About Dominical

Dominical hits a real sweet spot with the travelers who wander up and down its rough dirt road with a surfboard under an arm, balancing the day’s activities between surfing and hammock hang time. And although some may decry the large population of ex-pats and gringos who have hunkered down here, proud residents are quick to point out that Dominical recalls the mythical ‘old Costa Rica’ – the days before the roads were all paved, and when the coast was dotted with lazy little towns that drew a motley crew of surfers, backpackers and affable do-nothings alike. Dominical has no significant cultural sights, no paved roads and no chain restaurants, and if you’re not here to learn to surf or to swing in a hammock it might not be the place for you.

But the overall picture is a bit more complex, especially since Dominical is starting to stretch its legs, seeking to attract more than the college-aged and shoe-stringer sets. The completion of the Costanera Sur, which runs right by town, is facilitating the spread of development further south along the coast, which has brought along with it an in-tense wave of foreign investment. Although reliable wi-fi is now available throughout town, the dirt roads are still unpaved and Dominical remains the sort of place where

It’s best to just slow down, unwind and take things as they come.


Sights & Activities

Dominical owes its fame to its seriously sick point and beach breaks, though surf conditions here are variable. There is a great opportunity to learn surfing in the white water beach breaks, but beware of getting in too deep, as you can really get trashed out here if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re just getting started, stay in the white water or make for the nearby Playa Dominicalito, which is a bit tamer.


Centro Turístico Cataratas Nauyaca Waterfall (Tel: 2787-0542,. 2787-0541;. www.cataratasnauyaca.com;. horseback. tour. US$60,. hike. admission. US$5;. tours. depart. 8am. Mon-sat;. c) This Costa Rican family-owned and -operated center is home to a series of wonderful waterfalls that cascade through a protected reserve of both primary and secondary forest. The family runs horseback-riding tours to the falls, where visitors can swim in the inviting natural pools. Led by experienced guides, the six-hour tours include breakfast, lunch and transfers from Dominical – reservations required. Alternatively, you can pay US$5 and hike to the falls independently if you’re in decent shape.

The center is located 10km up the road to San Isidro de El General; you’ll find the junction just north of the turnoff for Dominical. Accommodations in Dominical can also arrange tours.


Parque Reptilandia ZOO (Tel: 8308-8855,. 2787-0343;. www.crreptiles.com;. adult/child. US$12/6;. h 9am-4:30pm) Though Parque Reptilandia is a reptile lover’s dream come true on any day, keep in mind that Fri-day is feeding day. If you’re traveling with kids who love slick and slimy reptiles and amphibians, or you yourself just can’t get enough of these prehistoric creatures, don’t miss the chance to get face to face with Cos-ta Rica’s most famous reptiles. The animal park is home to everything from alligators and crocodiles to turtles and poison-dart frogs.

Our favorite is the viper section, home to such infamous critters as the deadly fer-de-lance. The park is located in the town of Platanillo, which is 7km up the road to San


Central Pacific Coast

Bamboo Yoga Play Yoga (Tel: 2787-0229,. in. USA. 323-522-5454;. www.bam-booyogaplay.com;. classes. US$14) Complementary as yoga is to surfing, it’s no wonder the practice is sweeping across Costa Rica. This lovely Dominical studio offers a variety of classes for all levels, including unique dance-yoga-flow hybrid styles and even burlesque dance. The studio also serves as a center for yoga and arts retreats and offers several tidy accommodations for people interested in yoga-intensive stays.

Dominical Surf Adventures rafting,. Surfing (Tel: 8897-9540,. 2787-0431;. www.dominicalsurfad-ventures.com;. h8am-5pm. Mon-sat,. 9am-3pm. sun) A bit of an adventurer’s one-stop shop; visitors can book white-water trips, kayaking , snorkel and dive trips and surf lessons from this humble little desk on the main drag. Rafting trips start at US$80 (for runs on the Class II and III Guabo) and include a more challenging run on the Rio Coto Brus’ Class IV rapids. Thankfully, there’s no hustling sales pitch.

Pineapple Kayak Tours kayaking (Tel: 8362-7655,. 8873-3283;. www.pineapplekayak-tours.com;.tours.US$) Run by a friendly young Tico-American couple, Pineapple Kayak Tours runs kayaking and stand-up paddle trips to local caves, rivers and mangrove forests. Find the office next to the police station in Dominical.


Adventure Education Center (Tel: 2787-0023,. in. USA. &. Canada. 800-237-2730;. www.adventurespanishschool.com) This school runs one-week Spanish-language pro-grams, starting at US$260 without accommodations. Private lessons are available, as are discounts for longer periods of study. Various lodging options are available, from homestays to hotels.



Dominical has emerged as a jumping-off point for trips to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena and, further south, Parque Nacional Corcovado. Get details at Dominical Information Center (Tel: 8651-9090,.2787-0454;. www.dominicalinformation.com), which can hook you up with local tour operators who can customize tours to your interests. Dominical Surf Adventures also has a suite of tours. Excellent kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) day trips are on offer from Pineapple Kayak Tours, in local rivers, mangrove forests and Ventanas Caves.



Dominical proper is home to the majority of the area’s budget accommodations, while midrange and top-end places are popping up on the outskirts of town. The rates given here are for high season, but low-season rates could be 30Tel: to 40Tel: lower. Note that there are additional accommodations options in the nearby mountaintop village of



Although Dominical attracts some serious surfers and the waves can be gnarly, the quality of surf instruction here is among the best and most affordable in the country. For beginners who need lots of time and attention, the two most important questions to ask are about the ratio of students to instructors and if rates include board rental. There are scores of shops and instructors who offer services with a wide range of quality; the following come highly recommended.

In Town

In addition to the spots listed below, there are several budget places right along the beach road. Because they’re in the middle of party central, be aware that late-night noise is an issue.

Posada del Sol Hotel$ (Tel: 2787-0085,. 2787-0082;. d. from. US$30;. p W ) There are only five rooms at this charming, secure, tidy little place, but if you score one, consider yourself lucky (no advance reservations are taken). Posada del Sol hits the perfect price point and has basic comforts – hammocks outside each room, a sink to rinse out your salty suit and a clothesline to dry it.

Its no place to party (it’s a short stroll to the beach or to the bars in town), but the warm-hearted, watchful proprietor, Leticia, makes the place so inviting. Single travelers should check out the tiny single in the back – a great deal. Located 30m south of the school.

Cool Vibes Hostel $ (Piramys;. Tel: 8353-6538,.8353-6428;.www.hosteldo-minical.com;.dm.US$10;.p I W ) Run by a sweet young French couple, this lovely hostel is a quiet beachfront haven at the southern end of town. Taking full advantage of ocean views, the hostel has two open-air dormitories with single and double beds draped in mosquito nets. A huge, airy lounge has ham-mocks, wi-fi and TV, and there’s a communal kitchen and surfboards for rent.

Accommodations are quite limited, so it’s first come, first served.

Que Nivel $ (Tel: 2787-0127;. r. US$35-45) Que Nivel may not be the best choice for restless sleepers or lovers of light, but it’s affordable and near the beach. Concrete rooms downstairs are quite dark, although they come with air-con and are decorated in cheery colors with a surprisingly modern look. Upstairs, fan-only rooms get better light. There’s a shared kitchen, as well as a lively restaurant-bar.


Domilocos $$ (Tel: 2787-0244;. www.domilocos.com;. r. incl. break-fast.US$75;.paiWs) On the road in the southern end of town, Domilocos is a solid midrange option, with Mediterranean-inspired grounds, an attractive plunge pool lined with potted plants and one of the town’s best restaurants, ConFusione. Tile-floored rooms with solid beds and bamboo furniture are basic but spacious and clean.


Hotel Villas Río Mar $$ (Tel: 2787-0052;. www.villasriomar.com;. Bungalows. US$89,. ste. US$140;. p a i W s ) S From the turnoff into town, a right turn will bring you to this property about 800m from the village. Here you’ll find a few dozen polished-wood Bungalows, each with a private hammock-strung terrace, as well as a handful of luxury suites that accommodate small groups. Río Mar also offers a pool, Jacuzzi, tennis court, playground, equipment rental, restaurant and bar.


Hotel DiuWak $$$ (Tel: 2787-0087;.www.diuwak.com;.r.US$105-145,.ste. US$200;. p a i W s ) While the location in the center of town is super-convenient, this hotel could use a bit of an upgrade for these prices. Rooms range greatly in size and are quite comfortable, with hot water and all the modern conveniences you would expect, amid a lovely tropical garden. Onsite amenities include a bar, restaurant, convenience store, fitness center and spa.


Around Dominical

Guests rave about the organic produce on offer at Sabina’s restaurant, as well as the daily yoga classes in her open-air studio. The B&B often hosts yoga retreats, so it’s best to book ahead as early as possible. You’ll find it in the village of Hatillo, about 6km north of town along the Costanera Sur.



The founder of the Costa Rican Hostel Network has spent the last several years raising the bar for Costa Rica backpackers.

What does it mean to be Costa Rican? To understand this, all you need to do is spend some time hanging out with us Costa Ricans, or, as we prefer to call ourselves, Ticos. I think one of the most infectious qualities of Ticos is that we don’t think too much about the future, and instead prefer to have a great time and simply enjoy the moment. You know, almost immediately upon arriving in this country, travelers are greeted with the words pura vida, which really is a catchall phrase for Ticos. Although it directly translates as ‘pure life’, pura vida really is a philosophy of living that all of us strive to uphold.

What is the best way for travelers to experience Costa Rica? The great thing about this country is that it has a youthful spirit, so you don’t have to be 18 or 21 to have a good time here. In Costa Rica the great social equalizer is beer, so all you have to do is grab a bottle and just interact with the people around you.


