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MARCH 23, 2005


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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET ?                                            Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio)

HOUSE KEEPING: Remember when you click on the pictures in "Where's Johnny Jet," they will open up in another window. Just click the "x"(close) in each picture to get back to the newsletter. This should alleviate complaints about closing Johnny Jet. Thanks again for your support, and remember: If you book trips on the web, please go through JohnnyJet.com. (It will save you money).




Pura Vida! In Costa Rica that phrase (pronounced POO-ra BEE-da) is what all the locals say for hello, goodbye or to express general happiness. It translates literally as “pure life.” If you were with us for last week’s adventure, you know we are down here for my brother Frank’s bachelor party. We left off just as we just touched down in Quepos. A small town known for its world-class fishing, it’s the gateway to Manuel Antonio – one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.

We hired three private planes (click here to see a 20 second video) to get the 15 of us there. We could have flown Costa Rica’s national airlines, Sansa (tel. 221-9414; or Nature Air (tel. 220-3054) much more cheaply, but we didn’t want to deal flying commercial. Both airlines have four flights a day to and from San Jose. Sansa’s fares are the lowest fares ($44 one way for an adult, $33 for children). Nature Air charges $55. The flight takes 20 minutes, and landing in Quepos generates a special feeling--at least it did for me. It reminded me of the place I imagined when I first read “Jurassic Park.” I love flying into an area with tons of lush green palm trees, near the ocean. Another added tropical feature: The airport is small with a single runway, and a clean, new open-air bamboo hut as the terminal. I felt so good, I didn’t even mind the sweat dripping down my back.

I was as excited as everyone else. How great is to travel to a land you’ve never been to with 15 friends, including your brother and father? Willie, our group’s personal guide, had two vans waiting for us. We all jumped in. I was in a hurry, and put the extra seat down right on my calf. I cut it pretty good. That really bummed me out. I had just arrived in paradise, and I already got hurt -- without even partaking in the many adventure sports like biking, fishing, golf, horseback riding, rock climbing, snorkeling, scuba diving, bungee jumping, ballooning, canopy tours (more on that in a minute), surfing, windsurfing, river rafting, kayaking, canoeing, motorcycling…you name it. That incident taught me two things: Don’t be in such a hurry, and carry Neosporin and Band-Aids in my toilet bag.


It was a 10-minute drive to our house rentals. We had rented houses instead of hotel rooms because we didn’t want to disturb other guests (remember, this was a bachelor party!), and besides that my brother has a crazy bunch of friends. Both houses were in Manuel Antonio, a town on the Pacific coast known for its beautiful beaches and incredible national park. Of course, if you go you don’t have to rent a house. There are plenty of hotels, and I heard good things about El Parador, Karahe and Hotel La Mariposa. All can be booked online (hopefully, using JohnnyJet.com).

The first of our two deluxe houses was called La Placion. It had four large bedrooms, a pool with a nearby hot tub, kitchens on both floors, plenty of space – all with a great view of the Pacific Ocean. I was about to choose this house just for its tasty fruit bowl packed with passion fruit (my favorite). But the large bee nest near the pool made me take my chances on house number 2.

A mile down the road was the second house, which turned out to be “the brand new car behind the curtain” on “The Price Is Right.” Jackpot! This house would’ve made “Scarface’s” Tony Montana content. He would’ve loved the steep driveway, with a thick steel security door guarded by a barbed wire fence. Going down the San Fanciscoesque hill almost gave me goose bumps in anticipation. The house, called Villa Pelicano, was a 10,000-square foot monster nestled on five acres of cliffside property. The 180-degree views of the Pacific made all of our jaws drop. The house was decorated in Costa Rican modern art, and had 16 ceiling fans throughout the six air-conditioned bedrooms (most came with two queen-size beds), four bathrooms, plus a two-story cathedral ceiling indoor/outdoor living room with wraparound balcony overlooking the 40x20-foot swimming pool with lounge chairs and umbrellas. The modern kitchen was quickly loaded with all the food we bought in San Jose (especially the junk food I picked out). The kicker was a separate servants’ house -- it came with two maids, three chefs and one caretaker.

