Jaco Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in all of Costa Rica. It’s got lots of different types of accommodations, and activities, and for years has been one of the easiest beaches to access from the Central Valley of Costa Rica.
The beach is as popular with Costa Ricans as it is with tourists, and Jaco is one of the beaches that really doesn’t have a low season. That means it’s always hopping and always a great time to visit.
It’s right along the Costanera (Highway 34) that runs from Puntarenas to Quepos and Manuel Antonio and down south of Dominical Beach.
Jaco is known for great surfing, great nightlife, and a party vibe. Like a major party vibe.
Because of that, years I would dissuade families from heading to Jaco, but I’ve recently changed my tune. I’ll tell you what we love about Jaco for families in this post. I’ll also tell you what we don’t like so you can decide for yourself if you want to visit.
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Easy To Access
From the Juan Santamaria Airport, you can be in Jaco in about 90 minutes. This means that if you are escaping the winter to spend a week at the beach, you can fly into San Jose, and be in Jaco the same day you fly in.
It also means you can get a taxi from the airport to Jaco for about $100. So if you don’t want to rent a car, it’s a great option. Jaco is extremely walkable, and there are lots of taxis if you want to venture out on a day trip to a nearby beach like Playa Mantas, Playa Herradura or Playa Blanca.
Finally, the beach itself is very long. There are lots of ways to access the beach and spend time without huge crowds all around you. It’s also a great place to learn to surf.
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Jaco has so many dining options for all tastes and budgets. There are pizza places, traditional Costa Rican kitchens, Asian food, sushi, and even Subway and Pizza Hut. If you want a super fancy dinner, you can find that. If you want to grab a quick burger, that’s an option too.
I also love that there are tons of affordable grocery stores in Jaco- you can get snacks, beer, and food to cook at national rates. For those of us with young kids, it’s great to be able to hit the grocery store on the main strip and grab some delicious snacks.
We usually stay in a vacation rental at the Paloma Blanca condominiums, and there are tons more options for families who want access to a kitchen.
I will say it’s important to check Google maps to make sure your hotel is on the beach. There are lots of deals on hotels and vacation rentals in the city of Jaco, but miles from the beach. In a place like Jaco, you want to be within walking distance of the beach.
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There are so many free activities to do in Jaco, and even more great tours. We love to stroll the main drag just after dark, and the weekend Farmer’s Market is a great cultural experience.
Plus- if you want to do traditional Costa Rican activities like zip-lining, sloth viewing, waterfall chasing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking or seeing the rainforest, you can do all of that just outside of Jaco too. We adore the crocodile tour in nearby Tarcoles.
You can even take a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, take surf lessons, kayak, SUP, boogie board and deep-sea fish.
Jaco is a party town for sure. After dark and especially on weekends, the town lights up. Expect bars and restaurants to have music videos and movies playing that aren’t great for young eyes.
There are prostitutes, drugs, drunkenness, theft, and more. This generally doesn’t affect tourists, but when we travel to Jaco with kids (and we do every year) we are back in our rooms by about 8 pm.
We don’t carry a lot of cash with us in Jaco, avoid using the ATMs at night, and keep our cars locked. We generally choose accommodations that have a guard on staff 24/7.
Jaco is not a bad place for kids, but it’s not a sleepy town by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve found the south end of the beach to be especially great for families, and we’ve found the early mornings at the beaches to be sublime. Everyone else is sleeping off their hangovers and we have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world all to ourselves.
Want more tips for planning your Costa Rica vacation? I’ve got years of first-hand experience traveling in Costa Rica with kids, and I’d love to talk to you about your specific vacation. Book a phone call or video chat with me today.