Costa Paraíso $$$ (Tel: 2787-0025;. www.costa-paraiso.com;. d. US$140-150;. p a W s ) In a prime spot overlooking a rocky cove in Playa Dominicalito, this snug hideaway lives up to its name. Each of the five rooms is beautifully appointed in a modern tropical style, with cool tile floors, wood beams and furniture and windows oriented to catch ocean breezes and views. Bonus: the in-house restaurant (p400) is a destination in itself.

All but one room (which does come with fridge and coffeemaker) has a kitchenette. Keep an eye out for the tiny sign on the ocean side, 2km south of Dominical – it’s a sharp turn that goes steeply downhill.


Cascadas Farallas (Tel: 2787-8378;. www.waterfallvillas.com;. ste/villas. from. US$125/190;. p a s ) Although it’s a bit outside Dominical proper, this spiritual re-treat is located beside a series of cascading waterfalls. Balinese-style suites and villas are decked out from floor to ceiling with Asian art, and all have balconies facing the waterfalls. Regular yoga and meditation sessions are balanced with exclusively vegan cuisine. This eco-retreat has no TV and no wi-fi.

To reach the property, take the San Isidro de El General fork (just north of the Dominical turnoff) for 6km, and look out for the sign marking the entrance.


Eating & Drinking

The restaurant scene in Dominical is of a high standard, catering mostly to foreign guests. The town also loves to party, though the scene changes from night to night. Maracutú hosts lots of live music and DJs; the late-night scene unfolds at San Clemente on Friday and Hotel y Restaurante Roca Verde on Saturday.


In Town

Soda Nanyoa $ (Tel: 2787-0195;. mains. US$3-7;. h 6am-10pm) In a town that caters to gringo appetites with inflated price tags, Nanyoa is a gratifying find: an authentic, moderately priced, better-than-most Costa Rican soda. The big pinto breakfasts and fresh-squeezed juice are ideal after a morning session on the waves, and at night it lets patrons bring their own beer from the grocery across the street.

Chapy′s Healthy Subs & Wraps $ (Tel: 2787-0283;. meals. US$5-10;. h 11am-6:30pm;. v c ) With crunchy wraps and thick, grilled-veg sandwiches stacked high on homemade focaccia, Chapy’s is a vegetarian’s delight. As healthy as they are delicious, the sandwiches can be dressed in spicy hummus and homemade sauces. If you need a lunch to grab and go, this place has the best stuff in town.

Moca Café $ (Tel: 8783-2806;. mains. US$3-9;. h 6am-6pm;. p W8 v) Best espresso in town, hands down. The airy riverside cafe also dishes up tasty, simple breakfasts and lunches, using organic local produce. Find it at the junction of the road into town and the main drag.

Café de Ensueños (meals. US$4-8;. h 6am-8pm) Run by a lovely Tico family, this cafe is tucked away at the end of the southern spur road. Organic coffee drinks, fresh juices and hearty breakfasts are served alfresco under a covered terrace – an excellent spot for a quiet, unhurried morning.

Maracutú vegetarian, Asian.$$

(Tel: 2787 0091;.www.maracatucostarica.com;.meals. US$6-12;. h 11am-1am;. v ) This ‘natural restaurant and world music’ spot hits a lovely high note in Dominical, serving mostly vegetarian and vegan dishes of international provenance, but skewing towards Asian. From vegan pad thai to shiitake soba salad, the food is made from organic and locally sourced produce as much as possible. For your aural pleasure, the musical rotation changes genres nightly.

San Clemente Bar & Grill Bar (h9am-midnight) Near the center of the village away from the beach, this classic Dominical watering hole is decorated with broken surfboards on the walls and serves up big breakfasts and Tex-Mex dishes (meals US$5 to US$12). It’s also one of the more popular places to drink with like-minded travelers from around the world.

Tortilla Flats Bar (Tel: 2787-0033) The beachfront Tortilla Flats is the de facto place for surfers to enjoy session beers and tacos after a morning in the water. Its open-air atmosphere is pleasant, the surf videos on continuous loop and the good times abundant, but the staff are unfortunately surly.


Around Dominical

¿Por Qué No? $$ (Tel: 2787-0025;. www.cpporqueno.com;. mains. US$5-14;. h 7am-2pm. &. 5:30-9:30pm,. closed. Mon. night) Blackberry-and-cream-cheese-stuffed French toast, anyone? (Served with real maple syrup – this Canadian-run establishment doesn’t mess around.) If breakfast doesn’t turn you on, it’s worth making a reservation for any other time of day, as the creative,

well-executed Tico fusion cuisine at this restaurant at the Costa Paraíso hotel represents some of the best eats around here.

Organic, locally sourced ingredients are used whenever possible. Dishes like mango jerk chicken, vegetarian cassoulet and wood-fired pizza is quite reasonably priced, especially considering the quality and freshness, and the gorgeous oceanfront location can’t be beat.



Bookstore by the Seashore (11am-4pm. Mon-sat) The central Pacific coast is a virtual desert when it comes to good English-language bookshops, so readers who love actual paper books will want to stock up at this oasis. A shop on the road into town, Bookstore by the Seashore is packed with well-curated used fiction, nonfiction and genre titles – in excellent condition, and most for five bucks a pop.


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