The reaction of our gang when we walked in the front door was like the TV contestants who had just won the car: pure mayhem. People ran around the house like 5-year-olds on Christmas morning. Everyone tried to decide which bedroom would be best before someone else staked a claim. One guy even dropped his drawers and jumped into the sheets to declare it was his bed (it worked).

After the rooms were chosen, people just started flying into the pool like it was “Fast Times at Ridgemont High. “ Then, after the sun went down, we did too -- to downtown Quepos. It’s a small town that is getting more commercial, with shops, bars and restaurants. We ate at one of the best restaurants in town, El Gran Escape. It’s an upscale open-air eatery serving all kinds of tasty food, from seafood to Mexican cuisine. I had nachos and coconut curry chicken. It was a great night – until I got home and spotted a hairy, black, gigantic tarantula trying to enter the house. From then on I triple-checked my not-so-soft sheets every night before jumping in. Speaking of critters: Every day monster iguanas hung around my door. They didn’t bother me though, because they seemed more afraid of me than I was of them since they took off when ever I came around the corner. But I was happy I didn’t come across any of Costa Rica’s 135 varieties of snakes (17 snakes of which belong to the viper and coral snake families, and are considered dangerous). Yet we were told it is rare for anyone to get bitten -- and when it happens, the victims are usually workers who stuck their hands in the wrong place. I didn't stick my hands in any holes.


The next morning after a nice breakfast, my dad and my buddy Andy took a quick tour of the Costa Rican coastline aboard a fishing boat called Magic Moon. The crew couldn’t have been nicer, and took great care of us — especially my dad. We anchored off what looked to be a popular beach, and swam for 20 minutes in the bath-like water — seriously, the water temperature had to be 85 degrees. A funny story: My dad was getting a little tired making his way back to the boat in the high surf, so the crew threw him a life line (you know – the type with a round buoy) to hold to as they dragged him away from the big waves. But the captain gave my dad a little excitement by going full throttle for a few seconds -- just enough time for my dad to skim along the water while his bathing suit slid down to his ankles. When I saw his bare bum mooning all the beachgoers, I almost drowned from laughing so hard. It was classic. I wish I had video of it to go along with this 20-second clip of our boat ride back.


We only had the boat for an hour. When we got back to the house we decided we hadn’t spent enough time at the beach, so we grabbed the others and went back. We jumped in a taxi, and described the location to the driver. It turned out to be in the heart of Manuel Antonio. The 10-minute drive from our house cost only 1,000 colons (about $2). Taxis are no problem to find, and are so cheap it’s ridiculous -- even at night, when the price doubles. My favorite taxi driver in Quepos was Sergio (cell: 506-777-1432). He drives an all-terrain 4x4 that holds seven passengers. It’s also air-conditioned.

The beach is close to the Manuel Antonio National Park entrance. The area is a tourist haven, with plenty of sidewalk vendors, shops, restaurants and bars. We had lunch at the last restaurant at the far end -- the opposite side of the park entrance. We all enjoyed our meal, even though one of the locals told me that restaurant wasn’t known for serving good food. But it wouldn’t have mattered if they served rubber chicken, because the location was so great. We dined under trees covered with vines, while wild creatures stared down at us. At the same time we gazed out at the beautiful beach. Street hawkers come by every 10 minutes trying to sell everything, from beautiful pottery to annoying clay whistles to knockoff designer sunglasses. We finally gave in when a nice nurse came by willing to take our blood pressure for a tip. By the way, this restaurant is right next to the hopping outdoor bar that goes off every Friday and Saturday night for a beach party. Everyone -- locals as well as tourists -- goes to this sweltering mob scene. People young and old are either whoopin’ it up on the dance floor, or kicking back drinking a cerveza.


