Jacó is a resort city on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in Central America. Located in the county of Garabito in the Puntarenas province, Jacó is approximately two hours by car from the capital San José and Costa Rica’s primary International Airport (SJO). The Manuel Antonio National Park is located just one hour south of Jacó. The city has a population of approximately 10,000 residents. Jacó’s beach is 2.5 miles (4 km) long and offers some of the best surfing in Costa Rica.
- Playa Nacascolo: With silky soft white sand, this is the best stretch of beach on the Papagayo Peninsula. The waters here are protected from ocean swells and great for swimming.
- Playa Avellanas: Just south of Tamarindo, this long, white-sand beach has long been a favorite haunt for surfers, locals, and those in-the-know. Playa Avellanas stretches on for miles, backed largely by protected mangrove forests. On the verge of “being discovered,” there’s still very little going on here — aside from the nearby JW Marriott resort and Lola’s, perhaps my favorite beachfront restaurant in the country.
- The Beaches around Playa Sámara: Playa Sámara itself is nice enough, but if you venture just slightly farther afield, you’ll find some of the nicest and least developed beaches along the entire Guanacaste coast. Playa Carrillo is a long, almost always deserted crescent of palm-backed white sand located just south of Sámara, while Playa Barrigona and Playa Buena Vista are two hidden gems tucked down a couple of dirt roads to the north.
- Playa Montezuma: This tiny beach town at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula has weathered fame and infamy, but retains a funky sense of individuality. European backpackers, vegetarian yoga enthusiasts, and UFO seekers choose Montezuma’s beach over any other in Costa Rica. The waterfalls are what set it apart from the competition, but the beach stretches for miles, with plenty of isolated spots to plop down your towel or mat. Nearby are the Cabo Blanco and Curú wildlife preserves.
- Malpaís & Santa Teresa: While the secret is certainly out, there’s still some time to visit Costa Rica’s fastest growing hot spot before the throngs and large resorts arrive. With just a smattering of luxury lodges, surf camps, and assorted hotels and cabinas, Malpaís is the place to come if you’re looking for miles of deserted beaches and great surf. If you find Malpaís is too crowded, head farther on down the road to Santa Teresa and beyond, to Playa Hermosa and Manzanillo.
- Manuel Antonio: The first beach destination to become popular in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio retains its charms despite burgeoning crowds and mushrooming hotels. The beaches inside the national park are idyllic, and the views from the hills approaching the park are enchanting. This is one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered squirrel monkey. Rooms with views tend to be a bit expensive, but many a satisfied guest will tell you they’re worth it.
- Punta Uva & Manzanillo: Below Puerto Viejo, the beaches of Costa Rica’s eastern coast take on true Caribbean splendor, with turquoise waters, coral reefs, and palm-lined stretches of nearly deserted white-sand beach. Punta Uva and Manzanillo are the two most sparkling gems of this coastline. Tall coconut palms line the shore, providing shady respite for those who like to spend a full day on the sand, and the water is usually quite calm and good for swimming.