Postcards from Costa Rica – Part 3

Today’s post is 1700 words, 32 photos, a 8 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to Traveling with Tom. This week I’ll take you to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, the third post in this series. If you missed the first two episodes, click here and here.

The Pacific Edge

It wasn’t until our third and fourth trips to Costa Rica that we ventured to the Pacific Coast. Our earlier trips were confined to the Caribbean and Central sections of the country. While the distance from coast to coast is only about 160 miles, the trip takes at least six hours, most of it on two-lane roads at low speeds. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Costa Rica is about the the same size as the U.S. state of West Virginia. Also, the Pacific side is a lot busier. The majority of tourists head to resorts along the Pacific Coast. We prefer the less traveled roads but I can say this; the Pacific side is worth the trip.

During our first trip to the Pacific Coast, we lodged at the Pacific Edge perched on the mountainside overlooking the village of Dominical and the Pacific Ocean. We turned off the highway onto a dirt/gravel road that went nearly straight up the side of the steep mountain. Pacific Edge recommended a 4-wheel drive, a necessity to make it to our lodging.

This was our view from Pacific Edge.

Pacific Edge has four rustic cabinas that can sleep three to six people. They have added a condo to their lodging located near the beach. The cabinas each have a small kitchen area for preparing meals as well as bathroom facilities. Not fancy but very practical and pleasant. Every morning we woke to the sound of the howler monkeys and the screech of parrots fighting among themselves. I remember enjoying morning coffee sitting on the front porch from the high viewpoint watching the animals traverse the jungle and seeing the waves crash against the shoreline.

One of the amenities we enjoyed at Pacific Edge was the swimming pool. Most of the time, we had it to ourselves. This photo of the pool is one of my favorites from Costa Rica.

Dominical is an ocean-side village known for it’s beaches and surfing. With a population of about 700 residents, Dominical has a small market, restaurants, hotels, and resorts. If we needed groceries, we headed down the highway to Uvita, population about 1000. They also have a couple of good restaurants as well as other services. One highlight around Uvita is the Marino Ballena National Park, aka the humpback whale park. It was created as a safe place for migrating humpback whales. The whales spend December until April breeding along the Central American coast before heading back to the West Coast of the U.S. and British Columbia for the summer months. While we didn’t see any whales during our visit, we enjoyed walking on the warm white sand beach.

A vendor was showing off their colorful wares for visitors heading to the beach.

In addition, to lounging on the beach, we hiked through the jungle to a waterfall and took in some of the natural beauty of the area. 

If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, the area around Dominical and Uvita is a perfect place for a personal retreat. This area is a lot quieter than the famous and crowded Manuel Antonio National Park 35 miles to the north at Quepos and the beaches at Jaco, about 60 miles north of Dominical. Both remind me what it’s like to be on the beach in Florida during spring break.

The Osa Peninsula

On our second trip to the Pacific side, we spent a couple of days at Pacific Edge before heading 100 miles south to the Osa Peninsula and Puerto Jiménez (aka, Port Jim). Puerto Jiménez is the only town of any size on the Osa Peninsula with a population of about 3000 people out of about 9000 people on the peninsula. We lodged in a hotel on the edge of town with any easy walk to the downtown where there were several restaurants and shops. When we sat in our favorite restaurant, we could see the seafood and steak house across the way. One day a young fella was washing the mural next door.

Check out the huge pineapples! Most places in Costa Rica sold them for less than one US dollar. And they were ripe and sweet. A trip to Costa Rica is worth it just for the abundant tasty fruit. Beside pineapple, my favorite is the tree-ripened mini-bananas. 

We had a nice meal at this soda, the Costa Rican word for a local mom and pop restaurant. They offer typical foods like gallo pinto (rice and beans), casado (combo plate), arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), and other local dishes. 

Prior to our trip to Costa Rica, I hired a guide to take us to the main attraction on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park. My goal was to get some decent photographs. 

