Last updated on January 12, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Costa Rica

Where to stay in Jaco Costa Rica – Best 5 AREAS and hotels

Thinking of riding the waves in this corner of Costa Rica? Great choice, but where to stay in Jaco? The town is actually quite big and it offers a lot besides some amazing surfing.

Whether you’re on a family holiday, seeking tranquillity, going for some nightlife, or mindful of the budget, there’s a spot just for you. In this post, I unveil the 5 best areas to stay in Jaco and nearby.

I’ve got all the pros and cons mapped out, a few suggested quiet hotels, plus a quick comparison table to find your perfect place.

Where to stay in Jaco map
Map of where to stay in Jaco, right in town – Another map will follow with Playa Hermosa and Playa Herradura

Where to stay in Jaco – Key Points

Here is the quick comparative table. Click on the area name to jump to the full description including all the pros, cons, and a few suggested hotels and accommodations.

On a mobile, swipe left or right to see all the columns.

Area/TownIdeal forProsConsAccessibilityRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeCharacter of the area
Town & Beach CenterFirst-time visitorsClose to everything, vibrant nightlifeCan be noisyEasyPlentyFearLivelyVibrant, bustling
South of TownBudget travelersQuiet, laid back, smaller wavesLack of supermarkets, bars, and restaurantsModeratePoorGoodFearQuiet, relaxed
Barrio Ricos Y FamososFamiliesWell-organized condosNot next to the beachModerateFewGreatNoneResidential
Playa HerraduraRelaxing timeTranquil, unique grey sand, resortsMore isolatedModerateFewGoodNonePeaceful, coastal escape
Playa HermosaSeclusionSecluded paradise, palm treesStrong sea current, not for swimmingModerateFewNot suggestedNoneSecluded, dreamy, strong surf character
Best 5 areas to stay in Jaco

If you are in a hurry, here are my 3 suggested places to stay in Jaco and around.

Driving in Costa Rica is honestly not as complicated, however, you do not need a car if you plan to visit uniquely Jaco and nearby. The town itself is well connected to San Jose, the capital, and the International Airport too, with a trip around 1.5-2 hours long.

In saying that, I always suggest hiring a car in Costa Rica. It’s going to take your vacation to another level. You will be able to discover amazing beaches, hidden forests, unique waterfalls, and outstanding coffee plantations hardly reachable by public transportation, if any.

I usually rent my cars through DiscoverCars, a great comparative site that works with international and local rental companies providing the best deal in Costa Rica, a real money saver. Plus, for just $7 a day, I get full insurance (watch out of the types of insurance in Costa Rica, avoid these scams).

Town & Beach Center – Best place to stay in Jaco for first-time visitors

Jaco is one of the most accessible surfing destinations to stay in Costa Rica, less than 2 hours from San Jose and its International Airport. The town is actually a popular weekend destination for the Costa Rican living in the capital.

Jaco Beach is one of the best places in Costa Rica for beginner surfers. The waves are long and forgiving and the seabed is sandy, really the easiest condition. It actually reminded me a lot of Tamarindo, although Jaco has more of a city background with a few buildings scattered in the bay, meanwhile, Tamarindo is more of a tropical destination.

The beach has plenty of surf and body boards renters, expect to pay around $15 for the entire day. Surfing lessons are also offered for around $80-90 for 2 hours.

If you are looking for a more challenging set-up, head north of the beach or even better in Playa Hermosa, just 8km south of Jaco.

I loved Cocalito, the main surf center, right in the middle of the beach, playing music at sunset time. It was such a blessing being out in the water, with great tunes in the background and plenty of small Manta Rays flying out of the sea on the horizon. Pure paradise.

Parallel to the beach is Jaco’s main avenue, bustling with life and energy. This is where you will find most of the restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops. Nightlife in Jaco is notably lively, and the town is known for its vibrant party scene, a contrast to other quieter surfing towns like Santa Teresa.

The long Jaco Beach
The long Jaco Beach

Shopping in Jaco leans more towards souvenirs and local crafts with a few places where you can buy and rent your surf gear. Side streets branch off the main road, leading to various accommodations ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts.

Accessibility is easygoing in Jaco, with well-paved roads and no significant issues reaching most accommodations with a 2WD vehicle. While Jaco’s main avenue can be noisy and bustling, accommodations set back from the road offer peaceful retreats.

