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SPines Dec 14th, 2009 04:42 PM

Trip Report- Dominical (but really Shelter From the Storm)
The title says it all. Shelter From the Storm was so special. Where the mountains meet the sea. Donna and Darryl have just done an excellent job.

We arrived at SJO (late), had a bit of confusion with the car rental, had to go back to the airport when my husband left his passport at the ICE desk, so left for Domincal shortly before 5 p.m. I know why they tell you not to drive at night. It's so you don't kill a pedestrian or bicyclist on the way. Lots of folks out and about without a stitch of light colored clothing. Suprisingly, the drive was fairly uneventful. Darryl at SFTS sent us perfect directions and we followed them right to his door. The road had about six miles that is still not paved but otherwise very smooth sailing. The directions to SFTS said, 'Turn in at the bus stop. STOP! Shift into 4 wheel drive.' Very good advice because the driveway is awe inspiring! We boldly made our way up and Darryl and Donna came out in the rain and the dark to welcome us, get us settled in and offer us an adult beverage. Our villa was completely charming.

Day one we decide to take it easy, get groceries and drive around to get our bearings. Sadly, I rise with the sun so every morning I took my coffee on my lovely patio and communed with toucans and a crested guan. Most mornings involved the monkeys too, either heading in or out. Our particular white faced group had two babies and watching those mamas make the leaps was heart stopping. Donna had also emailed us to tell us the masseuse would only be there Monday so I took the 9 a.m. slot and my husband had the 10. Melanie gives a really really fine massage. We spent a good part of the day relaxing by the pool at SFTS. This vacation was about being human beings as well as human doings. We had lunch at a soda south of Uvita that served a beautiful whole red snapper and owned a dog that appeared to be a cross between a Pekinese and a Pit Bull in both appearance and attitude. That night we had dinner at La Macha and had superb ceviche. Then we were early to bed.

Day two we were going to take the waves and caves tour with Southern Expeditions but when we arrived at the office, they said SFTS had called to cancel our reservation. How odd, we thought, but no biggie so we rescheduled for Friday and went to Hacienda Baru. We were fortunate enough to get on a guided hike/zipline ride that departed shortly. The guides were great. It is so nice when your guide is into their job. They did a great job spotting wildlife and we saw both a two and three toed sloth, a spectacled owl, a huge iquana and a snout nosed bat. The ziplines were tame, but a perfect introduction. There is a new zipline in the area and we thought we might try that later, but never did. We had lunch there with another couple in our group. We told them we were taking the waterfall tour the next day and they said they were trying to get on tomorrow as well. We ate dinner at Tortilla Flats and did some great people watching.

Day three we did Don Lulo's horseback riding tour to Nauyaca waterfalls. It was a very well done tour with breakfast and lunch included. The horses could have been in better flesh, but they were all sound and except for one grumpy gus, very well behaved. When they asked how much we have ridden I said 'Every day' and they pulled one out and pointed to me. My horse was very well behaved but I think she was new to the ride because she did not know how to find the easiest line down the trail. My husband also rode! He was originally going to skip it but on our first day, another guest convinced him to give it a try and said the waterfall was not to be missed. Donna made the call to make sure they could add him to the tour and all was well. The couple we had met at Hacienda Baru was also on the horseback tour.
The waterfall was gorgeous! The water was cold-ish but fun to be in. The rocks were slippery and I wished I had my water shoes. Our guides, grandsons of Don Lulo, put on a dramatic diving exhibition from the cliffs that form the waterfalls.
That night, we had dinner at Exotica, a restaurant in Ojochal that can hold it's own anywhere. Part of the fun is rattling down some dirt road in the middle of nowhere, sitting down in a plastic chair on a wall-less deck and eating absolutely amazing food. If there is a restaurant in the area with actual walls, roof and floor, I didn't see it.

Day four was a laze around day. We watched the wildlife, hung out at the pool and honestly I could have spent the whole vacation sitting on my patio, watching the sunrise, the birds, the monkeys, the sunset and the beautiful view. Dan found an ad for a bar that had 23 varieties of beer, so late that afternoon we challenged our little 4 wheel drive (Now THAT is a driveway!) with a trip up to Jolly Roger's, an ex-pat bar owned by a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He had the NFL channel and the Steelers were playing that night. We were enjoying the no TV, no computer, no cell phone life we were leading, but Dan thought the gods had brought him to this bar to drink something besides Imperial and to watch football and who am I to argue with the word of a god? We held seats at the bar for five hours. It was a fun convivial group who were all friendly, all expressed admiration for Darryl and Donna and thought we should move to CR. (Duh!) We got back to SFTS late and Donna called to say out Southern Expeditions tour had called to change the time.

Day five we went to Domincal to finally have our waves and caves tour, but when we got there, we were once again at the wrong time, they had to go with the tides, etc. I said, 'didn't you know the tides two days ago when we set this up?' They said they had called Donna and I said she had called us but the times did not jive. We went back to SFTS where Darryl said they had left a message last night, so he listened to the message again, confirmed that Donna had told us the right time. I thought we were getting a signal after having three screw ups on the same tour so no rebooking. Darryl called them to make sure we would get a refund, which we did. We decided to do more exploring and drove down to Marino Ballena for the sum total of our beaching. It was a very pretty day and we stopped at the Whale Tail at low tide. It was pretty cool. We explored the tidal pools on the rocks and walked back to the car at sunset. We had dinner at Confusione where the guitar player was excellent and had a great voice.

