Dominical, Costa Rica Travel Guide: Where Beach Meets Jungle
Dominical Costa Rica is best described as a small beach town where the ocean meets hilly dense jungle
The Dominical Costa Rica Vibes
Dominical consists of a small (but lively) downtown area, beaches, and dense jungle mountains.
Even though it is a small town there are still plenty of excellent restaurants and many to do.
We like this area for an easy drive from San Jose, fun activities, and relaxation.
Background Info About Dominical Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose
Popular Things to Do
surfing, visiting Nauyaca waterfall, whale watching tours, Envision Festival
Best Way to Get Around
Rental car, walking in the downtown area
Best Time of Year to Visit
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).
We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.
We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Map Of Dominical
Dominical is located south of Manuel Antonio and just north of Uvita on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
Flights to Costa Rica
The easiest way of getting to Dominical is by flying into the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose.
For flight booking we suggest Skyscanner. They are our go-to flight booking site for great rates.
Driving to Dominical
Your best option for getting to Dominical is to fly into San Jose airport and drive down. The drive will take about four hours depending on traffic.
You have two options for driving, you can either drive down the coastal road or through the mountains.
On a sunny day, this drive is absolutely beautiful. There are several places along the way where you can pull off to get a nice ocean view.
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The mountain route by San Isidro de General will take you at least an hour longer than the coastal route. This route is really pretty, but the roads are a bit scary. Everything is paved but you can expect lots of curves and switchbacks.
As someone who gets really car sick, this ride is a bit of a nightmare. Plus, if you get stuck behind a slow-moving truck it can be very difficult to pass them.
We suggest using Adobe for car rentals because they are the most trustworthy rental car company in this country (in our opinion) and we have a 10% rental car discount for you.
You will not need a 4×4 to get to Dominical Costa Rica.
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Private Shuttle to Dominical
If you don’t feel comfortable driving we suggest taking a private shuttle. This is nice because you can sit back and relax in an air conditioned van while an experienced driver gets you safely to your destination.
We suggest Adobe Transfers for this.
You can get your price quote here.
Public Bus to Dominical Costa Rica
The best bus option we have found is to take the Tracopa bus. The bus leaves from downtown San Jose every day at 6:00 am and 3:00pm. It will cost about $12 each way.
This bus is air-conditioned, semi-comfortable, and drives directly to Uvita. You can just ask to get out at Dominical and they will let you out.
Domestic Flights to Dominical
There is a small airport in Quepos (about 45 minutes north of Dominical).
It is possible to take a domestic flight from San Jose. The flight is really fast (only about 25 minutess). But, keep in mind that we don’t suggest this if you are scared of smaller planes.
From the airport it is easy to get a taxi to Dominical or have your rental car delivered to the airport by Adobe.
Transportation In Dominical
We suggest depending on a rental car while in Dominical. Dominical has a really cute downtown area that you can easily walk, but you’ll probably want to do a lot of exploring in the surrounding areas as well.
If you opt to take a shuttle or the bus to Dominical, you can rent a car from Adobe and input Uvita as your pick-up location. They have an office directly in the downtown area of Uvita.
In the comments section of the rental car reservation, you can also specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel in Dominical. Adobe will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their location.
Usually, they are really awesome and will deliver it even if it is a bit more than 12 miles away. If you’re unsure if your hotel is over 12 miles, just leave us a comment in the comment section and we will check with Adobe to get it approved.
Alternatively, you can ask your Adobe Transfer to drop you off at the Adobe office in Uvita. You can then just pick up your car there.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and you will get a 10% discount! Score! You can find out more about it here.
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Dominical Costa Rica Weather
Every time we have been in Dominical it has been really hot. Bring a lot of strong sunscreen here. You’ll need it!
The most popular time to visit Dominical is between the end of December through early May. This is dry season in Dominical. You can expect extremely hot weather and no rain.
We like to visit this area between May through mid-August. At that time of year, you will likely have a daily afternoon thunderstorm, but there are far fewer tourists. The downside is that the humidity is ridiculous. Everything just feels wet at all times.
From mid-August through mid-December you can expect the temperature to cool off a bit and more rain.
Things to Do in Dominical Costa Rica
Dominical is a popular surfing town. There are plenty of places where you can take surfing lessons or just rent a board for the day.
There are tons of options for fishing day trips in Dominical, but if you want to fish on a budget you might even have good luck fishing from a hand line on the beach. We saw plenty of locals doing this, so it must be possible to catch stuff.
Check out the Artists Stands
All along the road to the beach in Dominical artists set up stands to sell their artistic creations. This is the perfect spot if you want unique souvenirs for your family and friends back home. We like to just browse all the creativity.
Just be warned, everything is so unique that it is hard to leave without buying something.
Relax on the Beach
Playa Dominical is a nice palm tree lined beach. It is the perfect place to spend the day relaxing, walking, and enjoying the waves.
For a more relaxed experience, drive a few minutes south to Playa Dominicalito.
Take a Yoga Class
Dominical is known as a yoga paradise. There are so many yoga companies. I suggest asking at your hotel if they have any recommendations. Sometimes they can get you good discounts.
