8 Things to Do in Dominical

Last Updated: May 10, 2021

Dominical is probably best known for its waves, which draw surfers from all around the world. But there’s a lot more to this quirky beach town and the surrounding stretch of coastline called the Costa Ballena than just surf. What we love most about this region of Costa Rica is the combination of jungle-filled mountains and ocean. The nearby hills are a playground for wildlife and hiking enthusiasts, and the nearly deserted beaches are the perfect escape for those looking to relax and unwind. In this post, we share eight of our favorite things to do in Dominical.

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Things to Do in Dominical

Nauyaca Waterfalls

One of our favorite things to do in Dominical (and in Costa Rica) is hiking to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. When we have friends or family in town, we often take them there and it ends up being one of their favorite activities too.

This two-tiered waterfall is one of Costa Rica’s most dramatic, with a 61 meter (200 foot) combined drop and a deep natural pool for swimming.

You can arrive to the falls on horseback or pickup truck with a local tour company ($30-80 pp). Or if you’re up for a moderately difficult hike, we recommend going on your own on foot ($10 pp). This will let you take in the gorgeous surrounding rainforest.

For more information about the hike, check out our post Visiting the Beautiful Nauyaca Waterfalls.

Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge

One of the best places in the area for a day hike is Hacienda Baru. Hacienda Baru is a hotel and wildlife refuge off the highway just north of Dominical.

What makes this property so special is the diversity of habitats, which include primary and secondary forest, mangrove, grassland, and even beach. Monkeys, sloths, peccaries (similar to a wild boar), white-nosed coati, and caimen are often seen along the trails. And if you’re into birding, Hacienda Baru is one of the best places around, with over 330 species identified!

The 4.3 miles (7 km) of trails at Hacienda Baru are well maintained so self-guided hikes are an option. You may see more wildlife, however, with the help of one of the Reserve’s expert guides. Guided tours (3-4 hours) are around $45 per person and include admission. 

For more information about visiting Hacienda Baru, including detailed info on the different trails, see our separate post.

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Raised platform at Hacienda Baru

Mangrove or Ocean Kayak/SUP Tour

If you’re looking to take in the beautiful scenery out on the water, consider a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tour. These take you either through the nature-filled mangroves or to the ocean.

Mangrove river tours are great for all levels. We’ve done this ourselves and really enjoyed the experience. As you creep along the calm water, you’ll learn about the ecology of this important ecosystem and get to see some of its inhabitants. Monkeys, herons, kingfisher, crabs, raccoons, and sometimes even crocodiles and sloths are seen on the natural canals.

For a little more excitement, ocean trips are another option. These take you around the famous Whale Tail in Marino Ballena National Park for snorkeling or to see the caves at some of the area’s most secluded beaches.

Tours are $75-85 per person. 

Kayaking in the Mangroves - 7 Things to Do in Dominical, Costa Rica
Kayak and SUP in the mangroves near Dominical

Parque Reptilandia

Reptile enthusiasts or anyone with an appreciation for nature will love Parque Reptilandia.

This outdoor park has tons of different enclosures where you’ll see reptiles from Costa Rica and all around the world. Snakes make up the majority of exhibits, but they also have other interesting creatures like tortoises, crocodiles, and lizards. One enclosure also has poison dart frogs, so if you’ve been wanting to see these adorable amphibians, Reptilandia is the place to go.

This is a fun spot to visit for a couple of hours and a great activity for kids. Our boys always love coming here.

$12 for adults, $6 for children 14 and under.

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

If you want to get up close to some of Costa Rica’s most exotic wildlife, check out the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

This center does some extremely important work for area wildlife. They rescue and rehabilitate animals and birds that have been injured or abandoned in the wild or confiscated in the illegal pet trade, then nurse them back to health in the hopes of release. The wildlife you’ll see is constantly changing, but the center often has white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, white-nosed coati, sloths, armadillos, kinkajoos, and anteaters.

Minimum donation $25 for adults, $15 for children 12 and under.

Tours can be arranged directly through the Sanctuary.

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
White-faced Capuchin Monkey

Whale Watching

The Costa Ballena (Whale Coast) gets its name from the hundreds of humpback whales that migrate to the region’s warm waters every year to breed and rear young. This is one of the most special areas in the world for whale watching so if you’re visiting Costa Rica during whale season, it is something you won’t want to miss.

The best time of year to see humpbacks and their babies is from August to November, with peak times in the Costa Ballena during September and October.

Whale watching tours can be arranged in Uvita. They are $70-90 per person depending on the season and last 3.5-4 hours. 

For detailed information about whale watching in Costa Rica, read our separate post.

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Whale watching in Uvita

Diamante Waterfall and Cave

In the mountains behind Dominical is another amazing waterfall, and this one also has a cave.

