Jaco, Costa Rica: Discover the Best Beaches and Parking Tips for 2024

Jaco, Costa Rica: Discover the Best Beaches and Parking Tips for 2024
Playa Mantas

Jaco is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, and is also along the route you'd take to get to other parts of the central and southern west coast of the country. The beach in downtown Jaco is more popular for surfing than laying in the sun, and I would skip it altogether if you are just looking for a beautiful scenic beach. There are other beaches nearby to downtown Jaco, which we drove to in pursuit of the best beach in the area.

Playa Mantas

Playa Mantas is a 30 minute drive from downtown Jaco and is easily accessible by car. The beach offers a stretch of white sand with some areas of shade underneath fig and palm trees in the middle of the beach and in the more vegetated areas at the ends of the beach. We visited in August, and the water was great for swimming—warm enough to stay in with calm waves and a gentle slope that keeps it shallow for a distance into the ocean. We did hear from a local that the beach is named Playa Mantas after the manta rays that can be found there, so be careful if swimming. We spent quite a bit of time in the water, and there were many others swimming as well. We did not see any mantas, but I'd be remiss not to mention it.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is actually accessible from the same place as Playa Mantas, but they each have a different vibe. Playa Blanca sits on a "private" road owned by a group of beach resorts, and you have to pay them an entrance fee to access the beach from this road. The beaches are right next to one another, separated by a rocky outcropping that can be easily climbed during low tide, so we visited the beach without paying the resort's fee (more on parking and accessing Playa Blanca below). Like Playa Mantas, Playa Blanca features a stretch of white sand with plenty of shaded areas and swimmable water. The beach is considerably longer than Playa Mantas, however about half of the beach is taken up by the resort's beach chairs so keep this in mind. We found the beach to be a bit more crowded than Playa Mantas, but was just as beautiful.

Are There Restaurants or Bathrooms?

Playa Mantas has a food truck which sells snacks, drinks (and beer!), and we also bought some delicious empanadas from a beach vendor. There is a small general store near the beach but I would highly recommend bringing food and drinks to both beaches unless you want to visit one of the resort restaurants on Playa Blanca.

There are no public bathroom facilities at either beach; if you pay the resort day pass at Playa Blanca I believe you should have access to their facilities, but there is no equivalent at Playa Mantas. There is a parking lot which has a toilet at Playa Mantas but you have to pay to park there (this is the most expensive option) and they weren't even open either day that we visited.

Where to Park for Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca?

There are a few parking options to access the beaches:

  1. My Recommendation: The road to Playa Mantas ends in a long dirt parking lot next to the beach. There is an attendant there who charges 2000 CRC (about USD $4) per day. This lot does fill up very fast, especially on the weekend so arrive early if possible and have a backup plan if the lot is full and you don't want to wait for a spot.
  2. Next to the dirt lot there is a paved, gated lot which costs $40 USD per day. They have a toilet you can use and it is close to the beach but $40 in my opinion is way overpriced. In addition, they weren't open on either of the two days that we visited in August, one being a weekend.
  3. If the $4 lot is full and you don't want to pay $40, there is another option which involves an on-demand shuttle. We did this one of the two days we were there and it worked well. Once you turn off the main paved road from Jaco onto the road which takes you towards the coast towards Playa Mantas, drive for about two miles and you'll see an offshoot to the left as the road starts to get steep. When we were there we saw a big sign by the road as well as some boys in a golf cart by the road flagging down vehicles. They have a parking lot which they charge about $10 per day to use and they will shuttle you to and from the beach. You will need to have Whatsapp to text them to come pick you up (there is public wifi from a hotel on Playa Mantas if this is a concern).

As I mentioned before, once you are at Playa Mantas getting to Playa Blanca can be done on foot in about 5 minutes. In the map above you can see there is a piece of land that juts out between the beaches. To get from Playa Mantas to Playa Blanca you must climb up and over this small area of dirt and rocks; the path is well worn down and its a short climb over so it is not too challenging but keep in mind this may not be suitable for those who are carrying strollers or those who need mobility assistance. The path is accessible during low tide, so be mindful of timing your crossing. I also recommend a pair of sandals other than flip flops for the crossing; I used my Teva Voyas but any waterproof sandal will do!

For more tips on how to plan your trip visit Discover Costa Rica: A 10-Day LGBTQ+ Friendly Adventure Itinerary or the Costa Rica landing page of my site!

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