Jaco Beaches: Where to Swim, Surf, and Just Relax

Two Weeks in Costa Rica |

Many people visiting Jaco stay right in town and don’t venture far from the main beach. With tons of restaurants, tour shops, and things to do right there, it’s easy to stay in one place. But if you have a rental car and want to explore some less crowded and more scenic beaches, there are plenty of options. In this post, we’ll describe what Jaco Beach is like. We’ll also give you more ideas for beaches in the Jaco area within a short drive.

View of Jaco Beach from above

Jaco Beach

Jaco Beach or Playa Jaco is located along Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. At only about 1.5 hours from San Jose, it is the closest major beach town to the capital city. Because of this, on weekends and holidays, you’ll often find it packed with locals.

The beach is fairly long, at about 2.5 miles (4 km). The main street in town backs the beach. This means that you’re just a short walk to the sand from restaurants and shops.

The waves at Jaco Beach are fairly big, making it a good surfing beach. There are rip tides to be aware of, but you can still wade in the shallow water.

Jaco beach on a busy weekend

This beach is usually busy and has a fun vibe. The town has a party reputation and there are many bars, but it draws all kinds of people, including families.

The middle section of the beach, close to many businesses, hotels, and condos, is the busiest area.

The southern end near Hotel Club del Mar is usually the quietest spot. There are also some scenic rocks here that form the southern border of the beach.

Calmer water on southern end of jaco
Southern end of Jaco Beach

Tip: Most accommodations in Jaco, aside from some condos, are budget options. For tips on where to stay, check out our Jaco destination guide.

You can rent chairs and umbrellas in several different places. Hotels that are right on the beach usually have them for guests.

Jaco isn’t the cleanest beach in Costa Rica because it gets a lot of foot traffic and is close to development, but it’s still a nice place to spend the day.

Other Beaches in the Jaco Area

Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca

Arguably the most beautiful beaches in the Jaco area are Playa Mantas and the adjacent, Playa Blanca.

These beaches are about a 20-minute drive north of Jaco. They are best accessed with a rental car.

Tip: For a 10% discount on a rental car and other free extras, check out our Rental Car Discount. You can search prices and availability using the link on our website.

Playa Mantas is a gorgeous cove with turquoise water and a thick backing of palm trees and jungle. It has calm water almost all the time, making it a great spot for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboard. This is a lovely beach for families with young children.

People gathered in the shade at Playa Mantas
Main area of Playa Mantas

If you’re up for some adventure, plan your visit at low tide and check out Playa Blanca next door. To access this white-sand beach, you have to climb over a small hill since direct beach access is restricted to guests at Hotel Punta Leona.

It’s worth the trek, though. Playa Blanca is unique because of its fluffy white sand. This side of the point gets more wind, making the water a little more choppy, but still swimmable in some spots. There are also gorgeous rock formations at both ends of the beach.

Playa Blanca's whitish sand
Northern end of Playa Blanca near the access point from Playa Mantas

These beaches are super popular. For more information on visiting, including the best times to go to avoid the crowds, check out our separate posts:

Playa Mantas: Calm Water and a Local Vibe

Playa Blanca: A White-Sand Oasis Near Jaco

Playa Hermosa

Five minutes south of Jaco is one of Costa Rica’s most popular surfing beaches.

Playa Hermosa is a long, dark sand beach with strong, consistent waves. It’s not a place to come for swimming, but the beach itself is quiet and peaceful compared to Playa Jaco.

There’s a small area of town with a little going on towards the northern end. Here, you’ll find a few beachside restaurants and hotels. These have a fun, casual vibe.

Going south, the beach is part of a conservation area so there’s no development on the oceanside, just scattered palm and almond trees. There are, however, some condos and houses just across the beach road.

This beach does not have much shade.

Turbulent waves at Playa Hermosa Jaco
Playa Hermosa near Jaco

Still part of Playa Hermosa, but on the opposite side of the highway, are more options for accommodations inland. Here, you’ll find many Airbnbs and vacation rentals.

Playa Esterillos Oeste

About 25 minutes south of Jaco is the small town of Esterillos Oeste. This is a locals’ town, but it also has a sizeable population of expats.

Playa Esterillos Oeste is a surfing beach, but it also has incredible tidepools that form at low and mid tide. At mid tide, you’ll find several deep pools with calm water for swimming. At lower tides when there’s less water, you can explore the sea life in the shallow pools.

Head to the northern end of the beach to experience these tidepools. There’s a separate parking area. Just walk to the right after you park and go around the point.

Calm tidepools at Esterillos Oeste
Tidepools at Playa Esterillos Oeste

In addition to the tidepools, Playa Esterillos Oeste has a cool mermaid statue that you can visit at low tide by walking on the rocks.

For more information, check out our post, Esterillos Oeste: Surfing, Serenity, and La Sirena.

Playa Herradura

Just north of Jaco, near Los Suenos Marriott, is Playa Herradura.

Playa Herradura is a sheltered cove with calm water. You’ll see lots of boats moored on the northern end, at Los Suenos, the largest marina in the area.

The beach itself is fairly rocky but a decent spot to check out. It does get very busy with locals. The small shady area up by the beach road is often packed on weekends.

A few restaurants serving local food are right across from the beach.

Playa Herradura's rocky sand
Playa Herradura, “Horseshoe Beach”

Conclusion

If you’re visiting Jaco, it’s definitely worth checking out some of the other beaches in the area. Even just driving 10 minutes, you’ll get a completely different feel from the busy beach scene on Playa Jaco.

Sun dipping into the Pacific at Jaco Beach
Sunset at Jaco Beach

Have a question about visiting a beach in the Jaco area? Ask us below.

Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:

Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town – Read our destination guide for more activities in the area.

Jaco Restaurant Guide: Jaco has an amazing selection of restaurants. Read about our favorite spots for beachfront dining and more in this article.

Vacation Rentals in Costa Rica: Safety and What to Look for – Vacation rental homes are a great option in the Jaco area. Get our Costa Rica-specific tips here.

The post Jaco Beaches: Where to Swim, Surf, and Just Relax appeared first on Two Weeks in Costa Rica.

Jaco Beaches: Where to Swim, Surf, and Just Relax