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!
Disclaimer: I surfed here in February and April, during the dry season when the swells aren’t as powerful. My experience, is going to be completely different from surfing in the rainy season, or when there are large swells here! So exercise caution like always, and don’t go out in surf that is beyond your skill level.
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My Experience Researching Dominical Surf
Earlier this year, I was on a surf trip in Costa Rica. I was traveling south from Jaco, and I wanted to surf in Dominical. I tried looking up Dominical surf guides on the Internet, and all I could find was content solely about big wave surfing. As someone pretty uncomfortable surfing waves more than a few feet overhead, this was rather discouraging. I decided to check it out anyway, and see what the waves would be like while I was there, which was mid February.
When I got to my airbnb, the host echoed all the sentiments I had read on the Internet. He told us about the drownings that had occurred on the beach, and how we needed to be very careful. He also told us, verbatim, “it barrels here every low tide.” After swearing to be careful, and that we were decently experienced surfers, we made the trek to the beach.
Now, all the fear mongering sentiments from my airbnb host and the Internet weren’t entirely lost on me. However, 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 was also probably less than 15 people in the water, and this is a pretty big beach, so it felt pretty spacious. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the Dominical surf this February!
About Dominical Surf
Dominical is located on the Central Pacific of Costa Rica. It is a very unique break to Costa Rica, in that it is a beach break that holds nearly any size swell the ocean decides to throw its way. The reason for this, is Dominical’s large river, the Rio Baru. This large river flows into the ocean right next to the main surf break, and as it empties into the ocean, it digs out a channel in the sand, allowing the waves to hold up.
Best Tide to Surf Playa Dominical
This is pretty dependent on what you’re looking for. If you want to get barreled…. well, in the words of my airbnb host, you should surf at low tide. However, if you’re looking slightly softer waves, I’d recommend going at a higher tide.
Where on the Beach to Surf
The best surf in Playa Dominical is just to the left of the river mouth. However, there are some strong currents here, and it might be better to surf a little more to the south of the river mouth. There are plenty of peaks all along the beach, so you should be able to find your own peak to have some fun on.
Required Skill Level
The skill level required for Dominical surf is completely dependent on the conditions. That being said, this is not a place for absolute beginners to learn to surf, due to the very strong currents from the rivermouth.
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!)
What Board to Bring to Playa Dominical
Once again, this widely depends on your skill level and personal preference. When the waves are smaller here, it can be fun to longboard. Anything over 3 feet however, becomes very fun to shortboard. I personally had a blast on my 30 liter Firewire Potatonater.