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Key Info

West of San José

Price & Hours

24/7 daily


Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Far away from northern Costa Rica's foggy rainforests lies Jacó, a beautiful town teeming with shops, restaurants and beachfront hotels. It's also the closest beachside retreat to San Jose, the country's capital. Surfers should venture to Hermosa and Esterillos Este's sprawling palm-lined shores for the best waves. If you're looking for a calm beach day sans the waves, consider Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca – two beaches popular with locals. Nature seekers should head to wildlife havens like the Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls to spot the area's beloved residents – colorful birds and monkeys – and gaze at the soaring coastal mountains. Whatever you do, save some energy for the lively night scene, which is known for its adults-only activities.

Recent travelers highlight one major drawback: the city's popularity. But if you don't mind sharing this sprawling beach retreat with others, previous visitors said it's worth a day or two. 

Jacó is a brief car ride from San José; it's situated about 60 miles southwest of the city. You'll head west along Highway 27 until you reach the exit marked Jacó and Quepos. If you prefer not to drive, you can hop on one of the buses that depart daily from San José. To learn more about getting to Jacó, check out our guide to Getting Around Costa Rica.

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Time to Spend
#1 Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula's sparkling 80-mile shoreline boasts beach-centric towns with cream-colored shores and dense forests. Half of the peninsula is found in the Guanacaste province, while the other half sits in the Puntarenas province. Nosara Beach's powdery sands line the Nicoya Peninsula's western edge. You'll also find fishing and cattle-ranching communities east of the rustic coastline. After a significant rise in tourism that began in the 1970s, an influx of restaurants and hotels have enticed visitors to the peninsula's sandy coast.

Recent travelers highlight Nosara Beach's gorgeous sunsets, colorful fish and turquoise waters as ideal for surfers and beach lovers alike. But be warned: shade is minimal (and it gets hot!) and the undertow can be challenging; sunset walks on the beach are highly encouraged. Other hot spots include Mal País and Montezuma, a charming coastal town that boasts affordable hotel accommodations and untamed splendors, like magnificent waterfalls and gentle cerulean waves.

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