The 13 best things to do in Dominical

Dominical is one of the most charming coastal towns in Costa Rica. Located on the Pacific coast, near the more well-known Uvita, it's a paradise for surfers and adventurers. The rugged beaches offer perfect waves for surfers, while the surrounding rainforest provides opportunities for hikes and zip lining. After a day full of adventure, you can relax in Dominical's laid-back, bohemian atmosphere and enjoy the sunset on the beach. It's a place where "Pura Vida" truly comes to life. We provide you with 13 tips for the must-dos in Dominical.

How to get to Dominical?

There are various ways to travel through Costa Rica. To reach Dominical, the easiest and fastest option is by car. You can choose your departure time and don't need to make stops, making your journey quicker.

You can also get to Dominical by bus, shuttle, or taxi. Using the bus or shuttle often takes longer due to stops along the way. For the most comfort, a touring bus or shuttle with air conditioning is recommended. The touring bus is more cost-effective, but it has limited destinations. The shuttle services more areas but comes at a higher cost. Local buses are a more budget-friendly alternative, but they typically lack air conditioning, and you might need to make more transfers, which can extend your journey. In some parts of Costa Rica, there are also Ubers, but not yet in the Dominical area.

From San José to Dominical

By car: From the capital city of San José, it's about a 3-hour drive to Dominical.

By bus: If you want to travel by bus, we recommend taking a Tracopa bus. We took this bus and were quite satisfied. Tracopa buses are touring buses equipped with air conditioning. The Tracopa website doesn't always work well, but you can purchase tickets online through the Passer app.

By shuttle: There are also shuttles that operate from San José to Dominical. These are minivans where you can travel with a small group of passengers. The cost typically ranges from 55 to 60 dollars per person. You can compare shuttles from different companies and book the one you prefer through Bookaway.

From Manuel Antonio to Dominical

By car: It's approximately a 45-minute drive from Manuel Antonio to Dominical. You'll be driving along the coast, so you can enjoy beautiful views of the sea on the way.

By bus: There is no direct bus connection from Manuel Antonio to Dominical. However, there is a bus that goes from Manuel Antonio to Quepos. In Quepos, you can transfer to a local bus heading to Dominical. We recommend checking the current departure times with your accommodation or at the National Park. If you have to wait in Quepos, it's a nice opportunity to explore and have a drink in this less touristy town.

By shuttle: From Manuel Antonio, there are also shuttles to Dominical. The cost typically ranges from 35 to 45 dollars per person.

From Uvita to Dominical

By car: It's a 15-minute drive from Uvita to Dominical, so you'll reach there quickly!

By bus: From Uvita, there's a Tracopa bus to Dominical, and you can purchase tickets online through the Passer app. You can also take a local bus heading to Quepos that stops in Dominical. We recommend checking the current departure times with your accommodation or at the bus station for these local buses, as our experience is that they can change regularly.

By shuttle: There are no shuttles from Uvita to Dominical. It's a short distance, so taking a taxi is a good alternative.

What to do in Dominical?

Dominical is a beautiful place located by the beach and surrounded by rainforest. There are plenty of activities to do in the Dominical area, whether you're looking for waterfalls, beautiful hikes, or the beach. Dominical has it all.

1. Nauyaca Waterfall

This waterfall is one of the most famous attractions near Dominical. The waterfall is 60 meters (197 feet) high, consists of two tiers, and is surrounded by the rainforest. A ticket costs around 12 dollars. To reach the waterfall, you'll take a beautiful hike through the rainforest. The trail to the waterfall is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and includes elevation changes, making it a challenging hike, especially on a hot day. We recommend bringing enough water and taking occasional breaks to enjoy the beautiful views. Once you reach the waterfall, you can admire its beauty and cool off in the water. The waterfall is open daily from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

You can also choose to take a truck to the waterfall, which costs 32 dollars on top of your entrance ticket. Another option is to reach it on horseback. You can ride your own horse with a guide, and this costs around 80 dollars on top of your entrance ticket.

How to get there?
From Dominical, it's a 15-minute drive to the trailhead for the waterfall hike. If you go by car, there are two places to park. The first one is at the park's entrance where you buy tickets, and parking here is free. You can also purchase a parking ticket at the entrance and drive further in.

There is a bus connection from Dominical to San Isidro, which stops at the Nauyaca waterfall. We recommend checking the schedule with your accommodation.

You can also easily take a taxi from Dominical to the waterfall. Usually, there are several taxis waiting at the waterfall, making it easy to return to Dominical.

2. Zip lining

We've done multiple zip line tours in Costa Rica, and we found the Osa Canopy Tour to be the most beautiful and enjoyable. This zip line tour is also suitable for children and takes about 3.5 hours. Before starting, you'll receive proper instructions, and then you'll be driven to a mountaintop, where the zip line adventure begins.

You'll be in a small group, which means shorter waiting times on the platforms between zip lines. During the zip lining, you'll have stunning views of the lush green rainforest, flying between high mountains. Moreover, zip lining in this area is less touristy compared to other places in Costa Rica. The zip lines at the Osa Canopy Tour vary in length and height, with some being quite long compared to other providers. During our experience, the guides were enthusiastic and friendly, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

After the final zip line, you'll arrive at a sort of shelter where you can enjoy some fruit included in the tour. There's also a Tarzan swing where you can be securely attached and swing back and forth with a beautiful backdrop.

How to get there?
From Dominical, it's a 45-minute drive to reach this zip line tour. We recommend going by car or taking a taxi since there are no direct buses or shuttles available.

3. Mangrove sup tour

Through a mangrove tour, you'll discover another part of Dominical's flora and fauna. A mangrove is an ecosystem between land and sea, primarily consisting of trees, water, and shrubs. In the mangroves, you can spot various animals, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. There are different ways to explore the mangrove, such as on a stand-up paddleboard (sup) or in a kayak. During the tour, the guide can provide explanations about the mangrove and show you various animals. Several organizations offer these tours in Dominical.

How to get there?
You can find various organizations offering these tours on Main Street behind the beach, such as Pineapple Tours.

4. Visit Uvita

Uvita is located about a 15-minute drive from Dominical. In Uvita, you can engage in various activities, but most people visit Uvita for the Marino Ballena National Park and the Whale's Tail. The Whale's Tail is located within this national park and is a narrow strip of sand that resembles a whale's tail at low tide, especially visible from the air. Additionally, Uvita is a hotspot for activities like zip lining, hiking, kayaking in the mangroves, and horseback riding on the beach. Surrounded by rainforest, you'll encounter plenty of flora and fauna.

How to get there?
You can reach Uvita from Dominical by car, bus, or taxi. If you opt for the local bus, it's advisable to inquire about the current departure times at your accommodation.

5. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

Costa Rica is known for its efforts to protect animals and nature. Unfortunately, there are still instances of hunting wild animals, for example, for meat or trade. When an animal is intercepted, authorities assess whether it can be released back into the wild. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to the protection, treatment, and reintegration of these animals, contributing to the preservation of rainforest wildlife.

The center rescues animals such as monkeys, birds, and reptiles. They offer tours to explore the facility and provide explanations about the animals. Visitors are not allowed to feed or touch the animals. A ticket costs 32 dollars for adults and 16 dollars for children. Donations from the tours support the center's existence and conservation efforts.

How to get there?
The sanctuary is about a ten-minute drive from Dominical, making it convenient to go by car. Due to its elevated location on a hill, taking the bus is not a feasible option. We recommend taking a taxi and planning your return trip accordingly. You can ask the taxi driver for their phone number or arrange a specific pickup time.

6. Whale watching

If you want to spot whales, your best chances are between December and March and between July and October due to the migration season. During the first period, the whales swim from the coast of Oregon to Central America, heading towards the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. In the second period, the whales swim along the coast for breeding, and you may also have the opportunity to spot baby whales during this time. The whales prefer to stay near the coast because of the warm waters for breeding. Throughout the year, you can also spot dolphins off the coast of Dominical. It's even more exciting if you spot dolphins while whale watching!

It's important to bring plenty of sunscreen because you can easily get sunburned on the open water. It can also be helpful to bring binoculars to get a better view of the whales.

While the likelihood of spotting whales is high during the migration season, please be aware that there are no guarantees, and it's possible that you may not see any. We recommend booking a whale watching tour with an experienced organization. They have knowledgeable guides who can pick up on signals and take you to the right locations.

The prices of whale watching tours usually range between 50 and 100 dollars, depending on the duration of the excursion, the season, the type of boat, and any additional activities that may be included.

How to get there?
Many whale watching tours depart from Uvita, which is a 15-minute drive from Dominical. If you don't have a car, taking a local bus to Uvita is the best option. The bus connection between Dominical and Uvita is well organized. It's a good idea to inquire about the current departure times and pickup points at your accommodation. Alternatively, you can take a taxi. Shuttle buses often don't cover this route because it's a short distance, and there are many other transportation options.

7. Beach market

It's very enjoyable to stroll around the beach market. The market is surrounded by palm trees. You can find many handmade jewelry and artworks at the market. You can also buy clothing and fabrics. Furthermore, you'll find local food, such as gallo pinto, which is a rice dish with beans. The market also offers a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Grab a fresh coconut and enjoy it on the beach!

How to get there?
The market is located behind the beach, between Sesame Street and Main Street, and it's open every day.

