Jaco is probably about as close as it’s possible to get to a full-on beach resort in Costa Rica.
Bursting with big hotels, beer-sloshing backpacker bars, and fast-food outlets, it’s not at all like the rest of the country. But there’s some charm in these gritty streets, between the ramshackle hostels and salt-washed beach bars by the Pacific.
What really put Jaco on the map, to begin with, is its surfing. It’s great for complete beginners because the two-mile (three-kilometer) beach here has forgiving and consistent shoulder-height waves that break over soft sand.
Playa Hermosa – the first official World Surfing Reserve in Central America – takes care of more advanced riders. It’s just to the south of town and comes replete with glassy left-handers and A-frames, but you’ll need to watch out for the rips.
Fantastic beaches abound close to Jaco.
Playa Blanca offers a rare stretch of white sand on this side of Costa Rica, backed by clusters of sea grapes and stooping coconut palms.
Playa Herradura is another standout. Located just over 10 minutes drive north of Jaco proper, it opens into a huge horseshoe bay with a shallow bottom and azure waters.