On the way back to the house we stopped at one of the coolest bars in the world -- that is, if you’re an aviation lover like I am. El Avion is centered around an old C-123 cargo plane that’s been converted into a bar/restaurant. The plane was used during the Iran- Contra affair. In 2000 it was disassembled and shipped in seven pieces to this Manuel Antonio hill. Visitors can even sit in the cockpit while drinking cocktails.


Back at the house, the other half of our group returned from fishing. Each of the eight caught one Sail Fish. Still, according to our guys the fishing in Costa Rica is not what it used to be. Back in the day, you could catch 15 fish a day; now it’s just two or three. They claim it’s because huge commercial fishing boats come in and drag 100-yard nets, depleting the sea.


The next morning, while most of our group were either back out deep-sea fishing or still in bed hung over (check out this 20-second video to see what I mean), Andy and I went back to downtown Manuel Antonio -- this time to the national park. The best time to beat the crowds – as with any major tourist attraction -- is right after they open. However, 7 a.m. was w-a-y too early for us. By the time we got motivated and left the casa, it was 10. Before entering we each bought a large bottle of water on the street for $2 USD. We asked where we could find a good guide and were referred to a man named Roy, who was just beginning a tour. He works for a private company called Aguila Tours, and charges $20 USD per adult. Kids get a huge discount -- like no charge at all, if you are good at negotiating. Roy’s price is on top of the $7 USD park entrance fee. Roy Orozco, email: Orozco_roy@yahoo.com; cell # 506-370-0020.

It was great going into the jungles with an expert. Not only could he answer any question about Costa Rican wild life, but he knows exactly where to find the animals. Roy also carried binoculars and a telescope, so everyone got a bird’s-eye view (no pun intended). That’s key, because many of the animals were high in trees. Our tour took just under two hours, and it was amazing to see the place crawling with white-faced monkeys, three-toed sloths, colorful toucans, fire ants (okay, fire ants aren’t cool -- until you blow into their hole and they all come flying out), and hundreds of other bird, mammal and plant species. Everyone in our group was pleased – even the kids. One more reason to go to the park: It’s where you will find arguably Costa Rica’s best swimming beach.


After the tour Roy hooked us up with his colleague Juan (email: Aguilatours@hotmail.com; Cell: 506-824-8513 ) who arranged a last-minute Titi Canopy Tour for my friends Danny Mac and big Jim C and me. Yeah, I’m afraid of heights, but I couldn’t let my fear get in the way of Costa Rica’s most famous adventure sport. A canopy tour involves zipping along a cable (similar to a ski lift, but without the chair) from one high tree fort to another. It’s an exciting way to see the tropical rainforest, because two-thirds of a typical rainforest's species live in the canopy (the top part of the forest).

I had no idea how crazy it was until we arrived in the parking lot, and saw other guests wearing Village People-like costumes. I started to have serious second thoughts, until I was given a helmet. It had my favorite number – 31 -- on the back. I figured that was sign I could do it. I was surprised how heavy the harness and gear were. After I put mine on I started to do the “YMCA” dance (but no one laughed). Our leader was Cricket. How funny is that – it’s my brother’s fiancee’s nickname too. This Cricket was a real character. Walking through the jungle, he kept cracking jokes. That really loosened up all the scaredy-cats like me. At one point he went to a cliff, and very seriously told everyone to take off their helmets. We needed to pay respect to the group that didn’t make it last week. Everyone gulped. Then he said, “Just kidding,” and started laughing.

When we reached platform #1 (out of 12), there was a short test zip line. Cricket gave us a two-minute demonstration, and explained that our brake was the thick rubber pad on our gloves. We put one hand on the harness, the other behind our backs on top of the line. When we wanted to brake we just pressed down on the line. We all practiced, then Cricket’s colleague Juan took off down the first one so he could catch us when we arrived. Cricket asked, “Who wants to go first?” For five seconds – which felt like 30 minutes -- no one said anything, or even moved. That’s when I thought I’d better step up to the plate (or else I would run back to the base camp). Cricket clipped my harness. Just before sending me on my way he said with a crazy snicker, “I hope your harness threads hold!” The next thing I knew I was flying -- I mean zipping (and screaming) -- over the tree tops. It was unreal! When I arrived safely at platform #2 I felt like I had really accomplished something. All I could think to do was pound my chest and yelp like Tarzan. I think I scared Juan.