You have to be up for a moderate to difficult hike to get there and it’s only possible to visit with a guide. Once you arrive, you will be well rewarded with a twin waterfall and cave as its backdrop.

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we recommend doing the overnight at the cave. The tour company will cook your meals there and provide bedding and bug nets to make for a comfortable sleep.

Day hikes are $70-90 per person adults. Overnights are $129-159 per person adults. Discounted rates available for kids.

For more information on the Diamante hike, read our separate post

Cave at Diamante Waterfall near Dominical
The cave that backs the Diamante Waterfall

Souvenir Shopping

If you have some time after one of your excursions, be sure to peruse the souvenir shops in town and right along the beach in Dominical.

Every day, locals sets up in between the palm trees, selling everything from T-shirts, sarongs, and towels to jewelry, handmade wooden items, and even hammocks.

One of our favorite spots is Ruth’s Clothing right as you come into town from the highway. Ruth is a charasmatic local who makes just about all the clothes in her shop herself. 

7 Things to do in Dominical | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Need More Ideas?

Those are our top eight things to do in Dominical.

If you’re looking for more ideas, there’s also the popular beach town of Manuel Antonio about 45 minutes north. Manuel Antonio offers even more activities like whitewater rafting, a catamaran tour, parasailing, a spice farm tour, and lots more.

Have you visited Dominical? What was your favorite activity?

Last Updated: May 10, 2021

Looking for more info to help plan your trip? Check out these posts:

Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged – If you’re heading south after Dominical to the Osa Peninsula, make sure to read our destination guide all about Drake Bay.

San Gerardo de Dota: A Hideaway in the Cloud Forest – Want to cool off after the beach? This tiny mountain town is a great place to experience the cloud forest and is only a couple of hours from Dominical.

How to Spend 1 or 2 Days in San Jose, Costa Rica – Dedicating a day or two to exploring the city is a great idea. Check out our recommendations for museums, restaurants, and hotels.

Related Posts

Playa Ocotal: A Relaxing Black Sand Beach
Wildlife Viewing Manuel Antonio National Park
The Wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park
Reptilandia Park Dominical
Reptilandia Dominical: Snakes, Turtles, Crocs, and More
Playa Ventanas Cave
Playa Ventanas, Puntarenas: A Beach with Caves


  1. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    My family, 8 grand kids and 8 adults are renting a house in Dominical in June to celebrate my 70th birthday. The children range in age form 18 months to 10 so am sure there will be a lot to do. What do you think would be the most fun for the 4-10 ages? We are renting a house with an infinity pool and can walk to the beach from it. The restaurants along the beach look cute for lunch or drinks and a snack. Do the shopping areas on the beach sell paintings like they do in the Dominican Republic? Thanks for any help you can give!
    Ginger R.

    1. Hi Ginger, That sounds like an amazing way to celebrate your 70th!

      Kids that age would probably like visiting Hacienda Baru. You could take a guided hike and the guide will point out birds and animals and will have a scope so they can see things closer up. Villas Alturas Wildlife Center and Parque Reptilandia would be good too. There are some small waterfalls in the area with nice places to swim like Pozo Azul in Dominicalito and the Uvita Waterfall. For the more adventurous ones, there’s also an easier zip line nearby. A kayak mangrove tour could work too. They have double kayaks so the kids could go with their parents. The mangroves are really calm and you can see a lot of wildlife. Let us know if you want any help organizing some tours for the group.

      You can find paintings from local artists in Dominical but I’m not sure it’s like what you’re picturing. There’s also an artist who has great stuff on the road to San Isidro de El General going towards the Nauyaca Waterfalls.

    2. Dear Ginger R. I am also a grandmother (swedish) who plan to go to Costa Rica Dominical Christmas 2017. Could you recommend the house you rented ? We are 14 kids and adults.
      Please if you can give me some Advice do so.
      Kind regards,
      Birgitta Prahl.

      1. Hi Birgitta!
        My family is half Swedish as my first husband was Swedish! We will be going to the gorgeous villa June 9 for 8 nights. The reviews on the house are amazing but I will definitely tell you how are trip goes when I get back.
        Take care, Ginger R.

