Top 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do In Jaco, Costa Rica

The best free and cheap things to do in Jaco are not outside surfing, beach life, or nightlife. This is because Jaco Town is all about these activities. Jaco Beach, El Miro, Mirador de Jaco, Pura Vida Gardens, and Crocodile Viewing are some of the best things to do in Jaco for free or at a cheap cost. 

If you have little money to spend, you can still have an excellent time in a place like Jaco. When I ask locals where the best place to have fun on a tight budget is, they quickly point to the beach and Manuel Antonio Park.

But over time, I’ve discovered other equally exciting spots. At the end of this article, you will learn about some of the best places to be and things to do in Jaco, which are either cheap or completely free. 

Key Takeaways

  • Things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica for free Hike El Miro, Visit Playa Blanca, and Crocodile Viewing at Tarcoles River
  • A cheap hiking experience in Jaco—Carara National Park, El Miro Mountain
  • Cheap Waterfalls Near Jaco—NNeofauna Costa Rica
  • A cheap activity in Jaco for family—the Royal Butterflies Tour

THE CHEAP ACTIVITIES 

1. Visit Carara National Park.

  • Location: The Central Pacific Conservation Area is located near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
  • Guide needed: Yes
  • Best enjoyed: both in group and alone.
  • Cost: $30

Carara National Park is home to many scarlet macaws, capuchin monkeys, anteaters, parrots, aracaris, kingfishers, and an old forest. We spent around 3 hours there with a fantastic guide. Without a guide, you’ll likely miss out on 90% of what the park offers. 

Guides help spot birds, snakes, lizards, monkeys, insects, and plants that most people would overlook. You can usually find guides at the park entrance, or you can search online to book one in advance. It’s very cheap (around $30 per person). 

Make sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. The jungle can be muddy and dry, and some creatures might bite.

2. Go on the Royal Butterflies Tour.

  • Location: 50m east of the puente de Río Seco Puntarenas Quebrada Amarilla, Jaco, 61101, Costa Rica
  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: in groups and as a family
  • Cost: $10

Come and relax while colorful butterflies and beautiful tropical plants surround you. Discover how butterflies grow from tiny eggs to beautiful creatures. 

You can take a stroll along the river path and see more than 70 different kinds of fruit trees growing here. You can buy refreshing drinks and souvenirs at the gift shop. 

The tour costs $10 per person, and it’s free for kids under six years old.

3. Manuel Antonio Park

  • Location: It is close to the best whitewater rafting tours in the area.
  • Guide needed: Yes
  • Best enjoyed: in groups. 
  • Cost: Starts at $50

Manuel Antonio is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches, many different animals, and lush plants like mangroves. When you visit this tiny bit of land, look for monkeys, sloths, birds, and other creatures. The cost depends on the tour but is not usually above $50. 

4. Neofauna Costa Rica

  • Location: 250 meters from the main road, Provincia de Puntarenas, Herradura, Costa Rica
  • Guide needed: Yes
  • Best enjoyed: for families 
  • Cost: $25

With as little as $25, you can have a great monkey tour and epic waterfall experience in Jaco. Neofauna is all about rescuing wild animals. They breed them, rescue them, and set them free.

It’s a private project funded by the tours they offer. It’s the only place we’ve visited where you can actually feed and play with monkeys. It’s truly incredible—unlike anything else we’ve ever experienced or probably will experience again. 

5. Jagua Riders ATV Tour

  • Location: Pastor Diaz Ave., Puntarenas Province, Jaco, Costa Rica
  • Guide needed: Yes
  • Best enjoyed: In group

If you want something more adventurous, you can go on a cheap ATV tour in Jaco. They’ll pick you up from your condo, take you on a 4-hour ride, and bring you back home. There’s also the option for lunch (extra cost), and it is so much fun driving your quads and visiting waterfalls where you can swim. 

I’d recommend this tour to anyone; it’s the best cheap ATV experience I’ve had in Jaco. Plus, they offered a tour combo with 12 waters and 12 beers for $50.

The free activities 

6. Hike El Miro Mountain.

  • Location: H9WJ+7RW, Puntarenas Province, Jaco, Costa Rica
  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups
  • Cost: Free

You’ll find it on the south side of Jaco Beach, just across from the gas station. Look for a driveway that leads to different trails. If you head up and to the right, you’ll have a challenging climb and some incredible photo spots.

