Is Jaco Costa Rica safe?

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe? (2024)

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Jaco is a surf town along Costa Rica’s Pacific side within quick reach from the capital San Jose. Surrounded by the lush rainforests, it’s part of the Puntarenas province about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of San Jose.

Jaco is known for its beautiful beaches, surfing opportunities, and fun nightlife with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants dotting the beach. It’s a popular destination for those looking to hit the wave and enjoy a lively atmosphere with a drink in hand after the sunset.

But is safe is Jaco for travelers?

If you are thinking about visiting this sun-drenched beach town, you are in the right place. I’ve spent a week surfing in Jaco, and in this article, I will go over all aspects of safety, so you can enjoy a fun and safe vacation. 

➡️ Is Pacific or Caribbean side of Costa Rica better?

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe?

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe? 

Jaco is one of the safest destinations along the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The town has a low crime and generally relies on tourism for its income. The most common types of crime in Jaco that affect tourists are petty theft and scams.

A word about Jaco Costa Rica safety

Jaco is not free from crime, and it has some drug activity. When staying in Jaco, stick to popular areas, avoid poorly lit streets and dark alleys, especially if you are traveling by yourself. Keep a close eye on your surroundings, and if something doesn’t look right, leave immediately.

My take on safety in Jaco

I visited Jaco in November right before the busy tourist season kicked in, and never felt unsafe. I spent my time in Jaco surfing, took a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, and hiked to El Mirador. Most locals that I’ve met were welcoming friendly, and happy to help. 

Is Jaco Beach safe for swimming?

The beach in Jaco is known for good surfing conditions with big consistent waves. It’s not the best place for swimming due to rip currents, but you can still take a swim close to the shore.

When you walk along the Jaco beach, you will notice flags showing different levels of ocean conditions. If the flag is red, you should stay out of water due to adverse weather conditions. Jaco beach is also perfect for watching the sunset and enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Best time to surf in Costa Rica

Jaco Costa Rica

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe at night?

Jaco comes alive at night with many bars, restaurants, and clubs playing music and offering a great social atmosphere. The main drag of Jaco is perfectly safe to walk around, but you should avoid dark, remote streets, and stay away from drugs. 

Is Jaco Costa Rica expensive?

Jaco is less expensive than other popular destinations along the Pacific side of Costa Rica like Tamarindo and Dominical. 

Uber in Jaco Costa Rica 

There’s Uber in Jaco, Costa Rica, and it’s a great alternative to pricey taxis. If you are staying in Jaco and need to get around the area, you can call Uber, and they will get around the area for a relatively low price. 

Jaco Costa Rica map

Safety tips for visiting Jaco

Jaco is one of the safest places on the Pacific side of Costa Rica

1. Keep a close eye on your belongings

Whether you are in a restaurant, a bar, or any popular place, always watch your belongings, like your wallet, cellphone, and anything else of value.

2. Don’t stay out late at night

This will help to minimize chances of trouble. As anywhere else, most crime in Jaco tends to happen during the night.

Paying with US dollars in Mexico could be a good idea if you want to skip exchanging your money for Pesos

3. Don’t carry all your cash with you

Always keep most of your money including cash and credit cards in a safe in your hotel. If you are going out and about, have enough cash to pay for food, transportation and cover any miscellaneous expenses that might come up.

4. Don’t wander on the beach at night

Although Jaco is relatively safe, it’s best to stay away from the beach at night. Once it gets dark, you have higher chances of encountering questionable individuals, and the last thing you want is to be on an empty beach with them.

5. Do not swim at night

As much as taking a dip at night sounds fun, it could also be dangerous. Strong rip currents could sweep you into the ocean, and your chances of getting help would be minimal.

6. Limit your hiking to daytime

Don’t wander around the jungle in the dark. It will help you to minimize chances of adverse wildlife encounters and getting lost. 

7. Drink only bottled water

Take precautions to prevent food poisoning, such as drinking bottled water and eating at reputable, well-established restaurants. Many towns in Costa Rica, including Jaco, have filtration systems in place, but even filtered water can sometimes have a high concentration of minerals in it, which can be problematic if you have a sensitive stomach. 


8. Don’t leave your food and drinks unattended

Jaco boasts many bars and restaurants where you can have a fun night out. But you shouldn’t leave your food and drinks unattended no matter what place you are visiting. 

Finish your food first, even if you need to step away only for a couple of minutes.

