Traveling to Jaco Beach
International Travel to Costa Rica
For most nationalities a visa is not required. You may enter with a passport and depending on your nationality stay between 30 and 90 days. US, Canadian, and most European citizens automatically attain a 90 day tourist visa.
If you would like to visit the Jaco area it is best to fly into the San Jose Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO), located in the Alajuela province. The major airlines that fly into San Jose from a variety of international destinations include: Continental, United, American Airlines, Jet Blue, Spirit Airlines, Delta, USAir, British Airways, Frontier, TACA, Copa, Iberia, or Air Canada.
From the United States, direct flights to San Jose, from the following destinations:
Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Madrid, Miami, Newark, New, York, Orlando
Driving To Jaco From The Airport
Once you're in San Jose, you have several options of how to get to Jaco Beach and the surrounding area.
Route 1: The old Aguacate Road (2 hours)
Beginning at the international airport, take the major highway north to La Garita where you will see signs for Jaco and Los Sueños Marriott as you exit the highway. Follow those signs until you cross a major bridge and you will then be in Atenas. Continue through Atenas to San Mateo where you will cross 4 small bridges and eventually arrive in Orotina. When you come to the charge in Orotina, turn left and continue on this road until it crosses the famous Tarcoles river bridge, a popular tourist spot to watch the alligators in the river below. Continuing, you'll pass the Carara National Park on your left, then after 20 minutes or so, you'll pass Herradura where you'll see a large shopping center with a lighthouse. 5 minutes later, you'll be in at the first entrance into Jaco on the right.
Route 2: The new highway (1 hour)
The 'new' highway was built many years ago, but it's still referred to as the new highway. I starts in San Jose in the heart of the Central Valley, and runs west directly to the Pacific coast and takes a little over an hour to reach depending on traffic conditions. You can pick up the highway in the Escazu/ Santa Ana area. Along the way, you'll encounter a series of toll booths that require change and small bills in local currency. You will need no more than 2,500 colones ($5 USD) to get to Jaco. Once you hit the coast, the highway splits to the north toward Puntarenas, and south toward Jaco. Heading south on the coastal highway, you'll pass the famous Tarcoles bridge, then the Carara National Park, then the large shopping center with a lighthouse in Herradura, and eventually, the first entrance into Jaco on your right.
Getting to Jaco By Taxi
All legitimate taxi services in most areas of Costa Rica are red with some exceptions. In some area's I've seen white taxis and some that are silver/grey. These vehicles usually have some kind of company marking on them, and if they don't, it is usually a pirate taxi which usually some guy driving around and grabbing fares where ever he can illegally. This is not regulated by the government and could not be considered safe. And then at the airport, you'll find orange taxis that are considered 'official airport taxis'.
The charge from the airpot to Jaco vary between $100 and $175 depending on traffic, number of occupants and how much luggage you have. But as is the case with most tourist destinations, price gouging tourists is common. And be aware that 'gringo pricing' is alive and well, so if you can negotiate (in spanish if you are able) BEFORE you get in the taxi, you'll likely avoid that unpleasant "I just got fleeced" feeling. Often, while you're negotiation, another taxi driver will interject with a better price. This will almost always result in hasty negotiations that conclude in your favor, and at lest 1 grumpy taxi driver.
Renting a Car
At most every airport, you'll find many of the major car rental companies, and Costa Rica is no exception. If you have your documents in order, a valid driver's license and major credit card, you can have a rental car in no time and the rental company will shuttle you to the car's location (usually just off the airport grounds). Unless you know Costa Rica very well, It's STRONGLY suggested that you insist on a car with a full GPS system. Those trying to find their way around this country for the first time are met with the initial realization that there are NO street signs and NO addresses to reference. The citizens here somehow find their way around in this very informal system and it seems to work for them. I sure didn't for me and a GPS is the only way to ensure you won't get VERY lost.
By Domestic Bus
Riding the bus in Costa Rica can be an adventure, sometimes a hassle, but always VERY affordable. You can get away with limited or even no spanish in most areas of Costa Rica, but when riding the bus alone, having a decent command of the language is almost imperative. Getting on the wrong bus at the wrong time can land you hours away from your desired destination before you even know you're off track. And then getting back to square one is yet, another adventure. City buses are admittedly pretty dumpy, but the ones that travel across the country are usually better - ranging from 'just a bit' to 'dramatically'. If you're not lucky enough to get the later, then know that these buses are not very comfortable, they don't have bathrooms, and they are not air conditioned. But all that said, you'll pay less than 10% on a bus than you would for a taxi or shuttle or rental. So to take advantage of this affordable service, be prepared to accept these short comings.
The bus to Jaco leaves the international airport about every 2 to 3 hours starting at 7:30am up until 6:30pm. You may call (2223-1109) to find out the exact schedule as there are seasonal changes. And for this, you will likely need some command of Spanish. At the time of this writing, the bus far to Jaco was only 6,000 colones ($3 USD), and it takes around 3 hours to get there due to the several stops the bus makes along the way.
Taking a shuttle bus is one of the most comfortable ways to reach your Jaco. More than likely, you'll be sharing the shuttle with other people that are going to the same or a nearby destination. At the time of this writing, shuttle services from the international airport to Jaco Beach run around $30 per person. The buses are generally newer and cleaner and don't take nearly as long as the domestic bus. The 2 most prominent and reputable shuttle service companies are Grayline & Interbus. I quick internet search will put you in touch directly with them for more information.
There are a couple of domestic airlines that have daily flights all over the country or prices ranging from $65 to $165 per one way ticket, depending on distance. But unfortunately, because Jaco is relatively close to the airport, no flights are offered to that destination. The best you could do would be to land in Quepos, which is an hour's drive south from Jaco, negating the expediency and convenience of a domestic connection by the time you're done driving. But the thing of note is the fact that you're flying over one of the most beautifully scenic countries you'll ever see at a low altitude, which is always worth the price of admission, as long as you're flying during daylight hours of course. But an alternative would be to charter a helicopter from the airport that would take only about 20 minutes to reach the Jaco area and land at either Los Suenos Marriott Resort, where there is a helipad (about 10 minute taxi from Jaco), or on any private property in which a helicopter is permitted to land. And like buying gaudy jewelry, if you have to ask how much, it's probably not in your budget.