April 26, 2024 in Real Estate in Costa Rica, Life in Costa Rica, Discover Costa Ballena

You have undoubtedly heard about the pura vida philosophy philosophy that flavors everyday life in Costa Rica. The pace is a little bit slower, the people are friendlier, and the environment is vibrant and filled with life. Thanks to the great weather, plentiful nature, and abundance of culture, people visiting and living in Costa Rica spend more time outdoors and in their community. Our South Pacific towns are each unique and offer different potential lifestyles to locals and expats. 

The Costa Ballena ("Whale Coast") region of South Pacific Costa Rica consists of three main villages: Dominical to the north, Uvita in the center, and Ojochal to the south. Each of these villages are the economic and social hubs for a number of smaller communities that extend along a 30km stretch of highways that starts and ends with the beaches that form along this fertile crescent of coast.

In this article, we aim to focus on the different features of each of these towns, from the sleepy surf town that is host to some of the oldest and most luxurious properties in this region; to Uvita, the commercial hub of the region; and Ojochal, the Canadian expat haven turned nomad family sanctuary, featuring schools and services geared towards these crowds. Continue reading to learn more about what else makes each of these remarkable destinations unique so that you can decide which might be the one that you want to settle down with and take root.



Beaches: Playa Linda, Playa Dominical, Playa Dominicalito and Playa Hermosa

Waterfalls: Poza Azul, Nauyaca, Diamante, Eco Chontales

Communities: Hatillo, Lagunas, Platanillo, Tinamaste, Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Cito, Escaleras

Essential services: ICE office (electricity, phone and internet service), ATM machine, grocery (health food store and general stores), lawyers and notaries, pharmacy, Villas Alturas animal sanctuary (for rescued wildlife)

For decades, Dominical has been a quiet destination favored by avid surfers from around the world. Known for its consistent surf breaks and rustic charm, visitors tend to come back often enough that they eventually end up staying for good. It is now a popular tourism destination with loads of nature and adventure activities to fill your days! Take a relaxing stroll along one of the many long beaches that provide an array of different surf experiences from calm boogie boarding waves to world-class surf breaks. At Dominical's main beach, you browse the many souvenir vendors and restaurants along the beachside strip, or visit one of the amazing restaurants, some of which feature live music and events, like Fuego. This is a place to indulge in the social offerings of life in Costa Rica, where there is always something going on.


Dominical used to be the furthest point on the Pacific Coast that you could reach by car. It sits on the coast, at the bottom of the mountain drive from San Isidro de El General, the largest city in the southern half of Costa Rica. Only 30 minutes from Dominical, San Isidro (also known as Perez Zeledon) is a duty-free destination that is popular for big shopping expeditions and a wider variety of services that cannot be found elsewhere in the region. The mountain communities on the way to San Isidro are also home to a large number of health enthusiast expats who are drawn to the cool mountain air and fertile soil.

Around the 1980s was when the stunning beauty of Dominical began attracting the attention of high-end investors willing to pay premium prices for ocean view land in this location. Many of Dominical's communities sit atop cliffs that overhang the pristine coastline and are highly sought after for luxury homes and hotels. Early investors clearly knew that the dynamic ocean views in the hills above Dominical were worth holding onto, which are now being sold for $400k at minimum for a 1-acre lot. and some of the best parcels of land selling for around $1 million in 2024. These luxury ocean view properties make for successful vacation rental homes for high-end adventure and eco tourism experiences.



Beaches: Punta Uvita, Playa Chaman, Playa Colonia, Playa Ballena, Playa Arco

Waterfall: Catarata de Uvita, others that are not officially names

Communities: Hermosa, San Josecito, Chaman, Bahia, La Union, Ballena, Finca Perla, Finca Bavaria

Essential services: Banks, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, ICE (electricity and phone), INS (health insurance), rental cars, English language/bilingual elementary and high schools, veterinarian clinics and animal rescue centers, hardware stores

Uvita is the commercial center of the Costa Ballena. This is where the greatest number of services can be found in the region, which would be within a 20 minute drive of most communities in the Costa Ballena. After the road from Dominical to Uvita was extended in the 1990s, this used to be the furthest south that the roads came from the north. It was virgin development land, newly converted from pasture. It quickly became the end of the line for commercial goods to be shipped and thus became a center for the distribution of goods. The community and its multitude of services expanded from there.

