Our family of twelve spent 2 weeks in southern Costa Rica near the surfing town of Dominical, a laid-back location removed from the maddening crowds. We chose Dominical primarily because it is situated near mountains, jungle and sea and is relatively close to Corcovado and Manual Antonio National Parks. We anticipated that such an area would offer a range of activities to entertain and excite our family of two grandparents, two young couples and six children ranging in age from 3 to 12.
Although we were looking for adventure, we also wanted sun, sand, water and relaxation; therefore, selecting a rental property that could embrace our group was a priority. We found all of that at Casa Bonita – a large house with a view, situated in jungle, within walking distance of the ocean.
My son tells me that I selected Casa Bonita because, as well as being beautiful, it looked a little ‘funky’ in the photos. This could be true since I am drawn to houses with personality and artistic flair and this house has that, as well as outstanding architecture and design – inside and out. The setting is spectacular in that the back of the house is built against a high rock-face with a waterfall but from the front porch the view expands to pool, gardens and sea – a great location from which to watch the sun set.
On many mornings, we walked to the beach below the house to build sand castles and climb the huge rocks. Since there is an undertow we chose to visit Playa Dominicalito (the next beach to the south) at the end of the day to play in the huge waves. Playa Hermosa, closer to Uvita, was another favourite. The town of Dominical offered surfing lessons, to the great delight of one of the ten-year-olds, vendor stands for the kids to buy trinkets and a restaurant right on the beach for a light lunch.
We ventured out on day trips to Manual Antonio, tried Zip Lining at Osa Canopy Tour (great hit) and horseback riding to Nauyaca Waterfalls (a highlight).
One couple spent two days in Corcovado Park (loved every moment) and another couple spent a night at Wilson Garden, driving there through San Isidro, Paso Real and San Vito and returning via Agua Buena and Neily (spectacular scenery from Paso Real – San Vito – Neily).
Like all successful endeavours, this family trip was built on solid research, planning and more planning. It also was an expensive undertaking and the cost of the rental property and car rentals had to be carefully considered. We chose Casa Bonita after spending many days reading reviews on websites such as Home Away, Trip Advisor and Flip Key. We hired a bus to transport us and our luggage between the airport in San Jose and Dominical and rented SUVs for the first 10 days. We prepared most of our meals at the house, shopped for groceries in Uvita, hired a chef to cook a Costa Rican meal and ordered the occasional pizza.
Planning this trip
Our visit to this region was everything we had hoped for. Our photo albums are filled with pictures of monkeys, birds, snakes and interesting looking bugs. There are great shots of happy children (and adults) playing in waves, riding horses, zip lining through the jungle and lounging by the pool. Every morning, the grandmother conducted Spanish lessons with the six children who all made an effort to try out their new words on forgiving strangers. Four of the children had never been outside Canada and they now consider themselves ‘world travellers’, not only because they visited Costa Rica but because of overnight stops in Washington, DC and Houston, Texas.
There are simpler ways to take a vacation. Delegating the planning to others has many advantages. However, a truly special holiday and one that is remembered forever, is usually a holiday that is created with intimate knowledge of the travellers, loving attention to the possibilities and a desire to push past our normal boundaries and take a chance with the unfamiliar.
By Barbara Reinhardus
Photo credits Barbara Reinhardus (and Matthew Reinhardus where indicated)
© Riding the buses 2014