9. Vet tour operators

Jaco offers a range of adventure activities like zip-lining, wildlife watching, and hiking in the surrounding mountains. Choose reputable operators with good reviews and proper safety measures in place. You can easily find reviews online to see what other travelers have to say about their experience with a given tour company.

10. Always put on mosquito repellent

Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika can be a concern in many parts of Central America, including Costa Rica, so use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when spending time in the jungle.

11. Put on plenty of sunscreen

The sun can be very strong in Jaco, especially around mid-day, and the last thing you want to do is get a sunburn. If you are spending your day at the beach or surfing, it’s very important to put on a good amount of sunscreen to avoid a sunburn.

I recommend reef-safe sunscreen that will protect you and doesn’t harm any marine animals or ecosystems, which are extremely fragile and can easily be damaged by the harmful chemicals in regular sunscreen.


Buy a travel insurance for your trip to Jaco 

While taking safety precautions can help you avoid sketchy situations and keep you safe during your stay in Jaco, you never know what might happen, as there are plenty of things outside of your control that could go wrong. 

Whether you lose your documents, need to visit a hospital, or reschedule your flight due to an emergency, it’s important to have good insurance that can help you in case your travel plans get interrupted.

I recommend SafetyWing to my readers, my top choice for travel insurance that I always use on my trips. 

Why choose Safety Wing?

SafetyWing has a variety of different plans that are suitable for long-term and short-term travel, and you can choose from different types of coverage that they offer. I had a positive experience with SafetyWing, and if you plan to stay in Jaco and explore other places in Costa Rica, I recommend you consider it to stay safe on the road.  

Jaco, Costa Rica

Best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica

Jaco, Costa Rica, offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors. Here are some of the best things to do in Jaco:

1. Surfing

Jaco is renowned for its surfing opportunities. The beach has consistent waves, making it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced surfers. You can find numerous surf schools and rental shops in the area. I did multiple surfing lessons along the Jaco beach and had the best time of my life.

2. Manuel Antonio National Park

While not directly in Jaco, it’s a relatively short drive away. This national park is famous for its diverse wildlife, beautiful beaches, and hiking trails. You may encounter monkeys, sloths, snakes, and various bird species. You can easily get a guided tour from Jaco to Manuel Antonio.

3. Canopy Tours and Ziplining

Experience the lush rainforest from a different perspective by taking a canopy tour. Ziplining adventures are popular, allowing you to soar through the treetops and enjoy breathtaking views. I recommend Rainforest Adventure Jaco just outside of town where you can enjoy fun zip-lines and check out a butterfly garden

4. ATV Tours

Explore the surrounding areas and beaches on an ATV tour. It’s an adventurous way to discover the natural beauty of the region and get off the beaten path while exploring Jaco.

5. Crocodile Tours

Take a boat tour on the Tarcoles River to see massive crocodiles in their natural habitat. This area is known for having one of the highest populations of crocodiles in the country.

6. Hiking and Waterfalls

Explore the lush landscapes and tropical forests surrounding Jaco. There are hiking trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls, providing a refreshing and scenic experience. One of the most popular waterfalls in the area is Bijagual, one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica.


7. Beach Relaxation

Simply unwind on Jaco Beach. Whether you enjoy sunbathing, swimming, or taking long walks along the shoreline, the beach offers a laid-back atmosphere.


8. Hiking to El Miro 

El Mirador, also known as El Miro is a scenic overlook lcated along the highway just outside of Jaco. It’s a perfect hiking spot that offers a great panoramic overview of the Jaco beach below.

December through March is the best time for surfing in Costa Rica

Jaco Costa Rica surf

Jaco, Costa Rica, is a popular destination for surfing enthusiasts. Jaco Beach is known for its consistent waves and attracts surfers of various levels. Here are some key points about surfing in Jaco, Costa Rica:

  • Wave Conditions: Jaco Beach offers consistent waves suitable for surfers of various skill levels. The beach is known for its beach breaks, and the waves are generally more forgiving for beginners closer to the shore.
  • Surf Schools: If you’re a beginner or looking to improve your skills, there are numerous surf schools and instructors in Jaco that offer lessons and equipment rental. They can guide surfing techniques and safety measures.
  • Surf Shops: Jaco has several surf shops where you can rent or purchase surfboards and other surfing gear. The staff at these shops are often knowledgeable about the local surf conditions and can provide advice on suitable equipment.
  • Surf Competitions: Jaco hosts various surf competitions throughout the year, attracting surfers from different parts of the world. These events can be exciting to watch and provide a superb opportunity to see some skilled surfers in action.

