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Parrot Bay Village Adds a Touch of Class to Puerto Jiménez


Author: Dorothy MacKinnon.
Publication: Tico Times.

Most travelers arriving in Puerto Jiménez are just passing through, heading from the airport or the last vestige of paved highway onto gravel roads leading to Corcovado, Matapalo and other points the southern Pacific Osa Peninsula. But now there’s an attractive reason to stay in Puerto Jiménez and use it as a comfortable, affordable base for a sport fishing or exploring.
Parrot Bay Village, formerly Doña Leta’s Bungalows, is the dream of two New Jersey fishermen. Art Augustensen, a retired pilot, and Sean Weaver, a businessman, met in Costa Rica just over a year ago. They discovered that not only did they share experiences as past U.S. Coast Guard captains, but they also lived in the same town. Given that both were also sport-fishing fanatics, it seemed logical to find a house and a boat to share in Costa Rica.

When they saw this property for sale, they were hooked, even though it was much bigger than they had bargained on. A cluster of eight basic wooden cabinas, the property was ideally sited between a beach and a mangrove lagoon, just to the north of the Puerto Jiménez landing strip. With an infusion of capital and new ideas, the octagonal and rectangular bungalows are now charming, upscale cottages residing in a lushly re-landscaped tropical garden.

The new owners retained the cabins’ handsome cristobál wooden doors with incised crabs, iguanas and pelicans carved by local craftsman don Eric, whose workshop is down the road. Renovations included remote-controlled air-conditioning units, ceiling fans and lights, innovative storage shelves, new ceramic tile and freshened-up bathrooms with porcelain sinks, lots of thick towels and – a welcome rarity in Costa Rican bathrooms – fluffy bath mats. The décor is fresh, with white cotton curtains, diamond-patterned quilts and wooden furniture.
My comfortable cabin, named Cangrejo for the two crabs on the door, was an intriguing octagonal shape, with windows on three sides providing a 270-degree panorama of garden and gulf. Another more traditional rectangular cabin looks like a storybook cottage, perfect for a family of four, with a double bed below and two single beds in a loft.

Doña Leta’s kitchenettes are gone, along with the self-catering concept, say managers Darren and Katie Mc Cleave (plus there 9 month old baby Tomas) he is a U.S. Coast Guard captain and she a grammar school teacher are the perfect hosts. The small open-air restaurant and gleaming wood bar, with a Nancy tree growing through the roof, catches the breezes off the Golfo Dulce and the mountain views beyond.

Three meals a day are served, but the kitchen really shines at dinner. Federico, a former B&B owner from Colombia, produces first-class fare, customized to your tastes. His sautéed fillet of pargo, lightly garlicked, breaded and topped with fresh lemon and parsley, was a model of perfectly cooked fish. Since sport fishing is the focus here, it’s good to know that the fish you catch will end up cooked just the way you like them.
Parrot Village has designed a wide range of all-inclusive sport-fishing packages to take advantage of three brand-new 29-foot Seavee fishing boats. English-speaking captains will take inshore fishermen around the gulf in search of roosterfish, amberjack, snapper and snook. Offshore targets include sailfish, marlin, dorado, yellow fin tuna and wahoo.

But, as many a fisherman has learned to his grief, “gone fishing” and leaving the family behind does not always make for smooth seas. So, Parrot Village has put just as much effort into tour packages for non-fishing families and spouses.

Ecotours can begin right on the beach, with flights of brown pelicans soaring past in formation and scarlet macaws noisily feasting on the fruiting beach almonds. Just steps behind the parking lot, a path leads to a dense, mangrove lagoon where scores of cattle egrets nest on an island, just tantalizingly out of reach of the jaws of about 30 spectacled caimans. Mike Boston, an enthusiastic, knowledgeable zoologist from Belfast who runs Osa Aventura tours into Corcovado National Park, introduces guests to the lagoon’s denizens and shows you how to feed a hungry caiman – quickly! Jo-Jo, a hefty 15-year-old specimen and definitely the alpha caiman in this lagoon, had us backing quickly down the path as he boldly advanced and Boston slowly unwrapped the raw meat he had brought.

Slightly farther afield, guests can kayak among bird-filled mangroves close by or paddle out on the gulf to watch the sunset, surrounded by dolphins, and accompanied by expert guides from local expedition outfitters Escondido Trex. Casa Orquidea, a magnificent private botanical garden with early-morning tours, is just a boat ride away across the gulf. Parrot Village also arranges hikes and horseback riding, water rappelling, snorkeling and excursions to a gold-mining town just outside Corcovado National Park.

Add some lively new restaurants and bars in Puerto Jiménez, which is starting to look more funky than frontier, and you can happily spend a holiday here, adventuring by day and returning to the comfort of Parrot Bay Village each night.

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