      2. Hi Birgitta,
        The trip to Costa Rica was amazing, we hated to leave. We were 6 adults and 6 kids, ages 2-10. The house in Dominical was unbelievably beautiful and the caretaker, Edwin, is so sweet and helpful. He has two cute boys that played at night with some of my grandkids, very nice family. Marisol cleans the house and does laundry for you, just leave it with her in morning or anytime and she usually has it back the same day. The house is gorgeous beyond words, the view from the infinity pool is incredibly gorgeous!! We had so much to do: my older son had planned the trip so he organized it so the grandkids would have an unforgettable experience We did trips to waterfalls, zip lining through the rain forest (8 zip lines), deep sea fishing, shopping for sarongs and other souvenirs, river boat tour to see and feed the monkeys (aswesome!), surfing and swimming. We went to several beaches and they were deserted!! We were the only people there and they were huge beaches!! This was the first time surfing for the grandkids and the 7,9, and 10 year old got up their first ride…it was so exciting!!!
        The little town of Dominical is really cute. There are several stores in the first part and then one drives behind stores and sees the outdoor market which sells sarongs, bracelets, crafts, etc. and it’s really fun to look around and shop. There are several restaurants there, we went to Tortilla Flat a few times and there is also a brewery called Fuego (I think). It was started by two guys from Seattle and my son said it was enjoyable to visit and have some beers.
        We usually did lunch out but at home for dinner we had the chef and she was amazing, beautifully presented and wonderful food. You have to choose your menu before you arrive. The desserts were underbart (I am running out of words to describe!) and the main courses were just as good. They also have appetizers. The tuna was my favorite meal: they also had other fish like snapper. The only entre that didn’t wow me was the pasta with shrimp (I’m not a big pasta person but others in our group agreed it was the weakest.)
        I could go on forever about the wonderful time we had, you will love the house and casitas. We didn’t arrive til 2 in the morning but Edwin was there to greet us and show us around. He is lovely, everyone connected to this house is lovely! Please write me after your visit! Have a wonderful time!!!!

  2. We are going to rent a house near Dominical for one week in March.
    We’ve heard that there can be strong rip tides in Dominical area.

    Can you please advise a beach near Dominical where rip tides are not so strong?
    We come with a toddler kid, and we’d like to let him play safely in shallow water.

    1. Many of the beaches along this stretch of coast have waves and rip currents, but there are some options. Playa Dominicalito, just south of Dominical, is a sheltered cove with calm water. It does have some rocks depending on the tide, but put the toddler in water shoes and they will be fine. Playa Ventanas south of Uvita has smaller waves too, and there’s also Playa Arco. Arco is really secluded and hard to get to, but it has a nice cave at low tide with just a little water. We have brought our 1 year old here before and wrote a post about it. You might also like Pozo Azul Waterfall in Dominicalito, which has a nice sandy area for wading, or the Uvita Waterfall.

  3. just stumbled across your blog – and it is helpful. we’re in Boston and planning a trip – someone recommended the overnight adventure at Diamante Falls – any advice? And another advice was to spend several days near Arenal – for a combination of hiking, ziplining and seeing the inner country. any thoughts? we will only have 9 days.

    1. Hi Patty, The Diamante is an awesome spot. We have done the hike and it’s a gorgeous area with lots of pristine rainforest. It was probably one of our favorite hikes in Costa Rica so far. We wrote a post about it here. We haven’t stayed overnight in the cave yet, but have had clients do it and they loved it. Let us know if you are interested in that tour and we can easily help you with the booking at no additional cost.

      Splitting your time beach and inland/mountains is a nice way to see different areas of the country. Arenal is a great spot for first time visitors too. It has the volcano and a ton of activities like hiking and zip lining like you mentioned, as well as hot springs, hanging bridges, waterfalls, and chocolate tours. We have a detailed article about Arenal/La Fortuna here. Hope that helps narrow your plans!

  4. Since it sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time in the Dominical area, I’m wondering if you can help me with something…. I reserved a vacation rental in the hills of Dominical (somewhere in the vicinity of Parque Reptilandia). It does not have AC and we are going in early June. I’m panicking a little that it will be too hot and muggy without AC. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Katie, We have lived in this area and can tell you that it cools down a lot at night so sleeping with just fans is very comfortable. It’s up in the mountains a bit so the elevation is higher, making it cooler than the beach. Day temps can be warm, but June is the start of rainy season when it cools down some. So don’t worry about no AC. You should be fine unless you are very sensitive to heat.

  5. Hello Jenn and Matt. We have planned a trip to Dominical for June 2017. Thank you so much for the tips and the places you have suggested. However, we are having a hard time finding a car rental agency. I know we need a 4WD, do you know of a cheap, reliable place where we can rent a car? thank you

    1. Hi Amber, You have to be careful with some of the budget rental companies because they can be very unreliable. We have heard of some companies not actually having a car available when you go to pick up.

      The company we usually recommend is Adobe. They have new, reliable cars, good customer service, and no hidden fees. We get a discount through them too (more info here)- note that their system is having problems right now but should be working again in the next day or two so check about rates then. That page we just linked to has a lot of information about renting a car in CR so be sure to read it carefully. A big thing to watch out for is making sure Costa Rica’s mandatory insurance is being included in your quote. Many companies don’t include it so their rates look artificially low.

