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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

Playa Jaco, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Playa Jaco (aka Jaco Beach) has a population of approximately 10,000 and is a popular surfing beach and spot for retirees, expats and digital nomads. Jaco is about 1.5 hours by car from the airport (SJO). Foreigners living there have lots to say about what it's like to live in Playa Jaco. Tip for Newcomers: head to the beach at sunset to meet people.

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What do I need to know about living in Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Playa Jaco, they said:

"Relax, enjoy and slow down. Life at the beach is carefree, easy going and free of many stresses. Take in a sunset, have a fresh cup of local coffee and chat with a Costa Rican local and/or expat. Visit the feria (public farmers market) on Friday morning. Watch a local futbol match or take in many of the Artify Jaco murals and local art galleries. Enjoy the great restaurants which the area offers, visit the beaches and national parks within an hour of the area for day trips," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"Be ready to live, love and relax. This is a beautiful country and we live in paradise," remarked another expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What do I need to know before moving to Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Playa Jaco, they said:

"Spend time in the area and get to know it's full time residents. Participate in community activities, fundraisers, church activities if you are inclined. Eat at the local restaurants, shop locally, go to the local farmers market. Visit your prospective neighborhood at various times of the day especially at night to see if crime is a problem or noise issues. A community feels very different when you spend time with its full time residents and not tourists. You can truly gauge the area determining if it's a good fit for you, your family and your lifestyle. Get an honest lawyer to determine if the house you are interested in has a clean title (and the same for raw land). Get references for doctors and medical facilities in the area. In a nutshell, tourist activities are fun but it's far from reality of every day life. Think about what your day entails in your home country and perform the same activities in your prospective desired area," added another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

How do I find a place to live in Playa Jaco?

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We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"Our first home in Costa Rica (CR) was strictly by word of mouth. We had lived in the area for a few months and told just as many people we trusted that we were looking. In just a few months time, we looked at many properties. We got to know the area very well by renting so we knew the neighborhoods we liked and knew what a good price was to pay. We were in no hurry as we were renting at the time so we didn't appea anxious or desperate to the seller. The purchasing process was a breeze. After 8 years in that same location and home, we decided we wanted a quieter area and we finally were able to realize our original dream of having a water view property. 17 years total in CR ... it's working for us," remarked another expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Playa Jaco?

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"We live in single family home in a remote and mountainous area. The other homes in the neighborhood are the same. However, the beach closest to us is primarily condos due to the proximity to the water. Being a popular beach town, the condos are privately owned and very popular seasonal rentals," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

What is the average cost of housing in Playa Jaco?

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If you are thinking about moving to Playa Jaco, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Our housing costs are lower than in the states. Taxes are very inexpensive in CR and the taxes in the states substantially higher. Private home insurance is less expensive in Costa Rica from our experience. It is very hard to determine the average cost of housing. In this area, the closer the location to the beach, the higher the price. Direct waterfront may cost well over $500,000 to the millions depending on amenities. However in a lower profile condo building with less amenities, you can absolutely find something at half that price. Knowing the market is really key here and return on investment must be weighed in if you plan to rent the unit, seasonally or long term," remarked another expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

How do I meet people in Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people living in Playa Jaco about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"The Jaco area has several ladies groups, brunch groups for expats and locals alike. Family surf day in Jaco, painting classes, surf competitions, or relaxing at the beach for sunset all draws expats anxious to meet up with others and speak with locals on a social level," remarked another expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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What should I bring when moving to Playa Jaco?

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People living in Playa Jaco were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"The items I wish I had brought to Costa Rica - or maybe I should say as an expat living in Costa Rica I wish I had brought more of - are bed linens, pillows and bedcovering (lightweight as it's warm at the beaches), another set of kitchen pots/pans, a quality sound system for the outside, exercise clothes and quality footwear for hiking. Items that I wish I had left at home: We moved to Costa Rica 17 years ago and did not use a container service. We basically packed our goods up in plastic containers for the airline and moved in that manner. Items that I wish I'd left at home are not many to mention. I probably bought too many clothes. (Being a woman, that's what we do!) I have clothing for colder climates but have never used them being at the beach. By using the airlines (and the help of friends too!) as a means of transportation, everything was scrutinized prior to packing as far as if we really "needed" it in Costa Rica (CR) so I'm proud to say we didn't bring much that we are now regretting," commented one expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

Will I be able to find a job in Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Playa Jaco, they reponded:

"Tourism is a huge draw so anyone involved in that industry would do well. The area is growing so there is opportunity for building, architecture specialists, general labor," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"Tourism. Have a job before coming here or a home based business. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people. You just need to learn the culture if you are going to try to work or do business here. It's a great community for expats that are retiring, second home owners and tourists," added another expat who made the move to Jaco.

"This is a retirement place. The Costa Ricans and ex pats who want to work do Tourism and fishing primarily. Real Estate is a big business here," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

What is life like in Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people living in Playa Jaco what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Tourism in the area is very high so work takes a strong priority to keep everyone happy and returning to the area. However, family is a very strong factor. Many Costa Ricans from the Central Valley visit on weekends and holidays. It is not uncommon to see families and friends relaxing at the beach with a picnic and hammock, enjoying the breeze and socializing. Surfing is a major sport in the area so surf lessons are high on the list for a fun activity. Hiking Miro Mountain is a popular activity which includes wildlife spotting, camera opportunities, and general fitness," remarked another expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"It is a beach town. Most people are retired from North America. The beach is beautiful. All people go to the beach for walking, socializing, etc," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What do expats in Playa Jaco appreciate most about the local culture?

