Things to do in Dominical, Costa Rica

20 Awesome Things to do in Dominical, Costa Rica

Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, just a stone’s throw from the famous Manuel Antonio National Park lies the sleepy surfer town of Dominical.

Every year surfers and yoga enthusiasts flock to this small tropical town to ride the 7ft waves and get some much-needed R&R. 

There are so many incredible things to do in Dominical, from learning to surfing, hiking waterfalls, eating delicious food and admiring stunning sunsets at the beach.

Whether you are here for adventure or want to chill, you certainly won’t be short of fun experiences to try in Dominical.

You are guaranteed to have the most wonderful time in this laid-back and welcoming town. 

After an incredible 2-week trip in Costa Rica, Dominical made it very near to the top of the list of my favourite places in all of Costa Rica (coming in a close second to Puerto Viejo). 

So, what are the best things to do in Dominical? Read on below to find out!

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Map of Dominical

Dominical Is a super small town located in Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Province. For the most part, everything mentioned in this blog post is within walking distance from one another.

However, there are a handful of destinations (that I have highlighted) which will require you to have a car and/or use public transport or a transfer.

All the destinations in this blog have been highlighted in this helpful map below to help you best plan your trip to Dominical.

Go Surfing or take a surf lesson

It would be criminal to come to Dominical and not try your hand at surfing (if you’re not already a pro that is). After all, surfing is one of the top things to do in Dominical. Costa Rica Surf Camp and Dominical Surf School are the best-rated surf schools in Dominical.

They offer personalised surf lessons for all levels which start from around $50. So, if you are a complete novice or just want to get some more practice, Dominical Surf School has got you covered.

Hike to Nauyaca Waterfall

Nauyaca Waterfall is one of the most famous and popular in all of Costa Rica, for good reason. Nauyaca serves as a tropical oasis in the midst of the lush green and very hot Costa Rican Rainforest.

Water cascades down the upper and lower falls (both of which you can climb to) into a large emerald-blue pool.

A dip into the crisp and refreshing water is just what you’ll need after the 1.5-hour hike it takes to get there (but don’t worry, the trail is fairly easy). 

Nauyaca is only a 20-minute drive from town and is one of the most highly rated things to do in Dominical.


➡️➡️ Avoid roaming fees, and have peace of mind that you have internet access when WiFi isn’t available.

Day trip to Cano Island

60 km off the coast of Dominical lies the rugged paradise of Cano Island. Praised as the 2nd best snorkelling and diving site in Costa Rica, you can expect to see endless schools of rainbow coloured, fish, dolphins and maybe even some harmless reef sharks (if you’re lucky). 

To get to Cano Island you’ll have to make the 20-minute Journey from Dominical to Uvita, where the boats depart. I can highly recommend booking a tour with Bahia Adventures, we had such a great experience with them on the half-day Cano Island snorkelling tour.

We got to see a diverse group of stunning marine life, were well fed and learnt a ton of interesting facts about the area from our guides.

Phat Noodle

One of the best things to do in Dominical is to grab a bite to eat from the popular  Phat Noodle restaurant. The quaint, shabby-chic setting makes for perfect chilled dinner vibes.

You can expect to order a scrumptious array of Asian and Asian fusion delights, with huge portions to match. The food here is SO GOOD, we came back twice. Do not skip a dinner date with a Phat Noodle.

Visit Pozo Azul Waterfall

Pozo Azul is a small waterfall that can be found just 5 minutes outside Dominical (if travelling by car). It’s a less popular option than Nauyaca but still just as beautiful (and even has a rope swing).

This is a great option for those who prefer to avoid crowds and typical tourist hotspots.

Pozo Azul is super easy to get to and unlike Nauyaca involves no hiking. It’s just a short walk 2 minute walk from the parking area.

Go to a Yoga Class

As I mentioned earlier, Dominical is super popular with Yoga lovers as well as surfers. If you’re not an expert yogi but still want to give it to go, the best yoga studio in Dominical Danyasa Yoga Retreat.

Danyasa offers 2 yoga classes a day, plus ecstatic dance and cacao ceremonies. They also regularly hold week-long retreats if you truly want to immerse yourself in the yoga experience.

