Trip to the Pacific Coast, Pt 2: Dominical….My mommy nightmare in a surfer’s paradise

The Villa…..

Thanks to the owner’s careful directions, we found our Villa at Canto del Mar with no problem.  The place was absolutely beautiful.  There was a small private plunge pool, a cute outdoor dining area with breathtaking views of Playa Dominicalito.  The main floor had an open, window-studded living/dining room, a half-bath, and a very well stocked kitchen with everything you need for a meal.  Amy and Storm (the owners) had a pineapple, a bag of Costa Rican coffee, and a bottle of red wine as a welcome gift for us.  The lower floor had two bedrooms with a private bath each, a laundry room, and a sitting area with TV and DVD player.  After resting poolside (while the kids jumped in the pool of course!) for a few hours, we went to the small grocery store down in Dominical where I was able to get some good-looking produce, cheese, milk, sweet cocoa, tortillas, bread, ham (for Tristan and Chris), mayo, and chips.  The bill was ~$60 USD but it would feed us for 4 lunches and 3 breakfasts.  The staff at the grocery store was super helpful.

The kids had a blast at the private plunge pool

The kids had a blast at the private plunge pool

On the villa's balcony overlooking Playa Dominicalito

On the villa’s balcony overlooking Playa Dominicalito

The view from the villa's balcony

The view from the villa’s balcony

Chris relaxing poolside

Chris relaxing poolside

Travel Tip:  Costa Rican men will refer to ladies as “Mi Amor” (my love) and “Princesa” (Princess).  They are not hitting on you.    I freaked out the first time it happened until Chris pointed out in his trusted Lonely Planet book that it is acceptable in local culture.

Tristan gets sick….

When we got back to the villa from the grocery store, Tristan said he wanted to go to his room to rest. It was 6:30 pm!!  I did the reflex mommy move and felt his forehead and realized he had a fever.  The little guy could not catch a break on this trip.  I am a pediatrician so I felt comfortable that his symptoms were most likely due to a routine childhood virus.  Regardless, I did feel vulnerable without my stethoscope and otoscope, which I had left back in Monteverde.  For dinner, he just ate his strawberries and a tiny bit of avocado.  I checked on him several times while he was asleep that night, and the fever never subsided.  I then went into panic mode in the middle of the night when I remembered there was a dengue epidemic in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  I hit my iPhone looking up information about dengue on Web MD.  Even though we had only been in the coast for about 48 hours before Tristan became symptomatic, and dengue has an incubation period of 4-7 days from exposure to the emergence of symptoms, I became convinced he had it.  I read Amy and Storm’s list for pharmacies and doctors in town and made plans to take him the next day.  I felt so helpless with a sick child in such a small town with virtually no resources.  I also had no medicines or a thermometer and the nearest children’s hospital was 4 hours away in San Jose.  What if he got septic shock from the infection?  What if he started hemorrhaging?

At daybreak, I went upstairs to make a pot of coffee and wait for the rest of the family to get up so we could get to Uvita (the nearest “big” town) to see the doctor recommended by the Villa owners.  It is amazing what the light of day and a nice hot cup of homemade cafe mocha will do to a frazzled mommy’s nerves.  My rational doctor side convinced my crazy mommy side that we had not been on the coast long enough for Tristan to become symptomatic from dengue fever. I also felt a lot better when Tristan walked upstairs and announced he was ready to go to the beach, though by the feel of him he still had a high-grade fever.  I then recalled the advise I would tell the parents of my febrile patients:  The height of the fever does not matter.  If I have a child with a temperature of 104 degrees whom I have to chase for an exam, I don’t worry about that patient.  If I have a child with a temperature of 101 degrees but does not flinch when the nurses place an IV, that child has my attention.

I did not want to push it with Tristan though.  So he and I stayed at the Villa that day, taking it easy reading, watching movies on the iPAD, napping, and lounging by the pool.  Kara and Chris took surfing lessons in Dominical with the Costa Rica Surf Camp.  As a side note, we ran into Ezequiel, their surf teacher, the next day when we were exploring the neighborhood near the villa.  Apparently, Dominical exits for surfing.  You can tell walking around the town that folks live here just to surf all their lives.   The beaches and lifestyle here truly make it a surfer’s paradise.  Kara and Chris both had a blast and he fully admits that Kara put him to shame on the surf board.

Tristan’s fever continued through out the day, so later that afternoon we went to Uvita to get acetaminophen from the local pharmacy.  I also ducked into the doctor’s office to scope him out.  He looked the same age as my residents.  I got his cell phone and told him I may call him if Tristan’s fever continued, but made a mental note that if indeed Tristan go sicker, we would drive him to San Jose.

Tristan taking a break from swimming. By the second full day at the Villa he felt a lot better.

Tristan taking a break from swimming. By the second full day at the Villa he felt a lot better.

Dinner at the Jolly Roger

In the pharmacy parking lot, I had Tristan take the acetaminophen and then we drove to the Jolly Roger for dinner.  It was fantastic!  The place is owned by the same folks who own the Villa we stayed at, so of course it was their top recommended place to dine.  And I am so glad we went.  The ambiance is very relaxed and friendly.  Wayne, the waiter/host, introduced himself to us when we arrived and asked each of our names in turn.  When I asked if they had veggie burgers, he responded with a straight face, “We only serve real food here.”  But when I ordered a custom made avocado, cream cheese, jalapeno, and onion straw burger, he totally delivered.  The fries are hand cut and wonderful!  We did not drink, but I have read that the margaritas are very good.  Unfortunately, our order was mixed up with the table next to us, so Kara and I got our meal after Chris and Tristan had finished theirs.  So they comped us a free brownie with ice cream, which was absolutely heavenly.  The food and ambiance was so good, we decided we would go back again before we left Dominical.  On another side note, we ran into one of the waiters the next day when we went into town to get cash from the ATM.

