Jaco and La Fortuna are some of the most well known towns in Costa Rica. With plenty to do in each, I made a guide of how to get from La Fortuna to Jaco (or Jaco to La Fortuna) and fun things to do along the way.
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Try out a mud bath, visit a national park, or make a beach stop. There are a lot of fun things to do along the way from La Fortuna to Jaco.
Staying in La Fortuna? Check out my full guide to La Fortuna with Kids
Table of Contents
How Long Does It Take to Get from La Fortuna to Jaco
If you are driving, going from La Fortuna to Jaco travel time will be about 3-1/2 hours. That is assuming there are no closed roads, traffic, construction, or any other obstacles. I would plan for 4 to 4-/12 hours just to be safe, and add more time if you plan to stop for bathrooms or food along the way.
If you are taking the bus, there is no direct route from La Fortuna to Jaco (or from Jaco to La Fortuna). You’ll have to make some stops and transfers, which could take up to 6 hours.
Best Way to get from La Fortuna to Jaco
Rent a Car
Really the best way to see Costa Rica is to rent your own car. This allows you complete freedom to stop wherever you’d like and explore.
Renting a car lets your family be on their own schedule and take it at your own pace.
If you are driving yourself around Costa Rica, be sure to check out all the many things to know about driving in Costa Rica first so there are no surprises.
Bus from La Fortuna to Jaco
If you’d prefer public transportation, you can take the public bus from La Fortuna to San Jose. Then San Jose to Jaco. This will take quite some extra time as it isn’t direct and will have some additional stops.
While the bus is the more affordable way, keep in mind that it makes for a longer journey when traveling with kids through Costa Rica.
A private shuttle is a great and more comfortable way to transfer from La Fortuna to Jaco. You don’t need to worry about navigation, nor do you need to sit through extra stops and transfer vehicles.
Book a private shuttle from La Fortuna to Jaco Beach. This shuttle service will provide a bottle of water, but you’ll need to bring your own snacks for this long ride.
OR, since it is a private transfer, you have the option to stop at a restaurant during your transfer to taste some local cuisine.
You can request a baby seat, if needed, and also bring along the stroller. These shuttles are good for up to a group of 5.
Private shuttle service starts at $55/per person
What to do along the way from La Fortuna to Jaco
There are so many things to do along the way from La Fortuna to Jaco (or from Jaco to La Fortuna). While they all sound really fun, just pick one or two.
You want to make sure you make it your final destination before it’s dark, as driving in the dark is not ideal or the safest.
So pick a few fun activities for families between La Fortuna and Jaco to break up the drive.
Below are activities in order as you drive from La Fortuna to Jaco (so the first activity is nearest to La Fortuna and the final activity is nearest to Jaco).
If you are traveling from Jaco to La Fortuna, just go backwards starting at the bottom of the list.
1- Chocolate and Coffee Tour Don Jorge
Enjoy a warm welcome and a guided tour around this jungle property as you learn about chocolate and other fruits and veggies that grow. You’ll even pass by a gorgeous waterfall.
Then come back to the kitchen for a delicious, homemade lunch. Contact the owners to learn more about this authentic (and less crowded) Costa Rican experience.
2- Two Little Monkeys Chocolate Tour
Get involved in the chocolate-making process at Two Little Monkeys. Tour the farm and learn about cacao and spices that grow. Watch the process from plant to cocoa and make some chocolates yourself.
3- Mundo de Cataratas
This stop is about 20 off the main route, but when something is named “World of Waterfalls”, how can you NOT stop?
Take a short walk through the forest to access 4 waterfalls. You can also jump in and swim and cool down a bit.
You’ll definitely need a 4WD car, which I highly recommend for visiting Costa Rica anyways.
To access this waterfall park, you’ll get off highway 702 (the main road you’ve been on since La Fortuna) and turn west onto Calle Radio Cima. You’ll be on this road roughly 9 kilometers. After you pass Villa Morpho (on the left), you’re just about there!
4- El Valle Mineral Springs
If you didn’t have a chance to hit some mineral springs in La Fortuna, here’s your chance!
El Valle mineral springs is not far outside La Fortuna on your way to Jaco. You’ll enjoy the thermal mineral springs, picnic areas, and plenty of wildlife.
There is a restaurant on site as well.
Their website doesn’t stay very up-to-date, so check out their Facebook page for info.
5- San Luis Adventure Park
Looking for some high adventure on your way from La Fortuna to Jaco? Then this is the place
San Luis Adventure Park offers canopy tours, rappelling, trails, rafting, and butterflies.
You do not need a reservation and the park is open daily from 8am to 4pm.
6- Cocora Cloud Forest
Less of a cloud forest, and more of a nature hike. Cocora Cloud Forest receives high reviews for the amount of butterflies and hummingbirds that you witness on the trails.
People also love the food at the restaurant.
7- Nectandra Cloud Forest
The Nectandra Cloud Forest is part of an area filled with rare species, and it comes at a hefty price to see them in the Nectandra Garden ($54), though it comes fully guided.
