- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
South of Dominicalito, seemingly endless Playa Hermosa extends south to the headland of Punta Uvita, a tombolo (a narrow sandbar connecting an island to the mainland) jutting out west of the blossoming hamlet of Uvita, 16 kilometers south of Dominical.
The Río Uvita pours into the sea south of Punta Uvita at Bahía, one kilometer east of the Costanera Sur and one kilometer south of Uvita; Bahía is an entry point to the northern end of Marino Ballena National Park. Thus, Uvita is really two villages in one: Uvita, straddling the river inland, and Bahía closer to the ocean.
Crocodiles abound. A great place to see them is Rancho Merced National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 506/8861-5147, www.rancholamerced.com), a 365-hectare biological reserve on a cattle ranch that includes mangrove wetlands good for spotting all manner of wildlife. It offers horseback riding 7:30 A.M.–5 P.M. daily, $45), self-guided hikes ($6, or $25 with guide), and bird-watching ($35), and you can even play Cowboy for a Day ($35 half day, $60 full day).
An alternative is Oro Verde Biological Reserve (tel./fax 506/2743-8072, www.uvita.info/uvita/oro-verde-nature-reserve), a rustic finca in the valley of the Río Uvita, three kilometers inland of Uvita. It boasts 300 hectares of primary forest with trails good for bird-watching. It has bird-watching tours (6 A.M. and 2 P.M. daily, $30) and hiking and horseback trips (7 A.M. and 3 P.M., $15–35). A 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Costa Canyoning (tel. 506/2743-8281, www.costacanyoning.com, $75) offers waterfall rappelling. Dolphin Tour (tel. 506/2743-8013, www.dolphintourcostarica.com) offers kayak, boat, and snorkel trips, as does Bahía Aventuras (tel. 506/2743-8362, www.bahiaaventuras.com), specializing in whale and dolphin trips.
Uvita Surf School (tel. 506/2743-8022, www.uvitasurf-school.com) speaks for itself, while Uvitas Aventuras (tel. 506/2743-8387, uvitaaventuras [at] hotmail [dot] com) offers snorkeling, fishing, and horseback riding.
Ultralight S.A. (tel. 506/2743-8037, www.ultralighttour.com, from $95) offers flights by ultralight planes. You can buzz around on an ATV with Adventure Motorsports (tel. 506/2743-8281, www.jungleatv.com).
You can camp at Toucan Hotel (tel. 506/2743-8140, www.tucanhotel.com, $6 hammocks, $10 pp dorm room, $25–35 s/d with a/c). This well-run place operated by a friendly Yankee named Steven is also the first choice for backpackers. You can sleep in a hammock. Three dorm rooms (each different) share a bathroom. Seven air-conditioned rooms have private bathrooms. Guests have free Internet access, laundry, a Sony PlayStation, TV/VCR, and DVD player. There’s a communal kitchen, plus a restaurant and bar with Caribbean-themed menu.
A worthy alternative, Flutterby House (tel. 506/8341-1730, www.flutterbyhouse.com), just 300 meters from the beach on the south side of Bahía, is a counterculture delight with yurts and tipis. You can also camp or sling your hammock beneath a rancho, or opt for more welcome accommodation in cabinas or tree houses. It has a communal kitchen and hot-water showers, plus surf rentals and lessons.
For budget digs, start at the rustic Cabinas Los Laureles (tel. 506/2743-8008, www.cabinasloslaureles.com, from $20 s or $29 s/d), in Uvita, set amid a grove of laurel trees. Four rooms have private baths and cold water. There are also four twin-story, pitched-roofed cabinas with timber beams and private baths, plus parking and porch. Congenial owner Victor Pérez offers horseback trips ($10 per hour) or boat rides to Marino Ballena National Park.
There are about one dozen modest budget options in Bahía, including Hotel Canto de Ballenas (tel. 506/2743-8085, www.hotelcantoballenas.com, $43 s or $54 d low season, $58 s or $72 d high season), run by the rural cooperative Coopeuvita. It has 12 spacious, rustic cross-ventilated rooms in wooden huts. Four are wheelchair-accessible. Rates include breakfast.
Far better is a stay at Rancho La Merced (tel. 506/8861-5147, www.rancholamerced.com, $80 pp includes meals and tour), which lodges guests in a delightful old clapboard farmhouse or a modern cabin with a kitchenette. It serves meals family style and has multiday packages.
One of my favorite places hereabouts, Las Terrazas de Ballena (tel. 506/2743-8034, www.terrazasdeballena.com, $120–150 s/d low season, $150–170 s/d high season) is tucked in the hills one kilometer inland of Uvita. Formerly Balcón de Uvita, this charming enclave around an old wooden home has been expanded and stylishly upgraded with a gorgeous Balinese aesthetic under new owners. It has three well-ventilated, stone-walled, thatched cabins with screened windows, orthopedic mattresses, huge walk-in showers with solar-heated water, and broad balconies with vast views; two have king-size beds. There’s a marvelous candlelit restaurant, the exotic Buddha bar, and sumptuous open-air lounge with hip rattan furniture and WiFi. A guitar-shaped pool is inset in the stone sundeck. A 4WD vehicle is required. Rates include tax.
Wow! Oxygen Jungle Villas (tel. 506/8322-4773, www.oxygenjunglevillas.com, $149 s/d low season, $179 s/d high season) made a splash when it debuted in 2010, instantly earning rave reviews in Condé Nast Traveler and establishing a reputation as one of Costa Rica’s chicest resorts. This Balinese-style couples-only resort, set high amid a private jungle reserve in the mountains backing Uvita, has 12 A-frame teak-and-glass luxury villas facing an infinity pool. These chic abodes purposely lack telephones and other modern accoutrements, but who needs them as you sink into blissful retreat. It has a clubhouse and spa. Expect a 10-minute crawl by 4WD vehicle into the mountains inland of Uvita; you won’t regret a second of the bone-jarring ride. At these low rates, sign me up!
The best place for miles is Las Terrazas de Ballena (tel. 506/2743-8034, www.terrazasdeballena.com), serving comfort food such as burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, plus gourmet fusion fare like tuna carpaccio, or jumbo shrimp marinated in orange juice, ginger, and honey and rolled in shaved coconut and served with sweet chili sauce ($19.50). Yum!
Luz de Luna (tel. 506/2743-8251, 5–9 P.M. Mon. and Wed.–Fri., noon–9 P.M. Sat.–Sun., $5–10), roadside in Uvita, has a delightfully rustic open-air ambience and serves wood-fired pizza.
In the mood for sushi? Head to Cristal Ballena, which has sushi nights on Thursday at 6 P.M.
Getting to Uvita
The San José–Dominical buses continue to/from Uvita. Transportes Musoc buses (tel. 506/2771-4744) for Uvita depart San Isidro from Calle 1, Avenidas 4/6, at 9 A.M. and 4 P.M. daily ($3); return buses depart Bahía at 6 A.M. and 1:45 P.M. Local buses also serve Uvita from Dominical.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition