Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 4: Horseback to Nauyaca Waterfalls

Destination: Dominical

Our sturdy criollo horses carried us on surefooted legs, splashing across small streams as we descended into the valley. The rocky path twisted down steep hillsides, leading us to the home of Don Lulo. With our horses tied up in the shade, we sat down for a giant home-cooked breakfast in the family rancho.

Situated six miles outside of Dominical, Don Lulo's Horseback Tours is a family-run affair with over 80 horses which are rotated regularly. A combination of horseback riding, beautiful waterfalls and local hospitality had attracted our group of twelve on this luminous day. After filling our bellies with Tico fare, we explored the family's mini-zoo (sponsored by MINAE, the local ministry of environment), which housed a toucan and several scarlet macaws.

One of Don Lulo's grandsons knelt down and opened a wooden door in the floor of one of the cages. Out trotted four agouti pacas, big-eyed nocturnal creatures with a peculiar musky scent. "So... what lives in that hole?" someone in our group jokingly asked, pointing at another door in the floor. Our guide just laughed and shook his head, leaving us to wonder at its contents.

We continued on horseback another 25 minutes, our horses occasionally galloping as they jockeyed for position. We dismounted and changed into our bathing suits before walking the remaining stretch to the waterfalls. The 65-foot cascade crashed into a sparkling pool, an inviting sight on such a hot day.

Our guides expertly scrambled up the slippery rock face and took turns doing back flips and swan dives into the clear pool below. A few brave and considerably less-graceful members from our group cannon-balled off the ledge, screaming the whole way down.

Back at Don Lulo's, we enjoyed a typical lunch of chicken, rice and beans served family-style at communal tables. I sat next to a hilarious couple from New Jersey who swore they had spotted a kangaroo "in the woods outside their cabin". The ensuing guessing game to determine what animal they had mistaken for a six-foot Australian marsupial entertained us all for quite some time.

A bit weary after our six-hour adventure, I decided to join a few other travelers for a pre-sunset cocktail at Tortilla Flats, a funky Tex-Mex cafe fronting Dominical beach. Between 5 and 6 p.m., every aesthete for miles gathered on the shore to watch surfers bob in the waves and the sun gradually settle as a backdrop below the horizon.

After the show, I returned to the comfort of Roca Verde which on occasion converts into a community playhouse, featuring local theater groups. Tonight, however, was a quiet evening. I had the swimming pool all to myself and, after a dip and a light dinner at the restaurant, turned in for a good night's rest.

Day 4: Horseback to Nauyaca Waterfalls in Pictures

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