- Playa Matapalo
- Rio Terraba
Although high season is December 15 to April 15, Dominical Costa Rica is never overcrowded except from Christmas to New Years and Easter Week. Then hundreds of locals come to visit, party, and camp on the mile long beach. All of the hotels will help you with arranging tours. They all have someone working who speak English (possibly French and German, too) Your car is pretty safe if you park it in front of the hotel, but take your stuff inside and keep the room locked when not there. Don't forget the mosquito repellent and the umbrella since you are in the rainforest. My favorites are listed below, including the best restaurants in the area.
Where the Talamancan mountains reach the sea, the town of Dominical is located 45 kms. south of Quepos, and 36 kms. west of San Isidro de General. There are over 15 waterfalls located between Dominical and Uvita (15kms. south) with breathtaking views of the numerous empty point and beach breaks along the coastal highway. The main break is a beachbreak with a strong rip current at times and a rivermouth separating the village from the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge which expands 4 kilometers to the north.
If you need to find an internet cafe, there are three in town, and there's now an ATM at the top of the hill in the Playa Pacifica shopping center, across from the entrance to town.
How to get there
There are two direct routes. From the San Jose airport - I recommend driving west to the coast and then south through Jaco and Quepos. This route takes only three hours by car because of the new highway connecting San Jose to Caldera. Also, the road from Quepos to Dominical is now paved and so the last leg takes only 35 minutes. Drive slow to watch out for monkey and pizote crossings.
The other way to go is better if you are coming from the east or south side of San Jose. Then you would take the three hour "Cerro del Muerte" or Interamerican Highway route over to San Isidro, make a right at the McDonalds, and then follow the signs west to Dominical, which is another hour from the turn. It is a very scenic drive so try to do it in the morning when there is less cloud cover. From the top of Tinamaste you can see the highest peak in Costa Rica - Mount Chirripo - plus the Pacific coastline. Then just past Platanillo to the south you can see the Tinamaste waterfall amidst the surrounding primary and secondary rainforest.
|Emilio (mini bus)
|Geovanny (mini bus)
Bodhi Surf School in Uvita has put out a COOKBOOK of their favorite local recipes. Download one today and support a surf school that gives back to their community and protects the environment. (A $20 donation is suggested - LINK)
Why I Support the Lifeguards in Dominical, Costa Rica. Read more..
Check www.jazzysriverhouse.com for low season deals and specials or come in and visit Ruby-Kim in her home gallery/studio and view her artwork. Be sure to ask about her ever popular class which she calls 'Plant Part Art'. Learn the ancient skills of weaving, plaiting, twining, sewing, etc... Also see Steve for relief from muscular aches and pains as his East/West massage therapy can be most helpful. Steve also offers surf lessons and board sales and rentals as well as traditional Taoist Yoga training.
After a long trip, I've found the BEST massage therapist - Sunset Body Works in Uvita. Call them at 8905-4021 to get relaxed at their office or in the comfort of your rental home.
Visit the Marina Ballena National Park and see Uvita's Whales Tail Beach (map courtesy of MINAE and the Corcovado Foundation)
Friend and founder of Community Carbon Trees, Costa Rica, Jennifer Leigh-Smith, was featured in the karmic blog - Where is my Guru Now. She helps plant native trees along the Osa Peninsula. You can sponsor you own tree here for only $25 - LINK
Support the Dominical Lifeguards, a community supported private effort to save lives on the beach. Visit www.lifeguardscostaballena.com for more information and to donate to their cause.
Playa Dominical is known as the most consistent surf spot in Costa Rica. There is almost always a wave worth riding. It is also known as a powerful break. I've been on much bigger waves at other breaks, but I've never been hammered quite as hard as by a big, mid-tide wave at Dominical. It is almost impossible to surf at dead low tide as the waves close out into very shallow water. I recently broke my back at a lower tide by doing a head butt into the sand. The mid-tides are great for more advanced surfers. The waves at mid-tide are faster and hollower and always less crowded. The high tide wave is the most popular but on smaller days is too mushy and frustrates short boarders. This is a good condition to pull out the long board and frustrate the short boarders even more. The bigger the wave, the more you should focus on high tide.