  6. Hi. Thanks for your blog and your tips! I’ll be vacationing in Costa Rica at the end of May/ first week of June. I’ll be traveling with my 18 yr old son and 2 of his 18 year old friends. It’ll be our first time in Costa Rica. We’ve selected Dominical as our destination because we are all expert surfers = we hear the waves are good and the town is quaint and beachy. However, we haven’t figured out how to get from San Jose to Dominical with our surfboards. Is it best to rent a vehicle, take some kind of taxi or shuttle, hire a driver, or a bus? Also, we’re looking for recommendations on a place to stay. We’re all on a budget. Are the hostels decent? How about availability of rooms in late May/early June? Our entire trip consists of 8 days including travel days. Thanks for your help and we look forward to seeing everyone there in Dominical.

    1. Hi Bill, One option is to rent a truck. The company we work with and get a discount through has them. Or some rental companies have roof racks for surfboards, just not sure which ones. For shuttles you would have to do a private one because I don’t think the shared ones allow surfboards. Let us know if you need a private shuttle recommendation.

      Dominical has a lot of hostels to choose from that are very close to the beach. We just had a friend stay at Cool Vibes Beach Hostel and they said it was great. Late May to early June is low season but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to book it in advance so that you have your pick for where to stay. Hope you guys have a great trip. I think you’ll be very happy with the surfing!

      1. Can I get your recommendation for private shuttle? We are coming with four adults and two children (age 2 and 5) and transportation is one of our biggest questions…

        Thank you!

  7. Hello,

    I am currently in Costa Rica and will be working on a project near Domincal. You mentioned some places/tours that would be great for SUP or Kayak. Could you please provide info? Thank you.

  8. Hello, I’m lad to find your website!
    We will be staying in Uvita from Dec. 9th to Jan. 6th
    We rented a house for that time but still need transportation and some activities.
    We have an 8 year old boy and my daughter and her husband will join us for 8 days over Christmas.
    I am hoping to find a volunteer position working with Children. My son is adopted and is also bilingual. We visited CR last year and also fell in love with the people and environment.
    I know there are orphanages that need help as well as schools that need supplies etc. We would love to spend Christmas helping out. We live by San Francisco and enjoy helping people through out the season. I would appreciate any tips you might have.

    1. Hi Karen, School will not be in session for most of the time when you are here, unfortunately. They start break on Dec. 11, I believe, and don’t go back until early Feb. You could definitely still bring school supplies, though. The Pack for a Purpose program is a good way to do this. A tour company in Uvita called Uvita 360 participates and works with a local school. Here is a link with more info.

      Something nice to do for Christmas is at the Boruca indigenous community. They usually have an event where people can come and bring gifts for the children. We haven’t done this ourselves, but some friends have, and they really enjoyed it. There’s also a community food bank in Ojochal that does a lot for local families around the holidays.

      If you need help with your transportation, let us know. Here’s a link to our rental car discount and we also work with shuttle companies if you wanted to hire a driver for the longer drive from San Jose. Happy to help book any tours for you while you’re here too!

      1. Thanks for the information. I will look into it and see what we can help out with.
        We need transportation but I thought we would look into it in the Fall because I know companies change and drivers etc. We did not get a car last time because private transfer was awesome and not too expensive. This time we are off the beaten track a bit and probably want a car for part of the time if not all. We would like a shuttle for us to and from the airport as well as one for my daughter and her husband.
        We will also want a few tours and want to book that a little closer tho the travel time unless you recommend deciding now on the tours.
        Please give me you opinion as we can book now if it makes sense.

  9. Hello Jenn and Matt- Glad I found your posts! My husband and I are considering a trip to CR next June 2018 for our anniversary. This would be our first trip. So far what I have researched we would fly into San Jose and travel by car service to the Manuel Antonio park area to stay at Gaia Hotel for 4 days and then transfer to Villa Calentas hotel near Jaco for a few days of beach time. I have read through some of your posts so understand that June will have some rain and warm/humid during the day. Can you tell me if the areas we are looking at are 2 good options for a first trip? Also the area you live in sounds beautiful with the waterfalls nearby etc. Would we be close from Villa Calentas? Any other advice for a first trip, suggestions of not to miss? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Traci, The Gaia and Villa Caletas are both beautiful hotels. The only thing to think about is that experiences will be similar. Both Jaco and Manuel Antonio are beach towns on the Central Pacific Coast. Manuel Antonio does have lusher rainforest but Jaco’s forests will be nice and green in June too. They are fine destinations if you’re looking for mostly beach time, but you could also think about switching it up with some time inland, for example, in La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano or the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

      Where we live, near Dominical, is about 45 min south of Manuel Antonio so you could definitely check it out from there.

      Hope that helps with your questions. June is a great time to visit!

