12 Tips for Living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica
Expats love Playa Jaco (aka Jaco Beach) in Costa Rica because of its beautiful beaches, amazing surfing, relaxed vibe and lively, younger expat crowd. This article covers everything about Playa Jaco - healthcare, restaurants, nightlife, schools, cost of living in Playa Jaco and more.
Expat Life in Playa Jaco
Foreigners move to Playa Jaco for the beaches, fabulous sunsets, close proximity to an international airport (SJO is 90 minutes by car) and convenient shopping. Additionally, the community has a relaxed vibe, full of great restaurants, plentiful beach access, recreational activities and other expats to socialize.
Cost of Living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica
Many beach locations in Costa Rica are expensive. However, Playa Jaco has a strong mix of locals and tourists which helps to keep the cost of living lower. You will find many types of housing here from single family, condominium complexes and beachfront homes in a multitude of price ranges to fit all budgets. The community has a local farmers market (feria) which is always a good deal to purchase locally from regional farmers. The price of fresh fish is an incredible value. Costa Rica is one of the more expensive countries in Central America but shopping locally in Playa Jaco can provide good savings. Due to it's proximity to the beach (and the Equator), one of your largest expenses will be electricity. The beaches are very hot all year around. Typically property taxes are low in all of Costa Rica and Playa Jaco is no different.
Local Clubs and Organizations
There are many expat clubs in the area to participate and/or volunteer. Church organizations are common and a great place to volunteer to assist with building schools, helping with fund drives for underpriviledged families in the area and the annual toy drive. The area has a Ladies Lunch group for expats and locals. The sports restaurants offer groups for Fantasy Football. Additionally, there is a book club, surf lovers organization, and environmental sea turtle program. There are no dues to join these organizations. All you need is a willingness to participate!
Schools in the Playa Jaco Area
Ficus Tree School is located just ten minutes south of Playa Jaco in Playa Hermosa. Ficus Tree School features education with Maternal, Pre-Kinder, Prepa, First and Second grades.
Centro Educativo Las Nubes is just five minutes north of Playa Jaco with schooling from Preescolar, Primary and Secondary Education.
Shopping in Playa Jaco
Playa Jaco has two large "big box" stores Mas x Menos and Maxi Pali. These stores are affiliates of Wal=Mart Corporation. Jaco also has many carnicerias, pescaderias, panaderias, (butcher shop, fish shop, bread/pastry/cake shop) There is a feria (farmers market) in Playa Jaco on Friday morning. There is also an organic market on Wednesday at a local restaurant. A visitor or tourist will find everything needed in Playa Jaco! Other stores feature souvenirs, clothing, surfing supplies, art/crafts and larger appliances stores.
Public bus transportation is widely available, inexpensive and reliable. Additionally taxis are very common in Playa Jaco. The rates are reasonable and easy to hire for a quick trip or all day excursion. The "taxi stand" is in the middle of Jaco making it easily accessible. Additionally, there are many car rental agencies offering competitive rates. Shuttle services are also available. Shuttle services are more expensive than the public bus system; however, the vans are smaller and generally service the tourist industry.
Due to the proximity to the Equator and beach location, Playa Jaco is warm year around. High Season/Dry Season is from the end of Novemer until mid-April. These months are dry and sunny with very little rain. Average high temperatura is 90 F with the lows in the mid 70's. From mid-April until mid-September is not as hot with the likelihood of a daily shower of brief duration. The rain helps to cool things off but is never cold. The height of the Green Season is mid-September to mid-November. During these months, you may have days of no rain, but a daily shower is highly likely with dramatic thunder and lightning storms over the Pacific.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Playa Jaco boasts a wide variety of restaurants from gourmet, seafood, vegetarian, Thai, Chinese, Sushi, authentic Italian, gourmet burgers, and local restaurants featuring typical Costa Rican cuisine. Playa Jaco has many clubs for dancing and socializing. Additionally, the area is home to many local musicians that are featured in many restaurants/bar. At festival times, music, art and culture is featured in the centrally located town park..
What are local hospitals and emergency services like?
Playa Jaco has a Red Cross station in addition to local public clinic. In the event of illness or injury, you will be treated at the local clinic and transportation to a higher level of medical care is provided. There are also many private physicians in the area which will provided specialized medical care. I have found the level of care to be excellent. The Central Valley is only 90 minutes by vehicle and this area of Costa Rica boasts the highest level of care in the country and in many cases Central America.
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Recreational Activities in Playa Jaco
Recreational activities include surfing on all levels from beginning to highly advanced. Playa Jaco has no shortage of surf schools due to the outstanding conditions in the area. Hiking is common in the area. Miro Mountain is one of the most popular hiking activities as the trail wanders through jungles with a great opportunity for wildlife spotting. The Miro Trail climbs to an elevation of 1,100 feet with spectacular vistas of the Pacific. Miro Mountain Trail is also popular with mountain bike enthusiasts. The area has many mountainous trails so ATV is very popular to reach the higher elevation views and local restaurants. Yoga is popular in the area with many studios and profesional instructors. Art classes are popular in a new facility in Jaco. Golfing at a top course in Playa Herradura is just ten minutes north of Playa Jaco. Playa Herradura Los Suenos Marina boasts one of the best in the area for excellent sport fishing known world wide. Bird watching and nature loves enjoy the Carara National Park just 20 minutes north of Jaco and the Manuel Antonio National Park just one hour south of Playa Jaco.
Residency and Visa Requirements
Upon entrance, tourists and visitors are generally granted a 90 day VISA. To enter Costa Rica, you must have a valid Passport. Residency is categorized into different areas of qualification. These options are Retiree (Pensionado), Legal Resident (Rentista), Business/Investor (Inversionista), Marriage/Relation (Vinculo). If you wish to become a resident, the requirements are different for each category and immigration attorney's are often used to assist you should you choose to hire one. If you plan to live in Costa Rica full time, residency is highly recommended as residents are not restricted to a 90 day VISA.
Crime in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica
Foreigners should be aware of petty crime and crimes of opportunity. Do not leave items unattended at a restaurant/bar, beach or in a parked car. Do not wander down dark streets in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Do not flash large amounts of money and keep a low profile on flashy jewelry, phones and computers. Always use an ATM or one of the many banks in the area to exchange money. These are common sense throughout the world and are mindful to remember when visiting many of the beach communities in Costa Rica.
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