The real beauty of Costa Rica is readily apparent in Dominical and her beaches. Surrounded by trees and exotic flora, it’s easy to get lost in what may be Costa Rica’s most picture-perfect destination.

The recently opened Costanera Highway has given paved access down the coast allowing for a shorter and easier drive to San Jose. Only time will tell if this is positive for the area. These days, the lost paradise feel is nice. The beaches are lined with palm trees and you won't find any fast food restaurants or high-rises.

Though the beaches are beautiful, they are not for swimming. This is a surfers paradise with big waves that usually provide consistent breaks. The surfing is so good here that the Billabong company sponsors annual competitions and it is considered among the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica.

Swimmers can venture further down the coast to Playa Dominicalito for better swimming conditions; though please do use caution as larger waves can come in quickly. If you must swim on the main Dominical Beach, only do so in front of lifeguards and look out for red flag areas, which indicate riptides.

More About Dominical

Dominical is a charming coastal town located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and a relaxed atmosphere, Dominical has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a mix of natural beauty and adventure. Here are some key highlights and things to know about Dominical:

Surfing Paradise: Dominical is famous for its consistent and powerful waves, making it a haven for surfers of all skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned surfer looking for big breaks or a beginner wanting to take lessons, Dominical's beaches offer fantastic surfing opportunities.

Diverse Wildlife: The surrounding rainforests are home to a rich variety of wildlife. While exploring the area, you might spot howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and colorful frogs. Birdwatching and wildlife tours are popular activities for nature enthusiasts.

Waterfall Adventures: Dominical and its neighboring areas boast several beautiful waterfalls. One of the most famous is Nauyaca Waterfalls, a two-tiered cascade accessible via horseback or hiking. The hike itself is a scenic adventure through the jungle.

Hiking and Nature Tours: There are numerous hiking trails in the region, offering opportunities to explore lush rainforests and discover hidden gems. Local guides can take you on nature walks and waterfall hikes, providing insights into the area's ecology.

Yoga and Wellness: Dominical has a thriving yoga and wellness community. Many retreat centers and studios offer yoga classes, meditation sessions, and holistic wellness treatments.

Beachfront Dining: The town has a selection of beachfront restaurants and bars where you can savor fresh seafood and enjoy breathtaking sunset views. It's a great place to unwind and soak in the laid-back atmosphere.

Whale Watching: If you visit during the right season (December through March and July through October), you might have the chance to go whale watching. Humpback whales migrate through these waters, and boat tours offer a chance to witness these magnificent creatures up close. The best whale-watching tours depart from nearby Uvita, in Marino Ballena National Park.

Cascading Water Adventures: Besides surfing, Dominical is known for other water sports like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and even waterfall rappelling. You can explore rivers, estuaries, and coastal mangroves by kayak or paddleboard.

Ecotourism and Conservation: Dominical and its surroundings are committed to eco-friendly practices and conservation efforts. You'll find eco-lodges and resorts that emphasize sustainability and responsible tourism.

Nightlife: While not as bustling as some of Costa Rica's bigger cities, Dominical has a vibrant nightlife scene. You can find bars with live music, open-mic nights, and opportunities to mingle with fellow travelers.

Dominical offers a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path Costa Rican experience. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a surfer, a wildlife lover, or simply looking for a tranquil beach getaway, Dominical has something to offer.

Hotel Cuna del Angel

Planning a Vacation to Dominical

When planning a vacation to Dominical, we recommend a 3 – 5 day stay.  This is an area with plenty to offer.  Staying less time will not allow enough time to see the area’s attractions.  Staying more will take away from visiting other parts of the country.

The Best Hotels in Dominical

Hotel Cuna del Angel

Description: Hotel Cuna del Angel is an eco-friendly boutique hotel nestled in the rainforest just outside of Dominical. It offers a serene and intimate atmosphere for guests looking to immerse themselves in nature while enjoying quality amenities.

Highlights: The hotel features elegantly designed rooms and suites, some offering jungle or ocean views. You can indulge in holistic spa treatments, enjoy exquisite dining at the restaurant, and relax by the pool surrounded by tropical gardens. It's a great choice for couples and honeymooners seeking a romantic getaway.