      1. Thank you for the information! I think we have decided since we will only have 1 week to just spend the time at Gaia and Manuel Antonio. From there we could easily do a few day trips to waterfalls or Jaco. After looking at flights we will need to spend 1 day in San Jose at arrival and departure. I saw your post on the hotel suggestions. Hotel Buena Viata looks nice!
        We are so excited about this trip and I know we will want to return and see the other areas.

  10. Thank-you this website. It has been very helpful. My family will be volunteering in the Santa Maria area in June. We are planning to take some time to explore the country afterwards. I have four girls 10-18 and they really want to see the sea turtles. From research it looks like we might have a chance in June near Dominical. I haven’t had luck finding any information about tours in that area. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. I also remember reading one of your pages and you mentioned one of your favorite mangrove experiences was a small operation near Dominical. I would love more information on that also. We were thinking of staying in Uvita area and maybe taking a snorkeling tour and visiting Marino Ballena. Can you snorkel near Dominical? We want to do Manuel Antonio and that is why I was hoping to find an area with sea turtles near.

    1. Hi Amy, The Dominical area is a good place to see nesting turtles, although there aren’t a lot of well known tours so that’s probably why you’re not finding anything. This area does start seeing turtles (olive ridleys) in June. This year we heard about a sighting (first one of the season) on June 28 so later in the month is better, not sure when you will be here. We do know of a turtle patrolling tour in this area and can help set your family up on it if you would like. Ostional is probably the best place to see turtles and they do usually have an arribada in June, but your timing has to be just right. It is also very far from Santa Maria de Dota.

      We would be happy to give you some more information on the mangrove kayak tour. Just reply to this thread if you are still interested and we can send it along. The same company also offers a kayak-snorkel tour along the Whale’s Tail in Uvita that we can tell you more about.

  11. Hi Matt and Jenn,
    I’ve read over your blog and it’s very helpful! I’m coming to Costa Rica in October to do whale watching at Drake Bay but I’ll be staying in Dominical. I know it’s about a two and a half hour drive from each other but I’ve read that Drake Bay was the best place to see whales. I’m trying to figure out other things to do as I’ll be a solo traveler. I’ll only be in Costa Rica for four days. I wanted to go to a nature reserve as well as see some turtles and also hang out at the beach. Any advice you could offer would be great.

    1. Hi Kara, You don’t need to go to Drake Bay to see whales. October is a really good time of year to see them out of Uvita, which is only 20 min. from Dominical (see our Whale Watching post here). That will be much easier for you- you really can’t drive to Drake this time of year anyway because of river crossings that get pretty intense in the rainy season. We book whale watching tours for people all the time so let us know if you would like help. For a nature reserve, Hacienda Baru is a good option. You can do this hike self guided or with a guide. We know of a turtle watching tour in the area as well if you would like a recommendation for that. You walk the beach at night with a guide looking for nesting sea turtles. There are no guarantees that you will see one, but this is the time of year when they nest. Just respond to this comment if you would like us to send you more information about any of this.

  12. Hi Jenn, Matt,

    I am so grateful to have found your site! Thank you for providing such useful information.

    We will be visiting in late November and would like to know more info about the kayak-snorkeling tour you had mentioned in some comments. Would you be able to send us more info?

    Thank you!

  13. Hi Jenn + Matt,

    Love your blog, and great information and tips you share. We have been travelling annually to Costa Rica for the last 5 years discovering new regions of the country for two weeks at a time. We have rented a house in Manuel Antonio for a week and travel down to Uvita for another week in February. We are struggling to find companies that will offer atv rental in these areas, we spent two weeks in Santa Teresa last year and discovered its the only way and best way to get around the terrain and avoid relying on taxis. Any sources or tips you can share on weekly rentals would be great. Thanks Cara.

    1. Hi Cara, Most of the roads around Manuel Antonio and Uvita are paved so best with a regular car. Uvita does have a lot of dirt roads that go up into the mountains, but most people who live on those roads avoid taking their quads on the main paved highway because it’s bad for the tires. So that’s probably why you’re not finding much. Manuel Antonio is fairly easy to get around without a car as long as the house you’re renting isn’t too far from the main road for the bus. And in Uvita you really need a car to get around since everything is more spread out. You could always rent one once you get to Uvita, though. The company that we work with has an office in Uvita and can probably deliver the car right to your vacation rental for free. Here’s a link to our rental car page with more info. Hope that helps with your question!

  14. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    your site is absolutely amazing and helpful for my trip that I want to take with my husband and four children (years 18, 16, 12, 9)! Thank you for your time to put it all together. We are arriving at San Jose on December 19 and staying in Costa Rica till January 8 (San Jose is our departure as well). In our time, we would like to do a road trip. We love nature and can’t wait to get on this adventure. Please, could you advice me what may be the best road trip to do around Costa Rica over the three weeks that we stay there. We are thinking of 2 to 4 days staying at a location at a time. Airbnb will be our way to go. I would very much appreciate any of your recommendations/suggestions. Thank you!

