You have undoubtedly heard about the pura vida philosophy that flavors everyday life in Costa Rica. The pace is a little bit slower, the people are friendlier, and the environment is vibrant. People spend more time out of doors and in their community. However, each of our Costa Ballena communities are unique and offer different potential lifestyles. So where do you see yourself fitting in to live your best, most pure life?
Our Costa Ballena 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. Divided by distance but brought together by services and amenities, we will focus on these three centers to help you decide which might be your future home.
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, 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 eco and adventure activities to fill your days! Or take a relaxing stroll along the long beach and stop to browse the many souvenir vendors and restaurants along the strip. 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 second largest city in Costa Rica. Less than an hours drive away, San Isidro 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.
The stunning beauty of Dominical eventually attracted high-end investors willing to pay the premium price for vacant lots in this location. Many 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 and they are now being sold for upwards of $200k for a less than one acre lot. Many of these luxury homes make for successful vacation rental homes for high-end adventure and eco tourism.
Beaches: Punta Uvita, Playa Chaman, Playa Colonia, Playa Ballena
Waterfall: Catarata de Uvita
Communities: Hermosa, San Josecito, Chaman, Bahia, La Union, Ballena
Essential services: banks, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, lawyers, ICE, INS, 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.
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
Communities: Piñuelas, Cinco Ventanas, Punta Mala, Coronado, Tres Rios, Chontales, San Buenas
Essential services: Pharmacy, doctor, Banco Nacional restricted bank services (available at Jucaloa #1), elementary schools, hardware stores, soon to be a gas station (date unknown)
Life in Costa Rica is all about the environment 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. 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. This may be one of the most successful rural Tico communities in the country, but don’t quote me on that. You’ll have to just come and see the upgrades for yourself. Our strong sense of community spirit can be seen in the big turnouts for local events like the bi-annual garage sale, Christmas parade, or even local team soccer matches, which are hosted for the benefit of all in the community.
There have long been a few locally-owned grocery/all-purpose stores and hardware stores in Ojochal. But in the last year, a few new boutique stores have opened with a surprising variety of international goods, from exotic foods to chic clothing. The newly rebuilt Plaza Tangara after the bridge at the entrance to Ojochal caters to higher-end visitors and locals, with a salon and spa, deli and clothing boutique.
Ojochal is also still widely known as the foodie capital of Costa Rica. The capital San Jose 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 local, and fresh organic ingredients are matched with phenomenal al fresco dining environments. Surrounded by greenery, fairy lights and fresh air, Ojochal offers dining experiences that are filled with elegance and romance. There are several local pubs, too, with a variety of live entertainment on different nights.
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 at[email protected]