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"There are many things I appreciate about my new culture in Costa Rica! Family ties, friendships and a slower pace of life is key here. Costa Rica is not a consumer-based society. There is less pressure on acquiring objects of status, impressing others and "keeping up with the Jones's!" How refreshing! Community life of home, family and close friendships emphasize what truly is important in life! I believe it is important to remember such a simple aspect of life in Costa Rica. You will be admired for your goodness, kindness and willingness to learn and adapt. Monetary riches and displays of wealth and superiority have little value in a culture based on family and country," said another expat in Playa Jaco .

What do expats find most challenging?

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"The most challenging aspects in Costa Rica is learning to leave the mentality of "how things are done" back home. Costa Ricans are proud of their independence! You may have an idea on how to get things done or how it should be done. Leave that thinking behind. You may make a casual commment or suggestion and this is encouraged. However, it is important not to humiliate or act superior. Costa Ricans want to keep their culture alive and wherein there are interested in other cultures, they are very proud and independent of their own. It is important to adapt and not try to control or change your new homeland. Remember as an expat you are still a guest," added another expat in Playa Jaco .

Is there a lot of crime in Playa Jaco?

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We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Petty crime is a problem at the beach areas of Costa Rica. If you leave your possessions unattended at a restaurant, beach, inside your vehicle, this is an opportunity for theft. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your possessions close. Do not leave items unattended in your vehicle such as luggage, purses, computers or cell phones. Do not flaunt large amounts of money or wear expensive jewelry. Common sense is key and many have no problem with crime by following simple rules and taking precautions," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Playa Jaco accepting of differences?

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"Yes it is a very diverse town. You will find restaurants owned by locals feature traditional CR dishes, European bakeries, authentic Italian restaurants, Moroccan, Thai and gourmet restaurants. This mix of restaurants is what makes the area exciting and appealing to all walks of life. The area has a high level of acceptance due to the diversity it enjoys," remarked another expat who made the move to Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"You have many ex pats from North America, Europe. There are some Costa Ricans. Main religion is Catholic. There is a Catholic Chirch. A Protestant Church has been started close by," explained one expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are the pros and cons of living in Playa Jaco?

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Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Playa Jaco responded:

"love the climate, people are helpful and friendly - beach sand is too hot in the summer sun," said an expat in Playa Jaco.

"The positive aspect of living in Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa far outweigh the negative aspects. The area has excellent services for it's residents (locals and expats alike). The infrastructure is good with availability of internet, excellent water, paved roads, and reliable power sources. The police force is present but not overbearing and very helpful. Restaurants, bistros, bars and coffee shops are plentiful and reasonably priced. The community is very multi-national with expats from all over the world. The incredible variety of restaurants of the area boast this desirable quality with cuisine offerings from authentic French, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, American style steak houses and of course, local Costa Rican cuisine. Due to our proximity to the ocean, seafood is affordable and plentiful. The area has many butchers, bakers, vegetable/fruit stands, along with large chain grocery stores. The area has a good expat community that are friendly, helpful and will assist with helping other expats offering excellent advice and/or encouragement. The beach is the lifeline of the community with many aquatic activities, family beach/surf events, a strong art and culture following, and volunteering opportunities. As the area is popular with local Costa Rican families from the Central Valley, the beach is a big draw and does get busy during holidays and long weekends. The local businessed really rely on tourism outside the area so although the traffic can get busy, it's important for those in the tourism business especially after the pandemic affected the area," remarked another expat in Playa Jaco.

What type of social life can someone expect in Playa Jaco?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Playa Jaco, they replied:

"The areas of Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa are very expat friendly. The entire area is very relaxed with a comfortable beach vibe. People frequently meet at the beach for relaxation, exercise, hiking, and watersports especially surfing which the area is well-known. There are expat groups to join as well as many open-air restaurants to meet others. As the entire area has a very laid back vibe, people are more willing to start up conversations with others. The local Costa Ricans and expat community has a good connection to each other even with cultural differences," said another expat.

"Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa are an excellent fit for many expats with the availability of resources such as groceries, medical care, public transportation and expat involvement activities. Community church groups offer assistance to other members of the community in times of need. There are plentiful activities to keep anyone occupied with watersports, painting classes, golfing, fishing, hiking and birding groups. Only 90 minutes from a major airport, expats will find a fulfilling lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of city life, traffic and crowds," mentioned another expat inPlaya Jaco.

What advice to expats in Playa Jaco have about housing?

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"Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa are a tourist destination for expats and locals from the Central Valley alike. Housing can be expensive as it may be a property that is rented by the week vs. monthly or yearly. Therefore, in some situations it is better to own property vs. paying high rent prices," mentioned another expat inPlaya Jaco.

What are medical services in Playa Jaco like?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Playa Jaco, they replied:

"In addition to general practice physicians, dentistry services and physical well being facilities, the area offers specialized care physicians who attend to the area residents. Local general care physicians offer the use of their offices for this specialized service such as women's health care, cardiology, dermatology, advanced dentistry and internal medicine," mentioned another expat inPlaya Jaco.

Is the cost of living in Playa Jaco high?

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We asked people about the cost of living in Playa Jaco, they wrote:

"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," said one expat living in Playa Jaco.

What are the visa & residency requirements in Playa Jaco?

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"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," said another expat.

Why do people move to Playa Jaco?

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When we asked people why foreigners move to Playa Jaco, they responded:

"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," remarked another expat in Playa Jaco.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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