San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

When backpackers finally grow up, there's Dominicalito's Costa Paraiso

The equation for a luxury hotel in the Uvita/Dominical area is simple: mountain-view plus infinity pool plus overpriced restaurant equals satisfied, wealthy gringos. The Costa Paraiso Hotel has none of those things and, at least for this reporter, it’s a welcome deviation.

Situated in Dominicalito – past the surfer’s party paradise in Dominical and before the affluent whale-watcher’s getaway in Uvita – Costa Paraiso is like a classier, more grown-up version of a hostel. The rooms are elegant, but not ostentatious. The food is delicious, but not expensive. It’s close to the wild party without being on top of it. Plus, it has a ping-pong table.

“This is for people who aren’t looking for the all-inclusive resort feel, but still like exploring and the privacy of the beach,” said Jo Brookes, the hotel’s new marketing manager.

Dominicalito sits just a short walk or drive from world-class surfing, spectacular waterfalls and lounge-worthy beaches. The hotel’s laid-back but stylish digs are perfect for the well-traveled adventurer or anyone with a few extra bucks to upgrade from a hostel.

The five Cabina-style rooms have exotic names to match their neat, tropical interiors. The Monkey Loft, Coconut Cove, Dolphin Lodge and Pelican Roost all feature two queen beds and a small kitchenette, while the secluded Toucan Nest sleeps two in a king bed and boasts a private porch overlooking the ocean.


The monkey lodge at Costa Paraiso has two queen beds and a kitchenette.

Lindsay Fendt

All the rooms are painted in a lively yellow with dark wood paneling, and are decorated with jungle-inspired art and freshly picked tropical flowers. The grounds, and surprisingly close rocky beach view, can be enjoyed from a number of outdoor lounge areas or from the hotel’s sizeable, kidney-shaped pool.

Though the 12-year-old Costa Paraiso is far from new, some of its management is. The hotel’s restaurant, PorQueNo, has undergone a major facelift by way of newly hired restaurant manager Shelby Tett.

With cooking experience in seven different countries, Tett’s innovative menus run the gamut from reworked Costa Rican classics to twists on typical American fare.

“The goal is to use fresh, local ingredients to create an interesting menu that combines Costa Rican with international,” Tett said. “It’s about making high-quality food that’s cooked with passion.”


The night’s salad special of roast pumpkin and bleu cheese salad with arugula, toasted almonds and honey thyme vinaigrette.

Lindsay Fendt

For dinner we tried out the daily special, pork short ribs with pineapple barbecue sauce, and a roast pumpkin salad, a meal pretty much impossible to find elsewhere in the country. The next morning we were paralyzed by the number of tasty-sounding options, but ended up selecting the berry-stuffed French toast and something I had never heard of, a spinach encuyado, which wrapped spinach and cheese into a delicious fried yucca ball. The food was as scrumptious as it was creative and I left PorQueNo wishing Tett’s culinary handiwork was available closer to home.  

The restaurant is a central focus of the management, as is creating a relaxing atmosphere across the hotel.

“People can come, eat and lounge around by the pool,” Brookes said. “Tasty treats and funky beats, that’s the goal.”

Going there: Costa Paraiso is in Dominicalito right off the main coastal highway. Drivers from San José can either take route 27 straight down the coast or travel on the Pan-American through the mountains connecting to the coastal highway near San Isidro del General. Rooms are $99 per night in the low season and $125 per night in the high season. 

Contact Lindsay Fendt at

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