Playa Matapalo

Just a 15-minute drive from Dominical lies the tranquil Playa Matapalo (also known as Playa Linda). This beach is a true hidden gem, which means you’ll find that you’re one of the only people there.

Playa Matapalo is an amazing Sloth watching spot. Within 5 minutes of my arrival there I saw two in the trees. The best part of all was being able to see the sloths awake, climbing across the trees rather than in their usual sleepy state. 

Try Patacones at Fuego Brewing Co

Fuego Brewing Co. was probably my favourite restaurant in all of Dominical. They serve up a diverse menu of Latin fusion foods.

As you’ve probably already guessed my favourite dish was the patacones (fried plantains) served up with the most delicious refried beans. I urge you to give it a try. 

If you’re wondering why “brewing” is in the name, Fuego Brewing Company is actually a craft beer brewery first and a restaurant second.

They pride themselves on having “the best craft beer in Costa Rica” so be sure to give some of their beers ago (I recommend the pale mango ale) 

If that wasn’t enough, Fuego also has an onsite cafe, making it the perfect place to get a grab’n’go coffee in the morning before a day of adventures.

We visited Feugo’s twice in our 3-day stay so you could say eating here was one of our favourite things to do in Dominical

Looking for more Costa Rica inspiration? Check out my other Costa Rica guides.

Playa Dominical

Spend your day lazing close to the shores of Dominical’s main beach, Playa Dominical. Grab a book, set your beach towel down in the shade, grab a beer from the nearby beach bar and enjoy the chill time. A visit to this beach is one of the most popular things to do in Dominical.

NOTE: Dominical can get extremely hot and the sun is very strong. Make sure you spend time in the shade and top up on the sun cream.

Explore the beachside markets

Located adjacent to Dominical Beach you will find the local market. Here you’ll be able to find cute souvenirs and trinkets, as well as an abundance of beach towels and sarongs.

In addition to this, you’ll also be able to explore an organic farmers market (called “Eco Feria“) which pops up in Dominical every Friday.

Cafe Mono Congo

On the banks of the Baru River lies Cafe Mono Congo. The cafe is a super popular breakfast, brunch and lunch spot in Dominical.

You’ll often see long queues of customers at the counter waiting to get a taste of their delicious grub.

Think fresh fruit smoothies, granola bowls, breakfast tacos and strong coffee that packs a punch. If you can, try to get to Cafe Mono Congo early and grab the best seats in that house, overlooking the Baru River.



Kayaking down Baru River

Fancy doing something a little different? Why not Kayak or paddleboard through the majestic Rio Baru River with or through the Mangroves of Matapalo?

If you’re lucky you might be able to spot one or two sloths and monkeys hanging between the trees. One of the top-rated tour companies in Dominical for these activities is Pineapple Tours.

Pineapple Tours runs their excursions from December – June (during the dry season) and tours run depending on the tides.

Visit the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organisation which helps to support the rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife.

The sanctuary’s motto is “rescue, rehabilitate, release” and their aim is to release all animals back into the wild once they have recovered (should it be safe to do so).

Here you can find a whole host of impressive wildlife from monkeys to birds, to sloths and even coyotes.

A tour of the sanctuary costs the following:

  • Adults – $33
  • Children (3-12) – $17
  • Adult Nationals – $11
  • Children (3-12) Nationals – $5

All profits and proceeds are put back into the business to ensure they can continue to help the local wildlife.

Watch the sunset on the beach

Watching the sunset at the beach was probably one of my favourite things to do in Dominical. Everyone from town heads down to Playa Dominical about an hour before sunset to chill on the sand with a few drinks whilst they wait for the sun to dip below the horizon.

What I loved about the sunset moments in Dominical was watching how happy everyone was. From the solo traveller to the surfer in the sea, you could tell that everyone was present and in the moment and enjoying life. 

Grab a bite to eat at Shash’uka

Enjoy dinner at the shabby-chic Shak’shuka. As you have probably guessed from the name Shak’shuka serves up Morrocan delights as well as traditional Latin dishes, and to-die-for cocktails. Their breakfast menu is one of the most highly rated in Dominical.

Day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park

Most travellers will pass through Manuel Antonio National Park en route to Dominical, however, if you plan on using Dominical as your base, a day trip to Manuel Antonio is super easy.

