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Less than two hours from Costa Rica's capital San José, Jacó is a coastal town known for its vibrant nightlife scene and world-class surfing. Life here is all about the beaches, and activities like leisurely catamaran rides, horseback riding, kitesurfing and even zipline tours are popular with visitors. When dusk falls, the area lights up with lively nightclubs and there's the opportunity to watch the sun set from one of its cliffside bars.
Many Jacó hostels double as surf schools, making it easy to hit the waves even if you've never done it before. Laid-back hostel bars are typical, as are verdant gardens. You can stay in a family-owned resort, an eco-friendly hostel built inside concrete tubes or jungle accommodation with an outdoor yoga studio. Nature is all around, and you'll often wake up to the sound of gentle waves or the calls of macaws and toucans. Several hostels in Jaco have a pool with sun loungers or hammocks and barbecues.
The town is centred on Jacó Beach. It's busiest between Barrio el Invu and Barrio los Cholos, and you'll find beachside bars and cafés stretched along its length. Upmarket resorts are located towards the Pochotal end of town. While Jacó itself is fairly compact, there are a few other areas to explore, including nearby Hermosa Beach – renowned for pristine sand and wild waves, it's frequented by pro surfers. Inland, a handful of narrow roads lead to rainforests, rapids and jungle.
Surfing is popular at beaches all along the coast, and the ocean offers plenty of things to do including deep-sea fishing, swimming and snorkelling. Nature reserves like the Manuel Antonio National Park span both sea and land, and you can see a diverse range of creatures. Thrill-seekers can zipline over the rainforest canopy or hike up Poás Volcano, while visitors looking for a more serene atmosphere can head to Herradura Beach or float sedately above the jungle on the Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram.
Juan Santamaría International Airport, 20km north of San José, is around 2 hours' drive from Jacó. You can rent a car at the airport and drive a scenic route through Costa Rica to Jacó, which is great if you've got bulky gear such as surfboards. You can also take a shared minibus (approximately 2 hours) or a public bus (about 3 hours). Once in Jacó, it's easy to get around the small town on foot. To head further afield, taxis or local buses are the way to go.