The canopy tour is definitely the craziest thing I have ever done, because I am so afraid of heights. The scariest part for me wasn’t cruising above the jungle, but rather standing on the small rickety platforms 50-100 feet high crammed with 10 other people. My friend Jim said that if I hugged the tree any harder I would start to grow bark on my back -- that's how scared I was. I wish Jim had told me during the tour (rather than after) that he wasn’t scared because he could see the platforms were put together well, and were strong enough to hold a lot more people. He explained the reason they felt rickety is because they need to be flexible as the tree grows.

The highlight of everything was doing a zip that was 400 yards long and 200 feet high. Jim and Danny made a 20-second video of me cruising over the tree tops, which gives a better idea what it’s like. Supposedly the best canopy tour in this area is Safari Tours, because they have steeper, longer zip lines, as well as better food and more platforms. But they also cost more, and their tour is a half-day commitment. Titi Canopy tours might not be the biggest, the highest, the best (or even the safest), but it turned out to be perfect for us. And our guides were very cool.

Another option for those who want to see the tree tops without flying over them is to try a tram or gondola tour. I found a pamphlet on Rain Forest Aerial Tram (tel. 257-5961), located an hour from San José.


Back at the house, we had Frank’s official bachelor party. I had t-shirts made to kick off this momentous occasion. Before you send any nasty emails, let me explain that the woman on the back of the shirt is Frank’s fiancée Cricket, not some Costa Rican babe. After enjoying a Costa Rican feast of jumbo prawns, lobster, ceviche, fish, chicken, steak, salad and all kinds of veggies, we roasted Frank for an hour (with words, not on the grill). Then the Live Wire Texas Band (tel#: 512-863-0105) started jamming all of Frank’s favorite tunes. The next thing I remember is waking up to an early morning (10 a.m.) call, because it was time to vacate the premises. The weekend was over for most people. However, Frank, my dad and a couple of others decided at the last minute to extend our Costa Rica trip and explore other areas. That’s where we’ll pick up next week. Next week we will also fly back to L.A. for a few days – just enough time to attend some fun Hollywood parties before heading back to LAX to fly some 6,450 miles. Hmmm… I wonder where that could be?

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

Manuel Antonio


Our Group


Landing in Quepos



Dad and JJ



Monster House




Boat Ride


Warm Water

Soft Sand

Chicken and Rice

El Avion

Boats Going Out

The Big One

Three-toed sloths


Canopy Tour

Oh Boy!

