Travel Quote
of the Month


“The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff.” -- Britney Spears



In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (The Chronicles as Novels, Costa Rica National Elections, 200th Anniversary of Presidential Hero, Readers' Comments)
  2. Rumble Talk (More Minor Tremors, More on Man-Made Tremors, Strange Neutron-from-Tremors Shroud Theory)
  3. Feature: The Road to Everywhere (Pan-American Highway)
  4. Feature: Being BriBri (An Indigenous People of Costa Rica)
  5. Feature: Tapering Off (The Tapirs of Costa Rica)
  6. What's-in-a-Word (Goma, Cacao)
  7. ROMEO Corner (Barba Roja, Manuel Antonio; Emelio's Cafe - Addendum)
Quepos Weather

Wisdom of the Ages





"Aspire to inspire before you expire"




 Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

The Chronicles as Novels

GGC Publishing, S.A. (established January 2014) announced on February 5, 2014 that The Golden Gringo Chronicles are being turned into a trilogy of novellas. Part I is now available.

The intent is to convert and condense the already written almost 250,000 words from more than 65 monthly editions into a novel in three parts. Each of the three parts will be of novella length (17,000 to 40,000 words) so that they are a "quick read" as they say. (A famous author once told GG that a book today should be able to be read on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, cover to cover)

Cover Page for GGC Ebook - Part I

By way of this trilogy, GG hopes to present the ex-pat experience of moving to and living in Costa Rica in an informative, yet entertaining manner. In this form, the experience becomes a continuing story rather than a large compendium of short stories over months and years. The novellas are currently being offered as ebooks and are compatible with virtually all electronic platforms.

The first installment, "Leaving the Homeland" covers the initial decision process used by GG that resulted in choosing Costa Rica as a retirement location and the efforts it took to move there as well as to settle in. Follow our hero, Dudley Bodoh (a dude who strangely resembles the current Golden Gringo), as he blunders his way into making the wrong decisions based on unrealistic expectations. Yet despite his shortcomings he often manages, with the help of friends and acquaintances he meets along the way, to extract himself from potential disasters just in the nick of time .

Part 1 - Leaving the Homeland is now being offered here: Golden Gringo Chronicles - Part I. Check it out.

Part 2 - "Surviving in Costa Rica, the Early Years", is expected to be available May 1, 2014 followed by

Part 3 - "Becoming Tico, Maybe" in July 2014.

If you like the Chronicles, we think you'll enjoy the Golden Gringo Chronicle novellas.

Presidential Elections Are Being held in Costa Rica This Year

Costa Rica holds national elections for President and the National Assembly every four years. Presidents are limited to one four year term and then must relinquish their office for at least four years but may run again for another four year term after the intermediate hiatus.

PAC Rally on Election Day
Johnny Araya - PLN
Luis Guillermo Solis - PAC

This year is an election year and the first round was held on Sunday, February 2nd. Typically there are two rounds before a President is elected because the constitution requires the winner to garner at east 40% of the vote and there can be as many as a dozen parties fielding candidates. So it was this year and the top two candidates, with 70% or 1.7 million of the ballots counted, received only 30.8% and 29.7% shares of the vote respectively.

Also, because they were within two percentage points of each other, an automatic recount required by law was triggered. Within two days, there was a recount underway of all the paper ballots from 65 polling locations. Most observers expect no significant change in the results because of the recount as the third-place candidate realized only 17% of the vote.

But the surprising result of this election was that the expected winner, Johnny Araya, who is the current mayor of San José, came in second. Up until poll time he had been the front runner according to all polls and his campaign was even suggesting he might achieve the 40% clincher on the first round of voting. Not to be, amigo.

Johnny Araya's party, PLN or the National Liberation Party, has been the dominant political party in Costa Rica for quite a few years and was also the party of the last two presidents, Laura Chinchilla and Oscar Arias. Araya is native born and Costa Rica educated in agronomic engineering. He has been mayor of San José twice, from 1998 to 2001 and from 2003 to the present.

The winner of the first round of presidential voting was Luis Guillermo Solis (Rivera) of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action Party). His roots go back to Afro-Caribbean and Chinese extraction from Jamaica but he grew up in San José. Educationally, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan and holds a Masters degree in Latin American Studies from Tulane University. In the past, Solis had been a member of the PLN and worked with Arias until 2009 when he denounced the party for corruption and then affiliated himself with the PAC.

Savvy politicos say there is little real difference between the PLN and PAC parties and both are viewed as center-left.

