San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gringos migrate yearly to the Pato Loco

From the print edition

In Playa del Coco, it is easy to get distracted by the pumping music and flashing lights at the numerous clubs, bars and restaurants, as well as the world-renowned fishing and diving just off the coast. But for those looking for a small slice of home and familiarity, they need to look no further than the Pato Loco Inn and Restaurant.

Located just off the main road, within walking distance of the beach, the Inn is an expat compound with a host of regulars that the hotel’s owner, Mary Ramona Cox, affectionately refers to as the “patos locos.”

“The Pato Loco has a bubble of love over it,” said Mary. “People walk in the door and they are treated like family.”

It is this family atmosphere that seems to have people coming back again and again. In fact, the four-room inn already has all three of its apartments booked from Oct. to April, mostly with returning customers.

Pato Loco Inn 2


Lindsay Fendt

The inn also provides a home for Mary’s design, arts and crafts projects. Her colorful murals adorn most of the walls, and everything from the flower pots to the wind chimes are made from some kind of cleverly recycled material. “When we bought the hotel everything was white,” she said. “I need color in my life, and lots of it.”

The result of her labor: three tropical themed rooms and one wild-west themed room, inspired by Mary’s Utah roots, which comes with a painting of the Hopi god of fertility on the wall. “We make sure to warn people about that,” Mary said, knowingly.

When guests are not lounging in their vibrant digs, they can enjoy the inn’s small swimming pool or the ever-popular “Duck’s Butt” pool hall and bar area, named for its position in the back of the inn.

The Pato Loco also has a popular restaurant at the front that carries traditional Costa Rican fare. But as the world flags painted on the back of its chairs suggests, it tends to cater to a more international crowd, and therefore it also features sandwiches, pasta and, at breakfast, homemade sausage.

The inn’s accommodations are not limited to hotel guests, and tenants can expect to see a rotating group of resident “patos locos,” who have become a permanent fixture at the restaurant’s outside table. Many claim that the inn is a hub in Coco’s expat social scene. “I think a lot of people live in Coco because of this place,” said Kent Carthey, a “pato loco.”

On the Sunday morning that The Tico Times toured the hotel, a small group of regulars had already gathered for drinks, conversation and pool shooting. These regulars claimed that once October hits, the place will be mobbed with gringos escaping North America to summer in Coco.

“We’ve had some gatherings here that are unbelievable,” said Walter Reid, also a regular.

The inn has ingrained itself even further into the Coco community through its annual Christmas party thrown at the Papagayo Golf Club, where the Pato Loco and others in the community donate food baskets and Christmas presents to underprivileged children in the surrounding area. All another part of Mary’s “bubble of love.”

“This is a really special place here,” Reid said. “All over town there are these different watering holes and bars, but The Pato Loco is unique. We’re a family.”

Going There

The Pato Loco Inn is located on the only road into Playa del Coco, half a kilometer before reaching downtown. The rooms are between $48 and $58 in the low season and $58 and $68 during the high season. There are also apartments available for rate with varying rates depending on the season and duration of your stay. Visit for more information.

Contact Lindsay Fendt at

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