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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dominical Dreamin' - Part II

Main St., Dominical
In my last post we took a trip to Playa Dominical, down the Pacific Coast past Quepos, with our friends Marc and Eroca in celebration of Layne's birthday. The first two days were filled with sun and surf, laughter and good cheer, the evenings with leisurely dinners of fresh fish and wine. But the third morning Layne and I got up early, enjoyed the great breakfast buffet at Villas Rio Mar where we were staying, then headed down the highway to play a round of golf.

Affordable public golf courses  are few and far between in Costa Rica so we were delighted when we discovered a 9-hole course located just a 40-minute drive south from Dominical. As a travel writer, I had been fortunate to score a free round of golf so Layne and I managed to bring our bag of clubs along, even though it crowded our Toyota Yaris rental car.

Yours Truly tees up
And what a beautiful course it is! Nestled deep in the jungles of the Southern Pacific zone, San Buenas Golf Resort is part of a planned condominium and residential community still in the early stages of construction. Only the first 9 holes of the 18-hole course are completed so far but that was enough for Layne and me to get our "golf fix." With not another soul on the fairways, other than a few maintenance workers, we literally had the place to ourselves. Riding along the tidy gravel golf paths, we delighted in gorgeous views all around, from misty mountain vistas to the unexpected sight of a tall white bird - a heron, perhaps? - standing just off the green on the fifth hole.
It had been a while since Layne had had his hands on a club and it showed in his game: I came within one stroke of beating him! We usually play what he calls "match play" golf, where we only keep track of who wins hole by hole, not the overall score. On the match play scorecard, I won four holes, he won four holes and we tied one. Of course, neither of us would brag about our overall scores.

Layne takes his best shot
The course is as green and lush as one expects a golf course to be but we were pleased to learn that San Buenas is committed to the ecology of the local area and employs sustainable practices in the golf course as well as the residential area. For example, the course uses a particular kind of grass on the fairways which is saltwater tolerant. So when weeds appear, they simply water the course with saltwater, killing the weeds but not the grasses. The management of San Buenas is also providing "green" leadership in the local town of San Buenaventura, helping set up a plastic, glass and aluminum can recycling program using their trucks, employees and volunteers. To protect the town from flooding during the rainy season, San Buenas is working to lower the banks of the river near the course so that overflow will run onto low areas of the golf course and not into town.

The company is likewise committed to helping build the local pueblo by providing jobs to as many local people as they can employ, offering education and job training as needed. As we rode around the course, we could see the results of this policy: despite the empty fairways, there were employees watering the greens by hand, spraying foliage with fertilizer or blowing and raking leaves. For us it was a great morning of golf; for the town of San Buenaventura, it promises a brighter future.

Layne and I returned to Villas Rio Mar, tired but happy. After sharing a tasty plate of nachos with Marc and Eroca, it was back to the playa for more sun and hopefully a beautiful sunset over the ocean. 

With signs warning of "strong rip currents" and a prohibition on swimming on the main Dominical beach, we contented ourselves with hanging out watching surfers and chatting with other beachgoers. Eroca and I engaged a stunningly beautiful young brunette in conversation and learned that she was there from Brazil with her boyfriend, who was out surfing. As I tried to chat with her, we found that since I knew no Portuguese, her native tongue, and she knew little English, my native language, we ended up conversing in Spanish, which neither of us knew very well. We both found it rather amusing that we could carry on a friendly chitchat in our second languages.

Eroca strikes a meditative pose
Another woman we met was Canadian like Eroca and a true "snowbird," with homes in both British Columbia and Dominical, spending the good season in each one and utilizing house sitters as caretakers when absent from each house. Another potential retiree we met was in Costa Rica for a month, her and her husband's third such "due diligence" trip. They were quite taken with Dominical and were thinking of buying property. Only that morning her husband had expressed second thoughts after reading a book that advises renting before buying. We agreed that we think that is the best approach to moving here as well. Not everyone can make the adjustment.

Dominical wardrobe

As the afternoon ebbed we gazed out at the surfers silhouetted against the setting sun, the beauty and peacefulness of the place intoxicating. Eventually we strolled back to the main street area for dinner at a popular hangout, Tortilla Flats. After we shared a plate of excellent Fried Calamari, I opted for Fish Tacos, which were extravagant in size and flavor, and we all enjoyed some first-rate margaritas.

With only one more day before us, I played my "travel writer card" and urged our little group to make the short drive south to Marino Ballena National Park, which would give me one more cool thing to write about. They were easy to persuade and when we arrived at this picturesque beach, they were quite happy they came along. 

What a stretch of magnificent coastline, ultra-tropical scenery and the trademark "whale's tail"-shaped coral reef offshore. Simply beautiful.

Short hike to Playa Ballena
Eroca takes in the view
Marc takes in the view too
Beach as far as you can see...
... in each direction
We could have easily spent an entire day there instead of the two hours we had. But in that time, Eroca and I walked down the beach to an area we'd been told was home to Scarlet Macaws. And indeed, perched high in the trees were numbers of the bright red birds, flapping at each other indignantly and squawking their distinctive caw. It was quite a thrill to see so many in their native habitat.

But soon it was time for the drive home, a quieter group than on the trip down as we all enjoyed the memories of our outstanding holiday in Dominical. ¡Vamos a regresar! We will return!


1 comment:

  1. Yes it is pretty down there BUT so is our Diverse GORGEOUS Central Valley NO need for the cities..just drive 15 minutes into the lush Rain forests or VOLCANOES to take your breath away. Many visitors THINK they have to go off the beaten track to see our beauty WRONG! its EVERYWHERE although after 21 years here, I do advise tourists to avoid the Caribbean Coast (Which has become very dangerous due to the influx of heavy drugs ) and of course ugly polluted San Jose .Also many make the mistake of THINKING they have to spend a miserable first and last night in San Jose WITHOUT knowing that the SURROUNDING areas (such as HEREDIA are CLOSER,Safer,and by f ar Prettier. Many writers BELIEVE they ust premote only the GRINGO Gulch areas such as Escazu and Santa Ana (I think if living there with the hoards of Gringos and paying 3 times the price for everything AND not learning Spanish is a shame to have bothered to have left the USA and Canada etc...DONT miss the lovely CENTRAL Valley DESPITE what Certain "WRITERS" feel obliged to promote for their 'Freebies" COME explore the REAL CCosta Rica..we even have MALLS in Heredia (IF thats what you need , PLUS BEST FINE Dining at half the cost of Gringo hang more adventurous YOU WILL LOVE IT and our prices, and beautiful scenery.