From our first stop at Playa Hermosa to our last day out at Marino Ballena, our trip this week to Dominical to celebrate Layne’s birthday could hardly have been better. If a funky little surfer paradise is what you’re looking for, Dominical is the place to go. What a step backwards to a hippie-style laid-back beach lifestyle. I fell in love with it!
After a predictable drama with the rental car (why is insurance so complicated here?!), we drove off Monday morning with our friends Marc and Eroca for a four-day holiday of sun and sand. Marc had made his semi-famous tuna sandwiches so when lunchtime came we pulled off at Playa Hermosa. This quiet beach serves as the backdrop for one of the scenes in Layne’s novel, Moral Turpitude, so we thought we should check it out in person. The black sand beach framing a turquoise ocean was the ideal beginning to our adventure.
Three hours later we approached Dominical. Immediately upon turning off the nice paved highway, we were hurled back in time to a quaint Tico village with a rocky dirt road for a main street and barefoot children riding bikes in the middle of the road. Surf shops, beachwear stores, a couple of real estate offices, a few restaurants and a lone yoga studio made up the whole of downtown. “Main street” consists of rows of wooden stalls where beach towels, pareu skirts, colorful dresses, jewelry and other crafts are sold.
Our hotel, Villas Rio Mar, was a real find: an eco-lodge nestled in the jungles along the River Baru, where signs warn of crocodiles. We kept a wary eye out but never saw one of the hungry reptiles, although locals told us dogs are regularly lost to the beasts.
The hotel seemed safe enough, however, each secluded casita a haven of privacy and comfort surrounded by tropical gardens. The staff was friendly and helpful, the rooms were clean and well appointed and food in the restaurant was excellent. In fact, the breakfast buffet, which is included in the room price, was the best Layne and I have had and we’ve sampled quite a few now. Fresh fruit, gallo pinto (the national dish of savory rice and beans), scrambled eggs, sausage links, hash browns, pancakes, French toast, coffee, juice — all of it delicious.
This first day being Layne’s actual birthday, we decided to spend the afternoon lounging by the pool with margaritas for refreshment. When our poolside waiter learned it was Layne’s cumplea├▒os, the birthday boy got a free drink.
After an idyllic couple of hours swimming and relaxing, we cleaned up for the birthday dinner, Eroca’s treat. Following this festive repast, we hung out at the pool table then retired for our next full day of fun.
After a leisurely breakfast we were off to the beach to frolic in the waves and take in the scenery. As the “high season” had not yet started, we found the playa all but deserted, with just a few beach walkers and locals wandering around. Dominical’s oceanfront is a long wide expanse of sand littered with a few large pieces of driftwood, one of which made a good “sofa” for us to sit on. Eroca and I headed for the water — deep blue and luxuriously warm. The waves were just right for giddy jumping to avoid a face full of salt water and occasionally big enough to require diving beneath the curl as it broke in front of us. We laughed our heads off.
Soon enough Eroca and I, along with Marc, decided to wander down the road for some shopping. Only about 100 yards away was at an open-air store run by a delightfully friendly Tico who told us his name was Eddie. “You know, like Eddie Murphy!” he said, laughing. The brightly colored dresses hanging in front of the shops were hard to resist, at least for Eroca. Eddie’s wife makes all the clothing and most of the jewelry, some of which she designs from coconut shell cut into star shapes or heart shapes, painted and bejeweled. Eroca found a lovely green embroidered dress with earrings to match. I chose a new beach towel and a colorful backpack with room for all my “stuff,” which I’d been searching for. When Eddie’s wife showed us the clever pareu skirt clips she makes from coconut shell and which make ten different ways to use the skirt, we both had to have one.
Eroca and Marc took off to meander through town and perhaps find something for lunch while Layne and I stayed behind to watch our things. Petty theft continues to be a problem in Costa Rica, particularly around tourist towns like Dominical, although this beach was so deserted I was hardly concerned. We watched as surfers began to paddle out and dogs with their owners romped on the sand. This pair of German Shepherds tossed a stick around and greeted beachgoers as they awaited the return of their surfer owner.
Instead of going out for dinner that night we enjoyed another splendid meal at Villas Rio Mar. The dinner special was irresistible: Caesar Salad, Sesame Tuna over steamed vegetables alongside creamy mashed potatoes and Peach Melba for dessert — all for $16. We agreed it was an outstanding meal. Afterwards we retired to our patio “living room” for wine and some jovial conversation.
The next day was off to the golf course for Layne and me. Watch for that upcoming report!
By Kat Sunlove