Planning a surf trip to Costa Rica? One of the surf spots likely to pop up on your radar right away is Jaco, Costa Rica. The surfing in Jaco is definitely a local experience, as Jaco is the largest beach town in Costa Rica that is near San Jose, the capital.
While surfing in Jaco is not quite as clean, rugged, and nicely shaped as other surf towns in Costa Rica, there is certainly an allure to this local surf and party town.
Plus, with the surfing gem of Playa Hermosa nearby, it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular surfing destinations in Costa Rica!
An Overview of Surfing in Jaco Costa Rica
Overall, Jaco is a long and sandy beach break. At low tides, it’s a bit too drained to surf- the surf is certainly better at high tide.
This is a good beach to learn to surf, however intermediate to advanced surfers may be disappointed with the waves in Jaco.
There are a ton of beautiful surf breaks all over Costa Rica, and to be completely honest, Jaco is pretty far down on that list. However, it’s still a very popular area and if you’re trying to experience all that Costa Rica has to offer, have at it!
Keep in mind though, experienced surfers should head a little south to Playa Hermosa- which is perhaps the best wave in all of Costa Rica.
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How to get to Jaco
Jaco is located just south of the Nicoya peninsula, in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica.
From San Jose
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, and where a large majority of international flights fly into.
Jaco is about 100km from San Jose.
Depending on the traffic, it is a 1-2 hour drive from San Jose to Playa Jaco. Jaco’s close proximity to San Jose is what makes it such a popular beach town for the locals.
By public transportation:
Unlike in other areas of Costa Rica, like the Nicoya Peninsula, it is quite easy to get from San Jose to Jaco with public transportation.
- The public bus takes about 2 hours, costs about $15, and departs several times daily.
- A taxi is another option, but it won’t be cheap. Expect to pay over $100.
The other international airport in Costa Rica is the Liberia airport located in Guanacaste, the northern part of Costa Rica.
Jaco is about 185 km from Liberia.
The quickest way to get from Liberia to Jaco is to drive. It will take approximately 3-4 hours.
By public transportation:
It is not easy to get from Liberia to Playa Jaco via public transportation.
- By bus, you will have to ride from Liberia to Puntarenas, and Puntarenas to Playa Jaco. This will take approximately 6 hours.
- By taxi, it will likely cost over $300 and at that point, you may as well ship on over to some better surf spots in Costa Rica that are much closer to Liberia, such as Tamarindo and Nosara.
Best Season to Surf in Jaco Costa Rica
There are two seasons in Costa Rica, the rainy season and the dry season.
- The rainy season typically runs from May-November, and features bigger swells and storms. At this time, waves are much bigger and more consistent than in the dry season.
If you’re looking for fewer crowds, cheaper prices, and bigger waves- come to Costa Rica in the rainy season.
- The dry season typically runs from December-April, and features smaller and often more clean waves.
If you’re a beginner- intermediate surfer, don’t mind crowds, and really don’t want to be rained in, then the dry season is the time to go on a Costa Rica surf trip.
The Waves in Jaco
Jaco is a wide, exposed bay that receives plenty of swell. The beach is about 2.5 miles long, and has plenty of little peaks that pop up in all different spots along the beach.
Playa Jaco North:
When I went surfing in Jaco Costa Rica, the manager at my hostel recommended I go and surf on the far north end, as the waves have a little more size and hold up a little better than in the middle of the hostel.
The surf in the north end consists of fun shoulders, but quick rides.
Playa Jaco South:
The south end of Jaco is where most of the surf schools teach lessons at. This area is much cleaner, glassier, and less closed out than the north end of Jaco.
It is also more crowded.
Playa Hermosa is where the real magic happens in this area! This beach is located about 7 km south of Playa Jaco, and about a 15 minute drive.
The surf here is fast, powerful, and often hollow. This is an intermediate-expert level wave, and the place to surf if you’re looking to surf in Costa Rica if you’re looking for some world class waves and to get barreled.