There are a few ways to travel from Puerto Jiménez to the parking lot near the entrance to the park, a distance of about 27 miles. One can take a taxi or a flight in a private airplane, both very expensive. For those without transportation or extra money, riding on the back of an open air pickup truck with benches with other  backpackers, tourists, and locals needing a ride. The one-way fee is $10 US and takes over two hours. The other way is with a 4-wheel drive vehicle preferably with a high clearance. There are ten streams to ford between Puerto Jiménez and Corcovado. Even though our rental car contract stated we were liable if there was any water damage to the vehicle, we decided to take the chance. Fortunately, it was the dry season so only one stream had flowing water. We made it out and back without incident. By the way, the road was also very rocky and full of potholes so travel was slow.

It was early when we picked up our guide. He was a bird and nature expert often guiding English speaking tourists. Along our route, we made several stops when he spotted parrots, toucans, monkeys, and other wildlife.

One time when the guide told me to stop, he pointed out a troop of monkeys high up in the trees. As we were watching from below, one of the monkeys dropped a turd that landed on my cap! Our guide laughed and said: “He sheet on your head!” No damage to me or the cap. I was more careful the next time we spotted monkeys. And I got a good story out of this stop.

After driving (and stopping for photos) for a couple of hours, we stopped at a roadside cafe that was on a farm operated by the guide’s uncle. After enjoying cold drinks, the guide asked if we wanted to tour the farm. My Traveling Partner and I are both farm kids so we quickly agreed. In one of the buildings, one of the farm hands was making cheese and the guide joined in to help. The guide if the fellow with the white shirt and the bandaid on his thumb.

It was then that I took another of my favorite photos that I titled “Cheesemakers.” They are squeezing the moisture out of the raw cheese before the balls of cheese are wrapped in cheesecloth and sold in the cafe. It was a fun and interesting stop on our day-long journey.

Down the road from the cafe/farm, I spotted this sign. Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have a standing army after it was disbanded in 1948. They do have a national police force that performs policing and border patrol functions but no military. They are quite proud of that accomplishment.

After parking the SUV where the road ended, we walked about a mile on the beach to the entrance of Corcovado National Park.

Along the way, our guide pointed out these cabins where tourists lodge. 

Corcovado is a huge park, 164 square miles (over 100,000 acres) covering about two-thirds of the Osa Peninsula. This park is one of the remaining sizable lowland tropical forests in the world and home to a wide variety of rare plants, birds, and animals. The only way to see the park is by hiking the many trails accompanied by a certified professional guide. There is no scenic drive, no vehicles, and few services. But its beauty is worth the journey. After a short hike in the park and a stop for a bite to eat and cold drinks, we were on our way back to Puerto Jiménez.

The days were quite warm and humid in Puerto Jiménez but the evenings were very pleasant. This time of the day was good for walking around town and also good light for photography. The marina on the Golfo Dulce Bay was a favorite stop on our walks.

These three fellas, I assume they were day laborers, were chatting on the porch of an abandoned building. Nearby was the AA building, maybe they were waiting for the doors to open. Only an assumption on my part.

One evening, we watched a local youth football (soccer) match on the pitch near the edge of town. 

Another evening after dinner, we walked by a surfboard/fiberglass repair shop. I took a quick photo of this fella working on a piece of fiberglass. It wasn’t until I downloaded the photo to my home computer that I saw what I captured in the scene. The cigar in his left hand and the pinups on the back wall. Another of my favorite photos from Costa Rica.

Too soon, it was time to head back to San Jose for the flight home. I hope you’ve enjoyed the warm get-away to Costa Rica. A couple of weeks ago, I started this series during a seven-inch snowfall of heavy, wet snow. As I complete this last post, we had another few inches of snow along with drizzle and sleet making the roads a mess. Just writing about it makes me want to check out the airline schedule to Costa Rica where both the people and weather are warm.

Until next week, happy travels!


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