Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

727 suite, Hotel Costa Verde, Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaIt started with an email I received. You may have also got it, it’s making the rounds. A woman turned a jet into a house for only $30,000. It’s astounding, as is where it’s situated. I thought, well, you might luck out on beautiful wood and fixtures at the scrap yard. And just because you didn’t spend much converting it doesn’t mean you don’t have the money to buy ocean-view land in the tropics.

My husband delved into it further. The email is partially true – more accurately, it’s two true stories mashed into one. A woman did convert a 727 for $30,000 – on a country lot in Mississippi. And there is a converted jet with Hotel Costa Verde photo from its websitefabulous teak paneling and chandeliers overlooking a beach at the Hotel Costa Verde in Costa Rica. That’s it in the picture at top. My husband’s opinion was that the real story of the $30,000 conversion is interesting on its own, as is the story of the fancy hotel one. I agree, but for me the story really hit home when I checked out the hotel jet story.

I yelped with almost physical pain when I saw Hotel Costa Verde, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio is my very favourite Manuel Antonio, playing in the surfbeach in the world. There is a public beach and a national park side by side. Here it is as I remember it. Never crowded when I’ve been there – maybe it is when Costa Ricans take their vacations, but not when tourists flock to resorts.

There really were no resorts there then, 20 years ago. Some small hotels, clusters of cabañas on the beach. That was it. Especially near the national park, a wildlife refuge, there were no tourist developments. You had to make sure you took your own water and food into the park because you wouldn’t be able to buy me and parrot at beach bar Manuel Antonioany there. On the public beach, small huts sold food and drinks. Picnic tables to eat at. This is a small bar on the beach where they also rented surfboards and bicycles. There was a bar parrot, here sitting on my head. Also a bar cat who patrolled his territory but would deign to eat a shrimp if you gave him one off your plate. The food was delicious, the owners delightful.

plane on airstrip at QueposManuel Antonio wasn’t hard to get to. Drive or take a bus, fly to nearby Quepos and take the small bus to the beach. If you wanted to only hike in the park, walk a couple hundred yards from the bus stop across the beach and you were at the park entrance.

Now, I can’t imagine it. A private path into the wildlife refuge for hotel guests. Special packages for wedding parties. Edgy brides frightening the bejabbers out of poor monkeys who thought they were safe in the protected forest. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet I can’t help but think about it. I had a special experience with a dog here, a dog with no name so I called him Perro, Spanish for dog. I pigs scavenging on beach at sunset photo Dorothy Stewartwonder if the stray and feral dogs still roam the beach, most not friendly but a few like Perro enjoying human company. Pigs too roamed the beach, at night, cleaning up the scraps left.

Aren’t there enough beaches and islands that have become resort-land? Don’t bridal parties and package holiday seekers have enough options already? Do they have to go to Manuel Antonio too?

Perro has stayed in my mind for 20 years. A few years ago I started writing a story about him. I finally finished it to my satisfaction last year. Click here to read it.

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