Playa Matapalo, five kilometers south of Savegre , is a beautiful gray-sand beach two kilometers east of the coast road: the turnoff is in the hamlet of Matapalo. The surf kicks in here (swimmers should beware riptides), and fishing from the beach is guaranteed to deliver a snapper or snook.
The sandy (or muddy) beach track leads north into the Portalon Ecological Wildlife Refuge (Refugio de Vida Silvestre Ecológico Portalon), where there’s a marine turtle protection project (ASVO, tel. 506/2258-4430, www.asvocr.org ) that welcomes volunteers.
Hop in the saddle with Arco Iris Horse Tours (tel. 506/2787-5133) for beach and forest rides. The Cabinas del Mar, in the village, offers Internet service.
South of Matapalo, habitation is sparse and the road relatively lonesome all the way to Dominical .
Surfers gravitate to Cabinas El Mar (tel. 506/2787-5278, $12 pp), with simple rooms. It has a tiny open-air restaurant (7 A.M.–6 P.M. daily), laundry, and a grocery.
Bahari Beach (tel. 506/2787-5014, www.baharibeach.com , $45 s/d rooms, $70 s/d tents low season; $55 s/d rooms, $105 s/d tents high season) offers tastefully furnished safari-style tent-bungalows atop platforms, with tile floors, full bathrooms, and canopied patios looking over a lovely garden, exquisite pool, and beach. It also has air-conditioned rooms in the main building. The restaurant is equally airy and serves European classics plus seafood.
New in 2010, Dreamy Contentment (next door to Bahari, tel. 506/2787-5223, www.dreamycontentment.com , $50 s/d cabins, $150 house s/d low season; $75 s/d cabins, $200 house s/d high season) has modern air-conditioned bungalows with kitchens and “luxurious linens.” Backpackers can also sack in simple rooms ($20 s/d).
A stone’s throw away, the Swiss-run Albergue Suiza (tel. 506/2787-5068, ww.matapaloplaya.com, $35 s/d low season, $40 s/d high season) has simply appointed rooms with balconies in a two-story hotel with restaurant.
In the hills, El Castillo B&B (tel. 506/8836-8059, http://on.fb.me/h8LePh , $75 s/d low season, $95 s/d high season), two kilometers inland, is a beautiful modern two-story house with a huge columned atrium TV lounge with half-moon sofa that enjoys views through the arcing doorway. It has four bedrooms modestly furnished in rattan, with raised, beamed ceilings. They open to a wraparound veranda. There’s a spring-fed plunge pool. The turnoff is 0.5 kilometer north of Matapalo; you’ll need a 4WD vehicle. Rates include breakfast.
Another hillside delight, La Palapa Resort (tel. 506/2787-5050, www.lapalapahotel.com , $46 s or $80 d room, $105 s/d bungalow), inland of Portalon, has delightfully furnished rooms and spacious bungalows with kitchens set in landscaped grounds with a pool and open-air thatched Peruvian restaurant.
Albergue Alma de Hatillo B&B (tel. 506/8850-9034, www.cabinasalma.com , $55 s/d low season, $65 s/d high season), in Hatillo, is a pleasant option run by a personable Polish woman, Sabina. It has eight simple rooms in three cabins furnished with custom-made bamboo furniture and original artwork, ceiling fans, coffeemakers, mini-fridges, and hot showers.
The Hotel E Coquito (tel. 506/2787-5031, www.elcoquito.com , $50–65 s/d low season, $65–80 s/d high season) has six cabinas (three are air-conditioned) and a large beach house on stilts (it sleeps eight people), cross-ventilated with huge screened windows. It offers surf lessons and board rental and has horseback riding.
A bus departs San José  daily for Dominical  and Uvita  at 3 P.M. via Quepos  (departing Quepos at 7 P.M.) and passing Matapalo at 8:30 A.M. (Mon.–Fri). An additional bus departs weekends at 5 A.M. (departing Quepos at 9:15 A.M.) and passes Matapalo at 10:45 A.M. The northbound bus departs Uvita at 4:30 A.M. and Dominical at 6 A.M., passing Matapalo at 6:30 A.M. On weekends, a second bus departs Uvita at 12:30 P.M. and Dominical at 1:15 P.M., passing Matapalo at 2:30 P.M.