Jaco, Costa Rica: An Intro to Surfing and Surf Camps

02 June 2020

Out of all the surf spots in Costa Rica, Jaco Beach is one of the best. Scratch that… it’s one of the best in all of Central America, and some might even say in the world. Although that last part isn’t really the case for pro-level surfers, Playa Jaco surfing is the perfect beginner-friendly opportunity for newbies. 

Whether you opt for gentle waves during low tide or you’re ready to shred at high tide, these waves are in high demand. The town itself isn’t for every type of traveler - Santa Teresa caters more to the laid-back hippy crowd. But the waves? That’s another story. 

To put things as simple as possible, Costa Rica Jaco surf is not something you want to miss out on. Learn why in this complete guide to surfing and surf camps in Jaco. 

You will learn

Getting There

Orientation

Cost and budget

Best time

Waves and surfing

Best surf camps

Other stays

Eat and drink

Activites

Random queststions

 

Getting to Jaco

Part of the initial attraction of traveling to Jaco is that it’s pretty easy to get to. Just like Santa Teresa, Jaco is located in the Puntarenas province, but unlike Santa Teresa, it doesn’t require hours on end in the car or an additional flight from San Jose.

Departing from San Jose, which is where you’ll fly into if you’re arriving in Costa Rica internationally, takes about 3 hours on a shuttle bus. There are cars, buses, and shuttles departing multiple times each day, but it’s a good idea to book it ahead of time.

You can either take a public bus, private shuttle, or hire a car from San Jose to Jaco. If you prefer to fly, there are two airports near Jaco Beach, but it’s not really worth the extra flight since it’s not a bad drive from the capital.

Orientation 101: About the Area

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica is a seaside town that’s well-known for its carefree party atmosphere. Surfing Jaco waves isn’t the only thing to do; you can surf all day and party all night if that’s what you’re into. If not, you can easily find relaxation in Jaco as well, but most people come here for the nightlife.

Although Jaco is a developed bustling town, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature and wildlife. The pristine rainforest of Carara National Park is a quick drive away to the North, which is known as one of the best birdwatching locations in Costa Rica.

 

Cost and Budget

Budgeting for any trip to Costa Rica is important (it’s definitely easy to spend a lot of money in this country). Unlike its Central American neighbors, Costa is pricey, which has a lot to do with the fact that so many North Americans come here on vacation. 

Jaco specifically is one of the more expensive Costa Rica destinations. If you’re traveling on a budget, avoid staying in beach hotels and opt for hostel dorms instead. Budgeting for food is easy; just stay away from the overpriced tourist restaurants and cafes and sit down for a meal of rice, beans, and grilled meat at a local soda. 

If you plan on surfing Jaco Costa Rica for a week or more, you might consider buying a surfboard (this often ends up being cheaper than renting one). However, most surf camps include equipment rental in the overall price, so most of you won’t have to worry about this. 

 

Best Time to Visit 

It’s possible to surf all year long, but one thing that a lot of surfers don’t realize when planning a Jaco getaway is that timing is everything. The best time to surf Jaco Costa Rica is during the rainy season between May to November. Since rainfall is at its peak, the crowds are noticeably lighter, but best of all, the swells are noticeably stronger. 

For beginners looking for surf lessons in Jaco, Costa Rica, it doesn’t really matter when you visit, but the more important question is where. Certain breaks are much better for beginners, but the good news is that it’s possible to learn any time of year. 

Waves and Surfing in Jaco

The best swell comes from the south and southwest and causes waves to break in both directions, which means there’s a decent variety to keep surfers happy. The best (and most challenging) waves happen during high tide, especially at popular beaches like Esterillos, Agujas, Escondida, Hermosa, and of course, Playa Jaco.

Playa Esterillos

Playa Esterillos can be broken down into 3 breaks: Oeste, Este, and Centro. The best Esterillos break for beginners is Oeste (the western portion) thanks to its easy-to-handle sandy bottom. Centro is a better choice for surfing veterans with its powerful waves and challenging combination of rights and lefts.

Playa Agujas

Nearby Playa Agujas as another fun wave that’s great for all levels. This point break is an entertaining left peak that’s best at high tide, and the best part of all is that there’s rarely ever a lineup. The same goes for Playa Escondida, which is a hidden beach with reef coral waves that are only suitable for experienced surfers.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is home to several consistent breaks, which makes sense considering this beach stretches for 8 kilometers. Hermosa is completely exposed, which means that the waves are fast, powerful, and hollow.

If you want to stay at Playa Jaco, you’ll find that the waves are merely average and nothing out-of-the-ordinary. This may not be ideal for pro surfers, but the small-breaking waves and sandy bottom make this a great choice for Jaco Costa Rica surfing lessons.

Best Surf Camps in Jaco

Jaco Inn Surf Club

The surf club at Jaco Inn Hostel is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, just steps away from the best breaks in the area. This provider has been around for over a decade, welcoming travelers from all over the world and making guests feel at home. Although it’s located right in the heart of Jaco’s downtown, it’s still somehow quiet and peaceful.

