The popular surfing town of DOMINICAL, 44km southeast of Quepos and 25km southwest of San Isidro, may represent the face of things to come along this stretch of the Pacific coast. Previously a secluded fishing village, it has, since the paving of the coastal road and the laying down of electricity and phone lines, begun to expand dramatically. A glut of new hotels, shops and restaurants have opened in town, while the coastal areas to the south, still largely made up of unspoilt stretches of beach and rainforest, are rapidly being bought up by hungry property developers and hotel chains. It is, however, a good place to chill out by the beach and visit the nearby Hacienda Barú rainforest reserve, while the newly paved road to Quepos, which was finally completed in 2009, makes for easy access to the laidback village of Matapalo, 15km north.

The stretch of coast that runs south from Dominical to the lovely shallow bay at Playa Tortuga is one of the most pristine in Costa Rica. As a consequence, it’s continually under siege from real-estate agents, who buy and sell plots of land as fast as they can persuade local fishermen and farmers to part with them. For the moment, though, this area encompasses a string of gloriously empty beaches as well as Parque Nacional Marino Ballena – fifty-six square kilometres of water around Uvita and Bahía created to safeguard the ecological integrity of the local marine life.

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