Where to Stay in Jaco
On a backpacker’s budget:
I stayed in Hostel de Haan during my time backpacking Costa Rica! This hostel has a huge kitchen, AMAZING pool, and is the cheapest hostel with the best location in Jaco.
The Selina here is insane. It’s located RIGHT on the beach, an incredible pool, as well as with a great bar that hosts fun game nights and events.
Room2Board is another great hostel in Jaco with proximity to the beach. Once again it has a pool, bar, and is within an easy walk of the beach.
On a medium budget:
This beautiful hotel is only a 1 minute walk from the beach, and a medium great budget accommodation option for surfers or anyone else traveling to Jaco!
If you’re looking for luxury on a medium budget, La Dolce Vita is the place to stay! This hotel has an ocean view, swimming pool, and air-conditioned rooms.
On a large budget:
If money isn’t an issue, then you can’t go wrong with staying at a Best Western All-Inclusive.
Hazards of Surfing in Jaco Costa Rica
Jaco is by no means a sleepy Costa Rican beach town. It’s a large, bustling city and definitely not one of the safest and prettiest beach towns in Costa Rica.
However, Jaco is still very safe and the biggest crime here is typically theft.
To avoid this, be sure not to leave your belongings on the beach unattended while surfing! (or ever for that matter)
- Sting Rays
Sting Rays frequent Playa Jaco. It’s best to do the stingray shuffle when walking in shallow water, and don’t jump hard off your board onto the sand either.
Surfing in Jaco Costa Rica FAQ’s
Is surfing in Jaco safe?
This is a pretty commonly asked question, and generally, the answer is yes. The beach at Jaco has a sandy bottom, and the swells don’t get too crazy here.
With that said, always exercise general cautions while surfing, and if something feels off to you, trust your instincts because it probably is.
How good is the surf in Jaco Costa Rica?
The surf here is “okay”. It depends what you’re looking for.
If you’re an absolute beginner looking to surf some white water waves… There is plenty of that.
If you’re an intermediate-advanced surfer, you likely won’t be impressed at all with the surf here, and will definitely want to head over to nearby Playa Hermosa!
Is the surf in Jaco good for beginners?
Yes! Jaco is an awesome place for beginner surfers. There are plenty of surf schools around here too, and easy, mushy waves to learn on.
What to do in Jaco Costa Rica besides Surfing
Jaco is known for being a party town, so if you are wanting to party on your Costa Rican surf trip, then Jaco is the place to have at it. With that said, Jaco definitely felt a little unsafe, particularly at night, so I wouldn’t really recommend going anywhere alone at night.
If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, you’ll know that it’s hard to buy things. Not anything specific, but just things in general! The little beach towns in Costa Rica don’t have a lot of stores for anything but the essentials. For items like household goods, or more specific merchandise, sometimes you have to head into the capital, San Jose.
The cool thing about Jaco is that they have a ton of stores.
So if you need anything random like underwear, for example, you can buy it in Jaco without having to head to San Jose!
Tips & Tricks
- Get accomodations near the beach
Since theft is so bad in Jaco, you won’t want to leave any of your belongings on the beach while you’re surfing. If you grab a hotel/hostel that is close to the beach, you can walk right down to surf in your trunks/ swimsuit.
- Buy a board!
If you’re looking to buy a surfboard while you’re in Costa Rica, Jaco is the place to do it. There is a local shaper here named “Carton”, who arguably shapes some of the best surfboards in Costa Rica. If you want a custom made surfboard, simply contact him a few months in advance with what you’re looking for, and he’ll have it made.
Or, if you’re purchasing a surfboard on a whim, feel free to just stop by his shop in the southern part of Jaco and check out his large repertoire of boards he usually always has on hand.
Final thoughts on Playa Jaco Surf
Well, that’s a wrap on surfing Playa Jaco!
This popular Costa Rican surf town is a little rough, but it definitely has some raw Costa Rican culture that has been washed away from other beach towns by over-tourism.
There are definitely mushy waves to be had here, and if you’re feeling up for some powerful barrels, definitely go check out Playa Hermosa.