Dominical is a surfer’s paradise with a laid-back hippy vibe, great organic food and some of the best waves on the Pacific Coast. This 4 km stretch of beach lies just 45 km south of Manuel Antonio, just off the Costanera Sur highway.
There are strong swells here that are ideal for experienced surfers. It’s not safe for swimming, even for advanced swimmers, due to the rip tides. Costa Rica’s coastlines are notorious for strong rip currents so knowing how to recognize them and what to do might just save a life. Most beaches do not have life guards so awareness and taking proper precautions is key to safety.
From the TicoTimes, “Ninety percent of Costa Rica’s 150-200 annual drowning deaths occur in just 30 of Costa Rica’s 600-some beaches, and 80% of those who drown were caught in a rip current.”
What to Do
This area offers exciting land and sea adventures to satisfy everyone’s interests. Stop by the Costa Rica Surf Camp to book a lesson, go scuba diving at Caño Island or Marino Ballena with Padi-certified instructors from Costa Rica Dive & Surf or get your zen on at Danyasa Yoga Retreat and Eco-Lodge. All are within walking distance in the town of Dominical, right along the beach.
Just 10 km into the mountains from Dominical is the spectacular Nauyaca Falls, a 2-tier waterfall that spans 80 meters wide and has a total drop of 65 meters. The hike to the falls is 4 km each way from the parking lot (accessible by 4×4 only) and a moderately difficult hike in the heat and humidity, but the reward is a refreshing swim at the base of the lower falls. They also offer a horseback riding or 4×4 tour option if you’re not up to the hike or have small children. If you are doing the self-guided hike, be sure to bring food and plenty of water, and wear bug repellant.
This beautiful country is home to countless waterfalls, but Diamante Falls offers something very unique. In addition to being the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica at a height of 600 feet, it also has a cave backdrop that fits up to 25 people comfortably. This is a grueling 3 km hike over 800 meters of elevation that requires solid footwear and a good level of fitness. The guided day hike includes a vegetarian lunch behind the falls and a swim in the natural pools, or you can choose to do an overnight experience that includes the hike, an overnight on sleeping platforms within the cavern, 3 vegetarian meals served behind the falls and swimming.
Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge is located just 3 km from Dominical and is a wonderful place to spend a day or overnight at the lodge. Once a cattle ranch, the Ewing family transformed it into a wildlife refuge in 1995 to protect this tropical forest and its inhabitants. There are several guided hikes with naturalist or native guides and over 2 km of self-guided trails. Day and overnight guests can kayak through mangroves, try whitewater kayaking or experience a guided night estuary tour by kayak.
Only 10 minutes outside of Dominical is Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, a non-profit organization whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured, sick and orphaned wildlife. They offer tours, internship and volunteer opportunities for those who want to make a difference, and if you can’t visit, donations are a great way to help out. It is a wonderful place to learn more about the various animal species found here in Costa Rica.
Where to Stay
From the affordable Cool Vibes Hostel which has a single room for $20 US per night, to the vegan-owned, Bali-inspired vegan Waterfall Villas Wellness Retreat there are many great accommodation options in the Dominical area, most within an easy walk to the beach.
While there are plenty of choices for everyone in this small town, this hippy haven is a dining pleasure for vegans and vegetarians.
Mama Toucan’s is a natural and organic food market that, while costly, supplies some of the hard-to-find imported items and even tofu and tempeh sold by weight. Right next door is one of my favorites Café Mono Congo, a popular co-working space with great wifi, situated on the Rio Barú.
If it’s a cold one you’re after, the Fuego Brew Co. has a great selection of in-house craft beers that are sure to please. They also have vegan options on the menu. Asian-inspired Phat Noodle offers many vegan options, but if you want a more traditional gallo pinto look no further than Café Delicias.
A weekly Farmer’s Market or “feria” is located in Dominical and also in Tinamastes, a community about 25 minutes into the mountains from Dominical. A visit to the feria is a great social activity and a way to meet the locals, and is the place to go for fresh, organic, plastic-free produce as well as preserves, body products, good eats, plants, artisan crafts and much more.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an evolving situation. Be sure to confirm availability and health protocols with your destination prior to arrival.