Keep going up and to the left, and you’ll reach a charming little waterfall. 

It’s free to hike, but make sure to bring water, snacks, and sunscreen.

7. Visit Playa Blanca.

  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: Alone and in groups
  • Cost: Free

Another exciting thing you can do in Jaco for free is to check out Playa Bianca Beach. It’s a stunning white-sand beach that might look like it’s owned by Punta Leona (just north of Jaco), but it’s actually open to the public. 

Head towards the water on the road just south of Punta Leona and follow it until the end. Then, take a short walk, and you’ll reach the beach. It’s free to access. 

8. Crocodile Viewing at the Tarcoles River

  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups
  • Cost: Free

Hop in your rental car and head to the bridge over the Tarcoles River. You can park on either side of the river. From the bridge, you can spot some massive crocodiles. Don’t forget your camera for some great shots. 

If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, there’s a restaurant nearby, too. And the best part? It won’t cost you anything to view the crocs or park your car.

But if you want a guided tour and are willing to spend $124 per person, I recommend this Crocodile Tour.

9. Explore the Farmers Market

  • Location: J95G+6QX, Puntarenas Province, Jaco, Costa Rica
  • Contact: The market operates every Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. next to the Garabito Clinic.
  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups.
  • Cost: Free

Check out the Farmers Market every Friday in Jaco, near the soccer field. It’s totally free to visit, and you’ll see lots of unusual fruits and veggies. 

You can buy a bunch of them for just around $2. So, bring along all those coins you’ve been carrying around.

10. Watch the surfers at Jaco Beach Village.

  • Location: Less than two hours away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose,
  • Guide needed: No
  • Best enjoyed: In group
  • Cost: Free

I really enjoy spending time watching surfers in Jaco and Hermosa. They’re some of the best surfers in the world, and it’s so exciting to see them do their tricks! The best time to catch them is usually when the tide is high. 

The top spots for watching change with the tide, but I particularly like checking out the action in front of Jaco Beach Village, Bahia Azul, and La Paloma Blanca. 

If you’re in Hermosa, make sure to visit the backyard for a great view and a cold drink. 

On Saturdays, they often have surfing tournaments followed by live music. You can watch for free, but it’s nice to support the place by buying a drink or two.

Where’s the best budget restaurant in Jaco?

If you’re looking for an affordable restaurant in Jaco that offers a quality dining experience, the Green Room is a super cool spot. 

  • Mona Verde is fantastic, especially with their $2 margaritas. 
  • Ohana sushi is an excellent choice for sushi. 
  • And if you want to enjoy the sunset, El Hicaco Seafood on the beach is the perfect spot.

Remember, just as there are good and bad places to eat in Jaco, there are also good and bad places to stay. If you’re planning your itinerary, take advantage of this guide that exposes the best places to stay in Jaco. 

In Summary

Jacó has fantastic beaches, nature, and culture. It’s famous for its nightlife, but there’s plenty to enjoy beyond just partying. While not as big as San José, the capital of Costa Rica, Jacó still offers lots to explore.

Overall, I totally recommend the Rainmaker Reserve, about an hour and a half away, where you can walk on suspended bridges and swim in natural pools—it’s fantastic! 

Manuel Antonio Park is also a widely appreciated, cheap destination in Jaco. It also tops my list of recommendations. And don’t miss the Iguana Chocolate Place, although you’ll need a 4×4 to get there. It’s a fantastic spot, too.

FAQs

What is Jaco, Costa Rica, best known for?

Jaco is famous for its stunning beaches, fun nightlife, and exciting adventure tours. It’s also a gateway to nature, with easy access to San Jose and some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see. 

How many days should I spend in Jaco, Costa Rica?

If you spend at least three days in the beautiful coastal town of Jaco, you can soak up the sun on its lovely beaches, soak in the lively surfer vibe, and dive into countless outdoor adventures in the nearby area.

Is it worth a visit to Jaco?

Jaco is worth visiting, especially for families and couples who want a peaceful getaway with beautiful beaches and stunning nature. But for a more loud and adventurous vacation, consider other parts of Costa Rica, such as La Fortuna. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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