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Things to Do in Jaco

On Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, the small town of Jaco draws visitors with its opportunities for rainforest adventure, relaxed social climate, and surfing, all just a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital, San Jose. On dry land, travelers can take adventure tours in the jungle via horseback, get muddy on an adrenaline-filled ATV tour, fly through the air by zipline or tram, or get wet with waterfall tours, whitewater rafting, crocodile river cruises, and mamgrove kayaking. In the Manuel Antonio National Park, tours offer views of native wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, and agoutis in their natural environment, along with 180 species of birds—as well as stretches of white sand beach. The Arenal Volcano brings the heat with visible plumes of smoke and rivers of molten lava and after viewing, tours often stop for a soak in nearby geothermal hot springs. Cool off with surf lessons on Jaco beach, where the waves are surfable year-round and the long beach offers a variety of waves for different levels, from rookie to expert. Cruises from the Gulf of Nicoya take passengers to the white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise waters where snorkeling and sunbathing opportunities on nearby Tortuga Island (two hours away), while other boats offer full-day fishing trips for marlin, mahi mahi, and even tuna.\
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Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga)
13 Tours and Activities

Just off the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, close to beautiful Curu Wildlife Refuge, lies idyllic Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica’s most popular island escape. It actually comprises two islands, Alcatraz and Tolinga, but just about everyone refers to them as just “Isla Tortuga,” or Turtle Island.

A postcard-perfect paradise of white sand beaches, gently swaying coconut palms, and sapphire blue water, this is the perfect spot to swim, snorkel, or simply enjoy the sunshine.

While there’s plenty to do on land—eat, drink, take a canopy tour, play volleyball, or even hike a short but lovely little nature trail through the heart of the island—most people come to snorkel or dive. The volcanic reef, featuring three shipwrecks, which surrounds the island, shelters spinner dolphins, angelfish, porcupine fish, octopi, eagle rays, moray eels, and if you’re lucky, the sea turtles for which the island is named.

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Jaco Beach
27 Tours and Activities

Jaco Beach is known for its black sand beaches and close proximity to Costa Rica’s capital city. But it’s also widely recognized for its diverse landscapes, breathtaking beauty and endless options for outdoor fun. The vast shores and crystal blue waters attract as many out of town travelers as they do locals.

Travelers can learn to surf, snorkel and swim in the clear ocean waters off the coast of Jaco. And those who want to experience the diversity of Coast Rica’s ecological landscapes can tour nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, the Carara biological reserve or the Damas Island Estuary. There are rain forest canopy tours, whale watching trips and beach side horseback riding adventures, too. Whether visitors are looking to unwind or eager to explore the shores of Jaco Beach offer the best of both worlds to travelers.

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Carara National Park (Parque Nacional Carara)
26 Tours and Activities

At the confluence of two important Costa Rican ecosystems—the wet and wild Pacific Rainforest that characterizes the southern coast, and the dry tropical forest for which Guanacaste is known—this small, popular national park packs a lot of wildlife into a 5240-hectare (12,950-acre) package.

Most notably, Carara is home to one of Costa Rica’s last remaining populations of scarlet macaws, who you’ll likely see gossiping and preening in small groups throughout the park. The Rio Tarcoles, which forms the park’s northern border, is well known for its enormous population of huge crocodiles.

There are two short, 1km (.6mi) interpretive trails through the wilderness and waterfalls, perfect for families and less active travelers. A longer, 4.5km (2.7mi) trail follows the Rio Tarcoles and mangrove marshes, where both the crocodiles and scarlet macaws settle in for the evening.

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