7 Things to Do Near Jaco, Costa Rica
March 10, 2021
I was 6 or 7 years old when I got a postcard from my aunt in the mail from Costa Rica. She always sent me postcards on her exotic travels. I would run the quarter-mile up the dusty dirt road to the mailbox every day, hoping for the latest updates on her far-away adventures. This time, the card's front featured a jungle with colorful macaws and a sloth hanging happily from a tree. Her short note described the beaches, the wildlife, and the volcanoes she was exploring. On that day, Costa Rica became the first country I ever put on my bucket list. I even focused an entire report around the country in the 7th grade. I didn't know where it was, or even what the world held, but I was determined to get there.
And I finally did.
After idolizing a place for the past twenty years, I was worried that my expectations far outweighed the reality. It's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again. But it did not happen with Costa Rica.
On a whim, we chose Jaco as our home base in the country. It's a popular beach town along the Pacific coast. In researching the area before our arrival, I was quite underwhelmed with what I found online to experience nearby. Thanks to some incredible locals, we had the best time in this lively town, and I thought it was only fair to share it with you, too.
Here are the best things to do near Jaco, Costa Rica.
Watch the sunset from Miro.
Our waterfall guide told us about an abandoned restaurant perched above the beach as one of the prime sunset spots on the coast. After researching endlessly on things to do in the area, this place wasn't mentioned once. Yet Matty (our guide) was entirely right—it is the best spot in Jaco for the sunset and some adventurous exploration.
The restaurant was abandoned in the 90s after the owner died during construction. All that remains today is a dirt path to some of the most beautiful ruins I've ever visited. The deck of the would-be restaurant features panoramic views of town and beach below.
The hike is short but relatively steep—park across from the petrol station near the restaurant's map marker.
On an easy day trip down the coast, you'll find Manuel Antonio National Park and the town of Manuel Antonio. Roughly 1.5 hours from Jaco, it's a refreshing getaway from the hustle-and-bustle of Jaco's entertainment hub. Wildlife is abundant, from monkeys to hermit crab snails and turquoise blue waters for as far as the eye can see.
The secret cove of Biesanz Beach requires an easy five-minute walk from the jungle (keep an eye out for monkeys) that is a great alternative to the paid beaches within the national park. For a stellar sunset, head to Rico Tico's Jungle Grill and enjoy their happy hour for buy 1, get 1 free from 4-6. You won't be disappointed by the elevated views over the jungle and paradise.
Chase Waterfalls & Cliff Jump
Our Airbnb host, Tony, put us in contact with a private tour guide in town to take us to some waterfalls just outside of town. If you want to see these falls, you have to go through Matty as the waterfalls are on private land and not accessible by a regular tour or on your own. There's something about being in the Costa Rican jungle with no one else around. No other tour groups, no fighting over picture spots, and no waiting on the path.
The waterfall tour was a perfect adventure addition to time in Jaco. The hike starts off mild along a calm river into the jungle. Slowly the hike diverts from an easy jungle walk to an epic waterfall adventure. Depending on rainfalls and the time of year you visit, you may be able to cliff jump into waterfalls along multiple points. The trail does require rope climbing along fairly rough terrain and may not be right for families with small children or those afraid of heights.
Contact Matty: +506 6296 2543 (WhatsApp)
I love the sense of community in Costa Rica. For example, our Airbnb host, Tony, put us in touch with Matty (our waterfall tour guide), who then put us in touch with Joey, our snorkeling guide. Joey is a tour guide in town known for two main excursions:
- ATV tours
We opted to head to the coast and try snorkeling with Joey, and it did not disappoint. We saw everything from pufferfish to eels to florescent blue angelfish and starfish in less than an hour. Everywhere you looked along the reef were schools of fish and new finds. Even a group of resident sea turtles in the area, although we missed them on our visit. When I thought of the pacific coast of Costa Rica, I didn't initially think snorkeling…but I stand corrected.
Contact Joey: +506 8584 5520 (WhatsApp)
Trip Advisor: ATV + Snorkeling Tours Jaco
Relax by The Pool
Although Jaco's beach is sprawling, it gets scalding in Costa Rica during the day, and the beach quickly becomes overwhelming. During our stay in Jaco, we booked an Airbnb with a private pool, and it was possibly the best decision of our entire trip. During the day, when we were working and getting some R&R time, having a private pool and shaded balcony made all the difference. Once it started to cool in the evenings, we would walk to the beach and shops, which were only a half-mile away. Costa Rica is a pretty affordable country, and an entire weeks’ stay in a house with all the amenities was only a few hundred dollars per person.
Book our Airbnb in Jaco: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/45551278?s=67&unique_share_id=ce4de258-a881-44c1-b94c-65fcdd1186bc
Costa Rica Animal Wildlife Sanctuary
Most visitors to Jaco will be arriving from San Jose, which directly passes the Costa Rica Animal Wildlife Sanctuary on the way to the coast. I've been to several sanctuaries in my travels, and this one was by far the best. Those who keep the sanctuary running are a mix of volunteers, training vet-techs, wildlife specialists, and passionate students working together as a community. The sanctuary is appointment-only and $20/person for a private guided tour through the grounds. Many animals have been rescued from illegal tourist activities, which is why there is a strict "no photography with the animals" rule to combat tourism that surrounds photos with wild animals, such as macaws, sloths, and monkeys.
Note: the Google Maps pinpoint is roughly .5 miles before the sanctuary. Keep driving until you see the banner and painted fence on the right side of the road.
Donate to Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center here.
Adopt a sloth here.
After catching the sunset at the southern end of Jaco beach (highly recommended) we headed toward Puddlefish Brewery that was recommended to us by a few locals. At first, I wanted to stop to pick up my dad a sticker (he collects brewery stickers). However, the moment we drove into the lot, we knew we'd be hanging longer than initially planned. The brewery is part of a small local co-op of local brewers, chefs, surfers, and mixologists. The two open-aired warehouses feature not only a brewery, but a bar, restaurant, and surf shop.
The community project opened a month before the pandemic and is slowly easing into business after a challenging first year. Every item we tried was delicious, from the fried Yuca to cheese dip and chicken tacos. For drinks, try the Amber Ale at PuddlefFsh or have Oscar create one of his astounding (and massive) cocktails.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.