Matapalo and Dominical Travel Guide

Matapalo is an escape from the typical tourist destination, off the beaten track, yet possessing all of the natural beauty of the Central Pacific.

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All the info to prepare your trip to Matapalo & Dominical. How to get in, maps, activities...
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Matapalo is an escape from the typical tourist destination, off the beaten track, yet possessing all of the natural beauty of the Central Pacific. Those who enjoy enchanting beaches and great sunsets will be more than happy to divert it. The town of Matapalo, about 20 miles (32 km) south of Quepos, is where you can find yourself caught in between scenic beaches and striking forests full of Mango, Palm and Coconut Trees.

Very few places to stay since many of the hotels and guesthouse were removed by law. The area is protected and it is becoming difficult to build any new hotel. An alternative is stay 30 km South, in Dominical.

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Usually people only need directions from the capital airport, SJO. There are three ways to get to Dominical, not counting the sea. The most common is from the east, via San Isidro (de General). San Jose is where you fly in and either bus or rent a car and head south to San Isidro. There you can buy some groceries at reasonable prices and head west (just ask for Dominical). This entire route takes you through cloud forests, mountain ridges, and river valleys and takes about four hours by car and six hours by bus (San Jose to Dominical). Coming in from the northern route now has a new, paved highway. From Quepos, Dominical is about a 1 hour drive. From the south what people do is fly into SJO, then make reservations for Sansa air flight to Palmar Sur and get a car rental to meet them there. From Palmar Sur to Dominical is the best road in the country, thought to support the future plans of an international airport in Palmar Sur. It only takes 45 minutes to drive from the airport to Dominical this way.
It is also best to already know more about the area, places to visit and accommodation, the Town is becoming more touristic as it is considered a great surf spot and many retired surfers live here.

There are around 4 different bus companies who service to Dominical, there is a full list buses to dominical

There is a Collectivo/Bus twice a day from Puerto Jimenez for 4 US$. One leaves at 6 am and the other at 1.30 pm de Puerto Jimenez. Buy your return ticket when you buy you ticket to go there. Hitchhiking might be possible as well since there is quite some traffic.


The number one attraction in Dominical is the beach and ocean. There’s all the amenities to help you enjoy a safe and exhilarating time. Lifeguards are not a given in Costa Rica.

Children aren’t taught to swim and the Red Cross comes to the beach only 2 or 3 times a year for a few days (and then without ocean safety provisions). Funding continuously challenges the professionally trained Dominical Lifeguards program as they are wholly donation funded.

This mean these shepherds of the sea are always happy to accept donations from travelers of surf fins, red swim trunks, sunscreen, floats, cans, and … Preventative measures are strong (training, public awareness, manning the lifeguard tower and walking /running the beach) as strong waves require alert beach-goers and fortunately there are Lifeguards in Dominical, dedicated to serving both national and international visitors.

Everyone is encouraged to visit the Dominical Lifeguards official website to keep current with the program (lots of Dominical Surf Photos). The Annual 4th of July Sunday Lifeguards Fundraiser Extravaganza at Roca Verde Hotel/Bar/Restaurant has live music, Auction, Children’s Games, Surfing, Beach Party, and a huge BBQ with “Tooo Much” Fixin’s.

Fishing and Waterfalls tie for second in area attractions. Ziplines, caves, horseback riding, yoga, massage, socializing, and hiking are as well favorites here. Parque Reptilandia has local snakes and frogs as well as a crocodile and a Komodo Dragon for a unique experience. Hacienda Baru has very interesting eco tours including a night venture.

Being less than 5 miles from Marino Ballena National Park, whales are seen along the shoreline 9 months of the year. Thus, whale watching tours are popular and normally successful.

This piece of the Pacific Ocean is one of only two places in the world where whales from the Northern Hemisphere and those from the Southern Hemisphere meet (the other is in North Africa). The Humpback is the star of the show, but six other species are also common.

Monkeys, waterfalls, amazing beaches, surfers, snakes, birds …

Be sure to visit the King Louis Waterfall, accessed from the stream running into Playa Matapalo. Just follow the stream up about a half mile (you’ll have to hike through it, so wear shoes that you’ll get wet). This is a spectacular 90 foot fall.

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Learning to surf is big here in Dominical. There are several businesses to help you accomplish this. Green Iguana Surf Camp is the oldest running full service camp, followed by Dominical Surf Camp with surf pro Rony Obando, next oldest is Alejandro Cerdes Costa Rica Surf Camp and pro Jose “Gato” Montoya’s recently opened Gato Surf Camp. Tres Olas Surf Camp offers a slightly different package more tailored to good surfers wanting to get better. For one-on-one Steve Fergus at Jazzy’s RiverHouse, 16 year old Debbie Zec (506-344-2582) is 2nd in the National Circuit Women’s category and gives lessons to young girls wanting to learn. For Surf Tours, El Tubo Surf.