How do I get to Jaco?

It is easily accessible from San Jose by road, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. I took a taxi from San Jose Airport to Jaco, and the entire journey took me just over 1 hour. 

1. By Car:

If you have a car rental, you can drive to Jaco from San Jose. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Take Route 27 (Autopista del Sol) westbound from San Jose towards Puntarenas. Exit at the Jaco/Herradura exit, and follow the signs to Jaco.

What to know about renting a car in Costa Rica

During the dry season in Costa Rica (from November through March), Costa Rica often has shortages of rental cars, which also goes true for Jaco.

That’s why you should always book your rental car before your trip. 

I suggest DiscoverCars, one of the best car rental companies that has a great inventory with many types of vehicles and very affordable prices!

2. By Public Bus:

There are direct buses from the San Jose Terminal 7-10 to Jaco. The bus ride takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. Buses are operated by the company Transportes Jaco and departs several times a day.

3. By Shared Shuttle

You can also use shared shuttle services between San Jose and Jaco. These shuttle services often pick up and drop off at major hotels in both locations. It’s a convenient option if you prefer not to drive.

4. By Private Transportation:

Hiring a private shuttle or taxi is another option for more personalized and direct transportation. This can be arranged through various transportation companies or at the airport. Be aware that taxis from San Jose Airport to Jaco tend to be very expensive and can cost as much as $120-140 USD one way depending on where you are going.

Do I need a car in Jaco, Costa Rica?

Although you don’t need a car to get around Jaco, having a rental helps if you want to visit nearby beaches, take a day trip to Manuel Antonio, or explore the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. 

Hotels in Jaco Beach

  • Selina Jaco – One of the most popular beachfront hotels in Jaco, Selina is a hostel that offers private and shared dorms with a kitchen, free parking, and private bathrooms. Guests love the spacious swimming pool and convenient workspaces, which are great if you work remotely.


  • Hotel and Villas Tangeri – A small resort-style hotel along Jaco Beach, this property boasts an outdoor pool and a restaurant surrounded by gorgeous tropical gardens. Rooms come with a cable TV, a patio, and a terrace. Guests love their breakfast


  • Hotel Terrazas Del Pacifico – Located next to Playa Hermosa, this popular hotel has 2 outdoor pools, garden views, and a big terrace. Free parking is available on the property.


Jaco nightlife 

Jaco is well known for its nightlife, and you can find plenty of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants here. Some of the most popular Jaco beach bars are Claritas, El Hicaco, and Frogs, which offer excellent cold drinks and a great food.

Is Jaco safe: FAQ’s

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe?

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe for tourists?

Jaco, Costa Rica is relatively safe for tourists, but you should always exercise caution in any situation, whether at the beach or in a popular bar. 

Is Jaco Costa Rica worth visiting?

Yes, Jaco is worth visiting. While the town is known as one of the top surfing destinations in Costa Rica, it offers access to fun activities like hiking, zip-lining, wildlife watching, and exploring the nearby islands. 

What is the safest city in Costa Rica?

Tamarindo is a popular beach town that’s considered one of the safest cities in Costa Rica due to its big expat community, well-established tourism industry, and good infrastructure. It’s a popular destination for travelers from all over the world that offers a plethora of activities and access to Liberia International Airport with connections to the United States, Central America, and Canada.

What is the crime rate in Jaco Costa Rica?

Most crime in Jaco has to do with the party culture and usually involves drug crimes and prostitution. That being said, Jaco has a strong police presence, and as a visitor, you are mostly safe in Jaco, unless you get involved with some shady people. 

Is Quepos Costa Rica safe?

A getaway to Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a small town with many travelers making a stop here on their way to the popular national park. Quepos doesn’t have high crime, but it has some problems with petty theft and robberies, so you must stay alert.

Is Puntarenas Costa Rica safe?

Puntarenas is a port city on the Pacific side of Costa Rica just north of Jaco. While Puntarenas sees little crime just like the rest of Costa Rica, you should always exercise caution. 

Is Jaco Costa Rica safe: final word 

While Jaco, Costa Rica is relatively safe, it’s not crime-free. The town has instances of drug trafficking and position and you should exercise caution, especially at night. Don’t leave your valuables unattended, and always be aware of your surroundings.