On big wave days the current can be strong. It is usually best to walk to the end of the beach at the foot of the current and let it push you up or down as the case may be. The beach runs from the south east to the north west. Looking straight out to sea perpendicular to the beach you are looking at an angle of 210 degrees south west. This means that a swell coming from 210 degrees is most likely going to be closing out, where a swell coming from under 200 degrees or over 220 (rare) will have better form. Usually, but not always, when the waves come from less than 210 degrees the current flows south to north. When it rains, the river can act up and dump some pretty nasty, cold and muddy water. So, if it is raining, most people tend to stick further south near the cell tower.
Not to be confused with the Matapalo on the Osa Peninsula, this is just an average beachbreak with no one around surfing it for miles in either direction. Perfect for seclusion and riding chest to overhead high surf, any bigger and the sets close out. The best tide is an hour before high tide. At low tide the beach is very wide and fun for just playing around or bodysurfing.
Playa Dominical is known as the most consistent surf spot in Costa Rica. There is almost always a wave worth riding. It is also known as a powerful break. I've been on much bigger waves at other breaks, but I've never been hammered quite as hard as by a big, mid-tide wave at Dominical. It is almost impossible to surf at dead low tide as the waves close out into very shallow water. I recently broke my back at a lower tide by doing a head butt into the sand. The mid-tides are great for more advanced surfers. The waves at mid-tide are faster and hollower and always less crowded. The high tide wave is the most popular but on smaller days is too mushy and frustrates short boarders. This is a good condition to pull out the long board and frustrate the short boarders even more. The bigger the wave, the more you should focus on high tide. On big wave days the current can be strong. It is usually best to walk to the end of the beach at the foot of the current and let it push you up or down as the case may be. If you are a beginner, surfing Dominical Costa Rica may not be your best bet, however Dominicalito beach, about 1 mile south of Dominical, would be a great place to learn. See below for more information.
Dominicalito is about 2 km. south of Dominical. It is a beachbreak with rocks offshore so at low will close out and can be trickly getting past the rocks. At high tide it can hold waves up to head high, any bigger and it closes out. Best tide is around high tide. Good for beginners since is usually small, knee to waist high for most swells.
Dominicalito - The Point
This left hand point break is about 3 km. south of Dominical. You can see it break from the road, but parking here is not always safe. It needs a big southwest or SSW swell to break, and can hold waves up to triple overhead with rides 300 meters or more, no barrels just big lined up walls. Breaks over a shallow rock ledge, best tides are low to mid tides. At high tide it mushes out.
Punta Achiote is at the north end of Playa Hermosa (not the one by Jaco but near Uvita). It breaks best from chest high to overhead, most bigger sets close out. At the right tide, there is a nice right that goes about 100 meters and a left that heads into a shallow cove. Never really crowded.
Playa Hermosa de Uvita
Playa Hermosa is a 2 km. stretch of beach that breaks best at higher tides. It is good for beginner to intermediate level surfers since it is usually smaller and less powerful than Dominical. It is very remote, with no development, and is never crowded.
Playa Ventanas 'Windows' is named for the two caves at the northern end of the beach. At low tide you can walk through them to see waves breaking inside the cave. (At high tide during big surf it will shoot spray out of the mouth of the cave) There is access to parking on the property of the only landowner there, but don't leave any valuables in the car. The beach is protected by offshore rock outcroppings, so most of the time the surf is knee to waist. Good for beginners when it's small, at all tides. When it is any bigger than chest high it closes out, with only a few makeable waves at higher tides.
For more information about our recommended surf schools and camps in the area between Dominical and Uvita, read our reviews of the some of the best.