Uvita ended up being my favorite place in Costa Rica because of the mixture of jungle, mountains and beach so close together. Growing up in Miami, with flat land everywhere, this was a surreal landscape to me and I didn’t want to leave. Dominical is one of the best beaches for surfing and you will find people from all over the world taking advantage of the waves. There are so many things to do in this area you could stay here for weeks and still be trying new things.
Why Visit The Costa Ballena?
Costa Ballena is a stretch of beach in the South Pacific Coast that consists of Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal. It is located to the north of the famous Osa Peninsula and much easier to access than the Osa Peninsula. It is filled with eco-lodges, bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels.
How to get to Dominical & Uvita
If you are renting a car it is quite easy to drive to the South Pacific Coast and onward to the towns in Costa Ballena. If you are coming from San Jose the trip will take between 3-4 hours. The route from San Jose is Route 27 to Route 34. The roads are paved through out and I was able to drive there just fine with a standard rental car. Here is a more in-depth post on driving from San Jose to Dominical.
Driving Tip: I rented a car with economy for my trip in Costa Rica and (honestly) I stupidly rented a standard car, instead of one with 4 wheel drive, because I was trying to save money. Don't be like me. Rent a 4x4 with a high clearance and 4 wheel drive. It is more money but it is definitely worth it.
Rental Car Tips | Driving in Costa Rica Tips | Road Conditions in Costa Rica
Things to do in Dominical & Uvita
Marino Ballena National Park
Visit the popular whales tail formation at low tide or just enjoy the beautiful and calm beach.
Hiking is available throughout Uvita and Dominical. It is best to get up early to spot wildlife and before it gets too hot out. Two of the best places for hiking are Tesoro Escondido Eco-Reserve and Hacienda Baru. It is also possible to stay directly on a reserve in Uvita. I stayed at La Cusinga and they had many trails with great wildlife watching.
There are many gorgeous waterfalls in the hills of Costa Ballena but Nauyaca is the most famous. You can visit Nauyaca on foot or by horseback. More info here.
Because there are two different whale migrations that visit Costa Ballena you can see whales here practically year round. The best chance for spotting them is in Marino Ballena Park. There are also many boat tours that will help you get up close to these beautiful creatures
Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary
Because of the increased tourism in the wildlife heavy Costa Ballena many animals are hit by cars or illegally captured. Visiting a wildlife sanctuary not only gets you a chance to see some amazing animals up close but also helps fund rehabilitation and release efforts in this beautiful region. I had the chance to visit Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary when I was in Costa Rica and it was one of the most amazing days. Here is an article with more information on Alturas including driving directions.
Dominical draws the most surfers and is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for surfing. Playa Hermosa (north of Uvita) and Uvita’s Playa Colonia are both great for beginners. There are also many surf schools in the region.
Best Hotels in Dominical & Uvita
There are many lodging accommodations available in Uvita or the larger town of Dominical. I had the opportunity to stay in 3 separate hotels in Uvita. Click on the links to read the full reviews and find out more on pricing, location and amenities.
For honeymooners or couples wanting a romantic getaway, I suggest Oxygen Jungle Villas.
For luxurious accommodations in a small boutique hotel close to the beach, I suggest El Castillo.
For a more rustic experience staying in a cabin and on a huge nature reserve, I suggest La Cusinga.
If you are looking for a family-friendly hotel in Uvita I also suggest La Cusinga or El Castillo.