At Solis' victory celebration the night of the election, one press report said: "supporters chanted in Spanish "no more bribes" and "Yes, we can" as Solís promised a government that would be open and transparent and working for the people instead of the other way around. He said the old Costa Rica ceased to exist at 6 p.m. That was when the polls closed." Wonder where we've heard that kind of rhetoric before?

The two top vote-getters will duke in out in a second and final runoff round on April 6.

Buena suerte, amigos.

200th Anniversary of Presidential Hero

Costa Rica celebrated the 200th year anniversary of one of their earliest presidents, Juan Rafael Mora Porras. Señor Mora is important in Costa Rican history because he was the President who led the resistance against the imminent invasion of that disgruntled Philadelphia doctor, adventurer and American filibuster, William Walker, who had hoped to be King of Central American (has a nice ring to it, don't ya think?).

Mora's forces, led by a Salvadoran general, included the famous Costa Rica hero, Juan Santamaria, a young lad who was largely responsible for routing the filibuster's army by sneaking into their camp in the middle of the night and burning the enemies barracks while they were sleeping. This was during the battle of Rivas, Nicaragua, a town just over the Costa Rican border from Costa Rica, on March 11, 1856.

All three principal characters in this story would die untimely and violent deaths. Twenty-five year old Santamaria would die of the gunshot wounds he suffered while completing his mission to disrupt the enemy the night of the Rivas battle. After his defeat, Walker would migrate north with his straggling army, be caught by the British and in 1860 the Hondurans summarily hanged him. (They had no respect for Philadelphia lawyers either)

New Postage Stamp Commemorating President Juan Rafael Mora Porras

The year 1860 also was not good for Mora. He managed to be president three times during his career but during his third term he was deposed. He fled to El Salvador but soon returned to Costa Rica in 1860 with a small army and briefly captured Puntarenas (GG never really thought of Puntarenas as something worth capturing). He was then quickly defeated and both he and his brother-in-law, Gen. José María Cañas Escamilla, were executed by firing squads.

The Costa Rican populace at the time might still have been angry at the fact that when Mora returned earlier from the Rivas battle, he brought cholera with him that killed as many as 10% of the Costa Rican population.

Time heals many wounds. Mora is now considered a national hero and has been declared as such by the National Assembly. His supporters point out that he was the president that declared education compulsory for all citizens and is now considered the father of the Costa Rican education system. Recently, in honor of his 200th anniversary, a special postage stamp commemorating his presidency was issued (above).

I'm sure we'll be hearing more of Mora as more time passes.

Readers' Comments

Black-Cowled Oriole

Last month's edition showed a beautiful black and gold "unidentified" jungle bird in the header. A friend wrote in to say the bird is a "Black-Cowled Oriole" according to one of her friends, who's easily more knowledgeable in ornithology than GG.

The caption on the picture has been corrected (see February 2014).

Thanks amiga, we appreciate your help, and please give your amigo our thanks also.

.¡Pura Vida!


Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)

More Minor Tremors

Rumbling continues to be relatively minor throughout the Costa Rican and Central American region of the Pacific Rim.

The biggest tremor close to home in the last 45 days was a 5.1 terremoto that hit about 14 kilometers (8.4 miles) north of Jacó on January 17. That would put it about 30 miles north of Quepos as the quetzal flies. We easily felt it here in Q-town. I was working on the puter and the whole building felt like it shuddered for a half second, lifted for a half second and then settled back on its foundation with a thud. Very quick, but dramatic.

Let the good times roll.

New Theory on Man-Made Tremors

A geophysicist at UC-Santa Cruz has published an article in Science Magazine that she says shows that man-made geothermal power plant activity may cause earthquakes. She and a slave graduate student (GG was one of those once) looked at data for 31 years starting in 1981 that compared the volume of water pumped from the geothermal caverns against earthquake activity. The process then flashes the water into steam and returns the water, minus evaporation losses, to the ground. What they saw was an increase in seismic activity as the operations and water flow expanded over the years.

Is it significant to total seismic activity? Who knows, stay tuned for more information.

Strange Neutron-from-Tremors Shroud Theory

Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin, purportedly the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, has been a controversial topic ever since it was first photographed in 1898. Those that believe in it, will continue to do so and those that have decided not to believe will probably be that way forever.

In 1988 the shroud was subjected to modern technology and radiocarbon dating. The result was that the shroud was determined to be 728 years old at that time or having originated in the mid-thirteenth century. Later, other scientists believed that the dating process was flawed and suggested the possibility that neutron radiation could have changed the atoms in the cloth and it could easily be much older.

