What to Do and See Around Playa Dominical, Costa Rica

Get shacked! | © Roman Königshofer/Flickr
Get shacked! | © Roman Königshofer/Flickr | Roman Königshofer/Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
9 May 2018

Dominical is a beach-front town on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is renowned for its consistent surf, small-town vibes, picturesque aesthetic, and easy accessibility to numerous national parks, further beaches, waterfalls, nature tours, and adventure activities. You can easily do something different every day when you are in Dominical.

Go surfing

Dominical is notably popular for its surf. There are several breaks in the area, including an expansive beach break right in front of the main part of town. While the surf can get very big and powerful here, on days when there isn’t much swell, this is a good place to learn how to surf. There are several surf camps and lessons options for those who want to learn to surf or improve their technique with a local guide.

The surf is almost always up here | © Roman Königshofer/Flickr

Shop along the beach

Running parallel to the ocean is a lovely cobblestone road, lined with independent artisans and vendors. The street is shaded by towering palm trees, which makes this experience all the more pleasant. This is a fantastic way to shop for unique souvenirs, while also being by the sea and close to a number of restaurants and bars.

Stroll and shop by the sea | Courtesy of Jenn Parker

Watch some whales

Just a short drive to the south of Dominical is the Marino Ballena (whale) National Park. Coincidentally, the main beach which is part of this marine park is shaped like a giant whale’s tail. This is one of the best places in the country to go whale watching, as humpback whales migrate north to south and south to north throughout the year passing through this area. The Pacific coast of Costa Rica has one of the longest whale migration periods since both northern and southern whales visit the waters off the coast here. A whale watching tour is an amazing way to spend the day at sea and likely observing some of Costa Rica’s incredible marine species.

Sweet souls of the sea | © Christopher Michel/Flickr

Visit a valley of waterfalls

Close to Playa Dominical is a valley that is host to multiple exquisite waterfalls, including one of Costa Rica’s most famous, the Nauyaca waterfall. Off the beach, the landscape becomes dense tropical rainforest. You can either hike or take a horseback riding tour to the fall. There are plenty of natural swimming pools and endless opportunities for unique wildlife encounters during your day in the jungle.

Pick a national park

Dominical is centrally located and a perfect starting point to visit some of the surrounding national parks. A visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, Carara National Park, Corcovado National Park, Chirripó National Park, Marino Ballena National Park, and Piedras Blanca National Park are all do-able as day trips from Dominical. You’re spoilt for choice.

Rainforest locals | © Heather Paul/Flickr

Explore a mangrove forest

The Sierpe Mangrove forest is the largest of its kind in Central America and lies not that far away from Dominical. This important ecosystem is home to an abundance of wildlife. There are three ways to explore. You can take a guided boat tour, kayak, or paddle board through the mangrove forest. You will likely see crocodiles, monkeys, and a lot of beautiful birds, among other fascinating animal species.

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
A little rain never hurt anyone | © Brian Gratwiche/Flickr | Brian Gratwiche/Flickr
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary rescues and cares for abandoned, injured, or displaced animals. The goal is always to rehabilitate and release the animals that find their way to the sanctuary, but for many this is not possible. The sanctuary often has sloths, coatis, armadillos, white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, and a variety of exotic birds. This is a wonderful place to visit and learn about some of the native animals of Costa Rica while getting to see them up close and personal.