Manuel Antonio is not only home to an impressive abundance of wildlife but also some of the most stunning beaches in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s most famous national park and is located just 50 minutes from Dominical. If you do not have a rental car, you can catch a direct bus from Dominical to the town of Quepos. From Quepos, you can either catch another bus to Manuel Antonio or jump in a taxi.

A day trip to Manuel Antonio can be easily done from Dominical. You will need to book your entry tickets into the park ahead of time as access is limited. You can get more information on visiting times and ticket prices here.

You can either do a self-guided tour, or if you’d prefer to learn more about the park and its wildlife you can book a guided tour around the park.

Relax at the Spa

After a hard day of exploring you’ll definitely deserve some R&R. So why not indulge in a spa treatment at the Alegra Soul Spa? Massages start at $40 (US) and other treatments such as body wraps start at $50 (US).

Day Trip to Uvita and Whale Watching Tour 

Just a 20-minute drive from Dominical lies the small province of Uvita, and the famous Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.

Every year tourists flock to the national park to grab a glimpse of the impressive ‘whale tail’ beach. The whale tail occurs during low tide, revealing the tail like the formation of sand and rocks.

Not only is Uvita famous for the whale tail beach, but for real-life whales too!

If you go during the migration season (December – April and July-November) you will be able to catch sight of one of the thousands of majestic humpback whales who pass through this area in search of warmer waters.

Playa Dominicalito

Playa Dominicalito is Playa Dominical’s cooler, younger brother. It’s just a few short minutes in the car or a 40-minute walk. Playa Dominicalito is a great option for those craving a quieter alternative to Playa Dominical.

Unfortunately, there are no restaurants near this beach, so you’ll either have to head back to Dominical Town or pack a cooler box full of snacks and drinks so that you can settle down for the day. 

Playa Dominicalito is also a great place to learn to surf if you are a beginner.

Day Trip to Corcovado National Park

Corcovado is another one of Costa Rica’s stunning National Parks and the best place in Costa Rica to find Tapirs

Corcovado is located just 2.5 hours from Dominical. Whilst a lot of travellers will head down to Corcovado and stay there for a few days, a day trip from Dominical is a great option for travellers who are short on time.

You can book a Corcovado day trip which leaves from the town of Uvita. This is located just a 15-20-minute drive from Dominical.

Due to the logistics of a visit to Corcovado, it’s advised only to drive to the park from Dominical if you plan on staying overnight there. If you do only have the day then booking an organised tour is the best option.

When is the best time to visit Dominical?

The best time to visit Dominical is during the months of November to April/May which is the dry season for this part of Costa Rica.

How to get to Dominical

From San Jose

By Car

The distance between San Jose and Dominical is 204.6 KM and a drive time of approximately 3 hours 10 minutes.

Public Bus

The buses from San Jose to Dominical leave from Tracopa Bus Terminal. The journey takes a little over 4 hours and tickets will cost approximately £8 ($10).

Private Shuttle

You can book a private shuttle from San Jose to Dominical starting from £49 ($59)

From Manuel Antonio

By Car

This distance between Manual Antonio and Dominical is just 49 km with a drive time of around 50 minutes!

Public Bus

You’ll also be pleased to know that the public bus journey is a nice and easy one too! 

  • Bus from Manuel Antonio to Quepos 
  • Bus from Quepos to Dominical 
Private Shuttle

You can book a private shuttle from Manual Antonio to Dominical for just £30 ($34)

From Monteverde

By Car

The distance between San Jose and Dominical is 227.4 KM and a drive time of approximately 3 hours 50 minutes.

Public Bus

The public bus journey between Monteverde and Dominical is a long one that will take you no less that 5 hours to complete:

  • Bus from Monteverde to La Fortuna
  • Bus from La Fortuna to Quepos
  • Bus from Quepos to Dominical
Private Shuttle

You can book a private shuttle from Monteverde to Dominical starting from £55 ($67).

Where to stay in Dominical

Considering Dominical is quite small, it does have a fair few hostels and hostels to choose from. Some of my favourites are below:


To explore alternative options you can use the search tool below.

Happy Exploring

I hope you have a wonderful time exploring all the wonderful things to do in Dominical. If you have any more questions about anything discussed in this blog post, please feel free to reach out!

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