Jaco Island, East Timor

It doesn’t get any better than this: ‘white-baking’ on Jaco Island

Go to Jaco!

Everyone in East Timor raves about their trip/s to Jaco Island. If you’ve recently arrived in country and you ask an expat where you should go, they will undoubtedly say ‘GO TO JACO!’. Unless of course, you are pressed for time, then they will recommend somewhere closer to Dili e.g. Baucau, Maubisse or Atauro.

Jaco is pristine beauty at its best. Turquoise coloured water (it literally looks like someone has put dye in the ocean) combined with incredible snorkeling where you can expect to see hundreds of different types of fish (other snorkeling spots like at K41 and Atauro Island just do not compare). And what’s more, this beauty should be retained because Jaco is a part of East Timor’s first national park called: Nino Konis Santana, which is named after a former commander of FALINTIL who was born in the area.

Jaco Island

The white sands of Jaco Island in East Timor

Getting across to Jaco Island

Jaco is a five minute boat ride from the coast line near Tutuala. You can catch a ride over with local fishermen in dugout boats for around $10. And before you go, if you’d like to have fish for lunch or dinner, tell one of the fishermen and they’ll organise it for you on your return. It can get very hot over on Jaco and there is little shade to protect your body from the sun so make sure you take everything (e.g. sunscreen, t-shirt, sarong etc…) you need with you. Sun burnt bodies make for a very uncomfortable and bumpy eight hour drive back to Dili.


Jaco is considered a sacred site by the East Timorese and no one inhabits or is able to stay on the actual island.  There are a few simple thatched roofed guesthouses on the shore across from Jaco Island which can be booked for around $20-$30/night. Due to poor mobile reception at the Eco Resort, it can be hard to book. They recommend just turning up, but be assured, any public holiday weekend there, will be packed! Your best bet is to take a tent or better still, a ‘mosquito dome tent’ (see picture below) so you can sleep on the beach. You might just decide to camp anyway, because let’s face it, the view doesn’t get any better than this! To camp, you have to pay a few dollars for each night which you give to the guesthouse owner.

Camping East Timor

Camping on the shores of Tutuala looking over to Jaco Island


The guesthouse can also provide simple meals (two minute noodles, rice, vegetables and fish) whether you are staying there or not. But, like any trip to the Districts in East Timor, it is wise to stock up on all the essentials in Dili before you leave e.g. water, food, wine, beer, chocolate, petrol, spare tyre, mosquito repellent, a new frisbee etc…So what are you waiting for? It’s time for you to become one of the expats that raves about their trip to Jaco Island now, and if you do go, make sure you share you story with us in the comments fields below.

Map East Timor

A= Jaco Island, around an eight hour drive from Dili

A few things to note

  • There is no mobile reception in or around Jaco Island.
  • If you are going for the ‘isolation factor’ consider a trip mid-week to avoid the other tourists.
  • Take plenty of small notes and coins, district folk rarely have change.

The last leg of the trip, driving down from Tutuala to the beach is really steep, rocky and rough. You shouldn’t really consider driving anything smaller than a RAV4..

Not enough time to go to Jaco? Go to Atauro Island instead!