    1. Hi Zuzana, There are a lot of choices for a road trip in three weeks. By the way, that’s a great amount of time to be able to spend here; you will be able to see a lot of the country. We would recommend looking at our Two Week Itinerary blog post for ideas, and our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. Our itineraries book has several different itineraries that are interest-based (wildlife, adventure, beaches, etc.). You could pick one of the two-week options that appeals to you and then add on a destination or two for the third week. We would recommend trying to see both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, since they are very different. Hope your family has an amazing time. Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount as you’re shopping around for a car too!

  15. Hi there,

    Love your site! it was recommended to me by a family who lived there. Since you live in Costa Rica, I was wondering what you could tell me about the current road/weather situation with all of the storms? We are coming to Dominical on November 13th, 2017 and were originally planning on flying there from Arenal, but after contacting the airline we discovered the only way to get there is to drive. So we have rented a car and will be driving from Arenal then staying in Dominical for 7 days. Thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated!

    Thanks a lot,

    1. Hi Katie, If your dates are at all flexible, Nature Air has flights from La Fortuna to Quepos on the 12th and 14th. If you have you drive, you will take Route 702 to San Ramon to 713 to Highway 27 to Highway 34. Some of these roads were affected by the storm but as far as we know, all are now passable. You can double check on the government website (click Listado for list of closures). The roads will keep improving for the next few weeks as well. That said, you should still build in extra time due to construction delays and detours.

      The roads around Dominical are all pretty much fine. The one big exception is the road between Dominical and San Isidro de El General, which had a bridge wash out. They’re working on a new Bailey bridge for it now that should be done in the next week or so.

  16. Hello—
    I’ve just read through these comments and they’re very informative! I will be staying right near Dominicalito beach over New Years, and I’m wondering whether to bring snorkeling gear. I am VERY experienced at snorkeling and also a surfer so comfortable in waves. I know there’s good snorkeling down the coast at Marino Ballena, but what about Dominicalito or perhaps other hidden spots nearby?
    Thanks hanks!

    1. Hi Whit, We have never heard of anyone snorkeling at Playa Dominicalito or any other beaches nearby (other than around the Whale’s Tail in Uvita). It’s not just the waves around here that make the snorkeling not great but also the water clarity. If you get up to Manuel Antonio, the main beach in the national park is decent for snorkeling when conditions are good. Same at Playa Biesanz. You could also take a snorkel tour to Cano Island out of Uvita, which has some of the best conditions in CR.

  17. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I have read some of the above comments and your post above and am curious about the kayak-snorkel tour as well as a whale watching tour both in Uvita I believe. My friends and I will be traveling in CR most of February so I understand this may not be a great time to see whales but any information you could pass on would be great.

  18. Hi Jenn and Matt! We are coming to Domincal on December 20th and staying until January 3rd. We are staying at the Bali style villa located at 123 Hatillo Rd. I have already booked offshore fishing trip and a Terraba Sierpe mangrove tour. We would also like to take an ATV trip and go whale watching if they are still around by then. Should I book all of our tours before we get there? Also, can you tell me what, if any, Christmas celebrations will be taking place in or around Dominical? We would love to participate in any local celebration.

    We rented a 4 wheel drive and will be driving from the airport in San Jose. Can you tell me where might be a good place to stop on the way for a late lunch? I’m hoping it’s a pretty easy drive. We had planned to hire a service to get us there and rent a car once we get there, but once I realized how expensive it is to rent a vehicle in Costa Rica, we decided to just drive ourselves. Should we book all tours before we get there or is it okay to wait? I have really enjoyed reading your blog and have gotten lots of ideas for some shorter excursions in the area.

    1. Hi Cari, That time of year is very busy so it is best to book any tours you know you want to do in advance since things do fill up. Let us know if you need any help arranging the ATV and whale watching tours.

      You could stop at El Pelican restaurant on Playa Herradura for lunch. They have a beautiful spot right on the beach.

      We don’t know of anything specific happening for Christmas. The parades and festivals that we know of are earlier in the month. But one of the best places to go on Christmas is the beach, as the locals flock there for the holidays. It’s a fun cultural experience. New Years Day is a good time to go too. Have a great trip!

  19. We have been to Costa Rica two years ago. Going back again in January. My question is that last time we were there a couple of people were on an atv tour and didn’t realize that they were supposed to have your passport with them. Is this something you need to have on you at all times. I’m afraid of losing it. Do you know any rules pertaining to this.

    1. Hi Janeen, Technically you are supposed to have a copy of the photo page of your passport and your entry stamp showing you are legally in the country. You don’t need the original and we recommend keeping it locked in your hotel room. This is in case you get stopped by the police or immigration – not likely to happen unless you encounter a road block driving but you never know.

