Costa Rica: From Guanacaste to Dominical

You probably noticed on the map above that I skipped a post about the Guanacaste part of our trip. We scheduled five days there, hoping to get some birding in and to check out the area to see if it would be a great place to live. But I didn’t look deep enough into where exactly our vacation rental was located. The little bungalow we rented was nice, and had all the details you would want in a little home away from home, but it was not near anything. There were no nearby restaurants or tiendas. It took 30 minutes up the mountain on a bumpy dirt road, through an itty bitty village and over a small river (no bridge–you just drive through it) in order to get to the house we were renting. The listing said it was “close to Tamarindo,”though we found it was actually an hour’s drive away. The listing also said, “very close to secluded beaches,” which in reality involved a 30 minute drive. And then the electricity kept going out and the fridge quit working, so we had to store our food in a nearby vacant villa a few doors down from ours. It took forever to get anywhere and we definitely didn’t want to be on the roads at night (after 5:30 pm), so we felt stuck.

We made the best of what we could. Thankfully, we bought some whole pineapples at the Walmart in Tamarindo and each night we split an entire pineapple between the two of us. We devoured them. They were so sweet and I have yet to find pineapple as delicious as that anywhere in the U.S. (aside from Hawaii, of course).

Guanacaste wasn’t for me, I decided, which is ironic, because we thought the dry tropical forest of that area was exactly what my lungs needed. I have asthma and almost three years ago was diagnosed with fibrosis of the lungs, which is a progressive disease. Right now I’m not on supplemental oxygen, but the day will come and eventually I will need a new set of lungs. This is why we’re traveling as much as we can now. Between Steve’s heart attack last year and my deteriorating lungs, this is our window to do what we can do. And it’s why I don’t fret too much when the best laid plans don’t come out the way I had hoped. I realize that we only saw a teeny tiny portion of Guanacaste and had we been anywhere else we might have had a different experience.

While our plans at Guanacaste were a bust, we did have some fun exploring when we were out and about as you can see by the photos below.

We left the cute in-the-middle-of-nowhere-and-sometimes-problematic-electricity bungalow in Guanacaste three nights early and just took it as a sunk cost we wouldn’t get back. Steve called his brother, John, in Dominical where we were to go visit next and asked if we could come by a few days early. “No problem!” John said.

The drive was a straight shot south along the Pacific coast side of the country and fairly easy, so I was happy to drive the stretch of Route 34, a two-lane highway. This was pretty much the only time I did any driving while we were in Costa Rica. Steve was a champ and did all the rest of the driving during our 24-day stay in the country.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was just steps away from the famous crocodile bridge over the Tarcoles River. There’s a pedestrian sidewalk on the bridge with railings and you get a good look at the giant crocodiles (the biggest one was about 4 meters) lurking in the shallow water’s edge.

Crocodiles as seen from the bridge at Tarcoles River in Costa Rica.

I’ll be honest. Having family with a house in Costa Rica is amazing. Each morning I awoke to the distant call of toucans. Also part of the morning routine were two Black Vultures that paced back and forth at the side of the house and grumbled out a low “woof” of impatience as they waited for John to put out a plate of food scraps. My inlaws named them “Mooch” and “Moochie” and it was satisfying to see them each morning. I’d stare at the vultures and they’d stare back at me as they perched on a nearby tree to digest.

One morning Steve and John rose at dawn to drive down to the beach to look for a Large-billed Tern Steve thought might have been in the area, but only Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns showed up. In the afternoons, Steve and I floated around the pool, overlooking the valley and watched Swallow-tailed Kites, Roadside Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures catch the thermals. Hummingbirds, like the Long-billed Hermit and Stripe-throated Hermit fluttered around the flowers in their garden.

Mostly I would just sit still in a chair on the patio, watching everything around me. The butterflies, the birds, the flowers and the amazing sunsets. I was in no hurry to do anything. For the past 30 years I was in a hurry in my job. But now I was free. No more knots in my stomach right before a presentation with an unpleasant, toxic leader. No more tossing and turning in bed at night as I tried to turn off the to-do list in my brain. No more unrealistic requests demands from management.

Just butterflies, birds, flowers and sunsets for now.

Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Sunset over Dominical