!
- La Palmera Jaco, Del Edificio Municipal 400 Meter East, Jaco, 61101, Costa Rica, ☎ (506) 2 643 40 62, . La Palmera Jaco is 90 minutes from the international Juan Santa Maria airport, Jaco offers trendy gourmets restaurants, entertainment framed by a colourful and friendly town, on the Costa Rica Pacific Ocean. This charming hotel, offers 15 standard rooms. Rates start at $56.
Jaco is a fairly safe place but use common sense. Do not flash money or valuables and carry only what you need. If you partake in drugs or prostitution you put yourself at additional risk for trouble. But for most people traveling to Jaco, it is a charming beach town with lots of options for fun and relaxation. At night is advisable to take taxis and avoid walking by yourself on the street or on the beach, especially if you are drunk.
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There are many excellent day trips from Jaco to locations that are worthwhile to see.
- Going North from Jaco you first come to the small village of Herradura. Herradura offers a beautiful cove-style beach, that is often less crowded than the beach at Jaco. The beach was the chosen site for the filming of the movie 1492, and one can tell why by its rustic beauty. As there are many rivers flowing into Herradura Bay, at times there are Crocodiles that swim in the bay to feed. They are difficult to see, as a result of the black sand, so be very cautious when swimming there.
- Travelling North after Herradura you will come to the gorgeous hotel, Villa Caletas. The hotel is perched on top of the mountain, and is reminiscent of traditional colonial style architecture. Go to the hotel right before sunset and sit in the amphitheater, located cliffside, for the most amazing sunset experience you'll ever have. Enjoy a delicious cocktail while you take in the breathtaking views.
- Travelling further North along the Costanera is the elusive Playa Blanca. The entrance to this beach is extremely difficult to find, and it's best to have a local point it out to you. The road is quite bumpy and filled with potholes, so go slowly and cautiously. Since all the other beaches in the Jaco area are made up of black sand (volcanic rock) Playa Blanca is a welcomed change. This beach, also part of the Punta Leona resort, is virtually closed off from the rest of the world. Although you can get there for free down the "hidden road," you can also pay to use the beach through the Punta Leona resort.
- If you continue North past Punta Leona, you will come to the River Tarcoles. The river is famous for one thing, its crocodiles. Park alongside the road and walk along the bridge to view the hundreds of crocodiles lying below. Many of the local resorts and hotels offer crocodile tours to Tarcoles where you can see the creatures up close. If that's a frightening idea, the view from the bridge is impressive enough.
- Playa Hermosa: The first village you find south from Jaco. Also considered one of the best surfing locations in the world, the beach at Playa Hermosa is extremely dangerous. People die here every year, as they do in Jaco as well, and the riptides and large waves in Hermosa are notorious. Be extremely careful when swimming in Hermosa. The black sand at midday is scalding hot, and will burn your feet. But the beach is beautiful and uncrowded. Most people prefer to spend their time in Jaco, and Hermosa is largely ignored. A great place for a drink or a snack while in Hermosa is the Backyard Bar. In contrast to the rowdy bars of Jaco, this one has a very mellow, surfer vibe.
- National Park Manuel Antonio: There are numerous photo opportunities travelling South along the Costanera, as well as many secluded beaches. If you continue an hour South you will eventually come to the National Park, Manuel Antonio. It can be a bit confusing winding through the town of Quepos to get there, but simply follow the signs, or ask the locals for directions. Manuel Antonio is a pristinely preserved national park that boasts 6 or 7 secluded, white sand beaches. Be aware of the tide variations as they can change from season to season. Also be on the lookout for monkeys as Manuel Antonio is an excellent place to see them up close. Avoid feeding them, even though they're cute, as they come to depend on this food and risk danger by getting so close to humans.
On the way back North to Jaco from Manuel Antonio, be sure to stop in at the Mono Azul (The Blue Monkey) to see the sloth rescue project, sponsored by Kids Saving the Rainforest.