My third time to this beautiful country brought me to a new location and left me, like you, wondering what is there to do near Jaco Costa Rica.
Unlike some of the higher tourist areas like Tamarindo in Guanacaste, the location of our first trip in 2007 to an all-inclusive resort, Jaco is in many ways a smaller quieter option. In fact, we stayed in an AirBNB about 25 minutes past Jaco, across from Play Bejuco and that meant it felt like we had the whole beach to ourselves..
As you know, I’m all about active vacations, so no surprise here, you’re going to find lots of activities…because why not make some memories by testing those comfort zones!
And if you’re looking for SERIOUS adventure, checkout the Trail Running Retreat I did in the jungle of Costa Rica.
This is the place to be if you want to feel like you have the entire beach to yourself. It’s soft sand and you can walk for miles and miles while only seeing a few other folks. There are a couple of small rentals along a road leading to Bejuco and a supermarket and some delicious restaurants at the Del Pacifico Shops.
Additionally, thanks to the massive rows of palm trees along the shoreline, you can pull your car up, plop down a chair in the shade and enjoy the place for as long as you want.
I took advantage of the dirt road running alongside the beach there for my daily runs. Yes, runsploration is a must for me and here I felt totally safe, which is usually the first question I get.
This area is known for surfing and every single Saturday some of the locals put on a show. You’ll find that seats to watch it from one of the beach front restaurants fill up hours before.
- You can call ahead to reserve a table at the Backyard Bar for best viewing of the main surfers.
- We did not know that and wandered down to Vida Hermosa. There we could see a second group of surfers, who were likely the B team working their way up.
- All impressive surfers to us regardless!
- Additionally at Vida Hermosa we had live music, a fellow next door putting on a slackline show and so much more.
The atmosphere is definitely younger, hipper and ready to part in this little town. And while I took videos, none of them were good enough to really show you how much fun this part was.
Private Surf Lessons
As noted, you could do Playa Hermosa, but we actually found Brett’s Boards and it was perfection for two people who had never surfed before! A private lesson was $60/per and he had us both standing up within about 20 minutes of meeting.
Bonus points because you meet him at a local beachfront resort, away from the crowds of Jaco or Hermosa. No fears about running in to someone swimming or looking silly with all the other practiced surfers!
After finishing our lesson, we hung out in the lounge chairs under the shaded palm trees for the rest of the day and it was indeed magical thanks to those ocean breezes. So, pack snacks and stay for a while!
We paid another $20 a few days later and he dropped a board off that we had access to from noon to 6PM! That gave us plenty of time to try, rest and try again. My bruised knees eventually called it quits, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many times we road in a wave.
There are numerous tours, but I can’t say enough about the company that we went with. It was clear they were knowledgeable, a lot of fun and more safety conscious than some of the things we’ve done previously in CR.
Our tour started with a homemade traditional breakfast of black beans, rice, plantains and eggs. Once, properly fueled we piled in to an open-air jeep and it was time to venture further in to the mountains. About a 15-minute ride later, and we were pulling on harnesses and getting ready to go!!
- 10-minute hike downhill
- 2 ziplines
- 4 rappels through waterfalls
- 1 jump from a short bridge into a watering hole
- Then the climb back out up ladders and a 15-minute hike up
I was wearing sandals like you might for rafting and realized quickly they had no grip on the slick rocks for the waterfalls. It worked out ok, but I probably would have taken an older pair of trail shoes and just dumped them or attempted to dry them post tour for a little better traction and for some of the walking around.
While I have been rappelling once before, I appreciated their detailed guidance and yet super fun attitudes. Everyone from my 71 year old father to my zippy husband to scaredy cat me was able to do it and go at whatever speed we needed.
I also opted to pay for the photos, which turned out to be fabulous. No worries about dragging or dropping my phone, instead he had a massive wonderful camera and probably got over 65 shots of us during that tour!
Royal Butterfly Garden
When you need an easier day, this is a fun little $10 tour. After noticing some electric blue gorgeous butterflies during the other adventures, we thought this would be fun to see what else we’d missed.
We spent about two hours there walking through the butterflies, learning about them, and then the fruit trees throughout the property. The owners are fascinating with their life stories, so that too makes it interesting.
Bonus points if you rent the brand-new tree house AirBNB they’ll have ready soon! You’ll get to wake up to scarlet macaws in the trees and butterflies flitting about you all day.
Manuel Antonia National Park
This was about an hour drive from our place, so likely 90 minutes from Jaco. Though it’s not terribly far distance wise, you simply don’t go places fast in Costa Rica.
Tips for Manuel Antonio National Park
- Plan to make a day of it, bringing things to hang out at the beach and take your time.
- Get there before it opens if you can to get parking and not wait forever in line to get your entrance tickets.
- Park at the sign that says “last parking”. It really is and all the warnings about ignoring people are true…but you can’t go any farther.
- Also go early because the monkeys go in to the forest as the heat rises.
- Also go early to try and move through without being stuck behind a ton of tour groups.
Pay in cash the $16 to avoid the way they run credit cards, which is as a cash advance (meaning extra charges and fees for you).
Seriously, it’s not your typical tourist area, but if you get an AirBNB there is plenty to do and allow you plenty of down time for a great vacation!
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