The Persea Garden is half the price to tour ($27) without a guide. This garden is rich in species as well, but younger in years in its preservation efforts.
As the Necrandra Garden lasts up to 3 hours during the guided walk and has varying degrees of difficulty, it may be best to take younger kids through the Persea Garden. The trails here are more even.
Advanced reservations are required to Visit the Nectandra Cloud Forest reserve.
8- Stop in San Ramon
San Ramon is a town you’ll pass right through on the way from La Fortuna to Jaco. This is a great place to stop to stock up on snacks for the ride, as there is a Maxi Pali here, one of the larger grocery stores that Costa Rica offers.
If you haven’t had lunch yet, there are plenty of options in San Ramon.
9- Balneario Las Musas (and Waterfall)
Located 15 min outside San Ramon, this place is fun for the whole family!
It’s a business (not a natural water area) with a large pool and waterslide. The coolest part is the background, which displays a tall waterfall right behind this attraction.
Relax in the pool, play on the waterslide, or take some nice and easy trails to get closer to the waterfall. You can also grab lunch at the restaurant on site.
Check out their Facebook page for pics.
10- Berlin Observation
It’s hard to come by free things to do in Costa Rica, but this is free, albeit a simple stop.
Head to the Berlin observation viewpoint to check out amazing views of Costa Rica and its geographical features.
11- Mirador los Gaviones and Berlin’s Ocean View
These are both viewpoints. They are separate, but nearby each other.
More great views of what Costa Rica offers, including the Gulf of Nicoya.
12- Minas del Aguacate
Looking for something unique to see in Costa Rica? Check out this old gold mine!
Take a little hike to not just the abandoned gold mines, but then to the pools of water and waterfalls nearby.
Cliff jumpers can get their thrill (after testing out the current depth, of course) and there’s even a natural waterslide (again, always using caution and good judgement!)
With 4 waterfalls and 5 pools, this stop may take a little longer to fully enjoy all the playtime.
13- Poza de la Arcilla San Mateo
Cool off in the river and give yourself a little mud bath as well! Jump in and rub the natural clay all over. Another great and unique experience during your La Fortuna to Jaco trip.
14- Crocodile Bridge in Tarcoles
This is a more popular stop, so when you come to it, you’ll know.
As you continue on the main road, you’ll all-of-a-sudden be driving through a short stretch of shops and souvenir vendors on the road. Park here. Then walk just to the end of the shops to where the large bridge is.
Look down over the bridge and see how many crocodiles you can spot below!
15- Carara National Park
Hike on various trails of lush forest through Carara National Park. It’s known worldwide as a great birding destination with Macaws being prominent.
There are trails to hike on a guides whom you can hire will be around, though there are no official park guides.
Carara National Park is one of the more affordable national parks to visit, as it is $5 for children and $10 for adults.
16- Playa Pógeres or Playa Pita
Need some beach time before arriving in Jaco? Check out Pogeres beach or Pita Beach. These beaches are not far off the road. As you aren’t quite yet in Jaco, they also aren’t overly crowded.
Should I stop in Monteverde on the way from La Fortuna to Jaco?
No. Making a stop in Monteverde isn’t ideal as it will add another 2 hours drive time on your La Fortuna to Jaco drive.
If you have an extra night where you can stay in Monteverde, then it’s worth the stop. But don’t plan to stop real quick for something two hours out of the way.
If you do have that extra night, check out El Estabalo Mountain Hotel, a highly rated hotel just a couple miles outside of the reserve. It has pools, fitness room, and restaurants on site.
Or Try Cala Lodge which is also nearby and includes breakfast.
Can you make a day trip from La Fortuna to Jaco?
No. Jaco has a lot to do, but is far enough away that you wouldn’t have much time there before you’d have to turn around and head back.
If you want to visit Jaco, you need to stay the night somewhere closer.
Personally, I do not recommend staying the night in Jaco as the nightlife here is not family-friendly.
But daytime offers plenty of adventure for families.
La Fortuna to Jaco for families
As you can see, there are quite a lot of things to do from La Fortuna to Jaco. Pick one or two to help break up the drive and have an entire day of adventure in Costa Rica.
Should I stop in Monteverde on the way from La Fortuna to Jaco?
No. It really isn’t convenient as it is a couple hours out of the way. If you’d like to visit Monteverde, it should be its own stop where you can stay a night or two.
How Far is La Fortuna to Jaco?
The quickest route is 150 kilometers from La Fortuna to Jaco, which can take 3-1/2 hours (or likely more).
Is Jaco Costa Rica worth Visiting?
Jaco offers a lot of activities. While it is worthwhile for its adventures and beaches, I would not stay here overnight if you are traveling with children. Or at very least, head inside when the sun goes down. Jaco is known as a party town and for its nightlife which isn’t necessarily suitable for children.
How to Get From Jaco to La Fortuna?
To get from Jaco to La Fortuna, you can ride the public bus, though you’ll have to make some switches/transfers which will take a few hours longer. You can also take a private shuttle. Renting your own car is best for best flexibility. To navigate, use Waze or Google Maps.
Don’t miss my other guides to Costa Rica!
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