8. Surfing

Surfing in Dominical is very popular, and you'll see many surfers in the water while relaxing on the beach. Dominical offers waves suitable for all levels. A two-hour lesson costs around 60 dollars. There are also surf shops where you can rent surfboards and other equipment if you have some experience. The view from the sea in Dominical is stunning, with the beach surrounded by palm trees and jungle, creating a tropical vibe. Additionally, Dominical occasionally hosts surf competitions and events, which can be enjoyable to watch if you're in the area.

It's essential to consider the surf season. The dry season, from December to April, typically provides the best surfing conditions. During the rainy season from May to November, you'll find larger waves, making it more challenging for beginners to learn how to surf.

Pay close attention to the instructions of the instructors regarding the sea, especially if you have limited surfing experience. Strong currents can be present, and it's crucial to know how to handle them. We recommend that individuals with limited surfing experience always go surfing with an instructor. The waves can get quite high due to tides, and having a professional with you can be reassuring.

How to get there?
Just behind the beach at Sesame Street and Main Street, you'll find several surf schools where you can book lessons.

9. Yoga

To experience the Pura Vida lifestyle even more fully, it's nice to take a yoga class. In Dominical, you'll find various yoga studios offering different yoga sessions. The locations can vary from open-air settings with a view of the sea to spaces nestled among the trees. We recommend The Yoga Shala in Dominical. It's a covered location surrounded by lush greenery. Participants of all levels are welcome, and there's a class available every day.

How to get there?
The Yoga Shala is located behind Dominicalito Beach. You'll need to cross the main road to reach it.

10. Manuel Antonio National Park

This national park is located a 45-minute drive from Dominical and shares its name with the nearby coastal town. The national park is one of the most well-known in Costa Rica, making it quite touristy. The park offers rainforests, beaches, and various wildlife. Here, you can encounter howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, capuchin monkeys, and various bird species. The park features a secluded beach where you can enjoy swimming in the crystal-clear waters.

We recommend exploring the national park with a guide. A guide is familiar with the area and can show you various animals hidden in the trees. Without a guide, you might overlook them. Additionally, guides often carry telescopes, allowing you to observe, for example, the sloths high up in the trees. You can easily spend a day in the park.

It's essential to know that you need to purchase your tickets online in advance. You can choose a date and time slot and pay with a credit card. Furthermore, please note that Manuel Antonio is closed on Tuesdays, and you're not allowed to bring food and drinks into the park to minimize the impact on the environment and to prevent tourists from feeding the animals. If you happen to have bags with food and drinks, you can store them in lockers at the park's entrance. It's a good idea to bring a padlock to secure the locker.

For more tips about Manuel Antonio, check out our article Tips for Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park.

How to get there?
You can reach Manuel Antonio by car. There's ample parking available at the national park. You can also get there by bus or shuttle. If you plan a day trip, consider the transfer in Quepos, which adds extra travel time and reduces your time in the national park.

11. Paragliding

Paragliding is a fantastic way to experience the stunning nature from a different perspective. In Dominical, you have the opportunity to go paragliding. While we haven't tried it ourselves, one of our friends did. You'll receive detailed safety instructions beforehand and then be taken to the top of a mountain in a van. From here, you'll enjoy a breathtaking view of Dominical. For those who don't participate but wait for you down below, it's a good idea to bring binoculars to keep an eye on you. During the tandem flight with a certified paraglider, the instructor can take photos and videos that you can purchase afterward.

It's important to note that paragliding is highly weather-dependent. This means that flights may need to be rescheduled or canceled due to weather conditions. Additionally, the duration of your flight is also weather-dependent, typically lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.

How to get there?
You can find Zion Paragliding on Main Street and Tandem Paraglide CR is located behind Dominicalito Beach on Playa Dominicalito Street.

12. Poza Azul Waterfall

This waterfall is located about a half-hour drive from Dominical. It's not as impressive as the Nauyaca Waterfall, but it's still worth a visit. The waterfall is free to visit, and you can easily walk to it. You first descend a stone staircase and then walk along a forest path. With a bit of luck, you might have the waterfall all to yourself. It's an ideal place to find some peaceful relaxation and cool off. We visited during the dry season, so there was less water flowing, but it's still worth a look.

How to get there?
We recommend going there by car or taxi, as the waterfall is a bit off the main road.

13. Enjoy the sunset at Dominicalito Beach

It's highly recommended to watch the sunset on a clear evening at Dominicalito Beach. It's a delightful way to end the day, sitting on a rock and enjoying the colors of the sun and the soothing sound of the sea. This is one of the most romantic spots in Dominical.

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Do you want to read more about Costa Rica?

See all our articles with the best tips to discover all beautiful places in Costa Rica.

About the authors

How nice that you are on our website and that you have read this article! We are Mirte and Matthew, two Dutch adventurers with a passion for traveling, discovering cultures, and gaining new experiences. We've translated our love for the world into this website. We hope our articles inspire you to go on adventures! You can learn more about us through the button below.
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