  • Costa Rica Whale Watching, Dominical, Costa Rica, ☎ 506-2643-5901. Daily whale watching cruises from Dominical on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast on Pacific Quest. Large, safe boat with restrooms and snack bar. $80.
  • Sunset Surf Dominical (Dominical Surf Camp), Hotel Domilocos (50m up from The Refuge), ☎ 506.8917-3143. Dylan Park is renown as one of the brightest, most universally trained surf instructor in the area. Sunset Surf is located inside of Domilocos and offers a wide variety of Dominical surfing packages to suit everyone.
  • Autentico Rafting Adventures, ☎ 506-2770-2923. Rafting trips near Dominical featuring rapids class 2, 3, and 4. Guides have more than 8 years of experience guiding the rivers near Dominical. from $65.
  • Tree of Life Tours (high adventure soaked with pure adrenaline, or peaceful hiking through pristine rainforests), Las Tumbas, Costa Rica (30 minutes from Playa Dominical and 3.5 hours from San Jose), ☎ 506-2787-0555. Family run business offering awe inspiring tours since 1996 of majestic vistas, cliff jumping, multiple waterfalls (one is 600 feet), overnight stays inside a waterfall’s cave, canyoning, beginner and advanced rappelling,… all reasonably priced with excellent guides and food.

Surfing at Playa Matapalo is for experienced surfers. If you are there at the right time you can get huge waves with a nice break. The Pan Dulce beach is a beach for beginners. Surfboards can be rented for around 20 US$ por dia.

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  • Bamboo YogaPlay (Bamboutique), In front of the school in Dominical, ☎ 2787-0229. 8:30-6:30. For daily yoga, dance, massage and the cutest clothes and adornments at the Bamboutique come to Bamboo YogaPlay in the center of Dominical on the main road. $12 a class and $60 for highly qualified therapeutic massage.
  • Gato Suf Camp, Dominical, ☎ 506-8899-8746. Pro surfer and Costa Rica national team member Jose “Gato” Montoya recently opened Gato Surf Camp. Packages are available for all levels and budgets. Besides surfing Gato Surf Camp offers other local adventures to neighboring waterfalls, paddle boarding, kayaking, yoga, and more. Pura Vida!
  • Costa Rica Surf Camp (, In Front of ICE Building, ☎ +(506) 8812-3625. 9-5 daily. Costa Rica Surf Camp is owned by local Cesar Valverde, whose surf camp has been providing excellent customer service for over 10 years. CRSC provides both day lesson as well as week long packages and vacations. $40.

There is nothing to buy in Cabo Matapalo. There is a Restaurant with high prices so prepare yourself before taking of in Puerto Jimenez

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Restaurants are varied and many. “Tipical Comida” is found in every restaurant.

  • La Cusinga Eco Lodge (The Gecko Restaurant) A great organic restaurant, next to Ballena Marine National Park) Our mission is to offer our guests the same spiritual and physical sustenance in our food that they will receive from the natural beauty surrounding them at La Cusinga Lodge. Just as La Cusinga represents a sustainable form of eco-tourism, at The Gecko we offer a cuisine that reflects that same sustainability.
  • Cusinga Lodge. Just as La Cusinga represents a sustainable form of eco-tourism, at The Gecko we offer a cuisine that reflects that same sustainability.
  • San Clemente has Mexican American
  • Tortilla Flats has beach seafood
  • Rio Mar has steak and seafood
  • Nanyoa has Budget Costa Rican
  • La Parcela has international cuisine in an exquisite setting
  • Macha has seafoods.
  • Nivel has great food and serves until 2AM. Their food is different from everywhere else. Everyone goes there late night to drink and get a good late night meal.

All grocery stores have sandwich makings and dinner preparations.

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  • Roca Verde. Most popular even if it is only one night a week (Sat.) as the nearby San Isidro city parks itself there and Latinas sway in the moonlight.
  • Tortilla Flats closes early (9) but serves it up from breakfast till then and is perfect for a surf and a beer or three.
  • Cocos is all about the Tico flavor and terrific for sports nights.
  • Confusione often has violin music on Saturday nights.
  • San Clemente Taco Tuesday plus Friday night discotheque fiesta.
  • Que Nivel has happy hour every night from 6PM-8PM. Also they have weekly events: Monday Movie Night, Ten Thousand Tuesday (Costa Rican Dice Game), Thursday is Ladies 80’s Night, and Saturday they have the preparty for Roca Verde with Power Hour.
  • La Cascada on the Beach is a new, hot club with all the amenities..right on the beach!

There’s even a delivery service, NightFlight, in town to get booze and food to your vacation home until three in the morning.

