Theft is a major problem, and tents on the beach are routinely burglarized! Stick to Hostel and Camping Antorchas (tel. 506/2787-0459, www.campingantorchas.net , $8 pp camping, $10–18 pp cabins), with two-story shade platforms for tents and hammocks. It also has three private rooms with double beds and shared bathrooms, plus a communal kitchen, laundry, parking, and cold-water showers. You can rent tents ($5 pp).
At the south end of [node26108 link Dominical], the rough-around-the-edges Piramys (tel. 506/2787-0196, piramys [at] hotmail [dot] com, $10 private room) has colorful offbeat rooms with ceiling fans, mosquito nets, and shared bath.
Green Iguana Surf Camp (tel. 506/2787-0157, www.greeniguanasurfcamp.com ), at Dominicalito, has a great beachside setting beneath shade trees, with lawns for pitching your tent. Or, you can sling a hammock beneath a funky tarp. It also puts people up at the Hotel DiuWak.
The Posada del Sol (tel./fax 506/2787-0085, posadadelsol [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr, $20 s or $30 d low season, $25 s or $40 d high season), in the center of the village, has five pleasant rooms with safes and private bathrooms with hot water.
Surfers gravitate to Tortilla Flats (tel. 506/2787-0033, www.tortillaflatsdominical.com , $25–60 s/d low season, $30–110 s/d high season), with 18 modest beachside cabins and rooms—some in a two-story unit—with fans, hammocks on the patios, and private baths with hot water. An upstairs suite has a balcony. Nice! The restaurant is a great breakfast and lunch spot for pancakes with bananas ($3), BLT sandwiches, and other fare.
Cabinas San Clemente (tel. 506/2787-0026, fax 506/2787-0055, snclemte [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr, from $15 with fan, $30 with a/c low season; from $20 fan, $40 a/c high season) offers 12 large airy rooms in a two-story beachfront unit with a bamboo roof, natural stone, and thatched veranda; some have air-conditioning and hot water. Opt for the bargain-priced upstairs rooms for their verandas. It also has two fully furnished houses for up to eight people. The front patio has hammocks slung beneath palms.
I recommend the ever-improving Complejo Arena y Sol (tel. 506/2787-0140, www.arenaysol.com , $20–30 s or $30–45 d low season; $30–35 s or 45–55 d high season), with cable TV in air-conditioned rooms; some rooms only have fans and are a tad small and dark, despite soothing tropical color schemes. It has a pool, Internet café, popular restaurant, and a supermarket, plus ATV rental.
Popular with groups, the resort-style riverside Villas Río Mar Jungle & Beach Resort (tel. 506/2787-0052, www.villasriomar.com , $60–115 s/d low season, $75–140 s/d high season) has jungle-style bungalows with a lovely aesthetic. The thatched open-air restaurant is a delightful spot for watching toucans and other birds, and there is a spa and tennis court.
The DiuWak Hotel (tel. 506/2787-0087, www.diuwak.com , $60–135 s/d low season, $75–160 s/d high season) has improved leaps and bounds through the years—from simple cabins to the largest entity in town. Rooms vary greatly: Some only have fans, while others are air-conditioned. (The low-end rooms don’t meet my standards for the price.) The nine-room Hotel Montaña de Agua (tel. 506/2787-0200) is opposite the lesser Hotel Domilocos, and replicates it but with comfier mattresses.
Now one of the nicest options, Hotel Río Lindo (tel. 506/2787-0028, fax 506/2787-0078, riolindo [at] baslink [dot] com, $55–125 s/d low season, $105–160 s/d high season) sits in gardens (with hammocks and rockers) at the northern entrance to Dominical . I like its pleasant bed-and-breakfast-style ambience. It has 10 air-conditioned rooms in three types. The standards are a bit bare for the price, but the suites are a better bargain with tasteful furnishings and flat-screen TVs. All have views over the handsome pool toward the river. The staff are friendly, plus there’s a delightful café next door.
I also like the hip Hotel Roca Verde (tel. 506/2787-0036, www.rocaverde.net , $75 s/d low season, $85 s/d high season), a colorful place offering 10 air-conditioned rooms in a two-story unit. Ochers predominate (including the sponge-washed cement floor with pebble inlay around the edges), hardwoods abound, and wall murals, glass brick, and tile mosaics highlight the bathrooms. The action revolves around a chic, breeze-swept bar; there’s also a pool and sundeck.
For an intimate, hidden charmer, head to the U.S.-run Coconut Grove (tel./fax 506/2787-0130, www.coconutgrovecostarica.com , $65–110 s/d low season, $75–135 s/d high season) sits in a cove two kilometers south of Dominical. It has two houses and four bungalows (with kitchenettes), all with air-conditioning, cool tile floors, wooden ceilings with fans, orthopedic mattresses, simple but pleasant furnishings, and verandas with rockers. The owners have lots of Great Danes. There’s a small pool and bar with hammocks.
Appealing to bird-watchers and nature lovers, Hacienda Barú (tel. 506/2787-0003, www.haciendabaru.com , $40–50 s/d low season, $65–75 s/d high season) has six modestly furnished two-bedroom cabins in a grassy clearing backed by forest; each has two doubles and one single bed, fans, hot water, refrigerator, and cooking facilities, plus a patio. Six newer rooms are simply furnished, but are spacious and comfy enough. There’s a moderately priced thatch-fringed restaurant and a swimming pool.
