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The Story Behind Costa Rica’s Restaurant Plane

Costa Rica Travel News – One of the major tourist attractions on the Pacific Side of Costa Rica is Manuel Antonio National Park, where the ocean meets the rainforest outside the town of Quepos.

el avion costa rica restaurantThose who come from the North will drive a coastal road that climbs to a few hundred feet above sea level as it approaches Quepos and Manuel Antonio, winding past a series of scenic bars and restaurants. And there’s one that will catch the eye of anyone looking out the window: El Avion.

It’s not hard to see why, and although you’ll be hard pressed to find a local in the joint, we think airplane lovers will get a kick out of it. The centerpiece of the restaurant is a hollowed out C-123 cargo plane, the exit through the tail leading to a massive deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Because it has become a tourist attraction, the food is described by most as hit or miss. But the plane’s backstory makes it worth popping in for a drink.

When the CIA was organizing a strike on the Sandinista of Nicaragua in 1986, it assisted the anti-government Contras rebel groups in purchasing two C-123 cargo planes to be operated out of Costa Rica. One was shot down and led to the world’s discovery of this political scandal, which also involved the Reagan Administration’s arms deal with Iran that helped to raise money for the Contras.

The other plane survived, though, and was abandoned at the San Jose Airport after the conflict. Over a decade later in 2000, the owners of El Avion purchased it for a mere $3,000 and turned it into a restaurant. The fuselage is the main attraction, and has a bar inside. You can also climb up and sit in the cockpit, which we recommend doing after a few glasses of guaro.

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