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Trip Report Family vacation in Dominical

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We had a wonderful trip to Dominical the first part of March. We took our daughters (ages 15 and 9), and were joined by my parents and my 24 year old niece. We found Dominical to be a great area for a family. There were plenty of excursions to choose from, many beautiful beaches to explore, and so few tourists. The scenery was gorgeous with the lush, green mountains right next to the beaches.

Travel: Since my husband travels to San Jose once a month for work, we coordinated his business travel with our family trip, and my daughters and I flew down a few days later. I carried a notarized “Permission to Travel” document signed by my husband just in case anyone would question me traveling alone with my daughters. I didn’t need to show it at the airport or immigration.

Hotel in San Jose: We met up with the rest of our family and spent the first night at the Double Tree Cariari, where my husband stays when he is working down there. We found it to be quite nice. It has an open air design in the lobby and hallways, is just two stories, and the rooms are large with comfortable beds. It didn’t feel like a typical chain hotel.

Rental Car: We rented a Mitsubishi Montero from Solid Car Rental. We needed a 4 wheel drive that held 7 passengers. It wasn’t a bargain, but it was a nice vehicle, and Solid was easy to work with, and delivered it to our hotel. The third row seat was quite low to the ground, so the shortest two ended up there. We had to strap some of the luggage to the roof. We took the straight forward route of the Pan Am towards San Jose, then onto 27, ending on 34.

Rental House: Loved staying in a rental house. It was a fantastic house with a large infinity pool and a view of the ocean for an incredibly low price. The owners were two ex-pats of 13 years who were the kindest, gentlest people. The only drawback was that the house was about a 5 minute drive from the highway, and then an 18 minute drive up the mountain on a twisting gravel road. http://www.vrbo.com/221145

Fodorite Friends Reunion: I “met” mixter603 on Fodors in 2007 before meeting her and her husband at Bosque del Cabo. She and her husband decided to meet up with us in Dominical for our third Costa Rican reunion. Mixter rented a house much closer to Dominical, up a very steep, but short driveway. We met each day for our outings or dinners, and having them there and meeting our family added a lot of fun and laughs to our trip.

Activities: We hiked at Hacienda Baru and saw some capuchin monkeys and leaf cutter ants. The butterfly house was fun, as was watching the hermit crabs on the beach. My husband, our 15 year old, me, and my 78 and 79 year old parents went ziplining with Osa Mountain Adventures and really enjoyed it. The views are amazing. My husband and I had zipped with SkyTrek in Arenal, and that zipline was so intense, we didn’t really get to look around or relax. Osa Mountain was exciting, but much less terrifying. There were only ten of us in the tour group, so it didn’t take very long.

The two favorite activities we did were the horseback riding tour, and days at the beach. Many people have written about how wonderful Don Lulu’s Nauyaca Falls tour is, and you can add me to the list. Gentle horses, excellent food, kind guides, the scenery, and of course the beautiful falls make this a not to be missed family activity. My 9 year old had never been on a horse before, and she is a little bit of a fearful type, but she was perfectly fine (I think I was more nervous than she).

We visited Playa Ventanas (beautiful), Playa Hermosa (fun waves), Playa Ballena (gentle surf, but we only picnicked there), Playa Uvita (hot hike onto the whale’s tail), and Playa Dominicalito (great for boogie boarding). The best part is that none of the beaches were crowded! The kids loved drinking Pipa Frias on the beach. We hiked to Uvita Catarata, which was a nice little waterfall with a refreshing pool for swimming.

We also spent a lot of time swimming in the pool at the house, visiting the horses that were on the property, watching the capuchins and toucans that would visit, and looking for creepy, crawly critters.

Meals: We did a lot of cooking at the house and packing lunches for beach days. The home owners recommended a local fisherman to buy fresh fish from, so we grilled a lot of fish and it was heavenly. We ate at Tortilla Flats for lunch a couple of times, La Parcela for dinner, Cuna del Angel for dinner (we liked La Parcela better), and a place along the Costarena whose name I can’t remember for lunch (close to Osa Mountain Adventures). Grocery shopping was an experience all in itself as we tried to avoid purchasing “gringo” food, and marveled at how inexpensive the fresh fruits were.

Overall: The things we loved best about the Dominical area were the beaches and lack of people at them, the lush mountains, the pura vida atmosphere, and the rental house. The drawbacks of the area were the lack of howler monkeys and coatimundis, and we didn’t find as many spots for hiking. I had so wanted my daughters to hear the howlers, and my husband and mixter603 missed all of the hiking we have done on past trips. Bosque del Cabo has spoiled us in that regard.

We all miss Costa Rica terribly. My parents and our daughters now understand why my husband and I love it so much. My niece stayed in Costa Rica to volunteer for a month the the Sarapiqui Learning Center, the lucky girl. And I am already researching where we want to go on next year’s trip!

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