Dominical is one of my favorite places in Costa Rica. The beach is big, open, and wild, the surrounding jungles are lush and green, and the overall vibe is laid back and tranquil.
While Dominical may be best known for its surf, there are many other fun and interesting things to do in Dominical- including exploring massive waterfalls, breweries, and beach hopping.
I’m here to share with you some of the best things to do in Dominical, including some tips at the end to help you plan your trip.
Let’s jump right in!
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How to get to Dominical
Before diving into the best things to do in Dominical, here’s how to actually get there in the first place.
Luckily, all the roads surrounding Dominical are paved, so it’s actually relatively easy to get to Dominical as compared to other places in Costa Rica!
- From San José
If your Costa Rica travel plans include visiting Dominical, I’d recommend flying into San José. There is a direct bus that goes from San José to Dominical several times daily, and it costs about $20, and takes approximately 3.5 hours.
You can find approximate bus schedules here.
Another option to get to Dominical is to rent a car and drive. Depending on the season and type of car you rent, this will cost anywhere from $40-$100 per day.
Renting a car is definitely more expensive than taking the bus, but it offers you a whole lot more freedom!
1. Surf at Playa Dominical or Dominicalito
“Playa Dominical barrels every. low. Tide.”
At least that’s what our host told us as we checked into our airbnb, whilst warning us about the strong currents and powerful swells at Playa Dominical.
While Dominical is certainly known for big waves, and when the swells hit, they HIT. However, if you visit in the dry season, when there isn’t a big swell, the surf can be (surprisingly) SUPER fun.
Imagine a midday surf when the tide is juuuust right. Little A-frames popping up everywhere, hardly any surfers in the water, trading waves and splitting peaks with your best friends, or enjoying the solitude of the ocean, with no development, only trees on the beach. That’s Dominical.
Check out my Dominical surf guide for more on that.
2. Explore the Nauyaca Waterfalls
The Nauyaca Waterfall is incredible, and is located just a 15 minute drive from the beach town/ downtown area of Dominical.
Nauyaca Falls (Nauyaca Cataratas) is actually a set of 2 waterfalls. The upper falls are huge (almost 150 feet tall!) and powerful, and the pool they cascade into is not safe for swimming, but is a beautiful sight to take in.
The lower waterfalls are smaller (65 feet), and cascade into a beautiful pool that is perfect for swimming.
To get to the waterfalls, you can either hike or take a guided tour where they will transport you by truck to the base of the falls.
The other option is to hike! The hike itself is beautiful, and you may see some wildlife on the sides of the trail if you keep your eyes peeled!
The hike is pretty long though, and will take anywhere from 1-2 hours each way, so be sure to bring plenty of water and give yourself time.
3. Enjoy Breakfast at Cafe Mono Congo
One of the best things to do in Dominical easily includes getting breakfast at Cafe Mono Congo.
Cafe Mono Congo is a little breakfast/lunch spot situated right along the Barú River. The restaurant is a fusion of typical Costa Rican food and a vegan-friendly brunch spot, with affordable prices.
Their gallo pinto burritos with a mango habanero hot sauce? Hands down some of the absolute BEST breakfast burritos in Costa Rica.
They also have an assortment of delicious pastries, bowls, and coffee drinks, and an overall cool vibe.
4. Take a surf lesson
If you don’t know how to surf but want to give it a try, Dominical can be a good place to learn!
When the waves are small, Dominical is an excellent place for beginner surfers to give surfing a try, and/or take a surf lesson.
If you’ve never surfed before, I would definitely advise taking a surf lesson! The surf lesson includes a board, rash guard, and personalized surf coaching for any level of surfer, whether you’re a total beginner looking to learn how to stand up on a wave, or a more experienced surfer who wants to work on their turns- there is something for everyone with this Dominical surf school!
5. Shop for trinkets on the beach
If you’re into souvenir shopping, you’re in luck- Dominical has a huge market right next to the beach.
Every single day, there are loads of vendors displaying their goods, from colorful textiles, to jewelry, to traditional Costa Rican coffee makers, to interesting trinkets and gadgets, this market is very interesting!
Tip: Most of the prices here are pretty affordable, but there is always some room for haggling at markets like this one!
6. Take in the beauty of the Barú River
The Barú River is one of the most gorgeous rivers I’ve seen in Costa Rica… I mean it’s right up there with Rio Celeste!
Dominical is located in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica, and this region is much more lush and green than other parts of Costa Rica, like the Nicoya Peninsula.