The center of town is a great place to stay in Jaco on your first-time visit. You will be close to everything, within walking distance of the beach, and next to the bars and restaurants.

And if you are wondering where to stay in Jaco for nightlife, then this area has to be. Just a quick tip here. Most of the clubs are close to the main avenue. A few accommodations unfortunately are right next to that. In my hotels’ suggestions below I have filtered out only quiet places for a quiet night.

I particularly loved my stay north of the central area, next to the very handy Mega Supermarket and far enough from the noisy bars area. However, don’t shy away from the central area either; it’s where you’ll find the heartbeat of the town.

Here are 3 of the best accommodations in Jaco Center:

Los Ranchos ($$$): Hidden gem with friendly staff, cozy rooms, and a pool, steps away from Jaco Beach

Boutique Hotel IBIZA ($$$): Nestled in Jacó’s heart, two pools, attentive staff, and spacious rooms, making it a perfect tropical escape.

Selina ($): An amazing value beachfront retreat. Welcoming staff, great vibe, and comfortable rooms. Perfect for a relaxing getaway.

Walking in the center of Jaco, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants around
Walking in the center of Jaco, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants around

South of Town – Where to stay in Jaco on a budget

Wondering where to stay in Jaco on a budget, where you can find the best value for your money? Head to the southern side of the long bay, around 1 mile from the center.

This part of the town is a total contrast to the center, so quiet and laid back. New condos are coming up and the infrastructure seems to be much more modern in this area of Jaco.

On this side of the beach, the waves tend to be much smaller, which is great on those days when the sea becomes too rough or if you are traveling with smaller kids.

Unfortunately in this area, you will not find supermarkets and there is a clear lack of bars and restaurants. In saying that, I had a great sunset time with awesome cocktails at the Aloha Beach Bar, with a memorable time by the big fire on the beach.

Another place to check out is the PuddleFish Brewery, especially if you are after a craft beer. Prices are similar to the American standard, therefore higher than Costa Rican average, but the quality of both food and beers is very high too. Expect to pay $6-8 for a taxi from/to the city center.

Once again, I have listed below two great value accommodations that are gentle on the budget and they are perfect for a quiet night’s sleep.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Jaco South:

Encanto Del Mar ($-$$): Spacious rooms, pool, friendly staff, and a beach area. Clean, comfortable, and enjoyable stay.

Casajungla Hostel ($-$$): Cozy gem by the beach, with comfy beds, a lush garden, and great breakfast.

Beach fire in Jaco South at night - Enjoying the easy life
Beach fire in Jaco South at night – Enjoying the easy life

Barrio Ricos Y Famosos – Best area to stay in Jaco for families

I have stayed multiple times in Jaco, I loved my stay in the center of town, however, space is always limited with the accommodations.

On our recent trip with the kid, we booked in the Barrio Ricos Y Famosos, one of the best areas to stay in Jaco for families. Barrio Ricos Y Famosos translates as Neighbour of the Rich & Famous People, however, do not expect any VIP infrastructure.

What you will find are a few well-organized condos, small in size, with communal pools, security, and overall great accommodations if you are traveling with children because the apartments have usually 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms.

You will not be next to the beach, however, still within walking stance, 10-15 minutes. On the way, you will find also the Palí Supermarket, with the best prices in town.

In this area, I also found the best local restaurant in Jaco. This soda, called Garabito, is a real gem with lovely ladies serving the food and fantastic quality for a very small price. Moreover, you can bring your own beers, adding even more to the saving (they do not have any alcohol license)

Here are 2 of the best accommodations for families in Barrio Ricos Y Famosos:

Oceano Boutique Hotel ($$$): Comfortable 1BR, friendly staff, great amenities. Ideal for families seeking relaxation and convenience.

El Encanto Condo ($$-$$$): Amazing value for money 3BR. Superb comfort, clean rooms, and friendly staff. A home away from home experience.

Where to stay near Jaco map
Where to stay near Jaco: Playa Herradura and Playa Hermosa

Playa Herradura – Where to stay near Jaco for a relaxing time

Playa Herradura is a splendid coastal escape with a character all its own. Located just 10km north of the bustling Jaco, Playa Herradura stands out as an oasis of tranquillity, offering visitors a unique blend of nature’s charm and modern comforts.

One thing you will notice straight away from the beach is its striking grey sand and of course its shape, of a horseshoe (English for “Herradura”). You can do plenty of activities in the beach’s calm water, however, ultimately the few people there just relax and have a swim.