Villas Alturas

Description: Villas Alturas is a stunning hillside retreat that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the lush rainforest. It's an ideal choice for nature lovers and those looking for a peaceful escape.

Highlights: The hotel provides spacious villas and suites with fully equipped kitchens and private terraces or balconies. You can take a dip in the infinity pool, explore the on-site wildlife sanctuary, or venture out on guided tours to discover the diverse flora and fauna. It's a wonderful option for families and groups.

Hotel Villas Rio Mar

Description: Hotel Villas Rio Mar is a budget-friendly option located in Dominical. Despite its affordability, it provides comfortable accommodations and access to many of the area's attractions.

Highlights: The hotel offers various room types, including standard rooms and villas. You can enjoy the swimming pool, tropical gardens, and an on-site restaurant serving Costa Rican and international dishes. It's a convenient base for exploring Dominical's beaches and surrounding natural wonders.

Hacienda Baru Ecolodge

Description: Hacienda Baru Ecolodge is a rustic and environmentally conscious lodge situated within the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge. It's perfect for travelers who want an immersive rainforest experience.

Highlights: The lodge provides rustic cabins and rooms. Guests can participate in guided hikes, birdwatching tours, and wildlife spotting excursions within the refuge. It's an excellent choice for eco-minded travelers interested in conservation and biodiversity.

Each of these hotels in Dominical offers a unique experience, catering to different budgets and preferences. Whether you're seeking luxury, eco-consciousness, or affordability, Dominical has accommodations to suit your needs while you explore the stunning natural beauty of the region.

Surf lessons in Dominical

The Best Things to Do in Dominical

Surfing: Dominical is renowned for its consistent waves and is a hotspot for surfers. Whether you're a beginner looking for lessons or an experienced surfer, you can enjoy riding the waves at Dominical Beach.

Walking the Beach: Take leisurely strolls along the beautiful Dominical Beach, known for its pristine sands and stunning sunsets. It's a great way to relax and soak in the natural beauty.

Whale Watching in Uvita: Uvita, a short drive from Dominical, offers fantastic whale-watching opportunities. Humpback whales can often be spotted off the coast during their migration seasons. Tours are available to get up close to these majestic creatures.

Nauyaca Waterfalls: Embark on an adventure to the Nauyaca Waterfalls, located in a lush rainforest. You can hike or horseback ride to these cascading falls and enjoy swimming in the natural pools beneath them.

Nightlife: Dominical has a vibrant nightlife scene with numerous bars and restaurants offering live music, dance floors, and a lively atmosphere. It's a great place to socialize and enjoy the local culture.

Tour to the Mangroves of Terraba Sierpe: Take a boat tour to explore the fascinating mangrove ecosystems of Terraba Sierpe. You'll have the chance to see diverse bird species, reptiles, and other wildlife in their natural habitats.

Scuba Diving at Cano Island: Cano Island, located off the coast, is a renowned diving spot. The island's clear waters teem with marine life, including sharks, rays, and colorful tropical fish. It's a must-visit for diving enthusiasts.

Hiking and Nature Exploration at Hacienda Baru: Hacienda Baru offers a multitude of hiking trails through lush rainforests. You can explore the rich biodiversity of the region, spot unique wildlife, and marvel at the stunning landscapes.

Visit Marino Ballena National Park: This coastal national park near Uvita is named after the famous "Whale's Tail" sandbar formation. You can go snorkeling, swimming, or simply relax on the beach while taking in the natural beauty.

Yoga and Wellness Retreats: Dominical is known for its yoga and wellness retreats. Many resorts and studios offer classes and programs where you can rejuvenate your mind and body amidst a tranquil natural setting.

Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Dominical and its surroundings offer a wide range of activities and experiences to suit all tastes. From thrilling water sports to serene nature walks, this region of Costa Rica has something for everyone.

Nauyaca Waterfalls

The Best Restaurants in Dominical

La Junta Dominical: La Junta Dominical proves that you can't judge a book by its cover. While it isn't the fanciest restaurant, La Junta is known for its delicious fusion of Costa Rican and international cuisines. They source fresh, local ingredients to create a diverse menu that caters to various tastes. Whether you're in the mood for seafood, a juicy burger, or vegetarian options, La Junta Dominical has something for everyone.

