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Friday, May 7, 2010

Mojitos and Mujeres at a Jaco Bar

May 7, 2010
(Click on photos to enlarge)
         With only a few days remaining here in Costa Rica, we managed a quick trip to the beach this week. During our three-month “trial run” of life in CR, we have done very little in typical tourist activities, such as visiting museums, national parks or beaches. Only when friends from the U.S. were here in April did we venture out to Finca Luna Nueva Lodge and later that week to Jaco Beach. But I do love the ocean, the sunshine, playing in the waves, so with some creative thinking, we made our way to Jaco.
         Since we had to go one final time into San Jose to pick up our forwarded mail at the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR), Layne suggested that we could hop on the San Jose bus to Jaco. Banking on my travel writer credentials, I quickly emailed our favorite Jaco hotel asking about free rooms and sure enough, the manager offered us a complimentary room and breakfast for the next night.
         So on Wednesday, after an hour-long ride into San Jose and a two-block walk to the ARCR office, we took a taxi to the main bus terminal, known as the Coca-Cola station for historical reasons no longer apparent. There is no Coca-Cola bottling company there these days, just a big bustling station with numerous slots for the buses coming and going. Arriving just after 9 a.m. we were dismayed to learn that the Jaco bus had departed only moments before and the next one was not until 11 a.m. A two-hour wait! Enterprising taxi drivers immediately offered us rides but at $90 for the trip, that was not an option. But the Orotina bus was about to leave and since that town is only a short distance from Jaco, we thought we could ride that far and then taxi the rest of the way. Wrong! When we arrived in Orotina we found that taxi ride was still too expensive. Hauling our bags along behind us, we wandered around the central park and soon learned there was a bus about to leave for Jaco, so with only minutes to spare, we jumped onboard.
         Does the term “local” mean anything to you? This bus took an hour and a half to make a 30-mile trip! It stopped for every waving hand along the road, but eventually we arrived on the busy main drag and made our way to the Hotel Cocal and Casino, an historic property located right on Playa Jaco. My first trip to Hotel Cocal was in 2006 when I came to Costa Rica for a dental implant. My darling son Damian insisted on coming along to look after me following the dental surgery until Layne’s arrival a few days later. I was touched by his concern but soon realized that he also had an ulterior motive when we headed straight to Jaco, the best surfing beach in Costa Rica, for my recuperation and his favorite activity! He generously paid for a beachfront room, however, and entertained me with his daily surfing runs while I sucked down Papaya con Leche (a sort of papaya milkshake) to pamper my tender mouth.
         Each time Layne and I have stayed at the Hotel Cocal, we have ended up having a rollicking good time at the poolside bar where we always seem to meet interesting people and enjoy stimulating conversations while we sip exotic cocktails. Plus, with prostitution legal here in Costa Rica, there are usually extremely beautiful “working girls” present as well. Their coquettish advances to male guests can make for amusing visuals, as they try to convey their passions through flashing dark eyes beneath thick lashes or a pink tongue roaming over pouty lips.
         This trip was no exception. After an afternoon on the beach, frolicking in the incredibly warm ocean waters, fighting the current and jumping the waves, then relaxing in the Hotel Cocal’s beachside lounge chairs, Layne and I showered and headed for the bar. Since this is the rainy season, there were few guests around. Plus, Hotel Cocal is in the midst of a major renovation with workers hammering, welding, pouring concrete and resurfacing the swimming pools. Still, the small poolside bar was open with only a couple of customers perched on stools, including one stunning woman in a sexy black sweater notable for the crescent- shaped cutouts on the sides of her full breasts. Her name was Erica and she and I, along with the lovely Nicaraguan bartender Claudia, chatted some in Spanish. Claudia even complimented me on my budding language skills, which seemed somewhat enhanced by the Mojitos I was drinking.
         We were soon joined by a jovial fifty-something Gringo with a ruddy, sun-tanned face and short blond hair named Marc. “That’s Marc with a C,” he informed us. With tongue-in-cheek humor, he sat down by Erica and introduced her as his “wife.” Clearly, they were… uh, previously acquainted, shall we say. His sardonic style got big laughs from all of us and a roll of her pretty eyes from Erica. In the ensuing conversation, we learned that Marc had spent many years working as an aeronautical engineer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, including during the dramatic days of Apollo 13. We inferred that he has since retired from that profession and had been working to help out at his brother’s company. Three weeks before, Marc had tired of the carping of his mid-manager supervisor and had essentially said: Take this job and shove it! He bought a one-way ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica, and didn’t seem to know - or care - when he might go back.
         Marc had just come from dinner and he raved at length about the Peppercorn Filet Mignon served in the hotel restaurant. Now Layne and I have not been overly impressed with local beef here in Costa Rica. Often it is less flavorful and tender than the well-marbled free-range meat we get in California, but Layne determined to try it. When we went in for our dinner a little later, we had to agree: That steak was fantastic! Fork tender with a peppery sauce that really rocked. Since I tend more to seafood when I can get it fresh, I chose the Blackened Mahi-mahi and it was delicious as well. Accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed veggies, fresh warm bread and a glass of red wine, we were satiated. As we sipped the last of our wine and looked out at the glowing tropical sunset, we once again realized just how very lucky we are. Pura Vida, indeed! 


  1. Interesting article. Although a common theme here in Costa Rica, none the less it was a good read. Nice post and good to see you had a great time in a great country.

  2. Since you've decided to come back permanently I hope you'll keep us posted on your progress here.