Neutron radiation is associated with earthquakes and, as GG remembers the original Story, there was a major quake that day in Jerusalem. Other records say there was an 8.2 Richter earthquake in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. (really - what records and where was Richter at the time?).

Now another research group based at an Italian university study believes that neutron radiation might have actually caused the formation of the image on the shroud. They also admit that significant neutron emission from that quake may have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes on the fibers which would give it a false low reading for age.

Again, more to be revealed later.

Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes


The Road to Everywhere
(The Pan-American Highway System)

Not long after arriving in Costa Rica for retirement some five years ago, GG found himself being chauffeured around San Isidro by some Tico friends. San Isidro (also referred to as Pérez-Zeledón) is the country's third largest city and is located in the south central mountains of the country.

At one point we were heading towards a shopping mall on the south side of the city and ended up on a four lane highway that looked like it proceeded south out of the city. Not accustomed to seeing four lane highways in Costa Rica except in the San José area, GG asked: "Where does this highway go?" My host said: "Oh, amigo, this goes to Paso Canoas (a border crossing town into Panama). It's part of the Costa Rica section of the Interamericana Highway (another name for the Pan American Highway); it goes everywhere north and south".

Later, during visa renewal runs to David, Panama we would also encounter parts of the PA Highway, but in that section there were usually only two lanes and some parts were, what the Ticos like to call, "en mal estado" (in bad shape).

Map of the Pan-American Highway
The Insert Shows the Darien Gap Located Between Panama and Columbia

The Guinness Book of Records says the Pan American Highway is the longest "motorable" road in the world, covering some 48,000 kilometers or about 30,000 miles (check your tires and oil before you leave, amigos). The highway runs from the Arctic at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina near Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America and a hop, skip and jump from Antarctica. Yeah, that's right, the road goes from the icebergs in the north through many different climates all the way to the icebergs in the south.

The Pan American Highway runs through nine "northern" countries; the United States, Canada, then the United States again, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It goes through another nine countries in South America: Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

The highway is not uniform nor the responsibility of any single highway authority; it simply is an agglomeration of existing roads and highways, often with the PAH designation by the country it passes through. Together this route allows someone to go from one end of the American continent to the other. Some of these roads are designated while some others are "unofficial".

A Darien Native Girl

The PAH is continuous with one major exception. There is a gap, called the Darien Gap, 100 kilometers or 60 miles in length north to south, that exists between southern Panama and Northwestern Colombia where the jungle and swamp are so thick that building a road there was too troublesome for many years and which now is controversial as a construction site for ecological reasons. It's not looking like that situation will change in the foreseeable future. The Darien area is sparsely populated with approximately 1,700 indigenous people comprised of two different native American groups, the Embera-Wounaan and the Kuna.

Shouldda Taken the Ferry
Around Darien

Although the Gap has occasionally been crossed in exploration vehicles (and many vehicles have been lost trying), most people ship their vehicles by ferry or airplane around the Gap into Colombia. That's a good way to avoid becoming a jungle statistic.

About three years ago, a friend made a trek by motorcycle from Austin, Texas to Tierra del Fuego, a total distance of about 12,000 miles or about half the total length of the PAH. When I asked him for this article how he got around the Gap, he said: "I put my motorcycle on a pallet and shipped it by air freight from Panama to Bogata, Colombia". Smart. His earlier trip report can be found here: Easy Rider.

The idea for a highway like this first came out of a Pan-American conference in 1889 as a proposal to build a railroad linking all the American countries. In 1923, at an International Conference of American States, the proposal for a highway was first made and in 1937 Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and the United Sates signed the Convention on the Pan-American Highway.

The Pan American Highway
Within Costa Rica (Red)

Mexico was the first member country to complete it's construction after the 1937 accord. Canada has never been a part of the agreement so the highways designated as the Pan American Highway in that country are considered "unofficial". The entire interstate highway system in the U.S. was designated part of the Pan American Highway system some years ago.

The PAH in Costa Rica starts in the north at the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Nicaragua north of Liberia. This is also the main traffic route between Costa Rica and Nicaragua as the road passes by or through Granada and Managua, as well as near Pacific Coast resorts in that country. From Peñas Blancas it runs south through Liberia, the mountainous regions like Monteverde, through the central valley via Alejuela and San José and then on through Cartago, Pérez Zeledón, Palmares, Neily and on to the Panama border.

