With its great surfing waves, laid back lifestyle and beautiful landscapes, Dominical has quickly become a popular beach town in Costa Rica. Surrounded by lush mountains and a handful of stunning natural attractions, Dominical is one of the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica for those looking for a much needed escape to the beach and jungle.
This is our guide to help you plan your trip to Dominical.
Dominical is a small, chill beach town with a complete lack of a commercial feeling. You will see many tourists, backpackers and surfers walking or riding their bikes around, families playing at the beach and dogs roaming around.
There are two main roads in Dominical, the one through town and one running parallel to the beach. The town is teeny tiny but there are restaurants, souvenir stores, mini markets, hostels, small cabinas and bars.
Playa Dominical is known for consistent waves, great for experienced surfers. It’s a long beach stretching 4 km (2.5 miles) with a rocky shore and dark water.
Since this area is proper tropical rainforest, everything stays green and lush all year round thanks to the high humidity. Sunsets here are beautiful as any beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica!
Dominical tends to have a more hippie atmosphere than other beach towns in Costa Rica and you can notice it right away when you visit. The entire parking area is lined with hammocks, makeshift tents, and camper vans with people who seem to have been there for awhile (and don’t plan on leaving). It has a super chill vibe, everyone is just relaxed and having a great time.
In the Central and South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the weather is much more humid thanks to the tropical rainforests. Domincal’s weather follows the typical tropical season with dry and rainy seasons but this area tends to rain more and may rain even in the dry season months. We were in Dominical for a week in February and it rained hard almost every day!
Average year round daytime temperatures are 85 F (29 C) and nighttime temperatures are around 75 F (23 C). Temperatures do not change much throughout the year.
So when you visit, make sure to bring lots of mosquito repellent, sunscreen and dry fast clothes. You can read our complete packing list for Costa Rica here.
Things to Do in Dominical, Costa Rica
The best thing to do at Dominical is surfing but there are a ton of amazing places to see and visit in the area. As part of the Costa Ballena, you can easily do many fantastic day trips from Dominical.
If you want to learn how to surf, there are a ton of surf schools in the area like Costa Rica Surf Camp and Dominical Surf School. Playa Dominical normally has bigger waves more suitable for intermediate to expert level surfers, so they’ll take you to nearby beaches suitable for beginners and lessons such as Playa Linda and Playa Dominicalito.
The Nauyaca Waterfalls are only a 15 minute drive from Domincial and you cannot miss seeing these two stunning waterfalls deep in the mountains! You can hike 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), go on a horseback riding tour or take the a 4×4 tractor to the waterfall. The Nauyaca Waterfalls are a must see in Dominical!
You can read our detailed guide to visiting Nauyaca waterfalls here.
There are also some other waterfalls in the area such as Diamante Waterfall that actually has a cave! Some tour companies started operating overnight trips to sleep behind the waterfall cave which is a very unique experience in Costa Rica.
There are a couple yoga studios in town such as Danyasa Yoga Retreat to stretch and improve you balance in nature. Consider a retreat for a more meaningful yoga trip and to meet like minded people.
Uvita and Marino Ballena National Park
Take a day trip to Uvita and visit Marino Ballena National Park, just a 20 minute drive away. You can go whale watching, snorkeling, swimming and SUP in the national park or you can walk to the Whale’s Tail.
Caño Island Snorkeling
If you want to snorkel, then a trip to the Caño Island Biological Reserve is a must. This is the second best snorkel spot in Costa Rica and it’s a full day of adventure starting with a 1.5 hour boat ride from Uvita to the island.
SUP Baru River
The Baru River runs right by Dominical town into the beach. The calm waters are perfect for stand up paddle boarding and you may see monkeys, otters, sloths and birds on the way!
If you’re visiting the last two weeks of February, you can go to the Envision Festival which takes place in Uvita. Make sure to book your tickets at least 6 months beforehand though. The festival is super popular and thousands of people attend every year. The festival celebrates music, dancing, yoga and surfing.
The South Pacific coastline doesn’t have white sand beaches, but there are some real gems.