Del Mar Taco Shop: Del Mar Taco Shop is a casual and popular spot for those craving Mexican cuisine. They serve up a variety of tacos, burritos, and other Mexican favorites. The laid-back atmosphere and flavorful dishes make it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Scala Restaurant: Scala Restaurant is known for its upscale dining experience. Scala offers a diverse menu featuring fresh seafood, grilled meats, and international dishes. The romantic ambiance and attentive service make it a popular choice for special occasions.

Cafe Mono Congo: Cafe Mono Congo is a cozy and environmentally conscious cafe that serves a variety of healthy dishes. They focus on using locally sourced ingredients to create a menu filled with healthy options, including salads, wraps, smoothies, and freshly brewed coffee. It's an ideal spot for those seeking wholesome and sustainable meals.

Phat Noodle: Phat Noodle is a favorite among locals and visitors for its delicious Asian-inspired cuisine. You can enjoy a range of dishes, from flavorful stir-fries to noodle bowls and curry. The laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff make it a great place to unwind and savor Asian flavors.

Bar Jolly Roger Dominical: Bar Jolly Roger is a lively bar and restaurant located in the heart of Dominical. It's a hub for those looking to enjoy pub-style food and sip on cold drinks. The menu includes burgers, sandwiches, and a selection of beers and cocktails.

These restaurants in Dominical offer a diverse range of culinary experiences, from upscale dining with ocean views to casual cafes and sports bars. Whether you're in the mood for fresh seafood, international cuisine, vegetarian options, or pub-style fare, Dominical has dining choices to suit various tastes and preferences. Enjoy your culinary journey in this vibrant coastal town!

Transportation & Getting Around Dominical

It is nice to have a rental car when visiting the Dominical area, but not necessary.  You would want a rental car if you plan to explore the Costa Ballena coastline beaches and waterfalls.  Alternatively, taxis are readily available and most tour operators pick up and drop off at your hotel. Private transfers are available from everywhere in Costa Rica and shared shuttle transfers are available from most popular tourist areas. The nearest airport, which Sansa Airlines utilizes, is in Palmar Sur.

Reasons to visit

  • Great surfing
  • Off the beaten path beach destination
  • Plenty of wildlife nearby
  • Whale watching is available at certain times of the year
  • The area retains the feel of the real Costa Rica
  • It is a good alternative if you cannot afford to stay in Drake Bay.  (long) Day trips to Corcovado area available.
  • There are several national parks and refuges within an hour drive
  • There are a lot of waterfalls in the area
  • The beauty of the surrounding area of Dominical is stunning

Reasons NOT to visit

  • There are big waves and dangerous riptides
  • It is 4 hours from San Jose
  • There are no resorts or luxury accommodations
  • Tour operators (generally) are not quite as professional as those found in more developed areas
  • Going off the beaten path is not for everybody.  A general rule of thumb is if you prefer cities to countryside, you should not go to Dominical.

How to get there

From San Jose: From San Jose, the drive is approximately 4 hours.  Go west on Autopista del Sol (the Caldera Highway) to the town of Orotina and take the Costanera Sur Highway after the Pavon toll booth. Take the exit to Jaco and then continue all the way down the coast until you reach Dominical.

Weather and packing list

The South Pacific is a region of vast contrasts in weather. Temperatures remain the same nearly year round with average day time highs in the upper 80s to low 90s and night time lows in the upper 70s. Precipitation varies by month with the months of December through April being the driest.

Visitors should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent.

Fun Fact: Just 30 years ago, Hacienda Baru was a cow pasture. Thanks to Jack Ewing's effort and vision, there are trees that soar well over a hundred feet and the rainforest has re-claimed the land.

Attractions In The Area

Marino Ballena24 km
Finca Baru Pacifico5 km
Manuel Antonio50 km
Cano Island230 km
Piedras Blancas144 km


Latitude: N 9° 15' 0"
Longitude: W 83° 52' 0"

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