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Friday, 22 January 2010

Wings, Wheels and Waves: An Exploration of Costa Rica's South - Page 2

Written by Stephanie Hartka
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The flaps go down, the wheels descend out of the body of the aircraft and suddenly the tiny plane shudders to a halt. The light is golden and I am surrounded by palm trees as far as the eye can see.

“Welcome to Quepos Manuel Antonio!” exclaims the handsome young pilot over his shoulder. It’s the first leg of my five-day excursion into Costa Rica’s southern and less-explored villages and jungles; a vagabond’s dream come true. I arrive in Quepos Manuel Antonio not as a tourist, but as a chronic itinerant. I’ve come to look at this place as bit of an obsession; it is as if some vortex constantly pulls me back.



Sitting in the roots of a giant almond tree, a young couple are cutting up a juicy pineapple and handing the round slices to their two children who nibble around the heart, their fingers dripping with juice, pigtails dripping with salty ocean water. While Manuel Antonio may seem overrun with tourists, you still feel a strong sense of the surrounding community. Looking for more wildlife and less people, I decide to head further south.

Wings, Wheels and Waves: An Exploration of Costa Rica’s South, Quepos Manuel Antonio, the Costanera, Dominical, Costa Rica’s surfing meccas, Palmar Sur, Sierpe launching dock, the Osa peninsula, Sierpe Mangroves, travel Central America, Drake Bay, La Paloma Lodge, Corcovado National Park, Puerto Jimenez, Golfito, Bosque del Cabo, backpacking Costa Rica, travel Costa Rica, Stephanie Hartka

A few years beforehand, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias promised the Costanera, the long stretch of road to Dominical, to be paved by the end of 2009. Still a work in progress, the ride from Quepos to Dominical is jarring, dusty, and if traveling by bus, includes frequent stops. As a result, Dominical has remained substantially undeveloped in comparison to neighboring towns, attracting those who don’t mind a little dust with their welcome to the wild South.


As the bus pulls slowly into the town of Dominical, it passes children in school uniforms of clean white socks and light collared shirts. I watch them skillfully knocking green mangoes out of a shading tree with poles twice their size.


Slipping my arms through my backpack straps, I step off the bus and head down the dusty road toward the roaring sea. Looking for a place to overnight, I follow the road that parallels the beach. In the shade of the beach’s almond trees, surfers wax their boards, while tanned artisans loiter on cement tables, weaving colorful wraps into the salty hair of tourists. Everyone’s origin is unclear and it’s hard to tell the foreigners from the locals.


This long stretch of beach in the quiet town of Dominical is where the seemingly young and free come to surf massive waves. Costa Rica is a surfer’s dream, and one of the most visited towns, for both the ambitious surfer and the amateur, is most certainly Dominical. This beach is for wave riders only, and is not for leisurely swimming, unless you desire a mouth full of sand and matted hair.


At sunset, I count over forty surfers competing for the day’s last perfect wave. Others stroll the quiet beach, throwing driftwood for dogs, tossing Frisbees and sipping warm beer.  Surfers, waiting for waves, bob like buoys until a swell manifests, simultaneously spin around, paddle frantically, and stand up on beefy legs, gliding their way atop prize-winning waves. As the sun drops juicily behind the horizon, they head to the shore for cold showers and hot dinners, like a herd of sea warriors, boards held at their sides like shields.


While visitors and locals alike spend the majority of their time in the water during the day, Dominical boasts a great nightlife and will give you a genuine glimpse into one of Costa Rica’s most popular surfing meccas. In fact, don’t even bother coming here if you’re not into the sport.



(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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