  20. Hello Jenn and Matt –
    We (myself, wife, boy 16 and daughter 11) will be visiting Dominical next week. We arrive on Christmas day. Our question is – what if anything will be open on Christmas day? We will get to Dominical late – about 9pm and would love to hit a grocery store or grab something to eat on the way. We will have a rental car and will be coming from San Jose airport. We are staying at Villas Arturas. Thanks for any advice!

    1. Hi David, A lot of grocery stores and restaurants will be open on Christmas Day so you should be all set. One option is the Auto Mercado in Herradura right off Highway 34 before Jaco. This is a big grocery store and they have a few ready-made things to eat like sandwiches, sushi, salads, etc. Here’s a link with their hours- they’re open until 10 pm on Xmas Day. If you’d rather go to a restaurant, cruise the main street in Jaco and you will find something. Just be careful if you have all your bags in your car- it’s best to park so that you can see them and bring all valuables in with you. The new BM in Quepos right off Highway 34 will probably be open too if you want something closer to Dominical.

      1. Thanks so much for the reply – it is very helpful. This will be our second visit and are so looking forward to returning. Thanks again.

  21. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I’m interested in a mangrove/kayak tour and a snorkel tour near Dominical for Jan 17th or 18th early in the morning.
    I dont think it’s possible to do both in the same tour if the kayak tour is not in the ocean.

    Thank you


  22. Hi Jenn and Matt – I love your site – it’s been very helpful. My family of 4 (2 kids, 9 and 11) are coming to the Central Pacific coast over spring break. We are staying 1 night in Manuel Antonio, 2 nights at Rafiki, followed by 4 nights in the Dominical area. Do you have any thoughts on whether it’s better to venture up to MA area or stay in Costa Ballena area for the following activities: 1 – animal sanctuary (Villas Alturas v. Kids Saving Rainforest); 2 – kayaking mangroves (Dominical v. Damas Island) – I do not want open ocean as some of us are beginners; at least 2 of us will need a tandem; and 3 – zipline. Also, if we visit the waterfall at Quebrada Arroyo, do you think it’s still worth seeing the Nauyaca Waterfalls (hike and/or 4×4 transfer) or should we select another activity? Finally, do you know of any off the beaten path experiences with a cultural component like Los Campesinos Reserve closer to cloud forest area/San Isidro de El General that are an easier day trip than San Gerardo de Dota? I’ve been looking at Cloud bridge but am wondering if we’ll be too tight on time as we want to be back in Dominical before it gets dark, and I don’t get the sense there’s a Tico aspect. Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Laura, Glad that our site has been helpful! You have some very specific questions here. It’s hard for us to say in general which of these experiences will be best for your family without knowing more about the group. If you’d like, we could help you with activities through our itinerary service. We would have you fill out our survey and could help you decide on activities, create a schedule that makes sense, and help with the bookings. You can use the contact form on that page if you’re interested. Thanks!

  23. Hello we are coming down late Jan and would enjoy paddle boarding, or Atv tour, and will be hiking the falls… Im told of a small restaurant on a dock nearby..they live in Seattle and come down seasonly cash only… any idea of the name..I know its just north of Dominical..

    1. Hi Bob, We live in the area and know the stretch of beach north of Dominical really well, and we don’t know anything about a small restaurant on a dock. There aren’t any docks on the beaches in this area. Quepos has the marina but this is part of a large development (Marina Pez Vela). La Parcela Restaurant is on a point near Dominicalito, but I think the owners are European?

  24. Your site is amazing, I feel like I’ve been reading it for hours and hours and hours and still keep finding new information!

    I’m taking my first trip to Costa Rica in a few weeks and we are spending some time in Ojochal, and was wondering if there’s any way to get out onto to Osa Peninsula to see some of the famous wildlife for a day trip, or if we really have to get out to Drake’s Bay or Puerto Jimenez first and then arrange something from there.

    We are skipping Manuel Antonio on this trip, to avoid crowds and maximize our peaceful time, but definitely want to get in some great wildlife viewing.

    1. Hi Kevin, Yes, you can take a day trip to Corcovado National Park (Sirena Ranger Station or San Pedrillo Ranger Station) from Uvita. Sirena is a little better for wildlife. This is a full day tour and you take a boat to the park to speed things up. We know of a great company with excellent guides that does this tour. Let us know if you would like help with the arrangements.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt:

    We are interested in doing an ATV tour in Dominical or Uvita. I have looked at both Jungle ATV Tours and Diamante Verde Tours. We are going with our teenage daughters and having a hard time deciding which sights are the best to sign up for on one of these tours. Each company has great reviews and both offer different sights to see. Any recommendations?

    1. Hi Erin, The Uvita tour is nice, but the Diamante Verde takes you deep into the countryside to places that you wouldn’t know about, so we would give an edge to that. If you’d like any help making the arrangements, let us know. We are a travel agency and can take care of all the details for you. We don’t charge anything extra for this. Here’s a link to our Tour Booking Service page for more information and how to contact us.

  26. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Firstly, thank you so much for sharing all this info with us, and for having the patience to respond to all the comments/questions. It has been very helpful scrolling down and reading them. My family is planning on coming to Dominical at the end of Dec/beginning of Jan. (only for a week unfortunately). We have a 5 and 3 year old, and very active grandparents that enjoy king/kayakin etc. So we are all in for adventures! Could you please let me know what the weather is like that time of the year? And if you could recommend places to go / things to do with kids during that time, I would greatly appreciate it? Seeing wildlife and going on adventures.. we are hoping for that. Thank you so much! Ana

    1. Hi Ana, It’s dry season in late December/early January so little to no rain and sunny skies are typical. Other than the activities in this post, some ideas for things to do with younger kids are the Uvita Waterfall, Pozo Azul Waterfall, a boat tour along the Terraba river, and Finca 6 Stone Spheres Museum in Palmar (this is outdoors mostly so good for the kids to run around). You could also head to Manuel Antonio and do a day trip there. It has a really nice national park that is great for kids. Read our full blog post here. Hope that gives you some ideas!

  27. Thank you. I am enjoying your posts. On our Dec. vacation, we plan to visit Dominical for five nights, and then, I was thinking about our visiting Monte Verde for three nights. Then I read your post on the cloud forest of San Gerardo. Do you think that is a better choice than Monte Verde? Thank you.

    1. Hi Teresita, San Gerardo is much closer to Dominical, but it’s a very different destination. It has cloud forest as well but is much smaller with less to do. It’s still a great destination, though, if you’re looking to hike, be in nature, and relax. Monteverde has a lot more options for things to do, restaurants, etc.

  28. Hi Jenn and Matt, thank you for all this great information. My husband, 9 year old, and I were in Arenal and the Nicoya Penn last winter and this February are planning on being based in the Dominical area for less driving but still the diversity of the beach and hikes to waterfalls and in the forest. My question is first about lodging – this year my 75 year-old mom will be with us and will likely hang back from the bigger hikes. Can you recommend a low-key hotel on/near the beach OR a house near to others so that she can still chit chat with others during times we’re out? Thank you!

  29. Hi, I submitted a question a few weeks ago. What is the best way to connect with you? I am happy to pay you for your time to help figure out the best place for my family (from Newton/Boston) in the Dominical area in February. Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Kate, Sorry for the delay. We are very busy with people coming over the holidays right now so getting back to comments is taking us some time. We will respond to your most recent question on the Costa Ballena post now.

      For others reading this, the comments are more for questions that aren’t super time sensitive. If you need help ASAP, we offer lots of different services for trip planning (see our Customized Itinerary Service, Tour Booking Service, and Private Shuttle Booking Service).

  30. I just started planning a trip to the Dominical area and came across your site. Full of helpful information. I know it is in the rainy season but how is it there during July/August? Does it rain all day every day, or just a mid-day shower then the sun returns? Also, are there any zip-line tours you can recommend?


    1. Hi Mike, Dominical usually isn’t too rainy in July/August. It usually does rain every day that time of year, but mostly in the afternoon or evening for a downpour-type shower.

      We’d be happy to help you arrange a zip line tour. There are a couple of different options depending on the experience you’re looking for. Just reply to this thread if you’re interested and we can send more information by email.

  31. Hi, my friends and I are staying at an Airbnb in Dominical in mid-April. I am arriving two days early into San Jose. Can you give me some good ideas of places to stay in or around Dominical during that time and what would be the best things to do in the area. I love hiking and definitely want to visit the rainforest. Thank you!


  33. I was planning to recommend the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary and was thrilled to see that you had done so. The hour-long tour was fascinating – and we’ve gone on the tour for each of our four yearly visits to Dominical. The work these people do to rehab and, if possible, release these animals is crucial, so we are always happy to pay our admission, buy some T-shirts, and enjoy the tour.

  34. Hi!
    My family and I will be in Dominical for 8 days starting this Thursday. We will then be traveling to Monteverde. I am wondering about the Mangrove tour in kayaks. How do I find information to book that tour? Also wondering if you have recommendations on any chocolate or coffee tours? Lastly, wondering how I can find a place between Dominical and Monteverde to do a quick covid test since our flight will be on a Monday. We are hoping to do that on our way so that I do not have to be stressed about getting the results back over the weekend.
    I appreciate any help and guidance.

    1. Hi Cyndi, I know it has been a while since you commented so please let us know if you are still looking for info on the mangrove kayak tour, coffee/chocolate tours, and Covid testing, and we’ll send a response right away.

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