Dominical, Costa Rica, is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
Located on the Central Pacific of Costa Rica, this sleepy surf town truly comes alive when swells arrive. When there’s a big swell in town, big wave surfers from all over the country flock to Dominical.
That being said, Dominical isn’t all massive death barrels. In the dry season, without a big swell, Playa Dominical surf can actually be really really fun, even for less advanced surfers!
Depending on the time of year you come for the Dominical surf, you can experience anything from massive, heavy barrels during the rainy season, to fun, dreamy little peaks in the dry season.
Not to mention, Dominical is one of the best surf towns in Costa Rica, with plenty of surf shops, delicious restaurants, and a mellow, laid-back Costa Rican vibe.
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Dominical Surf Overview
Playa Dominical, or Dominical beach is pretty big. The beach stretches for 2 miles (4km) and you can surf pretty much anywhere along the beach. However, the best surfing is typically going to be just south of the river, the Rio Baru.
The Dominical surf break is a very unique break, because it holds nearly any sized swell the ocean decides to throw its way. This is because the main river in Dominical, the Rio Baru flows into the ocean right next to the main surf break, and as it empties into the ocean, it digs out a big trench in the sand running parralel to shore.
This allows the waves to hold up, and is why Dominical gets as big as it does. However, during smaller swells in the dry season, it’s not always so crazy surfing at Dominical.
The different Dominical surf breaks
The main break at Dominical is just south of the rivermouth, in front of the massive lifeguard tower. There are nice peaks all along this stretch of the beach breaking both left and right. At higher tides, the surf break is peaky and playful. At lower tides, it gets much heavier, and barrels. The beach is long, and there are peaks all the way down it. The quality of the wave is better closer to the rivermouth, but if you go further south, you might find some more solitude.
I’ve surfed in Dominical in both February and April, and had vastly different experiences. In February, I was absolutely stoked by the surf conditions when I arrived in Dominical. It was on the smaller side, only 2-4 feet, but beautiful, clean A-frame waves. There were probably less than 15 people in the water, and this is a pretty big beach, so it felt pretty spacious.
In April, we went out when it was about 4-6 feet, stormy, and heavy. The surf got bigger that week too, and we ended up driving south to scout out smaller places to surf.
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My specialty? Helping surfers narrow down the options to find the perfect surf spot for their budget and skill level and plan an unforgettable surf trip.
Playa Dominicalito surf
When the waves are too big at Playa Dominical, you can head to the next beach south, Playa Dominicalito. Playa Dominicalito is in a sheltered cove, so it doesn’t get as big as it’s big brother Dominical. The surf schools in Dominical often take surf students here when the surf is too big at Dominical. The beach at Dominicalito is fairly rocky, so be careful not to hit the rocks. The wave at Dominicalito is best surfed at a mid to high tide.
Where to stay for a Dominical surf trip
For this 7 night/8 day surf camp, you’ll have unlimited surfboard rentals, 5 surf lessons, airport transfers, daily breakfast, and two photo and video analysis sessions. The camp also includes either a guided trip to the gorgeous Nauyaca Waterfall, or a ziplining excursion. This surf camp is suitable for all levels, and you have your choice of staying that the Tropical Sands Inn, or the Mavi Hotel.
Best swells for surfing Dominical
Dominical does best with a solid south or southwest swell.
Dominical surf seasons
Like many other surf breaks in Costa Rica, you’re going to be faced with dramatically different conditions depending on the time of year you plan your surf trip. For more information on surfing seasons and breaks in Costa Rica, check out my Costa Rica surf guide.
If you’re looking for sunny days and smaller waves, you’ll want to time your surf trip to Dominical with Costa Rica’s dry season. The dry season in Costa Rica runs from about December-April, although the waves do tend to get bigger in April.
During the rainy season, you can expect bigger swells, fewer crowds, and lower prices in Dominical.
Dominical surf FAQs
Are there good waves in Dominical?
Yes! Dominical is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
Can beginners surf in Dominical?
It depends on the waves! When the surf size is less than head high, on a higher tide, the Dominical surf turns into the perfect playground for intermediate level surfers. You’ll see some nice, A-frame waves, in the crystal clear water. With a backdrop of palm trees and little to no development visible from the water, you’ll truly feel like you’re in paradise surfing here.
When the surf grows to overhead at Dominical, and the lifeguards bring out the red flags, it turns into an experts only surf break. It can get quite dangerous at Playa Dominical when a big swell comes through. However, it is also very exciting. Big wave surfers from all over the country will flock to Playa Dominical when a big swell comes through. When this happens, the sleepy surf town comes to life, and you’ll really feel and enjoy the energy, even if you aren’t a big wave surfer (like most of us!)
If the waves are too big at Dominical, beginners can always head south to Playa Dominicalito, or check out some of the other best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica.
How big are the waves at Dominical?
The waves in Dominical range anywhere from fun 2-3 foot rollers in the dry season, to massive, double overhead waves.
Do I need a car in Dominical?
It depends! If you want to explore some of the best things to do in Dominical like visiting the Nauyaca waterfall, you may want to have a car. However, Dominical is pretty walkable, especially if you stay close to the surf. If you’re staying further away from the waves, it is nice to have a car, and then you can explore other towns and breaks nearby.
Dominical surf final thoughts
Overall, Dominical is a really fun wave, in a really gorgeous part of Costa Rica. If you’re looking for fun waves, pretty mellow crowds, and a laid-back Costa Rican surf town, you’ll love Dominical.
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