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Hostel Life in Jacó, Costa Rica – People (and Hostels) Are Strange

Antonio the Chef Cooking Pasta
Antonio the Chef Cooking Pasta

The hostel in Jacó was by far the weirdest place I have stayed in—and people were quite “interesting” too.

It took me a while to find a place to stay. I had an address but couldn’t find the street or the hotel. I checked out a first hostel but it didn’t look very secure and the room was dirty. I avoided the “Boutique Hostel” that looked expensive.

Eventually, I spotted a small place in a back alley. Hammocks and tables outside, a few surfboards… yep, it looked like a hostel.

They had a room. I took it.

And then a guy tried to feed me tortilla and carne. Antonio, it turned out, liked to feed people.

Spanish seemed to be the main language here (in most hostels, English is the lingua franca). I didn’t mind. I am not fluent but I understand pretty much everything and while my grammar is far from being perfect, I can have a conversation in Spanish.

There was a Mexican guy who lived in New York, an Indian-Mexican-American backpacker, a few Argentinean, a girl from Chile and tons of Ticos.

And I couldn’t figure out who worked in the hostel. Someone. Or no one, maybe. It felt like a big house with plenty of roommates.

People weren’t particularly welcoming or forthcoming, though.

Shortly before sunset, I called out from the hammock: “¿Quién quiere ir a la playa para ver el atardecer?”

I wasn’t expecting anyone to come (I mean, sunset is every night, right?) but they all did. We walked the two blocks to the beach, stood there and turned around.

“I want to make dinner,” said Antonio, the Mexican guy who was a cook back in New York. “Pasta?”

We went to the supermarket, chatting. The girl from Chile was wondering where to go next. She wanted “drugs and guys,” she claimed. The girl from Costa Rica was, I am pretty sure, someone’s “sugar baby.” She was my age and had three kids. The Mexican-Indian guy from the States had been travelling for three years. He was ready to find work somewhere in Central America.

“I’m pretty hyper,” Antonio admitted while running around in the kitchen. No shit. This guy spoke fast, walked fast and never stopped moving—probably an asset in a busy kitchen in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, an older French couple was checking in. They spoke no Spanish and their English was awful so I helped them out. “We have a chef cooking,” I joked. “Antonio is actually a chef and he is making dinner for everyone.”

“Ah,” said the old grumpy French guy. “What is he making?”


“Pasta! What kind of a chef is that? Pasta. Stupid Americans.”

I didn’t call out the rude comment but I left them alone. Stupid French.

We had the pasta and there was plenty of it left. The Argentineans ate, the Ticos ate. The French wandered into the kitchen. “Can we have some?” they asked me. “Gotta ask Antonio,” I replied. Antonio said “eat, eat!”

So they ate, without saying “merci.”

I went out to the supermarket again with Antonio to buy water. On the way back I stumbled upon a guy I had met the first night in San José—I was amazed he recognized me.

I was lazing around in the hammock when a girl came over. “Anyone speaks English?”

I raised my hand.

She wanted to make a phone call back home but she didn’t know how. Skype? Oh, right. Duh.

She was flying back to Toronto the next day. “I am taking the bus to San José too,” I said. She looked at me with big innocent eyes: “There is a bus? I was going to hitchhike!”

Good luck with that.

Someone started playing the guitar and another pasta dinner was made.

We are all going tomorrow. We won’t meet ever again. It doesn’t matter. This was fun.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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