  • The Refuge. Really good burgers & fries Toward the south end of town.
  • Maracatú, ☎ 27870091. World Music Bar and Natural Tropical Cuisine.
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  • El Coco. checkout: 11pm. Cheapest hostel in town (all of the rooms are 16$,the price is for a room of 3 or 4 ppl), at the end of the unique road, 10m from the beach. You see a big restaurant with very reasonable prices (6$ average for a dinner, is cheaper than getting products at the supermarket). The rooms are basic, with fan. There are shared bathrooms and showers, no hot water. The owner is very friendly and helpful. 16$.
  • La Cusinga Eco Lodge, ☎ +506-2770-2549. A great Eco Lodge, next to Ballena Marine National Park. See the Whales from your room, toucans, Cusingas, Howler Monkeys, and many more animals from your room, from the restaurant, in the parking lot. Nature is all around, you do not need to walk far to be with in nature!
  • Piramys Beachfront Hostel, 100m south of restaurante el Coco (Along small beach road), ☎ 83536428. The motto at hostel Piramys is “stay, relax and enjoy!”. Facilities include a kitchen, free wifi, free coffee for dorm guest, lockers, tour information & car rental, shuttle transportation from/to Dominical, surf board rentals & lessons, and well equipped gym.
  • Que Nivel (Eat-Drink-Sleep), ☎ 011-506-2787-0437. Freshly renovated rooms, new mattresses, and a cool, sleek style.
  • Costa Paraiso Beach Resort, (2 km south of Dominical), ☎ 506 2787 0025. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Luxury oceanfront cabins with amazing views and a new restaurant. Around $110.
  • Casi el Cielo (Almost Heaven), ☎ 011-506-8813-561. Bed and breakfast Vacation Villa on the Pacific Coast near Dominical, includes meals and fresh baked goods.
  • Rio Magnolia Ecolodge, La Alfombra, ☎ 506-8307-1036. Rio Magnolia eco-lodge is situated on a 280 acre mountain rainforest overlooking the Pacific halfway between Playa Dominical and San Isidro.
  • Dominical Hotel Domilocos (Dominical Hotel), (50m up from The Refuge), ☎ 506.2.787.0244. Hotel Domilocos is considered to be the best value in Dominical and priced considerably lower than anywhere else. This hotel offers the finest in Dominical dining. $45.
  • Villas Rio Mar (Villas Rio Mar), 800 meters upstream the Baru river (Dominical), ☎ 506 -2787 0052. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 12md. Jungle and river resort that combines comfort with a great nature and adventure experience! Comfortable rooms with hot water, fans and A/C in the Superior Rooms and Junior Suites. Big Pool, SPA, kids playground and in house activity center. Good restaurant with local and international food. 60.
  • El Castillo (Ojochal), Perasosa Rd (18 miles south of Dominical), ☎ 011506-2786-5543. Perched on a cliff 300 ft above the Pacific. Stunning location, Spanish colonial masterpiece. 10 bedrooms AC infinity pool, bar. $100.
  • Pinna – casa di Piedra (Rock House), 4 miles up road into the jungle (Esceleras), ☎ 617-297-2771. Self catering villa with magnificent view of Pacific down to Whales Tail and further. Pool and large outdoor livong area with expansive look out points to view below. Private home available directly from owner. 150.
  • Hostel Del Rio, Pueblo Del Rio (At the entrance to town, in Pueblo Del Rio), ☎ (506) 2787 0454. Dorm beds for $10 per night and Private Cabinas for $45 per night including hot water, A/C, kitchen, wifi, lockers, garden area..middle of town, close to everything and the beach! $10.
  • Jazzy’s Riverhouse, Waterside Home Rental (Behind Maracatu Restaurant), ☎ +011-506-2-787-0310. checkin: 2:00pm; checkout: 12pm. Boutique Tree house style house right in the middle of town on the Baru River. 5 minutes walk to the beach. Sleeps 6. 960 sq.ft. two story house/fully furnished/ and equipped, with a small kitchen, laundry, library and decorated with handcrafted/native hardwoods and colorful tiles $60-$75 per night.

There are several High Class establishments (more than 200 US$) and a few budget places like Osa la Vida (15 US$ per person) and you might want to talk to the owner of Finca Roca Dura at the end of Playa Matapalo.

Like everywhere in Costa Rica camping on beaches is absolutley legal. Since there is a Waterfall for showers and drinmking water at 10 min. walk to Playa Matapalo you might consider camping on the beach. It s safe!

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CONTACT to see Cabo Matapalo.

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Most of the people walk or have motocycles/quads. It s a small place so you can walk everywhere.

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The Colectivo pases at 9.30 am an 4.30 am at the entrance of the village. Hitchhiking might be possible as well since there is quite some traffic.

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Matapalo is an escape from the typical tourist destination, off the beaten track, yet possessing all of the natural beauty of the Central Pacific. Those who enjoy enchanting beaches and great sunsets will be more than happy to divert it.

Travel and tourism in Matapalo & Dominical. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to eat and sleep. Download the Free Matapalo & Dominical Travel Guide.

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Michel Piccaya


As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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