South of Quepos and Manuel
Antonio Over another 40 miles of a new paved road is another of those great potential for retirement and/or
investment. Since paved roads is in place, a steady stream of traffic cruising along the beach tourists looking for rooms
and retirees buying property. The village of Dominical and its surrounding communities can't help but flourish. As you might
guess, many foreign residents prefer things the way they are; they dread the thought of developments and tourists
destroying the peace and tranquility that has been theirs for so long. But road crews are already done with the work; it is
too late for anything but anguish. As one man said, "It will seem funny to think that in a few years we'll be looking
back fondly to the time when there were no traffic lights here."
Dominical can also be reached by traveling south on the Pan American Highway and turning toward the Pacific at San Isidro
General; just follow the signs through town. Because of San
Isidro's system of one-way streets, you may have to ask directions by pointing in whichever direction you are going and
asking "Dominical?" Someone will steer you right.
This road is one of the most scenic in all of Costa Rica. The narrow, paved highway traverses rich farming country, up
somewhat steep grades, running along ridges with breathtaking views onboth sides of the road, looking into deep
valleys where the farm houses are so distant they seem like toys. Even during the dry season, the countryside is lushly green,
with trees heavy with foliage and banana trees shading the roadside. Although the drive is less than 25 miles, it takes about
45 minutes. That's the way it should be, because the scenery is so spectacular that you might miss something if you could
whiz along at 100 kph.
The paved highway ends at the coastal road at the Baru River, a picturesque mountain stream which empties into a
lagoon at this point. A turn to the left, over the river's new cement bridge and you find Dominical. Take the first right turn
past the bridge. This is not a town even though it may appear as such on the map; it's a collection of cabinas, private
homes and a handful of restaurants, sometimes almost hidden behind tropical vegetation.
Dominical's main street (there are only a couple of streets here) follows the river, past several rental cabins and businesses,
then ends at the beach where another road follows the beach down to Punta Banda. Camping beneath a grove of shade
trees is free and your tent is just feet from the broad, sandy beach of Playa Dominical. Restrooms and showers are
strategically spaced along the beach.
The surf is spectacular, booming in on the sand but swimming is dangerous here, with riptides to harass those not
used to handling them. "You usually don't realize what is happening," said Richard Dale, the owner of Albergue
Willdale, a set of cabinas where we were staying. "It seems as if you are staying still in the water, but the beach is
moving away from you. We lose a couple of tourists every year to these tides, and it isn't necessary. Instead of frantically
trying to swim against the current, the best
thing to do is to relax and leisurely swim parallel to the beach, until the shore stops moving away. The current is only a few
feet wide. Then, work your way back to shore, pausing to float on your back and rest. The water is so warm and so salty
that you can float all day long and never get tired. There is no reason for anyone to drown in a riptide."
Serenity and calm at Playa Dominical and Playa Bard make this a great place to spend the winter, away from the ice and
snow of northern climes. Many people do just that. Prices are particularly affordable if one doesn't need an ocean view. A
visitor from the Yukon, a man who has been coming here for several years, was very excited as he described the house he
was buying in a nearby village. It was a brand new, two-bedroom place on three hectares of land. "To make sure
everything is all right, I agreed to rent it for two months. At the end of that time, if the house is satisfactory, I'll go ahead
and buy it."
An American oil worker, who has worked and traveled all over the world, decided Dominical is the place to settle down.
Two years ago, he was in the process of constructing a bakery and was learning how to handle Costa Rican workers.
"I have good employees and they work very hard, but sometimes they drive me wild. The other day, I had to go out
of town and when I returned, the workers had built a wall where there wasn't supposed to be a wall." They were
busily dismantling cement blocks from the wall. When I returned in next year, they were still working on the building, but it
was almost complete. This was not because the workers were all that slow, but he is working periodically on the building
and then at his profession to get more money to put into the project.
Every night a couple of the restaurants break the tranquility with loud stereo music as they try to attract customers. Since
surfing is reputed to be the second best in Costa Rica, there are always a few sunburned, salt soaked revelers to join the
more sedate patrons of these "night clubs" in hoisting a cold cerveza Imperial. The music doesn't
last long, however, since early-to-bed is the norm here.
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