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Top Ten Most Fun Adventures in the Dominical Area

When you are in the Dominical area, the following super-fun adventures will blow your doors off. They present in reverse order, meaning that number 10 takes the cake as the “most fun” — at least in this writer’s semi-expert opinion. But bear in mind that all of these excursions are an absolute blast — as well as appropriate for any age level above toddler.

1. Jungle hike and canopy tour at Hacienda Barú (located in the Dominical area)

Got sloth and monkey sightings on your bucket list? A tour at Hacienda Barú is the surest way to take in your quota of furry creatures on this trip. The forest preserve is in the immediate Dominical area (2 miles from town), the guides are knowledgeable, and the wildlife sure to be seen and appreciated. The canopy tour is especially recommended.  Very safe parking.

Required level of fitness: medium.You should be able to hike 30-45 minutes in the green sauna, although shorter hikes could be arranged.

2. Visit to “hand of God” waterfall and organic restaurant El Pavon

To get there, go South of Ojochal a few minutes and take the road up the Punta Mala, and go to the SECOND Tilaplia Restaurant, called El Pavón, located on the right side of the road, across from the famed waterfall. Take a swim in the fabulous deep pool below the raging waterfall. Then enjoy a fresh tilapia lunch of locally grown organic goodies at the restaurant across the street from the falls. The falls are a 3 minute stroll from where you park. The climb down takes about a minute, and is not too steep. No thefts reported here. Park and swim in peace.

Required level of fitness: low.

3. Cavort on the famous “Whale’s Tail” in Whale National Park

The park is at the beach in Uvita, the next town over from Dominical. Go ahead and explore the small island that connects to the sandbar at low tide to form the tail of the whale. You can have a lot of fun watching (and feeling) the tide come in and turn the sandbar you are playing on into the Pacific ocean. But just be sure to make it off the island and the sandbar before the full tide comes in, or you could be stuck out there till the next low tide! Don’t leave valuables in the car unless you see good security; and the same goes for the beach. Take nothing of value there, or keep valuables real close if you do.

Required level of fitness: low.

4. Horesback ride to Nauyaca Falls

This option is also in the immediate Dominical area. You get there by car in about seven to ten minutes from town. Sign up ahead of time in Dominical at any of the tour operator offices. You get a decent horse and guided horseback tour to the spectacular waterfall. There you swim and picnic on fresh fruit, juices, and sandwiches prepared specially by the owner, Don Lulo’s wife and daughters. The whole thing can be done in half a day, starting in the morning. Parking there is safe. The horses are just fine with not running, but if you prod them just a bit, they will break into a nice canter. But not aiming for the falls of course. Headed out, they drag and droop and reach for grass snackies and water from streams. But point their noses towards home and they start to chomp at their bits like racehorses – well, not quite, but . . . they do perk up dramatically.

Required level of fitness: low, although you do have to be able to ride a slow horse for a couple of hours on hilly terrain.

5. Kayak the caves and islands of Whale National Park

Whale Park (Parque Marino Ballena) features dozens of cool caves that you can explore in rented kayaks. You can also paddle out to the Three Sisters Islands that are visible from shore. It takes a couple of hours of steady paddling to make it there. The first time we went, it seemed real easy to get there. We should have known: the outgoing tide carried us. On the way back, we had to fight that same tide and it took several hours to make it.

You should plan to go as the tide is in the final stages of ebbing, so you can catch the incoming tide on the way back. And watch for sudden rainstorms in the rainy season. You can get disoriented when you can’t see the shore. Best not to go out if the weather looks dicey, and avoid late afternoon jaunts in the heavy rainy season even if the sun is out when you start. A storm can show up out of nowhere. . . .

Required level of fitness: medium for the caves to high for the islands.

6. White water rafting starting at Rafikki Lodge on the Savegre River

The experienced white water expedition guides at Rafikki make this trip a special experience. They are the only outfit using this river regularly so you can expect to see few others. You get to raft 13 kilometers of class II and class III rapids. I The river is one of the cleanest in Central America, and the scenery and wildlife are unforgettable. The hot lunches served mid-way restore your energy for another round of spinning down the river.

The trip in total takes about six hours. The lodge is located about a 45 minute drive from Dominical. You drive towards Quepos from Dominical on the Coastal Highway, take the El Silencio road (to the right) at the very wide Savegre River bridge, and then ask directions to Raffiki or follow the signs. It will take another half an hour of 4 wheel driving from there. But you can arrange to be picked up in town.

Required level of fitness: low to medium.

7. Surf lessons at the beaches of Dominical, Dominicalito, and Playa Hermosa

The Dominical area is famous mainly for the consistent quality and size of its surfing waves. It would be a pity to spend a lot of time here and not at least begin to learn this sport, which takes more than one lifetime to perfect. But any age or skill level will work when it comes to taking lessons. As long as you can swim, you can learn to surf in the small waves.
Not giving surfing a try while you are here would be like camping in the Northern Nevada desert on August 31st and not bothering to stop by Burning Man. You gotta be kidding?

Required level of fitness: low to medium, depending on how far you want to take it.

8. Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) on the River Baru and/or Ocean

You can take the four SUP boards available at our Land Assurance office in Dominical out onto the Baru River. You have to aim for near high tide to avoid getting grounded. Paddle to the mouth of the river, turn around and face the mountains, and stay in place, paddling as needed. It’s a world-class perpetual motion machine. Or work your way past the Rio Mar hotel until the river gets too shallow and you have to turn around. The scenery is awesome, the river clean and sparkling (when it hasn’t been raining upstream). The small-ish crocs we see sometimes tend to flee from us. The biggest danger is falling off the board and hitting a rock.

You can also sign up for an SUP ocean tour with various outfits in the Dominical area. They can take you to many cool islands and caves (see #5 above).

Required level of fitness: low for the river trip, medium to high for going out on the ocean.

9. Visit to Osa Penninsula’s Drake Bay via Sierpe River

The charming beachfront town of Drake can only be reached by boat most of the year. You can get there via water taxi from the Sierpe River. Once there, you kick off your footwear and kick back and enjoy the beaches and jungles. It’s such a great getaway, and yet it’s still mostly undiscovered. From there, you can make trips to Caños Island, and many other remote and gorgeous beaches and islands in the area.

Required level of fitness: low.

10. Visit to Land Assurance’s real estate offices near the entrance to Dominical

Come on in, meet the crew, and let us treat you to a hot coffee, or a cold beer, depending on the time of day. Ok, just kidding. I mean, we think we are pretty exciting but we’re honestly not sure if we can compete with waterfalls and horses in the fun category, even including free beer. But of course you are indeed be welcome to stop by anyway.

As for the real number 10: Boat ride to Caños Island to skin dive or scuba and whale watch.

You take a boat from the Sierpe River or Uvita and spend all day on the water.  Caños Island is uninhabited and a marine sanctuary. You can get off the boat and loll about on the beach. They even have bathrooms.  You can explore, swim, sunbathe, snorkel. . . . Your picnic lunch will taste great. But you must bring what you wish to consume, and take it back with you – no garbage cans here. The snorkeling is as good as it gets on this side of the Pacific in Costa Rica. Often, and especially during whale watching season, you will see humpbacks on the boat ride out or back, which takes about two hours by speedboat from Uvita.   A truly enchanting day on the water. . . .

Required level of fitness: low.

Inevitable level of enthusiasm: high!

copyright 2015 by TIM Woodruff