Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022
Route: Drove from Tamarindo.
Pura Vida, which stands for “pure life”, is defined as a way to live a peaceful, simple existence full of happiness, contentment, well-being and a deep love for nature, family and friends. It is the way most Costa Ricans live their lives and beautiful to see the reality of it. Of all the places we visited in Costa Rica, perhaps no other place embodied this art of living quite like the Puntarenas province, home to the towns of Uvita, Dominical and Ojochal. In fact, the area is one of the best places we have been to where we would consider living (Goa in India is the other), vs. ones that are stunning and great to visit like the Lofoten Islands in Norway or Corsica in France. Uvita is a small town in the southern Pacific coast and not far from the Panama border. While most tourists flock to the north Pacific coast to towns like Tamarindo, this area offers the best combination of what Costa Rica is all about. It is where lush mountains come down to kiss the ocean on beaches that are just too beautiful and deserted to believe. Think powder white sand under turquoise-azure waters that is just below bath-water temperature. The cool breeze ensures it never gets too hot and the many coconut trees provide shade all day long for lounging or reading. During low tide one can walk miles on pristine beaches and see maybe a handful of people. Spotting dolphins is an everyday occurrence while massive sea turtles come to lay their eggs from July to January and humpback whales use this as their migration path in the winter from Dec-Mar. But that's not all, from July to November, one can spot humpback whales migrating from Antarctica. It is perhaps why nature chose the stunning Marina Ballena National Park to build her “whale tail”, a sandbar that is identical in shape. Countless acres of protected rainforests provide an alternative to the beach and are filled with toucans, monkeys, parrots, iguanas, and sloths. There are multi-level waterfalls nearby where you can swim or hike to one of the many pools to lounge away the day. Most of our afternoons were spent walking a few miles on the beach and then swimming to close out the day. If you want to experience the best of what Costa Rica has to offer, there is no better place than here.
Uvita is the business hub of the area and has all the facilities one needs to live here. It has two big grocery stores and countless restaurants, bars, cafés, and shops. It is also where the entrance to the Marina Ballena park is located and hence a tourist center. There are many beautiful places for rent and range from single rooms to multi-room luxurious villas with infinity pools over the Pacific. The thing we enjoyed the most was breakfast/brunch in the local cafés, with amazing fresh fruits and baked items along with smooth Costa Rican coffee. Food was fresh and delicious in every restaurant, but the highlight was an Indian restaurant that provided much needed spice. One thing I must mention is that this area gets a lot of rain in the wet season and local speak of how intense it can be. We experienced it one night when it rained so hard that we could not hear the TV and there were rivers of water running down both sides of the house.
While Uvita is the biggest village in this area, the two neighboring towns of Dominical to the north and Ojochal to the south are the most interesting and where we stayed. Dominical town is located on the beach and is very popular with the budget crowd as it has many hostels and low-priced hotels. Many come to surf as some of the biggest waves in the region are found here. There are many restaurants and bars as well and most are busy late into the night. We stayed in a nice, modern condo with beautiful views of the ocean from all our rooms. The local beach, Playa Dominical, is walking distance and winds down the coast for miles on end.
Ojochal, by contrast, is a thriving international grouping of people who came to get away from it all and chose to actively build a community and integrate with the locals. It boasts some of the best restaurants in the area and is knows as a foodie destination. I was stunned to find a Belgian Beer bar here as it was not something I expected in Costa Rica, home of the awful Imperial beer. Some of the best beaches are to be found here including Ventanas, Piñuelas, Tortuga, Ballena and Arco. Ventanas was our favorite as it is sheltered by massive rock formations on both sides and the water is very calm and shallow for quite a ways out. We stayed in a secluded house which offered stunning views of the Pacific. It was also served by one of the worst roads we experienced in Costa Rica and that is saying something. It was basically a path cut through the jungle and it took us 20 minutes to cover the quarter mile to our villa. But, living in the lush forest along with all its creatures was a memorable experience. Finally, the people we met here were of a different mindset. Beyond being very friendly and open, they somehow seemed liberated from the travails of modern life and had an ease about them. Whether it was locals, expats or tourists like us, there seemed to be more of a common bond of humanity that was beautiful and peaceful at the same time. I can see why so many come to live here along with their entire family.
Though this region is a bit off the beaten path, we would highly recommend coming here for an experience to really chill amidst nature. From deserted beaches to great local food and friendly people, Uvita and surrounds is what Costa Rica is all about. I will never forget swimming in the afternoons in warm waters of the Pacific, while looking at lush mountains whose tops were lost in the clouds. Few places on earth offer such a dreamy mix of beauty and positive energy…. Pura Vida indeed!