Hooked up

On Tree Stand



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  • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Johnny Jet media and let us know where!
  • Great report, every year 8 to 12 of us do a fishfest to Costa Rica. Been there 15 times and still love it. Quepos is a neat little town and good fishing, hope you get a big one. Larry Asin, Boise, Idaho
  • Thanks for the info regarding Costa Rica. I am headed there beginning of April for a week or 10 days. Kirt K -- Hollywood, CA
  • re: your Dad's ticket ...I had a similar experience - typing in the wrong expiration date on my credit card - with USAirways. It was a frequent flier ticket, and when I'd check my balance, they'd taken out the miles, and they'd sent a confirmation letter so I never questioned whether I had a ticket. Fortunately, I checked my San Salvador/El Salvador arrival time (so someone would be there to pick me up) and realized I didn't have a reservation. On hold on one phone number for 45 minutes to be told I should call usairways.com, that I'd reached domestic and I needed international, and hold for a minute before I was disconnected. Usairways.com said I gave them a bad credit card (not likely) and they couldn't do anything. A third call finally repaired everything, but not without a lot of grief and an unreasonable amount of time. An email certainly would have been nice. Before that airline starts expanding their service (which I heard plenty about while on hold), they really should fix the system and service they have. This used to be my favorite airline, too. Judy - Maryland
  • What was the pda/phone Frank was using? I saw it in the picture where Frank was cutting some ZZZZZ's. Does Frank have some input on that device? Pete = Irvine, CA REPLY: From Johnny's brother: "that treo sucks. it's my third one in two months".
  • Hey Mr. Johnny Jet, Bought your book at the Los Angeles Travel Show in February 2005. I have not been able to put this book down since I got it. It is like the bible of traveling. I love it too death. You really have a gold mine here. I have already got ten people fro my job to buy this book. I'm like the pretend travel agent at the job because I travel so much. Like you I traveled the world with my mother. We had so many great times together. She was the best travel partner in the world. She passed unfortunately last month. I am now planning a three week trip to Egypt and Jordan. It will be in her honor. I will be thinking of her as I climb Mount Sinai. Always love your mother and people will love you back. From a 48 year old black woman in Los Angeles who is your biggest fan. Pamela Reed-Santos
  • Nice newsletter and Video!!!! John D. - Huntington Beach, CA
  • We stayed at La Mariposa (the butterfly) hotelmariposa.com . Not sure its rating, but it was around $225 a night. Really nice place in the mountains overlooking the beach, great view. Very spacious rooms with a great bathroom. Free shuttle service down to the beach and the National Forest. Rania T - Omaha, NE
  • Johnny, Patrick and I went to Tempe, Arizona last week to see Spring Training games and had a ball! I have been to Phoenix a few times to see the Phoenix Roadrunners play hockey and left the very next day, really never taking the time to see the town. This last week we came into town to see some Spring Training baseball games and we stayed in Tempe and visited Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler. Here are my thoughts:
    Temple Mission Hotel - The staff and our room were excellent!
    Cactus Sports - Best t-shirts!
    Mission Grille Restaurant - The dinner was exquisite! Like dining in Beverly Hills!
    Rula Bula Restaurant - Best beer in town!
    Tempe Diablo Stadium - I had a herniated disc in my back and all employees went out of their way to accommodate me.
    P.F. Changs - The best Crab Wontons!
    Harry's Place - Great bar, great bartender!
    Tavern on Mill - The haracheros? sauce with the coconut shrimp could bring the dead back to life!
    Tempe Beach Park (Rio Salado Parkway) - Relaxing and serene.
    Arizona State University Students - polite, fun, we enjoyed seeing them enjoy life!
    Graffiti on public buildings. . anywhere! - None
    Traffic Signals in Tempe - Beautifully designed and easy to see.
    Street Signs - Letters bold and bright enough to read without squinting.
    U.S. Post Office - convenient and all employees were polite.
    Walgreen's - Photos in an hour and service with a smile!
    First Watch Restaurant - Chicken Salad Melt sandwich to die for!
    Starbucks - felt like we were home.
    Harkins Theatre - kept our leftovers from dinner in the refrigerator during the movie!
    Scottsdale Art Festival - worth every art item we purchased!
    Arizona Mills - Great place to shop til you drop and they even have a Hilo Hatties!
    Pizzeria Uno - Good food and affordable prices!
    Ostrich Festival - The ostriches were a hoot! The bands were great: Guess Who and Foreigner!
    A week in Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler. . .Priceless!
    Johnny, as you can tell, we were extremely impressed and had a great time! We can't wait to go back next year! Love you and keep up the good work! Lolly and Patrick - California

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    More spring break cams! See live pictures of where many college students let off steam. Our cameras are positioned in hot spots like South Padre Island, where the Hawaiian Tropic contest is about to take place, and Daytona, where you can watch beach bums, surfers and sunbathers. If you prefer the West Coast, how about Venice's "Muscle Beach" -- the land of street performers, sidewalk vendors, artists, shops, and restaurants? Hopefully, the weather will get better in California so you can see what's happening on Laguna Beach.
  • South Padre Island
  • Daytona Beach
  • Daytona Beach 2
  • Venice Beach
  • Laguna Beach