Playas Lagartillo and Negra
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Playa Lagartillo, beyond Punta Pargos, just south of Playa Avellanas, is another gray-sand beach with tidepools. Lagartillo is separated by Punta Pargos from Playa Negra, centered on the community of Los Pargos, one kilometer inland. Playa Negra is popular with the surfing crowd. At last visit, this previously remote section of coast was booming with new development.
About five kilometers south of Los Pargos, the dirt road cuts inland about eight kilometers to the tiny hamlet of Paraíso, where another dirt road leads back to the coast and dead-ends at Playa Junquillal.
Pargos Adventures (tel. 506/2652-9136), in Los Pargos, offers bike tours and surfboard rentals.
Hotels and Resorts
A delightful Peruvian couple, Giovanna and Martin, run Kontiki (tel. 506/2652-9117, www.kontikiplayanegra.com, $10 pp dorm, $15 pp cabin low season; $15 pp dorm, $20 pp cabin high season), about one kilometer north of Los Pargos, between Lagartillo and Negra. This rustic and fairly basic farmhouse with a wonderful offbeat ambience has five thatched cabinas raised on stilts, with shared bath and cold water; one rates as a virtual tree house and features two dorms with Goldilocks and the Three Bears–style bunks and a double bed (howler monkeys hang out in the treetops at eye level). The place abounds with pre-Columbian figurines. Peruvian dishes are cooked in an outdoor oven, and it has WiFi and live jam sessions. Rates include breakfast.
Run by a Hawaiian transplant, Aloha Amigos Surf Camp (tel. 506/2658-9023, $10–13 pp) offers simple cabins on spacious lawns with hammocks and a common barbecue area.
Pablo’s Picasso (tel. 506/2652-9158, www.playanegrapablos.com, $20 pp), at Playa Negra, is legendary among surfers. Although it’s lost its edge to sharper newcomers, this rustic hostelry and surfers’ gathering spot is run by a friendly Yank named Paul. He offers four spacious and cozy air-conditioned rooms with simple furnishings and private baths with cold water (two with shared baths), and two air-conditioned cabinas with kitchens. You can camp for $5 per person, and there are toilets and showers. Hammocks are slung beneath the rustic bar, which has free Internet, a pool table, and a poker table.
For an alternative, consider Piko Negro Surf Camp (tel. 506/2652-9369, $10 pp), with four rooms in a two-story building facing the village soccer field in Los Pargos. Each has shared stone-lined showers with cold water only. Pizzas are served in a rustic restaurant.
In Los Pargos village, the best digs are at the Peruvian-run Café Playa Negra (tel. 506/2652-9351, www.playanegracafe.com, $20 or $35 d low season, $25 s or $40 d high season). This cozy option exudes tremendous ambience beyond the antique-style doors. It has six rooms (two with bunks) appointed with glazed concrete floors, plump sofas, mattresses atop poured concrete with Guatemalan spreads, sponge-washed walls, and hammocks on a broad veranda facing a gorgeous pool. Three rooms are air-conditioned; three have ceiling fans. It also has a full bar, board games, and a Peruvian restaurant.
The three-story Mono Congo Lodge (tel. 506/2652-9261, www.monocongolodge.com, $65–95 s/d low season, $85–115 s/d high season), about one kilometer north of Los Pargos, has improved with a remodeling. This Colorado-style lodge—described as “a mixture of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house and an Australian outback bed-and-breakfast”—is hand-built of stone and hardwood, featuring six simply furnished and air-conditioned rooms with magnificent high beds boasting orthopedic mattresses, mosquito nets, and batik spreads, plus screened windows, TVs/DVD players, and exquisite tile work in the bathrooms (some have stone walls). Two rooms have their own bathrooms; three others share two baths. A wraparound veranda has hammocks and leather lounge chairs. The lodge is surrounded by fruit trees and dry forest; horseback-riding tours, boat charters, and massages can be arranged. Rates include breakfast. Ask the owners to show you the crocs that live nearby.
Opened in 2010, Hotel Restaurant Villa Deevena (tel. 506/2653-2328, www.villadeevena.com, $85 s/d low season, $95 s/d high season), south and inland of Los Pargos, is indeed divine—in fact, it’s the nicest place around. The six-room hotel features faux-washed concrete walls and floors, poured-concrete fixtures, garden showers, deluxe linens, and an eye-pleasing simplicity that all combine to make this a choice place to stay. Bonus points for the swimming pool and restaurant.
Inland of Los Pargos, Villa Bea B&B (tel. 506/2652-9130, www.villabeacostarica.com, call for rates) offers views from its mountainside setting. This lovely lodge has a swimming pool, free WiFi, and an appropriately tropical feel.
By the sands at Playa Negra, Hotel Playa Negra (tel. 506/2652-9134, www.playanegra.com, $70–90 s or $80–110 d low season, $77–100 s or $88–120 d high season) is designed like a South African kraal. The circular cabins are lovely, with simple yet colorful motifs. Air-conditioned suites have king beds; all have WiFi. It has a pleasant beachfront restaurant and games room, plus a swimming pool and surf shop.
Carlos at Café Playa Negra (7 A.M.–9 P.M. daily) conjures superb pancakes, french toast, quiches, sandwiches, ceviche, entrées such as mahimahi with creamy seafood sauce with shrimp ($9), plus killer batidos (shakes). Friday is sushi night. The café also offers Internet connections ($2.50 per hour) and laundry service ($7.50 per load).
Paul, at Pablo’s Picasso (11 A.M.–close daily), serves “burgers as big as your head” ($4), plus pancakes ($3), sandwiches, and pastas.
Run by French expats Michel and Mary, Mary’s Place Restaurant y La Iguana Sports Bar (tel. 506/2653-4123, $5–12), at Los Pargos, has a state-of-the-art kitchen, where chef Numa prepares excellent local and international dishes. Its sports bar has big-screen TVs and pool tables; go on Sunday for NFL football with burgers and pasta, and Saturday night for live music.
If you like fine dining, you must eat at Hotel Restaurant Villa Deevena (tel. 506/2653-2328, www.villadeevena.com) for the great setting and superb fusion dishes using fresh produce. Owners Mike and Patrick are known to make a kick-ass paella.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition