We weren't exactly searching for serenity after Manuel Antonio, but we rented a Daihatsu in Quepos and drove south. After sixty hard kilometers on a potted dirt road, arriving at the surfers' mecca, Dominical, meant a return to paved highway and some relief. This is an ill-defined town with an unappealling beach; mostly a place for wave-worshippers.
We had no firm destination now and stopped at a few places, each time saying we'll come back if we have to. One laid-back resort with lovely isolated log cabins almost grabbed us, but the price was high and south we went.
We knew what we were seeking when we found Playa Ballenas. Moderate surf, miles of beach, no development. As a bonus, the perfect air-conditioning: the "hotel" comprised a row of permanent tents. These were set up about fifty meters back from the high tide mark.
Playa Ballenas, near Ojochal, means 'beach of whales' and we heard two explanations. This is either where whales come every year or it is named after the whale-like appearance of the rocky islands offshore. We put in four nights here. I broke up the routine with some solo cruising in the mini-SUV searching for photographs.
THE ROAD TO GOLFITO
Golfito seems a distant outpost even in a small country. A duty-free zone has been granted here and the shopping compound was seeing a roaring trade. I had heard rumors elsewhere of a smugglers' paradise and on the drive back, there was a bus waylaid by local cops who had the passengers scattering their fresh-bought goods all over the side of the highway. Sportfishing is Golfito's other main attraction. The Osa Peninsula, across the bay from Golfito, is one of the wettest places in the world. I drove mostly in the sunshine, as thick clouds hung stubbornly over the distant land mass.
The first half of our vacation fortnight was nearly over. Before tackling Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde cloud forest, we returned to Quepos by driving into the mountains and visiting San Isidro for a day, then looping back to the coast via Dominical and bouncing north over the same evil coast road.
Pictures from San Isidro at the link: