With its great surfing waves, laid back lifestyle and beautiful landscapes, Playa Dominical captures the essence of an old Costa Rican beach town and continues to captivate the many visitors that come every year. For the traveler looking to catch some waves or make a home of their hammock on the beach, Dominical has favorably kept the small coastal town vibe that so many adore.
On the outside it looks like a lazy beach town with just surfing to offer but underneath the surface, Dominical is much more. It’s slowly beginning to evolve due to the completion of the Costanera Sur allowing more people and businesses to discover its charm and the opportunities that come with it.
Dominical is located in the South Pacific in Puntarenas, 45 kilometers south of Quepos/Manuel Antonio.
You can get to Playa Dominical two ways: by Cerro de la Muerte through the Talamanca Mountains via San Isidro de General or on the coastal highway past Quepos.
Dominical is a small town with unpaved roads and a lack of a commercial feeling – there aren’t any chain restaurants or hotels. You will see plenty of tourists with mostly backpackers and surfers wandering through the town and beach.
If you want to see what the town looks like, we have a driving through Dominical video you can watch.
Playa Dominical is known for consistent waves, great for experienced surfers. It’s a long beach stretching 4 km (2.5 miles) with dark sand, a rocky shore and deep blue water. Though it isn’t exactly the “prettiest” beach in Costa Rica, sunsets here are spectacular.
One thing I liked about Dominical and the area is how fresh it is. When we went in February, it rained heavily for almost the whole week keeping the forests lush and green.
More commonly seen in Dominical than any other beach town we’ve been to are many backpackers/surfers who pitch a tent or sleep in their car on the beach. The entire parking area is lined with hammocks, makeshift tents, and vans with people who seem to have been there for awhile.
The best thing to do at Dominical is surfing but besides that, there isn’t too much to do at the beach itself. The waves are strong so they’re not suitable for swimming or snorkeling but nearby you can do SUP, visit the Nauyaca waterfalls or go on whale watching tours. Hiking is plentiful in this area as well as other beaches such as Playa Dominicalito and Playa Linda.
There are a couple yoga studios in town such as Casa de Yoga since it’s a popular area for yoga lovers.
Dominical is part of the South Central Pacific so it’s an excellent home base to explore Manuel Antonio/Quepos, Uvita and Ojochal. The Marino Ballena National Park is nearby and there are plenty of things to do in that area such as whale watching.
You can also stay in Dominical as a pit stop on your way down to the Osa Peninsula. It’s common for some people to spend a couple days exploring Dominical to break up the long drive from San Jose to Puerto Jiminez or Drake Bay.
Every year the Envision festival takes place in the Dominical/Uvita area and it becomes incredibly crowded with people coming to celebrate music, yoga and art. It’s one of the biggest festivals of the year attended by people from all over the world!
Places to Stay
You won’t find a five star all inclusive resort in Dominical but you will find modest and reasonable places to stay. There are many hostels, lodges and hotels in and around town so you can be a two minute walk from the beach or in a secluded part of the surrounding jungle.
You can find many of the hotels online on HotelsCombined.com and Hotels.com and a couple hostels on HostelWorld but some places aren’t advertised. If you’re flexible, you can show up and walk around town to see what they offer (don’t do it during Envision though). Airbnb (get $20 credit here) is becoming more popular in Costa Rica and there are a few listings in and around Dominical on there. You can even join the many other travelers and pitch a tent on the beach (or sleep in your car).
Some hotels are spread out on the Costanera Sur highway so it’s recommended to rent a car so you can get around the area easily.
A few of the highly rated hotels/hostels in the Dominical area are:
- Hotel Domilocos
- Hostel del Rio
- La Cuisinga Eco Lodge
- Hotel Cuna del Angel
- Piramys Beachfront Hostel
- Villas Rio Mar
Places to Eat
Surprisingly, Dominical has a decent selection of restaurants for its size and we were pleased to find a mix of sodas and international restaurants. We ate at one soda across from one of the grocery stores in town (can’t remember the name) that had pretty good local food for reasonable prices.
Some other places we liked were Patrons (the best chicken and grilled tomatoes), Tortilla Flats and Roca Verde. You can find restaurants right next to the beach that has live music and happy hour and we also saw pizza, sushi and cafes around town.
Playa Dominical’s Vibe
Dominical has a completely different vibe than the other beach towns I’ve been to around the country. There are indeed a lot of expats and foreigners in Dominical but many of them are young or middle aged adults who are into the free spirit and organic lifestyle. In other words, we saw a lot of hippies and Dominical certainly attracts hippies galore.
For some reason the South Pacific has become a kind of haven for people into this type of lifestyle and I can see why. It’s not as touristic as Guanacaste and they love the mellow and stress free beach life the area provides. If you’re into this lifestyle, Dominical would be a great place for you to visit.
You’re close to some of the most revered areas in Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio National Park, Uvita, Drake Bay) and the nature here is amazing. You can see plenty of different birds, mammals and reptiles and stumble onto some beautiful lesser known beaches and waterfalls.
Want to read about other beaches in Costa Rica? Here you go!
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