Near the "Hill of Death", Costa Rica
The North Yungas Road, Bolivia "
The "Road of Death"

The highway crosses into Panama at the Paso Canoas frontier post, another busy crossing (see diagram above). The Pan American Highway is the premier road for shippers going from Central and South American points north to other Central American countries, Mexico, the United States and Canada. It also means, of course, that police along this route have to be super vigilant and keep ahead of drug runners and their ever ingenious ways of secreting their payloads.

Traversing the PAH in Costa rica and elsewhere is not for the squeamish. While the views are absolutely spectacular on clear days, the road that passes along the spine of central mountains between Cartago and Pérez Zeledón has been rated by one report as the 5th most dangerous road in the world. It's paved, mostly (see picture left).The area near the top is called the Cerro de la Muerte or "Hill of Death" and is subject to heavy rains, fog, landslides and rock slides.

One might ask what road gets the #1 ranking as being the most dangerous in the world. That honor goes to the The North Yungas Road in Bolivia which is purported to be another part of the Pan American Highway. This is how it was described in one guide book: "It’s known as The Death Road. That should tell you enough. It’s unpaved, very narrow and prone to rain. Oh, and there’s a massive certain-to-end-your-life drop there, too. Traffic flow isn’t fast, with good reason. Over 100 people lose their lives on this road every year."

So, if you're out for a drive some Sunday afternoon and have an urge to see Tierra del Fuego, just hop on the old Pan American Highway and head south, but be careful to take the boat or an airplane around the Darien Gap.

And go slow through Los Lugares de Muerte (places of death - I just made that up).

¡Pura Vida!


Being Bribri
(An Indigenous People of Costa Rica)

Costa Rica, like all of the Americas, at one time was populated only by people who had lived in this region for millennia. These people, sometimes described as "indians" but better defined as native Americans, were subjugated and nearly extinguished in many parts of Central and South America by the Spanish (see: History of Costa Rica - A Primer, Part II (The Spanish Occupation, from 1502 to 1821).It is estimated that today there are less than 55,000 native Americans in Costa Rica or about one per cent of the total population of 4.5 million .

Bribri Settlements in Costa Rica
(in Red)

One of the remaining groups that still holds on to its way of life is the Bribri (bree-bree). The Bribri groups in Costa Rica, and northern Panama as well, are believed to have originated in pre-Columbian times by migration of tribes north from Colombia. Their cousins in this area included the Boruca and even the Quepoa, the latter being the ones that settled around what is now known as Quepos/Manuel Antonio and which gave the town of Quepos its name. The Quepoa as a people are long gone.

The current Bribri number less than 25,000 and are largely distributed in three pockets in southern Costa Rica as shown on the map left (red patches). The bulk of them are located in two settlements close to each other in the Talamanca region of Limón Province not far from Puerto Viejo and the Caribbean coast.

I Presume the "Bri-Bri" Writing on Equals the Spanish:
"We Learn the Bri-Bri Language"

The Talamanca region is mountainous and thick with coffee and chocolate (from cacao trees) farms. The Bribri are accomplished farmers of cacao, banano, and platano for their own use and for commerce. They also raise beans and rice for their own use and sell off the excess.

The relative isolation in the mountains has kept the Bribri native language, simply called Bri-Bri, alive and well today although many natives need to and do speak Spanish to be able to interact with other Costa Ricans. The social structure is organized into clans and each clan is matrilineal, that is, a child's clan is determined by the clan his or her mother belongs to.

A Pretty Young Bribri Girl

There are very distinct roles for men and women Bribri inside the clans. Women are the only ones that can inherit land (guess there's fewer divorce arguments) and prepare the sacred cacao (Theobrma cacao) drink that is essential for their rituals. This is a special chocolate drink made from the ripe pods of cacao trees. It is considered sacred to the Bribri (and anything chocolate is considered pretty high on the hit parade with GG also). This drink more than likely originated with the Aztecs in Montezuma's time (that dude was reported to have drunk as many as 100 cups of Xocolati each day). For the Bribri, there is a spiritual connection between the cacao tree and the mythological belief is that the tree is feminine and was once a goddess.

A Bribri Cacique (Chief)

Men have defined roles also. They are usually, but not always, the chief of the clan and are called the "cacique" (cah-see-kay). (Cacique is also the name for the national cane liquor or guaro produced by the government; a couple of these and you think yourself a chief). Bribri men are always relegated to the role of "awa" or shaman. Awapa (plural for awa) are selected from certain clans and train beginning at the age of 8 for 10-15 years.