The flatness of the main commercial district makes it an ideal place for people who prefer to cycle instead of drive most of the time. Many Uvita residents can walk or cycle between stores, banks, clinics and home — all within an afternoon. There are also a number of restaurants in the main commercial district offering a variety of culinary experiences.

Marino Ballena National Park is at the center of Uvita and likely played a big role in this area becoming a popular destination. The signature Whale’s Tail cola formation is uniquely beautiful, especially in that this marine park attracts bi-annual visitations of Humpback whale pods who come to birth new calves in this special subduction zone.


Many of the tourists who visit the Costa Ballena opt to stay in Uvita because of its range of accommodations, services, and activities. Rental properties, BnBs, hostels and hotels are abundant, each with their own special offerings. There is more commercial investment happening today in Uvita than ever before and it will likely continue to expand with the rate of tourism. Places like Awake, Seguras, Indomitos, and Somos showcase the town's attraction to health-conscious and sustainability-minded population while the many high-end boutiques popping up showcase the wealth present in the region.

Families are also drawn to Uvita because this is where the majority of English-language and bilingual schools are in the region. There is no shortage of young families moving to Costa Rica from all over the world, looking to offer their children a different kind of experience. Even if it’s just for a year or two, traveling to a new land, especially one as nature-filled as the Costa Ballena, is an enriching experience that is highly valued by those who are willing to try out life in Costa Rica.

Homes in Uvita are a mix of modern luxury homes in some of the newer satellite developments with views of the Whale’s Tail, modest modern homes within walking distances to beaches, and older, simpler homes in the more central communities. This results in a motley of residents mixing together in town along with the many tourists. If you’re into people watching, Uvita offers the best seat in the house.



Beaches: Playa Piñuelas, Playa Ventanas, Playa Tortuga, Playa Garza

Waterfalls: Cascada de Ojochal, Cascada El Pavon, Avancari Waterfalls

Communities: Piñuelas, Cinco Ventanas, Punta Mala, Coronado, Tres Rios, Chontales, San Buenas

Essential services: Pharmacy, ATM, private elementary schools, hardware stores, gas station 

Life in Costa Rica is best lived outdoors and Ojochal is a village that’s all about the environment. This is a Blue Flag community, where residents band together to organize environmental services like recycling, clearing garbage and debris from waterways, fundraisers for local activities, a free library, and a lot more. People who visit Ojochal can feel the pull of this tight community where people try to get to know each other and smile and wave as they pass.

Most developments in Ojochal feature large lots and beautiful floral gardens connected by slow, gravel roads, although the main roads through town were paved in the last 5 years. The terrain is a mix of forest and pasture land, housing an integrated community of Ticos and gringos living together. The international community has been around since the early 1990s, not many years after the first Ticos arrived to this region. Ojochal has consequently developed symbiotically, with expats and locals both benefitting from this giving land. The strong sense of community spirit can be seen in the big turnouts for local events like the bi-annual garage sale, Christmas parade, or local team soccer matches.


There are two long-time locally-owned supermarkets in the heart of town that are increasingly surrounded by more restaurants and boutique stores and services. Today, there is a surprising variety of international goods, from exotic foods to chic clothing. The newly-expanded Plaza Tangara after the bridge at the entrance to Ojochal caters to higher-end visitors and locals, with a salon and spa, gourmet deli, Citrus restaurant, cafe, and more to open soon.

Ojochal is also widely known as the foodie capital of Costa Rica. San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is trying to claim this title, but they have a long way to go to compete with our established favorites and exciting new locales. French fusion, elevated Costa Rican, and fresh organic ingredients are matched with phenomenal al fresco dining environments at a number of favorites like Exotica, Heliconia, and Citrus. Surrounded by greenery, fairy lights and fresh air, Ojochal offers dining experiences that are filled with elegance and romance. 

More and more every day, Ojochal becomes a hub for young families looking for an escape from the mundane to the extraordinary. There are 3 private elementary schools that cater to expat children looking for alternative learning experiences in classes with their peers. And there are a number of extracurriculars and other activities that cater to families looking for holistic, community-focused experiences.

Which village you choose will determine a lot about your life in Costa Rica. Contact an expert from our team to discuss more about life in our Costa Ballena region and which village has the right amenities for you. We can also add you to our regional online message boards where you can connect with locals and expats in the Costa Ballena. Contact us atsales@osatropicalproperties.com


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