“Whether you are a beginner or a pro surfer, our surf instructors will be delighted to answer your needs through theory, practice and fun.”

Guests can sign up for either a surf or yoga retreat. The weeklong surf retreat is an amazing choice for beginners who have yet to test their skills, and it includes everything from accommodation to daily lessons. If the preset package doesn’t work for you, Jaco Inn also offers the option to tailor your own adventure.

  • Language: English, Spanish

  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

  • Cost: From 385 USD (6-Night Package)

  • Website: https://www.jacoinn.com/

Selina Jaco

If you want to experience a Jaco Costa Rica surf camp at its finest, Selina is definitely one to consider. There are Selina locations all over the world, and some of them have surf schools attached, including the Jaco Selina. Signing up for the 7-Night Surf Guiding Package is one of the best things you can do if you’re hoping for an unforgettable experience, especially if you’re traveling solo.

“Surfing is part of the Selina DNA. The Surf Club embodies the Selina lifestyle: we’re all about good vibes, great company, and being in touch with Mother Nature.”

This week-long package is geared towards people who already know how to surf. It includes accommodations, almost all meals, 6 days of surf guiding (keep in mind that guiding is different than teaching), surf equipment, 2 wellness classes, and even 1 day of access to the onsite coworking space.

  • Language: English, Spanish

  • Surf Level: Intermediate, Advanced

  • Cost: From 676 USD

  • Website: https://www.selina.com/surf/

Del Mar Surf Camp

Del Mar Surf Camp Jaco Beach Costa Rica is one of the most well-organized surf providers of Central America. With locations in both Nica and Costa, Del Mar has made a well-deserving name for itself. This camp believes that the only way to truly experience Costa is by immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the country - and of course, part of this natural beauty includes the sea.

“We are enthusiastic about supporting travelers and families from around the world with creating their perfect — well deserved — vacation.”

If you have time, be sure to check out the other Del Mar locations as well. Each one is different from the next. But in terms of surf? There’s no comparison to the Del Mar camp that’s near Jaco. And the best part of all is that Del Mar will take care of everything for you from the minute you arrive in Costa to the minute you head home.

  • Language: English, Spanish

  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

  • Cost: From 334 USD

  • Website: https://www.delmaradventures.com/

Other Stays 

The accommodation options in Jaco are essentially unlimited, ranging everywhere from budget hostels to fancy all-inclusive resorts. The first step in choosing where to stay is setting your budget, which will help you to narrow down the infinite number of options. Here are a few of the top recommendations from fellow surfers: 

  • Budget Option: Selina Jaco & Surf School 
  • Budget Option: Hostel Buddha House
  • Midrange Option: Jaco Lodge
  • Midrange Option: Hotel Ibiza
  • Luxury Option: Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery

Where to Eat and Drink

Whether you’re into fast-food chain restaurants or beachside bars, Jaco has got you covered. Just like with accommodations, the options for dining and drinking are basically endless. You can chow down one everything from tacos and seafood to tapas and sushi. 

To get a true taste of local flavors, you’ll want to check out the Jaco sodas. A soda is a local open-air restaurant that specializes in the traditional food of Costa Rica. Not only is the best way to eat local cuisine, but it’s also where you’ll find the most budget-friendly meals. You can definitely expect to eat some rice and beans if you sit down at a soda. 

If you’re not into the idea of eating like a local, you don’t have to (but at least try to every once in a while). Aside from the best-rated sodas, these are some of the most popular restaurants in Jaco: 

  • Restaurante Sabress
  • Tacobar Jaco
  • Ohana Sushi and Tapas
  • Jerah Thai Restaurant
  • Amancio’s Pizza

Other Activities

Out of all the things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica, surfing is definitely the best. Once you’re ready for a break from the water, there will be plenty to keep you busy. This town is the perfect combination of adventure, nature, and nightlife, so take advantage of that.

One of the most popular activities is to take a waterfall tour of Costa Rica’s nearby waterfalls. This gives you a chance to truly immerse yourself in Costa Rica’s nature and wildlife, and it’s a great excuse to get away from the hustle and bustle of Jaco.

Another popular thing to do is head to the top of Miro Mountain for views overlooking all of Jaco. This does require some hiking, so be sure to wear comfy shoes. Aside from that, the area is great for birdwatching, ATV touring, and just chilling on the beach.

Random Questions

Where is the best place to learn to surf in Jaco, Costa Rica?

Signing up for Jaco Costa Rica surfing lessons typically means that you’ll be spending a lot of time at Playa Hermosa. Certain parts of this beach are best for experienced surfers, but other spots offer the perfect conditions for beginners. 

Does Jaco host any famous surf competitions? 

If you’re in the mood to watch a surf competition in Jaco, Costa Rica, you’re in luck. Although there aren’t many internationally-recognized competitions hosted in Jaco, there are a lot of regular local ones. Even if you’re new to surfing, it’s fun to get in on the action.