You can’t go wrong at Costa Paraíso Lodge (tel. 506/2787-0025, www.costa-paraiso.com , $99 s/d low season, $125 s/d high season), two kilometers south of Dominical, with gorgeous furnishings and a fabulous location over a rocky inlet. This beautiful, secluded property offers two spacious, fully furnished, cross-ventilated guesthouses with lofty wooden ceilings, kitchens, ceiling fans, and bamboo furniture. It also has four two-bedroom casitas (two with kitchenettes, two with kitchens). They’re set in lush lawns falling down to the shore. It’s reached via a steep trail that leads to a beautiful rocky shore. All in all, a tremendous package.
A great bet for yoga enthusiasts is Bamboo Dancer (tel. 506/8841-7954, www.bamboodancer.com ), a dedicated yoga retreat in Dominical. In Dominicalito, Villa Ambiente (tel. 506/2787-8453, www.villaambiente.net , $104–176 s/d low season, $139–211 s/d high season) offers the luxury of a Italianate villa. This Swiss-run hotel transports you metaphorically to the Mediterranean. It has eight rooms with WiFi, king-size beds (in six rooms), and fabulous coastal vistas from a balcony or terrace. The horizon pool has a deck, also with great views. The Bell Epoque restaurant serves Continental fare.
In Escaleras: Everything about The Necochea Inn (tel. 506/2787-0155, www.thenecocheainn.com , $65–100 s/d low season, $75–125 s/d high season) is supremely tasteful. This luxuriously appointed hideaway has six rooms with individual and eclectic decor, including hardwood floors and private balconies. Two rooms (one with king-size bed) share a bathroom with whirlpool tub and double sinks. A master suite also has a king-size bed, whirlpool tub, glass shower, and wraparound deck with ocean views. The inn has a game room, library, and full bar, plus a pool with sundeck that stair-steps to natural springs. Rates include gourmet breakfast and the rooms are worth twice the price.
Another favorite, Pacific Edge (tel. 506/2787-8010, www.pacificedge.info , $60–90 s/d), reached via its own steep dirt road at Kilometer 148 off the highway, has four cabins stair-stepping down the lower mountain slopes. The coast vistas are awesome and can be best enjoyed from a purpose-built lookout. One is a two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow with living room and kitchen. Each cabin has a “half-kitchenette.” And there’s an exquisite free-form pool and deck with views. It’s run by an amiable Californian, Susie, and her affable Limey husband, George Atkinson. Susie whips up mean cuisine spanning the globe in her bamboo restaurant.
Self-catering? A marvelous deluxe option is Villa Escaleras (in North America tel. 630/456-4229 or 866/658-7796, www.vrbo.com/52302 , from $240), one kilometer south of Bella Vista, with staggering views. It offers four deluxe vaulted-ceiling bedrooms boasting an exquisite aesthetic. The 4,000-square-foot villa has a bar and library, and swimming pool and terrace. Several other deluxe rental villas are represented by Luna Roja Rentals (tel. 506/8821-4047, www.lunarojarentals.com ).
Barbara, an expat from North Carolina, plays wonderful host at Casi el Cielo (tel. 506/8813-5614, www.casielcielo.com , $3,500 weekly low season, $4,500 weekly high season), a gorgeous two-story, four-bedroom Tuscan-style villa perched hillside in Escaleras with magnificent views. It rents in entirety only, and comes fully staffed. Barbara specializes in groups and does not accept drive-bys; reservations are essential.
South of Dominical: The Cuna del Ángel (tel. 506/2222-0704, www.cunadelangel.com , $85–144 s or $85–153 d low season, $103–179 s or $103–187 d high season), nine kilometers south of Dominical, combines classical and contemporary themes. It’s a member of the prestigious Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica group (www.distinctivehotels.com ), but personally I find the rambling architecture and classical decor uninspiring, and it gets road noise. And what’s with all those angels? The 16 air-conditioned rooms have ceiling fans, WiFi, minibars, safes, and hair dryers. There’s a full spa, an infinity pool, and a bar, and it specializes in sportfishing (www.sportfishingdominical.com ). The singular high point is the excellent open-air restaurant.
For a self-catering villa, look into Shelter From the Storm (tel. 506/2787-8262, www.shelter-from-the-storm.net , $110–330 s/d nightly, $690–1,990 weekly), eight kilometers south of Dominical.
East of Dominical: For a truly Zen-like experience, lay your head at
Cascadas Farallas (tel. 506/2787-8378, www.waterfallvillas.com , from $115 s/d low season, from $125 s/d high season), in a forested riverside setting near Platanillo. Run by a delightful Tico-Californian couple, it has a lovely Balinese-inspired aesthetic that makes bold use of lava rock, river stones, and bamboo with a feng shui layout tiered up the hillside. Three villas have two huge, individually decorated suites, each with stone-lined bathrooms. All have forest-view balconies and gardens; two rooms have king-size canopied bamboo beds. An open lounge with huge bamboo sofas puts you up close and personal with the forest. Vegan meals are served. It’s popular with yoga groups.
Further uphill, 11 kilometers inland of Dominical , you’ll love Río Magnolia Lodge (tel. 506/8868-5561, www.riomagnolia.com , from $170 s/d including two meals) for its stunning and reclusive mountain valley setting, near the hamlet of La Alfombra in the mountains north of Platanillo. Canadian expats John and Maureen Patterson are your hosts at this magnificent lodge, with a vast stone-clad lounge with glass walls, a hearth, and bar, and superlative ocean views enjoyed from the deck or horizon swimming pool. Choose from three large in-house rooms, with terra-cotta floors, stone-wall showers, canopy beds, bamboo furnishings and tropical fabrics, and balconies; or opt for one of four rustic yet cozy cabins. Maureen whips up a daily menu of gourmet fare, served with crystal glasses and fine china. The lodge is backed by its own 100-hectare (210 acres) forest with trails for all abilities; it has an HEP generator plus horseback rides. Getting here down a steep and narrow track requires a 4WD vehicle.