Even in the dry season in Costa Rica, the areas surrounding Dominical are extremely vibrant!
The area surrounding the Barú River is one of the best places to take in all this beautiful greenery.
7. Go River Rafting
One of the most invigorating things to do in Dominical is go river rafting! Dominical is situated very close to some of the best river rafting in Costa Rica!
If you’ve never gone white water rafting before, the Savegre River offers class II and III rapids, which are suitable for beginners. You can book a white water rafting tour on the Savegre River here!
8. Drive South and Beach Hop
If you’ve rented a car, one of the best things to do in Dominical is to explore the surrounding area, and go for a beach-hopping excursion!
I really can’t emphasize enough how gorgeous this area is. After spending so much time exploring Nosara, and other areas on the Nicoya Peninsula, I was simply blown away by how GREEN everything was down in Dominical!
While Playa Dominical is certainly gorgeous, it was really fun to take a day and drive south to check out the other beaches in the area, including Playa Dominicalito, and Playa Hermosa.
When researching Dominical, it was a little unclear to me how close Dominicalito was from Playa Dominical.
Would I be able to easily walk there?
Well, I definitely did not want to walk to Dominicalito, as it is actually pretty far, and worth driving if you want to visit.
Playa Dominicalito is definitely worth a visit though, it’s like its own little secluded beachtown, with a nice cove for swimming and surf lessons if Dominical is too rough.
If you drive further down the coast, you can check out Playa Hermosa too. You’ll have to cross a small river to get to it, but once you’re there, it’s a really cool little secluded beach.
9. Kayak through the Mangroves
If you want to get a closer look at the nature of Dominical out on the water, consider kayaking through the mangroves!
The mangroves are a part of a vibrant ecosystem that provides a habitat for many creatures in Costa Rica, and a kayaking or SUP ( stand up paddleboard) tour is the only way to get up close and personal with these hapitata!
Kayaking through the mangroves is definitely one of the best and most popular things to do in Dominical.
10. Take a Yoga Class
While it’s fairly well known that Dominical is a surfing destination, it is also a great place to practice yoga.
The overall atmosphere in Dominical is quite peaceful, if you’re looking for a tranquil place to further your yoga practice, Dominical might be a good bet.
A few Dominical yoga studios include:
11. Hit up one of Costa Rica’s best breweries
Last but not least, one of the BEST things to do in Dominical is to check out Fuego Brewing Company in Dominical!
Breweries are pretty uncommon in Costa Rica, and this one totally rocks. They have a delicious, wide variety of beers, as well as solid food to accompany their beers.
It’s a little on the pricey side for a full dinner here, but it’s well worth the splurge, or at least to stop by for a beer!
The building itself is even really cool, it’s like climbing up into a treehouse.
Where to stay in Dominical
One thing I really liked about Dominical is that there were a lot of options for accommodations, even while I was on a backpacker’s budget.
Here are the best budget accommodation options in Dominical:
This is THE place to stay in Dominical as a backpacker. This hostel is clean, has a welcoming atmosphere, and even a pool! They have a mix of private rooms + a dorm.
Since this is the best hostel in Dominical, they usually sell out at least a week in advance so if you want to stay here, be sure to reserve your bed!
This funky beachfront hostel is pretty bare bones, but it is literally across the street from the beach and very affordable.
They also have a mix of private rooms + a dorm.
There are also some really nice hotels in Dominical, including:
This gorgeous hotel is the perfect place to kick back and relax on your trip to Dominical. The rooms have AC, a modern yet beachy interior, and there is a lovely pool to enjoy.
It’s also located only a few minutes walking distance from the beach!
This lovely beachfront hotel has a pool, garden, and comfortable, air-conditioned rooms. Not to mention, it’s located directly in front of the beach!
Where to eat in Dominical
Dominical has a pretty wide selection of different food, and I’m happy to say there are quite a few good options!
My top picks for where to eat in Dominical include:
I know I’ve already mentioned this once, but it’s worth revisiting- this place ROCKS.
This brewery is a must-visit while you’re in Dominical. The beers are great, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is top notch.
The pizza here is delicious, and reasonably priced as well. I definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something to bring back to your hotel.
Final thoughts on the best things to do in Dominical
That concludes my list of the best things to do in Dominical! Dominical was one of my favorite places I visited on my backpacking Costa Rica trip.
I loved it so much, I came back a second time too. I hope this list has given you some inspiration for planning your trip to Dominica.