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Greetings! I hope you had a great Easter. I did, and one big reason was because I could finally eat chocolate (guilt free). I had given it up for Lent.

Last week we left off in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, just as the bachelor party was ending. This week we travel to Playa de Jaco, Costa Rica to check out a surfing town, fly to L.A. for some Hollywood parties, then switch suitcases for another long international flight to…

Last week when the wake-up calls came (actually they were knocks, because none of the bedrooms had phones), I told my dad he needed to hurry up and pack his bag. He wanted to know why, and I said, “to go back home.” He looked perplexed and said, “Are you serious? I thought we were leaving tomorrow.” I said, “Don’t we wish.” My brother Frank chimed in that he would like to stay an extra day, but couldn’t make up his mind (as usual when it comes to travel). He broke out a deck of cards from the previous night’s poker game and said, “pick one. If it’s above a 5 we stay.” I said, “I’ll take those odds any day” -- then turned over a 4 of clubs. Gulp! I said I guess we are going home. He said "hold on cowboy that was just a practice run", and reshuffled. I picked again and this time I drew a 2 of diamonds. I walked away disgustedly, muttering about packing my bags.

My dad said, “You’re not going to let a card game determine our destiny – we’re staying!” I wasn’t surprised, because that was how we were raised when it came to vacations. My dad always extended our trips, which was awesome. But back then we didn’t have to worry about hefty airline reissuing fees. So before we could officially extend our trip, I got on the horn with American Airlines. The Costa Rican reservations representatives are so slow I actually wish I was calling a U.S. agent. The phone was answered right away, but to make the change I was put you on hold for 15 minutes (it felt a lot longer because of the heat). As I was holding, I asked if anyone else in our group wanted to stay. All the married guys looked up at me like they were kids, and I was dangling a key to the candy store in front of them.

Except these kids understood the consequences better. Not surprisingly, the only two guys who took the bait were single. Most of our tickets cost $100 to change, but that was only because the fares were so low (did you it’s only $201 right now to fly roundtrip between LAX and San Jose?). That meant we didn’t have to pay any fare differences -- which really would have sucked.

There were so many places in Costa Rica I wanted to explore: Arenal to see the volcano, Playa Tamarindo for the beaches… But they were too far for just one day, which is all I had. Someone in our group recommended we go to Playa de Jaco. It was only a 45-minute drive North on the way to the airport, and it was known for its black sand beaches. It sounded good. To top it off our guide, Willie, offered one of his drivers to take us after he dropped the others at the Quepos airport.

At the airport we said our goodbyes to the others in our own unique way. The drive up to Jaco was easy, because we didn’t have to go over any hairy mountains. Still, it took over an hour. We traveled through some remote areas, but most of the time we were on paved roads.

We asked our driver, Manny, to take us to the best hotel in town. There were no high rises, so he pulled up to a 2- or 3-story Best Western. We all shook our heads in a violent “no!” We explained we wanted a local hotel, not an American chain. He looked at us like we were crazy, but drove down a road near the beach. The water didn’t look very inviting, and most of the locals were swimming in a shallow river. We priced out a couple of the nicer-looking places, and went with Hotel Tangeri. This place is a solid 2.5 star hotel. The rooms were fine with its low beds, tiled bathrooms and patios. There was a cheesy-looking swimming pool with uncomfortable lounge chairs, a small workout room and bar that served tasty nachos. The best part: It was close to town, on the beach and cost only $84 a night. Hotel Tangeri, Jacó, Costa Rica; tel.: 506-643-3001, fax 506-643-3636, email: info@hoteltangeri.com.

I have never seen a place (other than a zoo) loaded with so many gigantic iguanas. If these guys were aggressive we would have been in a big trouble. I didn’t realize these suckers are so fast, and can climb so well. Walking down the driveway I was wondering what the heck was in the trees. When I looked closer I realized it was those iguana dudes. I counted 10 in one tree alone. If they had started chasing me, I have no idea where I would have run to. The only place would have been the ocean, but the guy at the front desk warned us to be careful of the undertow. He said it can be dangerous – in fact, they lost a surfer hotel guest earlier in the year. But another local said the current is not too bad this time of year. It’s much worse in the off-season (our summer).

We were starving, so we dropped off our bags and walked a couple of blocks into town. Downtown Jaco was not very pleasing to the eye. It was just a typical dirty tourist street with plenty of shops, restaurants, ice cream stores (a plus), and a few inexpensive internet cafes (another plus). But the only place that allowed me to hook up my laptop instead of use their own computers was at Jaco Café.

Funny story: My dad uses baby shampoo to wash out his eyes (as his doctor back home instructed him). When his supply ran out, we went to the grocery store. The Johnson & Johnson’s bottle was too big so I asked about a local-brand travel size, but didn’t look closely. Back at the hotel my dad ran out of the bathroom, and said the shampoo really stung. I grabbed the bottle and looked at the label. I don’t hablo espanol too well, so I smelled it too. That’s when I realized “Colonia” is not shampoo, but rather baby cologne. No wonder why it hurt! But who knew babies wore cologne?