Playa Linda is a beautiful tan sand beach that has great surfing waves. Dominicalito beach is another beautiful beach with fantastic surfing waves suitable for beginners. Then down by Uvita, you can visit Playa Arcos, Playa Hermosa, Tortuga and Ventanas.
If you’re looking for some adventure, head to Hacienda Baru. They have hiking trails, a zipline, a tree climb and trails with tons of wildlife. They also have small cabinas to stay on the property.
For more ideas, you can check our post “10 things to do in Dominical and Uvita.”
Dominical, Costa Rica Location
Dominical is 209 kilometers (130 miles) from San Jose, about a 3.5 hour drive in the Puntarenas province. It is considered to be in the South Pacific, specifically part of an area called the Costa Ballena.
How to get to Dominical, Costa Rica
From San Jose, there are two ways to get to Dominical but the best route to take is the Route 27 and then Route 34. This takes around 3.5 hours. This route is very straightforward and easy to drive going along the coast.
You can use Google Maps and Waze as your GPS to get to Dominical.
There are buses from San Jose every day at 6 AM and 3 PM from Calle 5, AV 18-20 with Tracopa. This takes 7 hours. There is also a bus from Quepos every day at 6, 9, 2:30 PM and 5:30 PM. Another bus from San Isidro de General leaves at 9 AM and 4 PM. These buses continue onto Uvita.
Only a few companies offer shared shuttles to Dominical like EasyrideCR. This is around $59 USD per person for a shared from San Jose. A private shuttle from San Jose to Dominical is around $240 USD for 1-8 people. Contact us if you’d like a quote for a private shuttle!
Getting around Dominical
Even though the town itself is small, we do recommend renting a car if you want to see more of the area. There are buses that go up and down the Costanera Sur highway but not directly to attractions. Additionally, everything in this area is quite spread out.
Do you need a 4×4 for Dominical? We recommend a car with 4wd or high clearance to explore more of the area. Many restaurants and higher end hotels are up in the mountains outside of Dominical and require a 4×4. There are also many hidden gems that require a high clearance car. We also know of some hotels that do absolutely require a 4×4 traction car – not just high clearance so make sure to ask your hosts.
If you plan to stay in town and not go out of the main highway or to town center, you can get to Dominical in a sedan.
Just in case, we have a special Costa Rica car rental discount you can get to save $$ and our extra freebies.
You won’t find a five star all inclusive resort in Dominical but you will find hostels, lodges, hotels and vacation rentals. Camping on Dominical is also very popular, you can bring your own tent and find a spot on the beach.
We stayed at Villas Rio Mar which was a 5 minute walk to town. It’s a full service hotel with a pool, restaurant and cabinas. For hostels, Piramys life Hostel and Cool Vibes are two good ones. Hacienda Baru also has small rustic cabinas nearby.
As for vacation rentals, Dominical has a ton of them, particularly luxury houses and mansions up in the mountains. You can find many of them on Airbnb and VRBO such as Villa Tucan Tango and Villa Paraiso. We have known some people who booked these luxury, ocean view mansions up in the mountains and flew there via helicopter!
Dominical has a decent selection of restaurants.
Some places we liked were Tortilla Flats and Roca Verde. Other good ones are Cafe Mono Congo, La Junta and El Pescado Loco. You can find restaurants right next to the beach with live music and happy hour. If you have a 4×4 car, head to Jolly Rogers for some of the best chicken wings and burgers in Costa Rica. Don’t miss Fuego Brewing Company for craft beer.
What to Know about Dominical
Dominical has a different vibe than the other beach towns in Costa Rica. There are still a lot of expats and immigrants in Dominical and many of them are young or middle aged adults who are into the free spirit, holistic and organic lifestyle and/or are surfers.
Additionally, the vibe of Dominical and Santa Teresa are very similar as they’re both surfing beach towns in a somewhat undeveloped area of Costa Rica. So if you like Santa Teresa, you will most likely also like Dominical except Santa Teresa is dry topical forest and Dominical is tropical rain forest. Both places are popular among digital nomads as high speed Internet is becoming more readily available.
Want to read about other beach towns in Costa Rica? Here you go!
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