The awapa teach children, perform holy ceremonies and are the only ones allowed to touch a dead body. They perform rituals that combine herbal medicine with spiritual healing. In their traditional beliefs, illnesses can come from evil spirits that come in from the ocean in the west (whoa guys, certainly not from Quepos), they can also be caused by the person's immoral behavior or by witchcraft from envious neighbors (GG has had neighbors like that).

As you might expect, there are many myths and legends in Bribri culture. One of the more prominent ones is the Bribri story of creation that goes like this (from

Sibú, the Creator God, was thinking about how to create the earth. His sister Tapir had a daughter (Iriria.) Sibú thought he would send a vampire bat down to where the sun rises to bite Tapir's daughter and test whether she could become the earth. So the vampire bat went down and bit Tapir's daughter. Then the bat came back to where Sibú was resting in his hammock and vines and bushes began to grow from his excrement, so Sibú saw that this idea was a good one to continue. Iriria's grandmother was Bikakra, who was the one in charge of the chocolate ceremony. Sibú needed Bikakra to come and bring the Tapir's daughter to him, so that he could change her into the earth. 

The Bribri God "Sibú"

Sibú went to Bikakra and invited her to celebrate a festival of the clans that were going to grow like corn kernels. He invited her to perform corn and chocolate ceremonies for them, and said he would return in four days. . It was all to inaugurate the great conical house and the corn seed. Sibú set up a huge festival and invited everyone who worked with him, and also the mother and grandmother of the tapir girl. 

Sibú thought that they should dance the Sorbón dance at this festival and that he should invite all the devils to dance, because they had worked on the construction of the great house as well. Of course, if the devils knew that the house was going to create the clans, they would never have worked on its construction. Sibú had tricked them. This place, Suláyum, is the center of the world to the Bribri people. 

Before the sun rose, Sibú prepared the banquet, the tables, and the festival and called everyone to dance the Sorbón. When the Sorbón dance began, Tapir got up to dance and her mother gave out chocolate. They danced one dance, two dances, three dances, and then during the fourth dance the young girl fell and her blood spilled across the floor. All the devils who were dancing the Sorbón trampled Tapir's daughter until her body was completely disintegrated and became pure earth. Mother Tapir began to cry and said to Sibú: 

"How my brother has betrayed me! If you had told me what you were going to do, I would never have come." 

Because of how the earth was created, the Bribri consider the tapir to be a sacred animal and never consume its flesh except during a special ritual.

¡Solo Bueno!


Tapering Off
(The Tapirs of Costa Rica)

One of the many interesting animals in Costa Rica is the Tapir. And the preceding article has noted that they are sometimes considered sacred in indigenous culture. Tapirs are not cute little rodents like the Tepezquintle. They look like pigs with a bad nose job and are related to bovine, as well as to horses and rhinoceroses.

There are four (or five, some experts disagree) types of Tapir around the globe, three of them are in Central and South America, while one version is in Asia, chiefly in Malaysia. Costa Rica boasts one version, the Baird's Tapir, shown in the photo below that inhabits both the deciduous forests of the north as well as rainforest areas of the Osa in the south. The Baird's Tapir is the largest land mammal in Costa Rica.

Baird's Tapirs Munching Lunch

Tapirs are not, however, the cute little piglets they seem to be in the picture. Most tapirs are about two meters (7 ft) long, about one meter (3 ft) high at the shoulder, and weigh between 150 and 300 kilos (330 to 700 lb). The record for the largest tapir is the Malaysian Tapir. One was found there in excess of 360 kilos (800 lbs). (Now that's a lot of piggy-went-to-market, eh?)

The prehensile nose or trunk of the Tapir (proboscis) has no bone in it and is very flexible. It can be used to wrap around a tree branch to easily strip the leaves from it in one quick motion. Yum. The Tapir, being a vegetarian, also likes to pluck fruit from trees with it's snoz. It's also a great swimmer, loves to play in the water like a rhino and will dive for aquatic plants to eat. Tapirs are creatures of habit and will clear easily recognizable paths to their watering holes, giving their presence away.

Baby Tapir

Tapirs' coats are short and range in color from reddish-brown to gray to nearly black, with the notable exception of the Malayan tapir, which has a white band around its back and stomach. All tapirs have oval, white-tipped ears, rounded, protruding rumps with stubby tails, and splayed, hooved toes. The splayed hooves have four toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet, which help them to walk on both muddy and soft ground.

