Costa Rica’s classic surf beach surrounds a beautiful, shallow bay with dove-gray sands, all fringed in high-rise condominiums and oceanfront bars serving excellent seafood and tasty adult beverages. While this stretch of sea is perfect for surfing and bodyboarding, it can be a bit rough for some swimmers.
2. Playa Herradura
Just 4km (2mi) north of Jaco, in the luxury development of Los Suenos, is this playa preferred by well-healed travelers staying at the gorgeous Marriot or one of the plush premium vacation rentals in the rolling hills. While the beach itself isn’t particularly pretty (and be careful of crocodiles!), Marina Los Suenos is the only five-star parking for yachts in the country. With several fine restaurants overlooking the stunning scene, it’s the perfect spot to escape from the scruffiness of Jaco.
3. Playa Blanca
If you book a horseback tour from Jaco, this lovely, undeveloped beach is likely where you’re headed. With white sands and swaying palm trees, this is the paradise you may feel you’re missing out on in Jaco proper. Punta Leona resort offers easy access for a nominal fee.
4. Playa Hermosa
Jaco’s less developed twin, just 10km (6mi) south on the coastal highway, offers a more pristine setting for your surf adventure. The waves are for more experienced riders, and the mellow setting is a delight for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise crowd that takes its surfing seriously.
5. Playa Estilleros
Take the coastal highway south 24km (15mi) to Los Estilleros—actually three separate communities sprawled along the dark gray beaches, Estilleros, Estilleros Oeste, and Estilleros Este. Though this is one of the more dangerous beaches for swimming in Costa Rica, the little-developed region offers a taste of natural Costa Rica, with all the coconut palms, almond trees, and wildlife you could want. Surfing is good, and an eclectic collection of hotels and resorts makes this a good spot to get away from it all.