San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Coco Capsule

Though Fodor’s Travel Guides described El Coco as “first and foremost a fishing port” back in 2006, we’ve always had an interesting and diverse mix of beach bars and restaurants. While several of the bars that faced the ocean – and where your drink was refilled by the next high wave – are gone, many of the favorite hangouts, often decades old, remain, intermixed with some new and exciting venues.

Perhaps the oldest is Bar La Vida Loca, at the end of a long wooden footbridge at the south end of the beach road. Also known as Jimbo’s, the partially open-air bar and restaurant has spectacular views of the beach and the bay. With a number of rooms and a decent-sized dance floor, the institution is particularly popular on Sunday afternoons, when a full barbecue is the special, and on holidays, when it is a focal point for longtime residents, though too often unappreciated by tourists.

At the north end of town, where the paved portion of the beach road ends, stands the Pacifico Beach Club, once accessible only to those living in the upscale Pacifico residences. The club has opened its air-conditioned rooms to a flurry of activities, including daily lunch and dinner and a post-brunch on Sundays. Happy hours are offered Thursday through Saturday, often with live music featuring top local bands. Again, the view is spectacular, surveying the entire cove and the comings and goings of our busy harbor.

A bit farther inland, and perhaps the most changed of the beach bars, is Las Olas, once known as Bongo’s, a rowdy hangout known primarily for after-hours activities. The mother-daughter team of Ana Tereza Núñez and Ana Cristina García has transformed it into a colorful and exciting restaurant featuring the best of Costa Rica’s diverse cuisine, yet focusing on Coco’s base as a place for great seafood. Las Olas is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with live music on Mondays. Located on the main boulevard just before the turnoff to Ocotal, Las Olas can be reached at 2670-2003.

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