The Story of Costa Rica’s Unique Airplane Restaurant in Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica has become well known for its spectacular beauty, diverse ecosystem, and unique tourist attractions.

Among the biggest tourist attractions on the Pacific side of Costa Rica is the lovely Manuel Antonio National Park, located just outside the town of Quepos. Here, visitors are able to enjoy the lush beauty of the rainforest along with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors who arrive from the North will travel along a coastal road that extends several hundred feet above sea level approaching Quepos and Manuel Antonio. This scenic road winds past several quaint restaurants and bars. Along the road, travelers will often catch sight of one of the most unique of the restaurants nestled along this stretch, El Avion.

At first glance, it is not hard to see why this eatery is so impressive. At the heart of this restaurant is a hollowed-out C-123 cargo plane that juts out onto the street entrance. Exiting out the tail of the aircraft is an expansive deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If you happen to be in the area, the backstory of this plane certainly makes it worth stopping in for a bite to eat or a drink.

When the strike on the Sandinista of Nicaragua was being organized by the CIA in 1986, the anti-government Contras rebel groups were assisted in the purchase of two C-123 cargo plans that would be operated out of Costa Rica. One of those plans was shot down. That event led to the global discovery of what would become a well-known political scandal involving the Reagan Administration and Iranian arms deal that ultimately assisted in raising money for the Contras rebels.

The other aircraft survived and was later abandoned at the San Jose Airport following the end of the conflict. More than ten years later, the owners of El Avion purchased the plane in 2000 for a paltry sum of $3,000 and set out to convert it into a restaurant. In order to ship it, the plane was disassembled and shipped in different pieces from San Jose to Quepos.

It was necessary for the fuselage to be shipped via ferry from Caldera to Quepos due to the fact that it was a few inches too wide to make it through the antiquated railroad bridges.

After each of the aircraft sections were hauled of the Manuel Antonio hill, the plan finally found its current home, where it rests off a cliff side and provides patrons with incomparable views of the ocean and surrounding hills.

Today, the main attraction of this fascinating restaurant is the plane’s fuselage, which features a bar. Visitors are also able to climb up into and sit in the cockpit while observing the fabulous views, particularly as the sun begins to set over the Pacific Ocean.

If you happen to be in Quepos and you are looking for an interesting way to pass some time while having a one-of-a-kind story to tell when you return home, a visit to El Avion is certainly in order.

The Story of Costa Rica’s Unique Airplane Restaurant in Manuel Antonio

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