“If we are truly to create lasting solutions to the environmental problems facing the planet, we have to do MORE than plant trees for global warming. . . . Ideally, we also have to find ways to preserve local communities and cultures, while immediately rebuilding deforested soils, wildlife corridors and protecting watersheds and old growth forests. Especially in countries like Costa Rica where the real estate development business threatens to destroy some of the last healthy, remaining coastal rainforest and whale breeding waters left in all of Central America.”
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.
This Vimeo video gives you a great taste of Dominical.
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 emptypoint 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.
Semena Santa Annual Surf Contest
~March 30th and 31st~
7th Annual Dominical Semana Santa Classic
A Beneficio de Guardavidas Costa Ballena Lifeguards
Viernes 30 de Marzo y Sábado 31 de Marzo
Open: 1st place $1000 2nd place $300 3rd place $100
Local: 1st place $200 2nd place: prizes 3rd place: prizes
Mujer: 1st place $200 2nd place: prizes 3rd place: prizes
Junior: 1st place $200 2nd place: prizes 3rd place: prizes
Junior groms: all participants receive a medal
Inscripciones : Thursday March 29th 3-5 pm at Tortilla Flats
Friday, March 30th 6-7:30 am at Tortilla Flats
Mention CRSURF and get $5 off per person for private transport from Dominical to San Jose!
Why I Support the Lifeguards in Dominical, Costa Rica. Read more..
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.dominicallifeguards.org for more information and to donate to their cause.
CAP is for every person living or visiting in our area who wants our region to be safe and crime free. Get involved with the CAP initiatives to be part of the solution for putting a “CAP on Crime”.
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.
After a long trip, I've found the BEST massage therapist - Fabiola Gomez
Call for her at Villas Rio Mar (2787-0052) or she will come to your room or rental - cell: 8829-6125
Description: Costa Rica Surf Camp has been offering surf vacations since 2003. All instructors have worked as lifeguards in Playa Dominical! In addition, they offer a 2:1 student to instructor ratio so we can give you the attention you deserve! At their surf camp, they believe in quality and not quantity. With that and safety in mind, you are guaranteed to get the most out of your surf experience. Check out their website as they are often running specials on classes and full surf packages.
Description: A Yoga and surf camp that specializes in providing one-of-a-kind vacation experiences. They are located in Bahia Ballena – Uvita in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, a gorgeous and still pristine region where you are likely to see animals in their natural habitat and be filled with awe at the beauty that this country is so famous for. They aim to be a sustainable business, catering to individuals, couples, families, and student groups. They provide holistic travel and voluntourism opportunities for those who want to go the extra mile and make their time in Costa Rica as informative as it is unforgettable.
Description: The Surf and Spanish program is popular for those who want to surf early in the morning and later in the afternoon, while getting quality spanish lessons during the middle of the day. Programs include lodging and lessons, plus include opportunities for surf lessons, adventure tours, and volunteer opportunities. ISLS also has campuses in Tamarindo, Turrialba, and San Jose for a complete Costa Rica experience.
Description: Tucked away just off the Plaza In the center of town down a shady little lane along the south bank of the Rio Baru. Their upstairs balconies look out over the Baru estuary, the sandy beach, and breaking surf beyond. They are a tree sheltered garden. Protected. Secure. Affordable. And Convenient. No car necessary. Beaches are a pleasant 5 minute walk away. Get one on one basic or advance surf instruction from a veteran surfer with over 35 years experience.
Description: Beachside location on a rocky peninsula where the surf pounds relentlessly, sending 30-foot blasts of water into the air - the perfect setting for countless hours of inspired relaxation. All suites come with High-speed wireless internet, Simmons Beautyrest beds, Air Conditioning, In-room safe, Daily Housekeeping, Laundry Service, 120 Volt Electical Outlets, and Hot/Cold Showers. Free form pool for all guests to share, and a new kitchen serving breakfast. Delicious menu items can be enjoyed on the patio in the mornings from 7am to 10am.
Description: The hotel has a large swimming pool with wet bar and Jacuzzi, a tennis court, an in-house tour agency, and a romantic palenque style restaurant featuring many local and international dishes. Furthermore, we offer Internet access, International telephone, Conference Center, Spa, and Transportation Services. Our Standard Bungalows will sleep up to 2 people and have a private, terrace like living-room and are equipped with private baths with hot water, refrigerator, fans, and telephone. They also have superior rooms, junior and superior suites.
Read our review. CST Hotel (Certificate of Sustainable Tourism)
Description: The guest house is a 960 sq.ft. two story river front house, fully furnished, handcrafted from native hardwoods and colorful tiles. It includes a full kitchen with oven, fridge, blender, coffeemaker, and cookware. The full bathroom includes a luxurious tiled sunken bath-shower. Laundry facilities on site. Clean towels & linens provided. Housekeeping services optional.
Restaurante La Parcela has served locals and visitors continuously for nearly 40 years. Local and international cuisine, specializing in seafood.
Villas Rio Mar Restaurant
3-star restaurant with international and local chefs. 52" screen T.V. for football season, and a pool bar for those who want to be outdoors.
Sushi and sashimi with the freshest fish and organic ingredients.
San Clemente Snack Shack
Delicious smoothies and health friendly dishes to get you energized pre or post surf. Right across from the beach, 50 yards north of Tortilla Flats
Restaurante Su Raza (Tico)
Good food all around and the best club sandwich you'll ever have. It is where you will see everyone watching Futbol on the weekends. Favorite dishes are the casados and the club sandwich.
Restaurante Nanyoa (Tico)
The owner takes great pride in providing good meals with a local flair. Located right across the street from Hotel Posada del Sol, inexpensive breakfasts and casados.
Tortilla Flats Restaurant
Right across from the ocean, they open at 7 a.m. with hot coffee while checking the surf.
Post surf they offer delicious breakfast options, and it stays busy for lunch and dinner, with a full bar, happy hour, and weekly ladies night.
Roca Verde Bar & Restaurant
Expect high quality dishes every night, plus they have a great party every Saturday night with DJs and occasional live performances. Roca Verde also is the top supporter of the Dominical Lifeguards.
Thai Food that comforts the soul. Try some of their custom cocktails and smoothies.
Fuego Brewery and Restaurant
Beautiful architecture and a friendly staff greet you and offer four delicious beers on tap brewed right downstairs. Gourmet chefs create delicious dinners with unique flavors and fresh ingredients.
Description: Known for its zipline tour through tracts of primary and secondary rainforest, the protected reserve is home to sloths, pizotes, and monkeys. Also has some great hiking trails and tree climbing, and night in the jungle tours.
Bigger sets a little overhead this morning at lower tides with almost glassy conditions. Only a handful out at the rivermouth. Good shape, clean conditions given the rough weather.
Playa Hermosa South also offering fun waves - smaller than Dominical but nice. Too small for Dominicalito and Punta Dominical.
Hotel Roca Verde continues to host live music on Thursday nights with Ken Nickel and his long list of covers and originals. Come in for great food, great music at a beautiful beachfront family venue
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.
CR Surf Travel Co. is an independent agent of Dugan's Travels, which is certified by CLIA, IATAN, and Vacation.com. California Registered Seller 2054922-40 / Washington Registered Seller 602327942 / Fla. Seller of Travel Ref No. ST35992. Please refer to our travel policy page for all information on our travel services.