Day six was a last day to enjoy SFTS and we certainly did. We wanted a low key vacation to do not too much and we certainly did that. I read a lot of posts about can we do four locations in five days and I have to wonder why? I have a feeling no matter where you go in CR, you need to spend a lot of time just looking. See the plants, the flowers the birds, the monkeys, the water, the mountains. Give up the overscheduling we are so used to in this country. Walk on the beach, on the mountain trail, paddle the kayak and SEE.

kencolian Dec 14th, 2009 05:05 PM

Thanks for the report, sounds like a great trip. Shelter from the storm looks great. This is an area I would like to go to. I am very interested in Hacienda Baru. Was the surf rough at the beaches?

tully Dec 14th, 2009 06:53 PM

What a nice report. D & D are certainly the kind of hosts and friends that you hope to run into again and again. You bring back great memories, thanks for posting.

milliebz Dec 14th, 2009 07:14 PM

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. We will be in the area (staying at a property your hosts manage)in April. We are so excited and happy to read your recommendation for Exotica (it is on our list) and your day trip experiences.

virginiafish Dec 14th, 2009 08:01 PM

Thank you, so much, for this wonderful report! It is much appreciated.

SPines Dec 15th, 2009 04:17 AM

ken, the surf did seem rough, at least compared to NC beaches. Children were playing in the water very close to the shore. There are warnings at many beaches of rip currents.

millie do not miss Exotica although we didn't have bad food anywhere. We did not get to Citrus or Chef's Table, two places also highly recomended in the area.

shillmac Dec 15th, 2009 04:48 AM

What an interesting report! You caught the Pura Vida just right it seems. SFTS sounds very special; tully sold us on it last summer, and we hope to stay there sometime. So glad you enjoyed the beauty and amazing wildlife of Costa Rica.

volcanogirl Dec 15th, 2009 08:17 AM

Another great report on SFTS - sounds like a neat spot!

colibri Dec 15th, 2009 01:04 PM

It sounds like you found a great spot to relax and forget about the stress of life! Glad you enjoyed your time there, hope to make it down that way on a future trip. So many wonderful places to explore!

SPines Dec 15th, 2009 04:53 PM

It is a great place. There are four units, nicely spread out. If you were in your villa, you realy didn't have to see anyone else. The place was full while we were there and we had casual encounters with all the other guests. There was a land owning couple getting started on their construction who had made many trips down and stayed at different places as they went. Once they hit Shelter, they never stayed anywhere else. I think this was their fifth stay at Shelter.
The only thing I wanted to do more of was hiking around, but DH is teetering on the edge of knee replacement so we could only do so much.
This morning DH says, "let's go for two weeks next time.' So, it won't be long before I am reading up on other areas. We cannot afford BdC, so don't suggest it! :-)))

hipvirgochick Dec 15th, 2009 05:14 PM

Thanks for the wonderful trip report. Sounds like you had a great time (weird about the tour cancellations though)! I agree SFTS couldn't get much better and Donna and Darryl are beyond gracious. I had a chance to check out all of the casitas/villas and would have loved staying in any one of them. The area is just beautiful around there!

virginiafish Dec 16th, 2009 05:54 AM

Well, Shelter from the Storm doesn't have availability when we can go. Any other recommendation in that area? Also, is the swimming (not surfing) on the beaches there and nearby good. We snorkel, also.

AustinTraveler Dec 16th, 2009 07:44 AM

Lots of good options on Not sure of the water conditions year round but when we were there the surf was always up and there were strong undertows, so definitely be careful. Forget snorkeling. This is the Pacific side so not many places have enough clarity or calmness for surfing. You need to check out the Caribbean side for that.

We stayed in an incredible villa managed by Darryl and Donna. It's

costaricalover Dec 16th, 2009 08:46 AM

We are splitting our time between Shelter from the Storm and Villa DES las aves
when we go in February. There have been great reviews of Vdva,and the bonus
is that it is also home to The Chef's Table - an incredibly well regarded
restaraunt on the premises. Darryl recommended this place to us. It is in Uvita, not that
far from Dominical. Reviews on tripAdvisor are fabulous - you should check it out!

hipvirgochick Dec 16th, 2009 08:49 AM

Any of those I think would be good options. Villa des las Aves is owned by great people too, and the casitas are really nice and colorful. Beautiful area above the fork of the river...and of course the restaurant!!!

Spanky04 Jan 10th, 2010 12:42 PM

We are trying to decide between Shelter From The Storm and the Flying Toucans. This is a special getaway for my husband and I. We are going in the "green season" and trying to determine if we should save the ($1,000+) and stay at the Shelter From the Storm with other vacationers or have total privacy and stay at Flying Toucans. Flying Toucans is managed by Donna and Darryl.

Has anyone been to both of these properties? Your opinion would be appreciated. Are the views as breahtaking from both properties.

At Shelter From The Storm, which villa would be the nicest for a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary?

Many thanks.

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