Kara and I at the Jolly Roger

Kara and I at the Jolly Roger

Tristan and I at the Jolly Roger

Tristan and I at the Jolly Roger

Chris and Kara at the Jolly Roger

Chris and Kara at the Jolly Roger

Playa Hermosa

As recommended by the Amy and Storm, we went to Playa Hermosa the next day. Tristan was feeling better and I pumped him full of acetaminophen before we left.  We checked out Playa Dominicalito first, but it was too rocky so we decided to go somewhere else.  I am so glad we did.  Playa Hermosa lives up to its name, “beautiful”.  I had never been to a surfing beach before, so I was completely awed by the size of the waves and the strength of the currents.  The surf in Playa Manuel Antonio paled in comparison to this one.

I really am sorry I don’t have pictures of the beaches.  You have to park the car rather far away from the surf, so I did not want to take anything of value to the beach.  Which meant my camera stayed home.  Just believe me when I tell you Costa Rica beaches are beautiful.  They are very different from the white sandy crystal calm beaches on the Caribbean, but they have a raw beauty on their own.

That day we had lunch at Tortilla Flats in Dominical, which we all liked, and then headed to the water hole near the villa.  We loved that water hole.  It was a gorgeous water fall that cascaded into a pool of water.  It was free and filled with locals.  Unfortunately, it began to rain hard soon after we got in the water, so we grudgingly headed back to the villa once we got cold.

Travel Tip:  When going to the beaches in Dominical, only take sunscreen, drinking water, and your sandals with you.  Leave everything else at the hotel/hostel/rental/home.  You can leave some things, like towels, in the car.  Most beaches are best enjoyed at low tide, which means you will leave your stuff pretty far away from where you will be spending most of the time frolicking in the ocean.  After you are done at the beach, you can towel off at your car.

Travel Tip:  I cannot emphasize how strong the currents of the Costa Rican beaches are.  Don’t let your children out of your line of sight.  Kara is a strong swimmer, so I would let her go past me in the water, but I would not allow Tristan go further than me in the ocean.  And I did not let either one of them out of my sight.  You will feel beat up after a day on the beach, but it is worth it.  Costa Rican beaches are not for the faint of heart!

Playa Ventanas

On thursday we went to check out another beach recommended by the villa owners, Playa Ventanas, so named because of the two caves that open onto the Pacific Ocean.  You have to park at this guy’s house, and he charges 1,000 colones per car (~$2 USD) plus 500 colones per adult (~$1 USD).  So for approximately $3 USD we played on that beach all morning.  This beach is much smaller than Playa Hermosa and a little rockier (but nearly as bad as Dominicalito!), but the view looking out at it from the ocean was amazing!  I felt I was on the set of Jurassic Park!  I really thought a T-rex would burst through the trees at any moment.  I was a little nervous about exploring the caves because the surf would come up into the caves unpredictably.  They really were more like rocky tunnels between the beach and the ocean, and judging by the barnacle line at high tide at least half of the caves were filled with water.  As we cautiously walked inside, I got a little scared and decided to turn back.  At that point I ran smack into two teenage Tica girls who were walking right behind us!  Both of us screamed and I realized it was time to head back to the car.

Travel Tip:  There are no facilities at many of the beaches in the Dominical area.  If you have to pee, use the ocean.  Try to do your business before heading to the beach, because if you have to do more than pee, your best option is to drive back to your hotel or nearest restaurant.

We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon so we would not wear Tristan out as he was still spiking fevers intermittently.  I am so glad that he got sick at the villa instead of the hostel. He was able to nap comfortably at the villa.  Then we went back to the Jolly Roger for dinner, and ordered two brownie desserts!

Home Again

On Friday, we took a series of buses through Quepos and San Jose to get back to Monteverde.  My heart was pumping as we drove up the narrow, windy unpaved road to Monteverde in the dark.  But once we got home, I felt so happy.  I was home!  It finally hit me:  Costa Rica is my new home.

Kara waiting for the bus to San Jose, in Quepos

Kara waiting for the bus to San Jose, in Quepos

Chris, Tristan, and Kara waiting for our bus to San Jose in Quepos

Chris, Tristan, and Kara waiting for our bus to San Jose in Quepos

And a warm thanks for our dear friends, the Carrs, for letting us stay at the wonderful villa in Dominical!

Pura Vida!

About Noemi Gamel

Noemi Gamel is a physician who prefers writing diverse children's fantasy stories instead of medical charts. She is a geeky nomad, too.
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5 Responses to Trip to the Pacific Coast, Pt 2: Dominical….My mommy nightmare in a surfer’s paradise

  1. Shawn says:

    Hey Noemi! Loving the blog, sorry Tristan was sick. When we were there a couple of years ago Will’s eye suddenly puffed up red and swollen and I convinced myself he had orbital cellulitis and started looking for doctors…for about ten minutes…and then I decided he’d gotten a mosquito bite on the eyelid and the vacation went forward without a hitch.

    Next time, go all the way to the Osa, or at least the Golfo Dulce, just rent a car with a GPS. Stay at Casa Bambu, totally off the grid and at the end of the world.

    At some point you’ll have to go to the Caribbean coast. Cahuita used to be a neat place, but that was 25 yrs ago.

    Also, go visit Rancho Margot, it’s not too far from you up toward La Fortuna and Arenal.

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