San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pato Loco Inn Offers a Quirky Getaway on the Northern Pacific Coast

Maybe it’s a lazy Guanacaste afternoon and you fancy resting your bones after a stimulating day of world-class scuba diving.

You peel off your clothes, slip into your suit and plunge into the hidden backyard pool at Pato Loco Inn.

As the sun begins to set, howler monkeys start to stir in nearby trees, giving your tiny, secret sun-drenched world a savage tropical touch. An iguana wiggles out into the sun to soak up its dying heat.

If you’re headed to Playas del Coco, on the Pacific coast of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, for unrivaled scuba diving, succulent seafood or a surf trip to the revered Witch’s Rock, you might want to book a night at Pato Loco.

Just a five-minute waddle from the beach, this popular spot with the locals is now owned by a couple of U.S. expats who are spicing up the place with their own flavor.

Mary Ramona Cox, 45, is an artist who has covered the walls of the place with her nature-inspired paintings. Her 74-year-old mother, Mary Kirigin, is a retired radio personality with a charismatically raspy voice, who doesn’t seem 74 at all. She’s a ball of energy and hospitality. The Utah suburbanite first came to Costa Rica about five years ago, when she had a “total epiphany.”

“I was on vacation here for about 12 hours before I knew I wanted to live with such people of peace,” Kirigin said, squinting through her glasses.

The two scoured the land for a place to set up a business before stumbling upon this hotel, once owned by a Roman couple whose knack for great cuisine is still carried on in the hotel’s restaurant.

The mom-and-daughter hospitality is warm here, and so is the lasagna, among other mouthwatering dishes. From Greek moussaka to Hungarian paprika to North American meatloaf, every night offers up a different international special at Pato Loco’s restaurant, for just $8 including soup or salad. The place is a favorite among area Ticos and expats, who come here for the fine dining, afternoon Scrabble and good company.

The 13-year-old inn even has a little history.

The hotel’s name was handed down from the former owner, who was dubbed pato loco, Spanish for “crazy duck,” by baseball buddies who were poking fun at the way he used to waddle up to the plate to take his turn at bat.

The duck theme is a quaint touch to the quirky place, complete with duck lamps and even a billiards lounge dubbed the “Duck’s Butt,” the hotel’s latest addition, installed by the new owners.

Pool contests are one of many events the place puts on. From German night with a Deutsch chef to wedding celebrations, live music and Sunday Bible studies, the place serves as an unofficial community center.

So, come dip in the quiet pool surrounded by garden, or have a beer in the Duck’s Butt and be reminded by a Ben Franklin quote posted up in the backyard that “beer is proof God loves us.”

Either way, as nearby mega-resorts and other developments promise to change the face of Playas del Coco fast, Pato Loco is a place to tap into a peculiar mix of local flavor and imported eccentricity. Get it while it lasts.

Rates, Getting There, Info

Pato Loco offers four rooms, three with a queen and a twin and one with just a queen. High-season rates for a double are $58 without air conditioning and $69 with air conditioning, tax included. Amenities include private bathroom with hot water, cable TV, wireless Internet access and continental breakfast (included in rate with minimum four-night stay). Tours in the area can be arranged.

Two one-bedroom apartments with living room, bar, kitchen and patio area are also available; rates range from $650-840 a month, depending on length of stay.

Buses leave San José directly to Playas del Coco three times a day (8 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m., about $5) from the Pulmitan bus station at Ca. 24, Av. 5/7, near the Coca-Cola station. Or you can take a bus to Liberia from the same station (hourly departures), and then take a bus from Liberia to Playas del Coco. The hotel is on the left as you enter Playas del Coco on the main road, about half a kilometer from the beach. For information, call 670-0145, e-mail or visit



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