Written by Mike Shannon
Population: 500-1000 (dep. on season)
Location: Southern Pacific Coast
Type: Small Beach Town
Climate: 28˚C Avg. High
Humidity: 80% at sea level
Seasons: Dry Season November to April, Rainy Season May to October
Attracts: Surfers, retirees, nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers
Wedged between the gorgeous beaches of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast and the coastal mountains is the sleepy beach town of Dominical. In a nutshell, Dominical is known for its beaches, surfing, wildlife, waterfalls, National Parks and its stunning natural beauty. But the first thing you’re met with is the sleepy, laid back vibe of this diminutive beach town, for many, the most alluring feature. As you read on you will see why so many who love a laid back lifestyle, and some of the most acclaimed natural beauty in Costa Rica, have chosen to live in the Dominical area.
Dominical sits at the mouth of the Barú River that flows down from the mountains and into the sea. Like most beach towns in Costa Rica, Dominical was first established as a fishing village decades ago, accessible only by boat or dirt roads through rugged mountain terrain. Back in the day, you REALLY had to want to get there. But the warmth and beauty of this region made the trip worthwhile for many, putting it on the map, so to speak. Today, it marks the intersection of 2 beautifully paved roads, making easy access only a matter of driving time. Coastal highway 34 connects you with all points north and south while inland highway 243 connects you safely to inland towns like San Isidro and eventually, San Jose, the nation’s capital, via meandering mountain roads that are well worth the drive if you’re not in a hurry. But hey, this is Costa Rica... who’s in a hurry?
The town itself sports a permanent population of only 500 people but can swell to 1,000 during high season between November and April. And if you count the surrounding mountain towns and barrios, it would be closer to 3 or 4,000. Those living in Dominical enjoy access to basic services, but a lazy drive through the mountain road lands you in San Isidro in about 45 minutes, one of Costa Rica’s fastest growing cities. Here, you can find anything you might need like banks, restaurants, shops, bars, municipal offices and a hospital. Small communities along the way each offer differing styles of restaurants, but all typically overlook the stunning mountain vistas making your monthly supply run a wonderful day trip.
Where Mountains Meet the Sea
Mountains are abundant in Costa Rica, as are beautiful beaches, and Dominical has both. But this is one of the few places where the mountains tumble right into the sea, making for stunning coastal vistas and a prime spot for hikers, birders and adventure seekers. Playa Ventanas, a popular beach south of town, is where the pounding surf has carved 2 giant caves into the side of the coastal mountain over the years. These caves are often frequented by visitors during low tide. And with the right conditions, high tide produces a giant blow hole that blasts mist high into the air with each swell that reaches shore. There are stunning scenes to rival this one in the many beaches that surround this town, as well as long stretches of sandy shore to leisurely stroll, explore and surf!
Surf Is Up in Dominical
Dominical is well known for excellent surfing with a heavy, consistent wave year-round. But it’s not too popular as it’s generally not crowded except for 2 or 3 holiday weekends per year when Ticos from the Central Valley hit the beaches for the long weekend. Personally, I welcome this flurry of activity because it’s a break from the constant quiet, with its brevity making it tolerable. So for the other 358 days a year, this is a laid back surf town that is in transition to a more popular surf town because of all it offers. But, as of this writing, it’s still early to bed and early to rise with all its various restaurants closing by 10pm with no nightlife to speak of. This town is all about the beach, the surfing and the nature, and the locals prefer to keep it that way although spots like this are very hard to keep secret and growth is inevitable. Helping to maintain its charm, Dominical’s diminutive size is limited by the topography so it’s unlikely that it will ever become as popular or as busy as Jaco, about 90 minutes up the coast, or Tamarindo, the hotspot of Guanacaste on the Northern coast. Check out MagicSeaWeed.com for all you need to know about surfing in Dominical.
Dominical offers plenty of spectacular beaches north and south of town. Beaches suitable for lounging and swimming are Playa Ventanas, Playa Piñuelas and Playa Dominicalito. For long tranquil walks and horseback riding, there are huge beaches like Playa Linda, Playa Hermosa and Playa Matapalo that stretch for a few kilometers. You can often walk these beaches and never see another living soul. But Playa Dominical is where you can also enjoy bars & restaurants of every variety and the local custom of cocktails at sunset.
Unsurpassed Natural Beauty
Dominical is not just a destination, it’s also a starting point. Traveling 45 minutes in virtually any direction can land you in some of the most amazing places in the world. And this is because of the vast eco-diversity offered by various micro-climates packed into a very small area. From the beaches at ground zero, the mountains climb higher and higher up to 3,500 feet as you move only 2 kilometers inland. Further up is famous Mount Chirripó, in the Chirripó National Park, which reaches a peak of about 13,000 feet above sea level at only 20 miles inland. This rapid accent produces several micro climates that you can feel as you drive, the likes of which all produce unique ecology, plant and wildlife. From this vantage point, with the right conditions, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Fascinating doesn’t even begin to describe this magical part of the world.
Throughout this region are more waterfalls than you could count as waterfalls love gravity, which is in abundance here. You can venture to one of the hundreds of waterfalls on your own, but any of the pre-arranged national park tours will get you to the most popular ones, and it is well worth it. Trails are well marked and safe, and most of these waterfalls have a swimming hole to dip in when you get there for a true postcard experience. And prices are always reasonable, as Costa Rica is very proud of its natural beauty, and the Parks Service bend over backwards to encourage all who wish to experience it.
Back at sea level, you can travel along the coastal highway to some of the most amazing places in the world, like the Corcovado National Park & Térraba-Sierpe Mangroves, the Caño Island Snorkeling and the Nauyaca Waterfalls Horseback Riding adventure. And of course, the very popular Marino Ballena National Park near Uvita, known for amazing whale watching and the Whale Tail coral formation. Check out these amazing Dominical area experiences.
Closer to home, there’s the enchanting Playa Linda, a long beach just north of Dominical with fine grey-brown sand to wander and explore. And you can’t be there for long without finding an eco-tourism service or yoga retreat. This part of the world is absolutely Zen-like, which attracts like-minded people, and a stunning variety of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals that make this area their home. It is not uncommon to spot exotic wildlife roaming the area like sloths, monkeys, anteaters, toucans and ocelots among a multitude of others. If it’s nature in seclusion you seek, contact us and we will be happy to give you a tour of the many homes for sale in Playa Dominical.
Check out all regions popular towns
Browse all Costa Rica