Walking in Jaco, you’ll see a lot of restaurants, souvenir shops, and stores clustered together along the main street near the beach. But if you take a closer look at some of the buildings and alleys, you’ll discover beauty hidden among the somewhat urban landscape. Scattered throughout town are many colorful murals. Some depict Costa Rica’s beautiful scenery, while others convey a specific artist’s vision. In this post, we’ll tell you about our experience taking the Jaco Street Art Tour.
Meeting Our Guide
We met our guide, Josue, on the northern end of town near the central park. Wearing a tall straw hat, he greeted us with a big smile and told us he would be showing us some of the artwork in Jaco today.
Josue, a local from the area, had not been formally trained in art but was rather self-taught. His passion and knowledge of the subject quickly became apparent.
First, he brought us over to a mural on the edge of the park. There, he asked us about our interest in art and our thoughts in general.
For him, art is a reminder of what is beautiful in life. He believes art breaks up the grind of the every day, and that street art, in particular, helps us find meaning in public places.
Seeing the Murals
This first mural, painted on the side of an old building, depicted Cacique Garabito who was king of the area during the time of the Conquerors.
Cacique Garabito ruled over the Huetar indigenous people in the 16th century. He was a national hero for his fierce efforts against the Spaniards when they were trying to conquer the territory. Today, the canton (county) where Jaco is located is named Garabito in his honor.
From the park, we walked a couple of blocks to a parking lot sandwiched between a real estate office and another small building.
Gazing out toward the street were three faces that had been painted on the long concrete wall backing the lot. They were blue and orange and somewhat mysterious. Josue explained that this mural had been painted in 2016 by two artists from Europe named Dourone.
The piece is called Pura Vida, which is a famous phrase in Costa Rica. It translates to “pure life,” but is used as a greeting, goodbye, or just to say that something is great.
On the side of an adjacent container building was a small, but powerful, mural from the street artist, GATS PTV, from New York City.
We discussed this artist who is known for secretly painting murals or doing other installations in obscure places. He is known for making a man’s face with a beard. The beard is always a little different. The one we were looking at resembled an octopus. Josue told us GATS PTV’s idea is to graffiti against the system.
Small Murals Depicting Local History
After seeing these highlights, Josue brought us down a side road near the beach. Here, we saw a small mural on the side of a local glass company. They had someone make this simple mural that sort of copied Costa Rica’s national emblem. It showed Costa Rica’s three mountain ranges. It also depicted the original explorers, which can be seen in the boat bearing the Costa Rica flag.
Josue taught us a little about the origins of the area. Interestingly, the first settlers of Jaco were from Chiriqui, Panama. Historically, this region continuing south along the Pacific coast had been exploited for its abundance of pearls.
Farther down the road was a huge new building for condos going up along the beach. Next to it was an old moss-covered concrete wall with a mural of two girls. They were from Chiriqui. Josue didn’t know what would happen to the mural after the construction was over, but he hoped they would keep it.
Footprint of the Jaguar
Back on the main strip, we stopped near the art store, Tico Pod.
Staring back from the concrete wall were two intense green eyes. Vivid reds, yellows, and greens formed the face of a jaguar. The mural played with light and dark, with the center of the face being lush, green rainforest.
The artist of this piece, Melvin González Rojas (Kamel), was from the Boruca indigenous group that lives in southern Costa Rica. The Boruca are famous for their colorful hand-carved masks, which depict nature scenes. This indigenous group believes that they are part of nature, not separate from it, and this comes through in their artwork.
Kamel signs his pieces, KuraDenKa, which translates to “footprint of the jaguar.”
This piece, along with many other murals in Jaco, was commissioned by a community initiative called Artify Jaco. Their goal is to beautify Jaco through art.
Moon Dance and Legacy
Probably the most spectacular murals for us were near the Mas X Menos grocery store.
The first, called Moon Dance, was the face of a puma (see cover photo, above). The mural was striking, due to its large size and colorful, intricate pattern. This piece was from a Mexican street artist named Farid Rueda.
On the backside of the parking lot was another large mural called Legacy. This was painted by Jade Rivera, a Peruvian artist, in 2017.
It depicts two boys, one wearing a traditional Boruca mask and another watching. Touching the first boy’s head is a man in a mask wearing a white robe. There are also references to Costa Rican nature, like a large blue jean poison dart frog, blue morpho butterfly, and toucan. We discussed among ourselves the meaning of this sober piece. Perhaps it was depicting a rite of passage.
Ending the Tour
After showing us a few more interesting murals around town, we ended at the Green Room Café for a cold drink. It was great getting to know Josue and gaining a greater appreciation for the art we had seen around Jaco.
Booking a Tour
Cost and Duration
$30 per person for the walking tour (1.5-2 hours).
He also offers a bike tour, which lets you cover more ground, for $50 per person (3-4 hours).
We have been living in the Jaco area for a while now and have seen many of the murals around town, but were still surprised to learn that Jaco has 35 pieces of street art and counting. If you include graffiti, there are more than 60. These really bring life to this busy surf town with their vibrant colors. If you’re planning to visit the Jaco area, we highly recommend the Street Art Tour to see some of these works for yourself and learn more about the area and Costa Rica in general.
Have a question about the Jaco Street Art Tour? Ask us below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:
Tortuga Island Catamaran-Snorkel Tour: This is another fun activity in the Jaco area that will take you to the white-sand Tortuga Island.
La Mona Golosa: An Artisanal Chocolate Tour Near Jaco – This off-the-beaten path tour will give you a whole new appreciation for where chocolate comes from.
Jaco Restaurant Guide: Looking for restaurant recommendations for your trip? This post gives some of our favorites.