Go to Envision Festival
Envision festival is the big music festival that takes place once a year in February. It’s a really fun and unique experience that doesn’t just focus on music but spoken workshops, artistic expression, etc. as well.
Take a Whale Watching Tour
The South Pacific coast of Costa Rica is known as the Costa Ballena for a reason. Ballena means whale in Spanish and this area is a prime whale-watching destination.
Every year in August and September it is possible to see migrating Humpback Whales.
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Dominical may be a small town, but they definitely are not lacking in delicious restaurants here!
Cuna de Angel: A high-end gluten-free restaurant located just south of Dominical in Cuna del Angel hotel.
Dominical Sushi: This is some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten, something I would have never expected in Costa Rica. They also have a nice selection of cocktails.
Phat Noodle: Another amazing ethnic restaurant in Dominical. If you are into Thai food, head here. You certainly won’t be disappointed. Their portions are huge and the vibe here is perfect.
Cafe Mono Congo: We like this place for breakfast and lunch. Everything is super fresh and tasty. It is the perfect place to grab lunch to go or relax and sit for a while.
Fuego Brew Co: They brew their own craft beer here with a Costa Rican twist. The food is also decent. However, the real cool thing about this place is the architecture.
Del Mar Taco Shop – Two words….Taco Tuesdays! Yeap, on Tuesdays they have one taco for 1,000 colones ($2). It’s not just the tacos here though which are excellent. Everything is super tasty.
El Pescado Loco: This place is just a small stand with some tables and chairs in downtown Dominical.
It is fast, easy to get to, and tasty.
Get the fish tacos!
Dominical Costa Rica Hotels
Lapazul Boutique Hotel – This hotel is located in the hills above Dominical. Everything here is modern, well maintained, and nice. The staff will go above and beyond to make sure your stay is amazing.
Alternatively, if you are interested in staying in the nearby town of Uvita, we have a 10% discount for you with one of our favorite resorts, Rancho Pacifico.
Use code: VIBES10 at checkout for a 10% discount on your stay!
Hotel Villas Rio Mar: This place has great amenities such as a nice pool, tennis court, mini golf, and outdoor exercise equipment. It is a larger place with about 50 rooms in total.
Cool Vibes Beach Hostel: Nice hostel in downtown Dominical. There is a shared kitchen and pool on the property.
Tropical Sands Dominical: Simple (but nice) rooms located in downtown Dominical.
Vacation Rentals in Dominical
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.
Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.
Casa Linda – This place is amazing because it is a short walk to the beach but still features great views. It has a six bedrooms and can sleep 12 guests. The home is modern and has a nice infinity pool.
Caballitos Del Mar – If you would like to be directly on the beach, this is a great option for you. The house has three bedrooms and can sleep seven guests. There is also a private pool on the property.
Suenos Pacificos – A 3 bedroom home which sleeps 6 guests. We like that this home has a lot of light, the outside area is nice, and the pool is great.
New Luxury Villa – This home is minimal and modern with a large deck, pool, foosball table, fitness studio, pool table, and fire table. In other words, you will have a lot of fun here.
Casa Pura Vida – This place is unique and that is why we love it. It is all stone and just has a lot of personality. The home sleeps 6 guests in 3 bedrooms.
Dominical Travel Tips
– Please be careful when swimming at the beaches around Dominical. There is a powerful rip current in this area.
– If possible, pack fast drying items. It is ridiculously humid here and nothing ever seems to dry.
– Please be careful during the rainy season. This area is known for flash floods in the rivers during heavy storms. A young man on his honeymoon died in 2018 due to being sucked out during a flash flood after his car went off the road. Please be careful.
-Dominical is a great place to spend a night on your way down to the Osa Peninsula (Puerto Jimenez and Drake Bay area)
Packing for Dominical Costa Rica
Dominical packing should be a mix of beach and hiking gear.
If you plan on hiking to Nauyaca waterfall we definitely suggest good shoes. We like Keen waterproof shoes so that we can then wear them at the waterfall.
This is a really relaxed town so there is no need to dress fancy, but there are some nicer restaurants. For nice meals we usually opt for sundresses or shorts and a decent shirt.
Keep in mind that you might want to save some space in your suitcase if you plan to buy souvenirs from the street vendors.
Check out our Dominical Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
Dominical Costa Rica FAQ
How far is Dominical from San Jose Costa Rica?
Dominical is approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of San Jose, Costa Rica. The driving distance between the two places is around 190 kilometers (118 miles), and it usually takes around 3 to 4 hours to drive from San Jose to Dominical, depending on traffic conditions and the specific route taken.
Should I stay in Uvita or Dominical Costa Rica?
Both towns are great places to stay. Uvita has a bit more infrastructure with more restaurants and hotels. Dominical is a bit quieter.
Is Dominical Costa Rica safe?
Yes, generally Dominical is very safe. However, it is always best to use caution. Petty crime does sometimes happen.
Is Dominical Costa Rica worth visiting?
Yes, Dominical is definitely worth visiting. Here you get the best of both beaches and lush jungle. Plus there are plenty of opportunities for day trips nearby.
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Uvita: Home to Marino Ballena National Park and a popular place for whale watching tours
….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Osa Peninsula for more ideas of places to visit in this area.