Dominical, Costa Rica- The COMPLETE GUIDE
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Heading to Dominical, Costa Rica? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about this charming beach town in the south of Costa Rica.
About Dominical, Costa Rica
Dominical, Costa Rica can best be described as a laid-back beach town- Playa Dominical is the star of the show here. Nestled between the Baru River and the ocean that makes up Dominical Beach, the town is interesting in that there is no traditional “town” feel.
While many ex-pats live in the hills above Dominical, the town itself has almost no commerce besides restaurants and a few tiny grocery stores (known as pulperías). There’s no church or “grid” of town here- most locals do their shopping in nearby Uvita or head to Quepos.
However, if you are learning to surf or are a surf enthusiast, Dominical is widely known to be one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica.
Dominical may not be the ideal place for families given the very strong tide and rocky shore. If you are visiting the Dominical area with your family, I would highly recommend hopping to the next beach south- Playa Dominicalito.
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Dominical is located on the Costa Ballena, or Whale Coast, in the southern province of Puntarenas. The nearest towns include Uvita and Sierpe to the south and Quepos, Manuel Antonio, and Jaco to the north.
Dominical is located on the Costanera Highway, also known as Highway 34. Blink and you’ll miss it though!
The best way to experience Dominical Costa Rica and the surrounding area is by renting a car. You can also fly to Quepos from the San Jose International Airport, or take a shuttle from San Jose to Dominical and then get around via taxi.
Finally, you can take a public bus to Dominical- you will want to use the TRACOPA bus line.
Dominical is about 3 and a half hours south of San Jose.
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Packing For Dominical
Packing for Dominical isn’t incredibly difficult- the atmosphere is always ultra casual and surf-inspired beach wear is the norm.
What you will want to know is that there aren’t a lot of services in Dominical. So you’ll want to pack a picnic lunch and some cold beer in a cooler if you don’t want to leave the beach for a meal.
You can find out more about packing by reading our Costa Rica Packing List (For Families).
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Things To Do In Dominical Costa Rica
There are an endless number of things to do in Dominical, especially given its location between Sierpe (gateway to Corcovado National Park), Uvita (Marino Ballena National Park) and Manuel Antonio National Park. For a complete list of activities in Dominical, check out our post 10 Kick Ass Things to Do in Dominical Costa Rica.
Learn To Surf
If you only do one thing in Dominical, make sure you learn to surf if you are at all interested. All ages can learn, and it’s easy to get a surf lesson from a local on any day of the week.
If you want to chase one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica, then Nauyaca Waterfall fits the bill. For families with young children there is the option to arrive on a truck to experience the falls. For the more adventurous, a hit, sweaty hike leads you to the cool water of the falls- it’s divine.
Drink a Microbrew
You’ll definitely want to check out Fuego Brewery in Dominical- its one of the top breweries in Costa Rica. The huge bar/restaurant is located right in the middle of the jungle. Between microbrews and freshly brewed coffee roasted on-site, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to spend an afternoon or evening. Oh, and did I mention the food is awesome?
Families with young children will appreciate the large green space where kids can run and play while parents relax.
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Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
It’s no secret that Manuel Antonio isn’t my favorite place- but Manuel Antonio National Park is definitely worth a visit. The beaches are pristine inside the national park– and if you go with a guide you are sure to have some epic animal sightings.
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Two times a year the humpback whales descend on the Marino Ballena National Park, which is just about 15 minutes south of the town of Dominical. I highly recommend a whale-watching tour– it’s worth every penny to see the majestic whales in their natural habitat.
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Where To Stay In Dominical
Dominical is home to a host of vacation rentals, several surf hostels, and several hotels that are great for families. You can read about all of our favorite Dominical hotels in our post 10 Dominical Costa Rica Hotels For Your Bucket List. For getting the best deals and how to book the best rooms in Costa Rican hotels check out our Hotels in Costa Rica guide.
My favorite is most likely the family-owned MAVI Surf Hotel, but a few other favorites include:
MAVI Surf Hotel
The MAVI Surf Hotel is beachfront and family-owned, and geared toward families. It’s got a great little swimming pool, a kitchen, and a place to park your boogie boards. My top pick for families.
Tropical Sands Dominical Eco Inn
This is a cross between a hostel and a budget hotel. There are no frills here, but you have access to clean, comfortable beds and a communal kitchen for a great price. Plus you are only a minute from the beach.
BOOK TROPICAL SANDS DOMINICAL ECO INN NOW
Hacienda Baru Lodge
This hotel also boasts a wildlife refuge, making it a great two-for-one- see tons of animal species and stay at a great family-owned hotel. A favorite in the area.
Villas Rio Mar Eco-Hotel
Rio Mar is a bit more upscale hotel located within walking distance of Playa Dominical. They have a great breakfast buffet that is included, and the price is great.
Lapazul Boutique Hotel
This is one of the more upscale hotels on this list, so if you are looking for a little taste of luxury, Lapazul is a great choice.
BOOK LAPAZUL BOTIQUE HOTEL NOW
Where To Eat In Dominical
Dominical does have some great restaurants, despite not really having a traditional “town center.” Some of the most popular restaurants include:
From dawn til dusk, you can enjoy Fuego Brewery- one of the top microbreweries in Costa Rica. In the morning, enjoy freshly ground coffee. From lunch on enjoy an international menu with craft brew pairings, right in the heart of the jungle of Dominical.
This Asian restaurant churns out kick-ass Asian noodles at a great price. One of the best Asian restaurants in Costa Rica.
Su Raza boasts traditional Costa Rican food and lunch casados are at rock-bottom prices. If you want a very traditional Costa Rican food experience, definitely visit Su Raza.
Is Dominical, Costa Rica expensive?
Relatively speaking, you can travel very easily on a budget in Dominical. There are beachfront hostels, small restaurants called sodas where you can eat inexpensively, and there are lots of things do that aren’t as expensive as tours in the rest of the country.
What are the top activities in Dominical, Costa Rica?
Surfing comes in first, and a close second is visiting the Nauyaca Waterfalls nearby.
Is Dominical, Costa Rica good for families?
YES! There are some great family hotels including the MAVI Surf Hotel. There are lots of restaurants with international cuisine that will be familiar to parents with pick eaters. And the beach is gorgeous.
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Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by