Final boarding call for...a table of two! One of my favorite things to talk about is Costa Rica cuisine. I love a good meal, and even more than that, I love having a unique dining experience. If you’re like me and are looking to make your next meal in Manuel Antonio unique, there is only one place to go: El Avion Restaurant. This is not your typical restaurant ambiance, nor is it your typical building. El Avion is built into and around an actual, real, historical airplane! Not only does El Avion have great food, great views and great décor; it also has a really interesting history.

El Avion Restaurant, Manuel AntonioEl Avion Restaurant, Manuel AntonioPhoto Credit : Eliza Belle Photography


A Sorted History The first thing to note is that this plane’s history isn’t just history...it’s scandalous. This C-123 cargo plane was built in San Jose in the 1980s, the history goes, after the US government purchased it to be used by the Contras. This was all part of a bigger scandal that involved Oliver North and the illegal selling of arms of rebels in Nicaragua. The plane that eventually became El Avion had a sister plane which took to the skies on its mission first, and was shot down.

The capture of passengers from that plane is what started to unravel the Contra scandal, and because of this, the second plane never took off. This sealed its fate as a dust-catching, mostly-forgotten relic in a San Jose hangar....until some enterprising and economically-conscious entrepreneurs came along and gave the plane new life. While this plane has never and will never fly, it managed to make the long journey from San Jose to Manuel Antonio - but of course it was not transported in one piece. The owners of El Avion purchased the plane for about $3,000 and decided to put it to good use by recycling it into an unforgettable restaurant. It had to be disassembled for transportation, and the large plane pieces were brought over by land and by sea. Many pieces had to be brought by ferry, as they were too big to get past some of Costa Rica’s smaller roads and bridges.

Have a refreshing drink at this amazing barHave a refreshing drink at this amazing barPhoto Credit : joseluiscel


An Exciting Present

While it certainly took many trips to get all the plane materials in the right spot, it is indeed a great spot. Today, even though the restaurant is built around it, the plane basically looks like it crash landed right on the cliff side of the main road. My favorite part is that the cockpit is still in tack, and you can go inside of it and pretend to be a pilot! That is one of my favorite things to do when I visit the restaurant. Technically, frogs can’t fly planes but I sure have fun pretending.

Delicious Food and wonderful view at El AvionDelicious Food and wonderful view at El AvionPhoto Credit : kitsVA


This spot is a great place to visit for your morning coffee, family dining, and for nightlife. The views of the water and the cool ocean breeze are ideal for reading your morning paper and enjoying a cup ‘o Joe. Visiting families and travelers will be so excited for all the great photo opps outside and inside of the plane, and the menu is great too! For those looking for a more nightlife-type vibe, there is a bar and live music here too. The inside cargo area of the plane has been transformed into a bar, or you can sit on the patio and enjoy a drink while you watch the sunset. There are regular live music performances also. I’m no expert, but a cool and unique setting, a fun drink, a beautiful sunset and live music sounds like the perfect night! The restaurant specializes in seafood items, but is also a great spot for dips and salsa, , pasta, sandwiches and grilled dishes (and you better not be wondering if they serve frog legs!). The bar offers typical drinks like beer and wine, and also specialty cocktails that are worth a try. I recommend trying the guacamole or the mango salsa (but be careful, the salsa is spicy).

Plane ready for constructionPlane ready for constructionPhoto Credit : POGS


While You’re in The Area

Manuel Antonio is a great area that has much to offer. If you were impressed with the story of El Avion and want to visit, but can’t justify heading to North Puntarenas just to go to a restaurant, you should look into some of the other things to do in the area. In Manuel Antonio alone is the famous national park of the same name. The park offers hiking opportunities and the chance to see some of the local wildlife, including monkeys and sloths...and of course, some frogs too. Visiting Manuel Antonio can be budget-friendly too, with lots of options for different types of accommodations. There are several activities to choose from that will help you build up an appetite before your visit to El Avion, including white water rafting, zip lining, kayaking and horseback riding. Bon appétit!!!

Beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio National Park