Some Expat Stories Giving An Insight Into Life In The Beach Town Of Dominical

Dominical Beach, Costa Rica

The Fun and Funky Costa Rican Beach Town of Dominical

By Jason Holland

The southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, known as the Southern Zone, is a place of raw, natural beauty. Tall, tree-covered mountains and hills come right up to the shore. The beaches are uncrowded to the extreme—often you could be the only person around. Of course, you might have some other species as your companions. The region’s rainforests are some of the most bio-diverse on the planet, full of creatures like blue morpho butterflies, three-toed sloths, capuchin monkeys, toucans, and more.

A series of small beach communities run up and down the coast. If you’re coming south on the coastal highway the first one you hit officially in the Southern Zone is Dominical. It’s ideal for those seeking a relaxed life, with modern conveniences like high-speed internet and reliable electric service, as well as comforts like food markets (well-stocked with imported and organic products) and international restaurants.

This village by the sea has just a few streets lined with restaurants, shops, and simple hotels. The place to be is the beach road. On one side you have beach bars and restaurants—open air and serving filling, cheap meals (and cold beer). On the other side you have rows of handicraft vendors in the shade of palm trees. And beyond that you have the beach and blue Pacific. It’s laidback; no shoes, no problem…the perfect escape.

This area was somewhat isolated from the rest of the country for many, many years. The road was rough, the bridges scary. From the capital, San José, the journey took six, seven, eight hours, sometimes more depending on road conditions. Fortunately, the coastal highway (La Costanera) was completed in 2010 and now you have smooth well-maintained pavement the whole way.

This improved access has brought change to the region. There are more tourists and more expats…and more conveniences and services. But what makes this region special—the jungle, wildlife, and the untamed beaches—has not been spoiled. Development is limited. No big hotels or resorts on the beach and no cookie cutter housing projects. It remains a unique and beautiful region in Costa Rica.

Taking Advantage of Fresh Opportunity in Dominical, Costa Rica

By David Bohn

Every small town needs at least one person keeping its citizens’ heads looking their best. When stylish, professional haircuts are available, civic pride swells, the dating scene picks up, and the town just seems more like a place where smart people would want to live, doggone it. When Kelly Brower left California to set up Medusa, her hair cutting shop in Dominical, Costa Rica, she had no idea of the impact she was about to have on this little surfing village.

Kelly explains, “When I was a little girl we would come to the Southern Zone for vacation time. Dominical was the closest beach to us, so I always loved this beach. I love this area and there’s a great expat community, so I was like ‘Oh, I fit in great here and have the best of both worlds.’”

With a fresh fruit and vegetable stand across the street from her shop and a small grocery store specializing in organic products just down the street, for Kelly, eating healthy is only natural. On her off days, Kelly says, “I go to the beach all the time and I try to discover new beaches that I’ve never been to. I take Jimmy, my chihuahua, to the beach where I surf, read, do yoga, and explore waterfalls. There’s just so much to do here.”

Dominical, Costa Rica
Kelly Brower left California for Dominical, Costa Rica, where she opened her own hair salon.

Kelly was pleasantly surprised by the operating costs in Dominical compared to her home in Modesto, California. “I pay $370 a month for my salon plus about another $100 for electricity. Compare that to what I used to pay: in California it was $450 a month for just a chair and a mirror at a salon.” Her home, an unfurnished two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment for her and Jimmy, costs Kelly $140-a-month with utilities. It’s a little way up the road from Dominical in the lush green mountains, where the swirling ocean breezes keep the temperatures in the lower 80s during the day, falling to the comfortable mid-70s at night. Kelly loves falling asleep to the sounds of the surrounding jungle, then awakening to the squawks of the parrots and toucans beginning their day.

As the charm, accessibility, stability, and overall beauty of Costa Rica became more well-known, expat interest in it as a landing place has grown. Especially in the Southern Zone, where the paving of the Costenara Highway along the Pacific coastline really opened up the area a few years ago. Dominical is only an hour from Manuel Antonio, and only 30 minutes below the second largest city in Costa Rica, San Isidro del General. Just a funky surfer town for years, Dominical is becoming a haven for expats looking for an authentic experience in Costa Rica but who also enjoy the luxury of the new restaurants and services opening every year. Land and existing homes are available everywhere, at prices considerably lower than the Central Valley surrounding San Jose.

Kelly says, “From what I’ve seen since I was little, Dominical has done nothing but grow and gotten better, and lovelier, and safer. I think it’s growing in a great way. The combination of the Tico culture and expat culture is beautiful. A lot of people don’t want overly populated, super-touristy places. This is more…the real Costa Rica. You can live ten minutes out of town and be surrounded by the jungle.”