Getting to Dominical, Costa Rica: The Top 3 Transportation Options
There are three primary options best suited for traveling from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose to the Dominical, Costa Rica area.
The trio of choices include renting a car and driving approximately 3.5 hours southwest along the mesmerizing Pacific coast; being picked up by a minibus and shuttled to your final destination in a totally relaxed state; or flying from San Jose to a small regional airport in Quepos, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Dominical.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of each option:
RENTING A CAR AND DRIVING SOUTH
Of the three choices, the majority of our visitors opt to rent cars at the airport in San Jose and navigate their way down south with easy detailed directions that we will email to you before you leave. If you rent a car — and we use a great, local company for all of our clients — our rental company will pick your group up at the airport and take you to their nearby office to fill out paperwork. Once you’ve selected an insurance plan and the paperwork is complete, you’re quickly on your way. You’ll need a valid credit card, driver’s license, and passport to secure a rental vehicle.
It is highly advisable to book your car in advance before you leave and absolutely essential to reserve your car well in advance during the high season (December through April). If you don’t have a rental car pre-booked, there are other car rental companies at the airport. But without a pre-booking, finding a car at the airport can be time-consuming and limiting.
The drive itself is fairly simple and incredibly stunning. There are only two highways to navigate, Highway 27, a toll road out of the airport, and Highway 34 near the coast from Jaco.
Because the international airport is located on the west side of the outskirts of San Jose, you won’t need to battle city traffic after leaving the car rental office. Just tell the rental person you need to get on Highway 27 toward Jaco and they’ll point you in the proper direction with ease.
Your time on Highway 27 should take approximately 90 minutes and will put you on a meandering path through lush, green valleys. There are multiple toll booths on Highway 27, with each stop costing 400 to 800 Colones ($1 to $2). Make sure you get some local change or small dollar bills before departing the car rental office to pay the tolls.
About 300 yards after the fourth toll station is the exit for Jaco and Quepos. The exit ramp is a right-hand turn that immediately goes into a roundabout. Follow the roundabout straight through to the other side and keep an eye out for a sign that reads “104 km to Quepos.” This is the beginning of Highway 34 (the Coastal Highway).
At the 67.7-kilometer mark of Highway 34 sits Restaurant Eco Crocodrilo, just before the Tarcoles River bridge. This is an extremely popular stop for tourists as a large group of crocodiles live under the bridge on the river bottoms. The restaurant is a nice place to grab a drink or a bite to eat. There are always a few locals near the bridge who will watch your vehicle for a couple of bucks. Take a walk out on the bridge and you’ll be amazed by the size and agility of the hungry crocodiles below.
About 20 minutes after the bridge is the town of Playa Herradura. There’s an AutoMercado on the right side of the highway that’s an excellent, U.S.-style supermarket for picking up bulk products, meats, and delicatessens. There are other shopping options in Jaco, Quepos, Dominical, and Uvita, but this place has the most food options in the region.
Highway 34 will take you through Jaco, Playa Hermosa, Parrita, and Quepos. Simply stay on the main road – even at the fork for Manuel Antonio – and continue to follow the signs toward Dominical. From Quepos, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to reach Dominical.
As you approach Dominical, you will pass the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge and a gas station on the right. There’s a small police checkpoint just before reaching the Baru River bridge. After the bridge, the entrance for Dominical is on the right.
It should be noted that it’s possible to reach Dominical via car from the east, coming from the San Isidro de El General area, but it is not recommended. First of all, if you go this direction you’ll have to navigate all the way through San Jose after leaving the airport, where city traffic is tough and getting accurate driving directions is even tougher. After that, the eastward drive goes through mountainous terrain on a primarily two-lane road with a lot of big trucks and busses. It’s a gorgeous route with stunning forested mountains and valleys, no doubt, but the total travel time is five to six hours in length and things get pretty windy.
For ease of driving travel, the Jaco route is preferred.
FLYING TO QUEPOS VIA REGIONAL PLANE
If your traveling party is small and you don’t have much luggage, regional planes are an option.
Flights from San Jose to Quepos La Managua Airport are quick (about 25 minutes) and extremely scenic, covering more than 200 kilometers of Costa Rican landscape. Nature Air and SANSA both offer flights in and out of Quepos.
All Nature Air passengers can bring one small carry-on bag (10 pounds or less) and check one bag that doesn’t exceed 50 linear inches (length+width+height) or 60 pounds. Oversize bags exceeding 60 pounds will be charged as cargo and are only accepted on a space-available basis.
Nature Air will accept surfboards and bikes in travel bags, but only when space permits. There is a chance that you’ll have to wait on your surfboard or bike to arrive later if there’s not enough room on your flight. Surfboards greater than 6 feet, 6 inches require the owner to purchase three additional seats due to space limitations.
On SANSA, passengers are allowed one carry-on (10 pounds or less) and one piece of free luggage weighing less than 30 pounds and under 45 linear inches. Excess baggage costs $1 for each additional pound and, again, is on a space-available basis.
SANSA will accept sporting equipment such as fishing gear, golf clubs, bikes, and surfboards. If the sporting equipment is in addition to your one piece of free luggage, it costs an extra $30. They will not, however, accept surfboards more than 7 feet in length or kayaks.
HIRING A DRIVER
Want to make things real easy on yourself?
No problem. We can help arrange a driver to meet you and your travel companions at the airport and whisk you all down to Dominical in a flash.
Personal town cars and shuttles are readily available and reliable. In fact, your driver will be waiting for you just outside the airport terminal with a sign in hand and speak English. They’ll handle the luggage and navigation while you soak up the beauty of Costa Rica and unwind from your flight. If you select this option, you can still easily rent a vehicle after arriving in Dominical. And, of course, we are more than willing to assist you with that as well.
For car rental info, please email Stephen at [email protected].