The skin of a Tapir is very tough and up to 3 centimeters thick (1+ inches). This helps protect them both from pesky insects and also from predators such as cougars. A Tapir has 42-44 teeth with an arrangement and shape closest to that found in horses. They have sharp incisors that help grind their food, including seeds and their stomach is much like that of a horse so they can easily digest roughage.

Baby tapirs of all types have striped-and-spotted coats for camouflage and their proboscis takes time to lengthen and mature. In their early days they can be confused with the aforementioned Tepezquintle. The Tepezquintle, however, will max out it's weight in the 12 kilo or 25 pound range while the Tapir might go to 700 lbs. Neither animal is available for hunting as they're both on the endangered species list.

I can't help wondering what the Tapir, cooked over an open pit, would taste like. That's a lot of chicharones, amigo. Fortunately for the Tapirs, Costa Rican law prohibits the hunting of Tapirs and Tepezquintle by adventurers like GG (actually, I was never really a hunter - just joined friends a couple of times).

Anyway, at my age, I need to taper off eating wild things (couldn't resist the pun).

¡Pura Vida!





Now here's a handy dandy Spanish word. It can mean rubber or it can mean gum (chewing gum = goma de mascar). A rubber band would be goma elástica. It's also used as a slang word to mean hangover. Hic.


No Dorothy, we didn't mean to write "cocoa". Cacao (pronounced cah-cow) is the tree from which pods come that are turned into chocolate or even cocoa. As noted in the article on the Bribri above, drinks made from the fruit of the cacao tree have been considered sacred and holy among the natives including the Aztecs. (GG never thought of things made from chocolate as anything but sacred)



ROMEO Corner

(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Barba Roja, Manuel Antonio

Location: At the top of Manuel Antonio hill near cafe Milagro, Emilio's, Agua Azul and others.
Hours: Monday to Sunday, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Parking: Limited in front of the restaurant.
Contact: Tel.: 2777-0331; Email: N/A; Website:

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M, Chris F., Roger H., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

View from the Barba Roja Dining Room at Sunset

This restaurant is located right in the heart of that now might be called "Restaurant Row" at the top of Manuel Antonio hill right on the main road to the beach. Barba Roja bills itself as one of the oldest restaurants in the area, having been founded in 1975, only a few years after Manuel Antonio was designated as a National Park.

This is one of maybe a dozen restaurants in Manuel Antonio with a great view of the sunset. This is particularly true at this time of the year (February) when the sun alignment to the restaurant is absolutely perfect and centered as if in a painting. The rest of the restaurant however is what GG calls Tico eat-in-the-rough, i.e., hard wood tables (ours was kind of springy on my end with the planks popping up a little), hard chairs and no adornment of any kind on the tables, not eve a tablecloth or place mat. We give the Barba Roja 4 out of 5 sloths for atmosphere chiefly because of the view.

Amongst the three Romeos who had dinner the evening of the review there were three different selections. One had a chicken dish that he described as quite tasty. Another had a Mexican chopped salad, also tasty but the mixture was a bit heavy on the greens versus the beans, vegetables etc.

GG had a shrimp dish that consisted of ten large shrimp in a pink sauce served over a mound of rice which was imbedded with small, fine strips of sweet pepper and celery - very tasty. The portions for all the dishes were quite generous. For food quality we give the restaurant four sloths.

Service was prompt, friendly and competent. Overall for atmosphere, food quality and service we give the Barba Roja four sloths.

Value Index = 89

The bill for shrimp dish, a coke, a (very ample) slice of mud pie and coffee was just over 20,000 colones or $40. That's a full price even for Manuel Antonio these days. The chic ken dish with one bottle of mineral water was also fully priced. That puts the restaurant in the top 10% of pricing in the area, or four and a half dollars, and gives a Value Index of 4/4.5 x 100 = 89, in the lower half of all those reviewed so far.

The Barba Roja is a good option for lunch or a sunset dinner but expect to pay full tourist price.

Emelio's Cafe - Addendum

Emilio's Cafe was reviewed in the December 2013 edition and received a four and a half sloth rating for atmosphere, quality of food and service and a three and a half $ rating for cost giving it a Value Index of 4.5/3.5 x 100 = 129. All of these ratings are considerably better than average.

About three months later, GG and an amigo returned to Emilio's for breakfast. The golden one had eggs benedict. It was offered with either salmon or ham; GG had the salmon. In addition to a hollandaise sauce as authentic as I've ever had in Costa Rica, the plate included home fries on a bed of watercress and a triple slice of avocado. The coffee was black, no sugar ("puro Costa Rica", as I like to call it) - the best. The breakfast was outstanding!


don Beto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!

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