The alarm rings at 5:00 am, and I’m ready. The bags are in the car, dogs fed, and coffee brewing. “Wake up sleepyheads,” I whisper to my children. They toss and turn and brush me off. Then I call our big Labrador dog Odie and have him assist me in waking up my husband and sleepy children. Up and at ’em, it’s time for a new adventure! My kids are used to this. We take a trip about once a month or more. You see, I wanted to live in Costa Rica 10 years before I actually had the guts to make the big move. So now that I am here I really do use every opportunity to get out and explore. My family puts up with me, mainly because they have no choice. They are never excited about the start of the adventure, but once we get to our destination, they are really happy that their crazy mom made them go.
Our most recent adventure took us to the southern region of Dominical. Dominical has always piqued my interest, but since there are other beaches and highlights that are a bit closer to our home in Heredia, we have always seemed to put this adventure off. Finally my curiosity got the best of me, and we decided to drive the extra 30 minutes past Manuel Antonio to Dominical.
The first afternoon we arrived, we headed over to Playa Matapalo to play. This beach is unlike other beaches in Costa Rica, as it is quite expansive–the coast seems to go on for miles. We arrived early and had fun frolicking in the gentle waves. As we built sand castles and rode waves on our boogie boards, the afternoon quickly turned to early evening. We started to notice the shore fill up with couples and families who came to receive their daily inspiration: the sunset. A man pulled up to the shore and jumped on his paddle board. As he paddled off into the horizon, I watched him until I could only see his silhouette in the distance. The sun dropped quickly and the sky turned a brilliant pink and orange, and then the paddle board dude returned to shore to watch the last colorful changes in the sky before dark. In a second, I realized that this happens every day, but as I am tucked in behind the walls of my home in Heredia, I miss out on one of the most magical daily moments. I made a pact with myself to get out more often in the evenings to use this special display of colors in the horizon to inspire my life and feel gratitude.
While in Dominical our main purpose was to visit Nauyaca Falls. The hike to this waterfall is a little more than moderate and takes about an hour to an hour and a half depending on your pace. My children 6 and 10 hiked it pretty easily, although my daughter threatened to turn back a few times. With some evil eye glances and words of encouragement I was able to convince her the hike was worth it.
Butterflies and macaws visited us along the tree-lined paths; some pastures with rolling hills held an audience of cows. The smell of fresh dirt, the sounds of the rainforest, and even my hiking boots crushing along the path heightened my senses and brought me into the present moment. The office and daily chores seemed worlds away. With our backs full of sweat and a bit out of breath, we arrived to the base of Nauyaca Falls–the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen. If you have seen one waterfall, you have seen them all, right? Not a chance.
Nauyaca is simply breathtaking. It is a two-tiered waterfall with the uppermost portion being a powerful long rush of water. The base waterfall is wider with a glistening turquoise-green pool that is great for swimming. There are many platforms for jumping off and into the deep pool below. We were lucky enough to be the first to arrive at this waterfall. When we got to the park entrance there was a group of about 20 tourists getting ready to embark on their horseback ride to the waterfall. The horseback riding tour includes a stop for breakfast, which gave us the chance to continue on to the waterfall and arrive before the crowds.
The cool water of the pool is very welcoming after the hour or so, slightly uphill hike. My kids and I jumped right in. My daughter who is 10 is quite brave, and she and I swam over to the waterfall and climbed the rocks to jump off a 10-foot cliff into the pool below. Shortly after us, a couple of guys arrived and climbed the waterfall wall about 30 feet high and dove straight into the pool. This is a known highlight. The pool is very safe, it is deep and not full of rocks. Diving or jumping from the 30-foot ledge mid-way up the waterfall is a popular past time.
From the long rain forest-lined beaches, hidden waterfall treasures, and the hip but mellow town of Dominical, this southern region creates a nice pura vida vibe all its own. Dominical owns a piece of my heart. This area is truly magical, and I really can’t wait to go back.