“The quiet little out of the way place, that’s not so out of the way.”
On the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica is one of the country's most beautiful uncut gems, Dominical. From its turquoise green water to its fiery red and gold sunsets, the natural beauty of the area is second to none.
The town sits on the Pacific ocean bordered to the north by the Rio Baru, on the east by three thousand foot high mountains and to the south by dark, coffee brown, beaches and coves. One of the most striking features of Dominical can be found while swimming in the water, the town simply disappears. All you see are the tall beach palms and mangroves surrounded by verdant green hills reaching up into the mountains.
Dominical has been known for many years to the international surfing community because of its consistently good waves. Only recently has it been discovered by those people attracted to its natural beauty. Not more than fifteen years ago the only buildings to be found were a few dilapidated fishing huts built by local fishermen. Since then the town has grown to over 700 permanent residents with a number of small beach front restaurants, bars and cabinas. Even with the emergence and growth of the town, it is possible to walk from one end of Dominical to the other in less than ten minutes.
The area surrounding Dominical, especially to the south, is almost completely unpopulated. Because of this, the area is full of hundreds of different species of exotic animals including; three different types of toucans, giant green and red iguanas, all four types of native monkeys, parrots of all sizes and hues, three toed sloths and various small cats such as jaguarundis and montegordos. These two types of cats are smaller versions of the spotted jaguar and black panther found to the south in the Osa Peninsula. They are extremely rare and this is one of their last natural habitats found in Central America.
There are two national preserves in the immediate area with three more (Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park and Caño Island National Preserve) only an additional hour and a half away. North of town, on the other side of Rio Baru is Hacienda Baru, which is a private 1000 acre preserve. Stretching from the beach with its mangrove swamps filled with bright yellow beaked toucans to its primary forest crested hilltops, Hacienda Baru offers the ecological tourist the opportunity to see a wonderful diversity of tropical plants and animals. To the south is the country's only totally underwater national park, Marino Ballena. Here it is possible to see a pristine and virgin underwater world with scores of multi-colorful marine creatures, coral reefs and jagged, ash black, volcanic rocks and tide pools. In the hills directly east of town are areas of primary forest with numerous waterfalls throughout, including the county's tallest, a three level, 800 foot high mountain of cascading water.
Reaching Dominical is not much easier than it used to be, now that the main coastal road has been completed. This means that the San Jose airport is now less than three hours drive from town. Before the completion of this main highway, the best way to reach Playa Dominical was by going south down the Pan-American Highway. This route, while very beautiful takes you high up into the mountains of the continental divide. The road can be difficult to navigate and is not recommended at night. It is home to the country's largest cloud forest and the worlds last remaining, sustainable habitat for the endangered quetzal.
In a country full of beautiful vistas and lush tropical landscapes, this area not only holds its own, it shines. Dominical, the quiet little out of the way place that's not so out of the way.
When you are planning your trip down to Dominical from the San Jose Airport (SJO), it is important for you to know when your flight will arrive. If you plan on arriving on Sunday and going directly down, you will need to arrive no later than 12pm. While there are public bus options, the best and most direct is to take one of the private shuttles that travel down every afternoon. Greyline Tours is the best option if you do not want to take the public bus. We also have an airport pick up service that can help you to get from the airport down to the school and town. Please check out our ISLS Guesthouse page for more information about this option.