Playa Herradura is one of the best places to stay in the Jaco area for a relaxing time. You’ll find shaded spots to lounge without overindulging in the sun, letting you enjoy Costa Rica’s pleasant climate to its fullest.

The northern side of the beach is more popular with resorts, located all next to the Marina and the sailing club. This is where you can book your sunset sailing or a day trip fishing in the sea (plenty of fish, you can literally organize a party with the catch).

The southern side of Playa Herradura has a few restaurants and souvenir stalls by the beach, once again immersed in a super relaxed palmy environment.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Playa Herradura:

Los Suenos Resort ($$$$): Superb beachfront escape, comfy 1BR with kitchen, pool, and great location.

HRG Condos ($$$$): Hidden gem. Spacious 2BR, excellent location, superb service, luxurious amenities, and stunning views

Another great sunset in Playa Herradura
Another great sunset in Playa Herradura

Are you looking for a great Costa Rica Travel Guide? Here is the best FREE trip handbook dedicated to first-timers.

Playa Hermosa – Where to stay near Jaco for Seclusion

Playa Hermosa is certainly the best place to stay near Jaco for seclusion. You will be just 8km or only 10 minutes by car from the center of the town, however, you will be in another world, in fact, a small paradise.

In true honesty, there is not much around, just a bunch of bars and restaurants and that’s pretty much it. The beach is fantastic, with plenty of palm trees to rest in the shade and once again some lovely water.

There is however a quibble, there is a strong sea current and plenty of signs that do not suggest swimming there. For this reason, surfing is only suggested for intermediate or expert surfers. If you are beginning, head back to Jaco, on the south side of the beach, just 6km from here.

I also do not suggest Playa Hermosa to families with kids, you will have a hard time stopping the children from entering the sea. The strong current is more than a quibble in this case, it’s a safety concern.

On the back of the Playa Hermosa I also found one of the best zip lines in Costa Rica with an amazing view of the long bay between the trees. I have organized the afternoon experience directly at Cafe Bohio, a great place to test the best coffees in the country.

At the same cafe, you can also organize trips to the coffee plantations. I have not personally done it, however, it was highly suggested to me by other travelers I met at the zip line.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Playa Hermosa:

Fuego del Sol Beachfront ($$$): Nestled along the beachfront, privacy, caring staff, and impeccable facilities. Perfect spot for a memorable getaway.

Brisa Del Mar ($$-$$$): Serene stay near Hermosa Beach with friendly staff, a relaxing pool, and an outdoor kitchen.

The amazing dreamy Playa Hermosa
The amazing dreamy Playa Hermosa
Café Bohío is the must visit place for digital nomads and anyone wanted to have a great coffee and a reliable place to work
Café Bohío is the must-visit place for digital nomads and anyone wanted to have a great coffee and a reliable place to work – In the photo is the cafe in Jaco Town. Another one was recently opened in Playa Hermosa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Jaco Costa Rica a good place to stay?

Yes, Jaco is popular for its vibrant nightlife, surfing opportunities, and proximity to various attractions, making it a good place to stay.

How many days should I spend in Jaco Costa Rica?

Spending 3-4 days in Jaco allows you to explore the beach, nightlife, and nearby attractions, providing a well-rounded experience.

Is Jaco safe to walk around?

Generally, Jaco is safe to walk around during the day, but like many tourist areas, it’s wise to take standard precautions.

Is Jaco a tourist trap?

Jaco is a popular tourist destination, but it offers genuine experiences like surfing and local culture, not typically considered a “tourist trap.”

Is Jaco a party town?

Yes, Jaco is known for its lively nightlife, with numerous bars and clubs, making it a popular party destination.

Is it safe to walk in Jaco at night?

It’s advisable to be cautious walking in Jaco at night, using well-lit areas and avoiding isolated places, as in any tourist location.

Which is better Santa Teresa, Tamarindo or Jaco?

I have already talked about the differences between Tamarindo and Santa Teresa. They both are more laid-back. Jaco has instead a more vibrant nightlife and varied attractions.

How far is Jaco Beach from the airport?

Jaco Beach is approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Juan Santamaría International Airport, around a 1.5-hour drive.

Playa Langosta is famous for the natural pools in low tide
Playa Langosta is famous for the natural pools in low tide
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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