That incident reminded me of the time I was with my brother Frank, sister Georgette and Mom in Denmark. We rented a car to check out the castles, and Frank made a pit stop to buy food and drink. He came out of the grocery store with four huge glass bottles of Danish spring water. As we were driving my mom took a swig and started yelping and gargling. I yelled at her to spit it out. But my mom, being the lady she was, wouldn’t spit on the floor of a rental car. Instead she waited for my sister to pull off the road, so she could open the door. I grabbed the bottle, smelled and it said, “Frank, you knucklehead! You didn’t buy water, you bought four bottles of vinegar!” Hey, at least it wasn’t kerosene.

We took a walk on the beach. At first it looked really nice – long and wide, with soft black soft sand. We were happy to be there, the scenery was awesome, and I took one of the best pictures of my life (these cool dogs walking with their owner into the sun). But the further we walked, the more ugly and depressing the beach got. The place was littered with trash, and some of the locals looked really sketchy. I think the problem was the casino, because that was the area where I saw most of them. In fact, there were a lot of drunks and homeless people around there. The worst thing was that we couldn’t help but watch some commotion involving a drunk or drugged-up woman. It looked like she was trying to run into the ocean and drown herself, while her two young kids held on to her legs for dear life. Her drunk husband was trying to hold her back, but not doing a very good job (he could barely stand up himself). Eventually some other drunks came to help out. The whole incident was very sad.

That night we went to the hotel restaurant -- one of the best places to eat in town -- to celebrate Frank’s birthday. After a good dinner we got talking to the table next to us. The four Midwestern girls there asked us if we knew any good hotels or places to go. When we said no, they said they were headed to what they heard was the best bar in town. The Beetle Bar was just a few blocks away, so we walked over with them to check it out. The place was packed with hookers (thanks to my experience at the Blue Marlin Bar in San Jose, I can now spot these girls a mile away). We took one lap and got out the heck out of there.

We were talking out front trying to decide where to go next when an American guy came up and said, “Hey, thanks for getting out of there so fast.” We asked why he said that, and he told us that he and his friend made a bet when they saw us coming that we would spend less than three minutes inside. He was right. We ended the night a block or two away at the Monkey Bar. It looked like the Beetle Bar, but there weren’t nearly as many hookers. This place was better, but it -- the whole town, in fact -- really wasn’t for us. It’s geared more toward young surfers who want to party on the cheap.

Before we checked out we had breakfast in the hotel, and hired a driver. He charged $80 USD to drive us to the airport. It supposedly takes an hour and 45 minutes, but it took us much longer. We did get behind some slow cars, and stopped at a fruit stand. The owners were so nice, and everything was cheap. BTW: The drive to the airport is hairy. I compare it to driving the Northern California coast. I wouldn’t want to do that -- or this one -- when it’s dark or raining. We were thousands of feet in the mountains, but there was no guard rail. Yikes! Luckily, Christian (Cell: 506-378-9881 Email: christiamtransfers@hotmail.com) was a great driver.

Before I walked up to the airport tax counter and paid my $26 exit fee Danny, Frank and my dad tried to convince me to stay with them a few more days. If I hadn’t had a ton of work and wasn’t about to go on another trip, I would’ve gone with them for sure. The coolest part was that they didn’t even know where they were going to go. When I left them at the San Jose airport they were looking at the departure screen for options. You gotta love that! When I arrived home I had an email from my brother saying they ended up in Medellin, Colombia. I was like, What? Are you crazy?! That’s one of the most dangerous cities in the world! But they had no problems.

The flight back to LAX was easy. I flew with my buddy Joe. At the check-in counter I tried everything to get American to waive our $100 change fee, but they wouldn’t budge. I even offered to point out which words from the sign (pictured here) on the counter were misspelled. Denied! However, I did save Joe $150. He was just about to upgrade, but I told him he was crazy. We were flying on a 757. First Class is terrible on these planes (no footrest), and I heard coach was empty. When we landed he thanked me. Both of us had a full row to oursleves. We lay down, which made the 5-hour 40-minute flight a piece of cake.

There was no reason for us to stock up on food from one of San Jose Airport’s many fast food chains, because American still serves meals on international flights. Of course, after eating American’s food, those chains looked pretty good.

*For Costa Rica Web Resources scroll to the bottom.

