Located 25 miles north of Dominical, this park is relatively small in area (only 1,687 acres) but rich in inhabitants. Over 100 species of animals and nearly 200 species of birds live in the park. All three species of monkeys found in Costa Rica reside in the park - the white-throated capuchin monkeys, the endangered squirrel monkeys, and the white-faced monkeys. In addition to monkeys, you can expect to see colorful birds, iguanas, sloths, and other animals. Because the number of visitors is limited, it is best to visit the park in the morning and during the week, if possible. The park is closed on Mondays.
Just off the beaches of Manual Antonio lies another world worth exploring. Snorkeling reveals bright florescent colored fish swimming among the corals. Further out, the park encompasses twelve islets just off the coast where it is possible to see dolphins and migrating whales.
Only 10 minutes south of Dominical by car, is the 13,344 acres (including 11,120 acres of ocean) Ballena National Marine Park. The park extends along 13 kilometers of sandy shores and rocky coast and is the home of the Pacific coast’s largest coral reef.
There is excellent snorkeling close to shore at low tide. You can also reach the island at the tip of Punta Uvita to discover corals, sponges, and sea anemones. Make sure you take time to explore the caves here as well. Isla Ballena and the rocks known as Las Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters) are a haven for frigate birds and boobies as well as pelicans and even ibises. Whales tend to congregate near Las Tres Hermanas. Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles nest on these beaches during May to November.
This park, comprising 134,771 acres on land and 5,930 acres of sea, is home to the country’s largest tract of virgin forest. Within a one hour boat ride of Dominical, Corcovado is widely regarded as one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions. The park is home to at least 400 species of birds, 140 of mammals, 116 of amphibians and reptiles, 500 of trees, and 6,000 of insects. The park’s six distinct ecosystems shelter scarlet macaws, jaguars, pumas, tapirs, poison-dart and golden frogs, the harpy eagle, and other endangered species.
Approximately one hour east of Dominical by car, near San Isidro, is Chirripo National Park, which boasts the country’s highest peak (3,820 meters/12,530 feet). No technical climbing is required to hike Chirripo, but altitude and a rugged trail make for a strenuous trek. The hike to Los Crestones base camp takes six to 12 hours, half that time coming down. Most hikers allow two to three days to make the entire trip. Los Crestones base camp shelter is the only permitted lodging in the park (no camping allowed). Once at the shelter, day hikes to the peak, lakes, and high altitude meadowlands are available. Call at least a month in advance to reserve a bed at the shelter. Chirripo treks are most popular during December to May.
Located about an hour’s boat ride from Dominical, this uninhabited island is known as an excellent diving spot – rated as one of the best underwater spots in the world. Trails on the island lead to a pre-Columbian cemetery and several of Costa Rica’s mysterious stone spheres. Mystery shrouds the history of these hand carved and perfectly rounded spheres, which measure from one to two and a half meters in diameter and are found mainly in the Palmar region and on Cano Island.
Located approximately an hour south of Dominical, near San Vito, these gardens cover 25 acres. They have a vast collection of bromeliads, orchids, and more than 700 species of palms. Recognized as the most important tropical gardens in Central America, the gardens provide overnight lodging for a limited number of visitors and scientists.