Dave took the wheel as we began our drive to Dominical, heading south from La Fortuna toward Alajuela on the outskirts of San Jose and then west towards the beaches of the Pacific Coast. It was an all-day trip of driving, with stops for food, snacks and groceries. We finally turned off the highway toward the rain-forested hills searching for our lodging, La Tierra Divina. About two miles into a very rough dirt road, through creeks, over rocks, jolting our way up a mountain road, trying to follow directions that landed us by a large field at the top of the mountain, Dave pulled the car over.
Chris and I backtracked down the dirt road on foot to the last turnoff we suspected might be La Tierra Divina and sure enough, we had arrived. Perched at the very top of the hill with a view of the Pacific sat two circular cabinas and a deep blue plunge pool — a perfect setting.
Happy were we to finally arrive after a day of travel. Next we discovered our cabinas were not here on the ridge with views of the Pacific, but on the rainforest floor 71 steps down. Doing the bag drag, we hauled our luggage and groceries down the 71 steps to our “jungle immersion” cabin.
The cicada’s songs were deafening. A mosquito net over the bed had me wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. But first things first — dinner.
Heading back down the rocky mountain road, through several creeks, and into the town of Dominical (known as a funky, little surfer town), it was so dark we had to literally guess the location of our restaurant, Tortilla Flat.
No door, only some rustic wood tables, a bar and a very large dog lying in the entry greeted us. Fish tacos and Naturales hit the spot and when I flipped my tortilla plate landing the tortillas on the dirt floor, a fresh plate arrived immediately. On our way back up the mountain, Dave stopped at a dimly lit hut that I hoped would sell tortillas. There, in the almost near darkness, sat a young girl and after many attempts at communication, she came back with a stack of tortillas for me, with help from another lady in translating.
These “jungle immersion” cabinas were quite interesting. Groping our way down the steep stairs in the darkness, I could hear many unfamiliar sounds and as we got close to the light of the cabina, got buzzed by a huge insect as I ducked my head. The cicadas were attracted by the light.
Inside, we found millipedes crawling about the floor and one night, a huge spider entangled in the mosquito netting along with a small lizard darting up the wall. At dawn the howling monkeys began their bawling and it sounded like the entire jungle was at war. One afternoon, we were treated to a family of white-faced monkeys cavorting in the trees overhead and toucans flying back and forth.
Breakfast at La Tierra was served on the patio by the plunge pool– fresh banana pancakes with a homemade syrup and fresh fruit.
We liked to have wine and watch the sun set over the Pacific, but every night as it got dark, toads as big as your fist would find their way to the plunge pool or the dog’s water bowl.
Samson, a lab retriever mix, was the resident dog and his favorite game was to bring his bone tied to a rope and get in a tug of war with you. Bill came to love playing this game with Samson. Frenzy was their cat and she was always in a frenzy.
Cynthia, a local girl who could run up and down the 71 stairs with ease, cleaned the cabinas and served breakfast. Cynthia was lithe and at home in the jungle.
With our limited Spanish, we discovered that Cynthia lived “over the mountain” and rode her horse to work, an hour and a half ride each way.
Cynthia had gone to school to the sixth grade but was adept at using her mobile phone for communicating, finding the English translation for her questions. Cynthia couldn’t quite believe us when we told her we had only a few inches of rain a year where we lived in the desert. Cynthia’s face was filled with wonder as she tried to imagine this.
Our outing to Manuel Antonio Park involved an early-morning drive winding our way through miles and miles of resorts, shops, bars and restaurants lining the road to the entrance. Once parked, we were set upon by locals that used our confusion to their advantage, insisting we must have a guide, or we must park here or pay there until I flatly ignored any more pleas and forged ahead to the park entrance. Once inside the park, there were more groups with guides than you could count and we became adept at listening to their conversations and following their telescopes to the trees overhead looking for the bird or animal they had spotted.
Finding two male sloths in the trees overhead was a real treat as they actually moved as only sloths can [incredibly slow] in preparation for a showdown to determine dominancy for the territory and the female. Because sloths are interminably slow, we finally lost patience and moved on but were assured a showdown was inevitable.
The beaches of Manuel Antonio are legendary, long stretches of white sand and the blue Pacific connected by trails meandering through rain forest.
After watching a group of monkeys playing, we landed at Playa Espadilla Sur Beach, ate our picnic lunch watching the surf and swam in the Pacific.
The humidity saturates you quickly with moisture so whether in the water or out, you feel damp, sticky and wet. Even taking a shower and drying off leaves you damp as it is impossible to really dry.
By mid-afternoon, we were ready to head back to our “jungle immersion” cabina. Our second night on the town was at Maracutu Restaurant with vegetarian and vegan cuisine. I especially liked the hummus and fresh vegetables appetizer but Bill thinks his shrimp dish was responsible for his bout of “tourista.”
Across the street wass the social center of Dominical, the San Clemente Bar and Grill with a ceiling full of broken surfboards, Mexican-American food, fresh fish and lots of action.
We returned to our cabina after dark for sleeping. Bill killed millipedes and got rid of flying bugs and spiders while I made sure the mosquito net was firmly secure around our heads. We set our alarm to get up before the howling monkeys for our tour the next day of the Sierpe River, mangrove forests and Cano Island.