It was a good thing I didn’t stay south of the border, because I came down with a nasty cold and was laid up in bed for a few days. Luckily I got better for the weekend, because I had plenty of fun places to go. On Friday night I made my first trip to Los Feliz, the artsy area of L.A. I went to the Sky Light Bookstore to support a friend's new book. It's called “Honeymoon with My Brother,” and has been getting mad media attention (Today Show, CNN, Dennis Miller...). Check out Franz and Kurt Wisner's website HoneymoonWithMyBrother.com, or buy the book on Amazon.com.

On Sunday night my cousin Dennis and I attended the 2005 TV Land Awards at the Barker Hangar in the Santa Monica Airport. This is one of my favorite awards shows. Not only do I get to hang out with the TV stars I grew up watching, but they always have the coolest set design -- and a great buffet dinner afterwards. This year I met Gavin MacLeod and Bernie Koppel, both from the Love Boat; Jerry Mathers (Beaver Cleaver), and Tori Spelling. She was totally cool.

A couple of days later I was back at LAX, getting ready to take another international trip. I’ll tell you all about it next week, but before I go I’ll give you a hint. I flew 6,450 miles to get there, and required a change of planes at Newark airport. I know those are lame clues, so here’s another: Not many people know about this city, but I guarantee come next February, the whole world will. Now that’s too easy!

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

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


  • Map of Costa Rica
  • Frommer’s Costa Rica
  • Frommer’s Manuel Antonio
  • Lonely Planet’s Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica's Embassies or Consulates in Selected Countries
  • Costa Rican Tourist Board
  • San Jose Weather
  • Great Rentals
  • Manuel Antonio Rentals
  • Costa Rica-Embassy
  • Tico Times
  • Latin America Network Information Center
  • Maptak
  • Costa Rica Living
  • La Nación Digital
  • Fishin Costa Rica
  • Quepos Fishing
  • Canopy Safari
  • Café Britt
  • Article: Exotic trip, exotic diseases
  • $26 departure tax


  • Frommer's Costa Rica 2005
  • Lonely Planet Costa Rica
  • Lonely Planet Costa Rica Spanish Phrasebook
  • Fodor's Costa Rica 2005
  • Choose Costa Rica for Retirement, 7th : Information for Retirement, Investment, and Affordable Living
  • Waterproof Costa Rica Map
  • Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica
  • A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica

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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!
    • The sub-headings in the newsletter are a great idea ! -- Dan - Connecticut
    • Wish you would mentioned the cost of things like houses for brother's party and coast of hiring private plane ect. Thanks, John P - NYC REPLY: Good catch! For three planes, it costs $2,000 R/T. Each house cost $1,250.00 a night or $6,000 for a week. Not bad when you consider how many it sleeps. Food and chefs cost more. The fishing cost between $850-$1000 per day, per boat.
    • As a long-time subscriber to Johnny Jet, I particularly appreciated this week's newsletter because we're leaving for San Jose and Quepos next week! Thanks for taking the time to record your experiences and sharing with the world. The links to pictures and websites are very helpful and wets our appetite for our own adventures. Keep up the good work. John K. - Columbus, OH
    • Loved the Costa Rica stories...I've been there and it's one of my most favorite places on the planet. Good luck to your brother... and if things don't work out--invite me to the divorce party!! (Musta been great to have your Dad along!!) Stan - Atlanta
    • OK, Tarzan of Costa Rica, you took the canopy trip o'er that rain forest reportedly teeming with wildlife . . . but other than your wildlife buds, what did you actually see among the treetops? Please, more incisive reporting and critiquing; less mooning. Richard F - Portland, OR REPLY: At first I was too scared to look down so I missed seeing a monkey that was below one of the first zip lines. When I did look, I didn't see much but leaves and rivers because I was cruising so fast. Next time I will spend more time with my eyes open.
    • I can't wait until next week for the resources!! I NEED to stay in the Villa Pelicano! hahahaha You just made me want to go on vacation right now. Laura - California
    • Costa Rica, sweet! Would you recommend it? David - Vancouver REPLY: Definitely!
    • Good job on telling us about your Costa Rica trip, I hope you were able to make it to Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano, Tamarindo and tour some more of San Jose Town which is beautiful. There are so many things to do there I just could run out of room... Anyhow, thanks for the nice memories you brought back from a trip I had 7 years ago... N. Leon/Garden Grove, CA
    • Cocktails in the Costa Rica Cockpit! How so JohnnyJet! Dewey J Bub - Phoenix
    • That has to be one of your best news letters yet. Gloria - Palos Verdes, CA
    • Sounds like you had a wild time in Costa Rica - I was at Manual Antonio over 15 years ago - hard to believe! Sounds like it's developed a lot since then. Michael - San Francisco, CA
    • I think it was AWESOME! A great way to relive the party Johnny. I felt like I was there. Frank - Connecticut
    • Another great trip report. If your still in Quepos stop at the Bank Bar and grab one of their T shirts... COSTA RICA A SUNNY PLACE FOR SHADY PEOPLE. Larry A. Boise, Idaho

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