Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update: Bacon cheeseburger, french fries, ocean view, with a side dip in an infinity pool—$8

Last night our internet was down.  Rob and I got restless so it was the perfect time to grab our camera and check out a new restaurant that recently opened nearby. I like supporting new businesses because I know firsthand just how difficult running one can be. I remember when my book went on sale and I wondered if anyone would ever purchase it. I’m so grateful readers found me that I want to spread acts of kindness and help someone else out as often as I can.

The Club at Mar Vista is perched high on a hill with panoramic views of the ocean. Rob was anxious to catch the sunset so he raced up the hill so fast I’m pretty sure something important fell off our car. Lately, a lot of things are falling off our car. One day I’m going to fall off this car.

To our surprise, the owner of the restaurant turned out to be our friend, Bryan Campbell. He also happens to be the owner of the popular Café Mocha. I go there often, not just because of the coffee but because he makes the best brownies in Costa Rica. I knew he was starting another business, but he wanted to keep it under wraps until he was ready to open.  I can see why. This is not your ordinary place. This restaurant has an infinity pool that spans the entire establishment with an underwater lighting system that makes it irresistible to jump right in.

My eyes lit up as bright as this beautiful pool. It was like seeing an oasis in the desert, and I’m pretty sure I spotted Peter O’Toole in a kufiya sipping a margarita at the swim-up bar. Or it could have been a mirage caused by the concussion I suffered from Rob hitting every bump to get us there. Either way, I was speechless.

I love the concept of a restaurant with a swim-up bar. In fact, if I ever return to the states I’m going to suggest this to Chili’s corporate office. “Yes, your Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip appetizer is delicious, but would you consider removing tables 35-87 to make room for a pool? It would be delightful. Take a bite out of that Applebee’s.”

Bryan informs me that the grand opening is this Saturday and the band Local Legend will be playing. Coincidentally, the guitarist is also our friend named Brian. If you are in the Tamarindo/Flamingo area, I hope you all come. Two Brians are always better than one. And if you drink enough, you’ll probably see four.

I wish all the best to Bryan Campbell. He’s a good guy and was so supportive of us when we wrote the first book. He enjoyed the story in The Sequel about my husband getting hernia surgery in Costa Rica, especially when the young nurses giggled after lifting Rob’s gown to inspect his scar at 3 AM.

“It’s like bad hospital porn,” my husband said while recovering on the gurney. I wanted to ask if there is ever good hospital porn, but the conversion was unseemly and I preferred to focus on what I do best, which was sobbing all over his chest and being completely useless.

I’ve met a lot of people on this adventure. Some urinated in my shrubs, others promised to fix an internet line next “manana”.  And then you meet the Bryans of the world, a nice guy trying to carve out a living for himself and his family.  And his living just happens to have a swim-up bar and an ocean view that I’m certain will enhance my experience here for years to come.

I have a feeling I’ll be back at The Club at Mar Vista. Look for me at the swim-up bar wearing a kufiya and drinking a mojito. Or just follow the Hansel and Gretel trail of car parts and you’ll eventually find me.

About Nadine Hays Pisani

Nadine is the author of the best-selling series, Happier Than A Billionaire. Join her as she navigates living as an expat in the sometimes confusing, always beautiful, country of Costa Rica.
This entry was posted in food and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to IT’S BETTER THAN CHILI’S

  1. Luciana Guisoli says:

    Hello, Nadine! I really love the stories that you tell… I am a Brazilian translator, editor and interpreter. I would like to let you know that I am very interested in translating your pieces to Portuguese language.

    Please send me a note on my e-mail and I can explain further the proposal I have for you.

    Kind regards,


  2. Kim says:

    We are going to Costa Rica soon and have some questions about the car rental situation. Having read your book (incredible, awesome, by the way!) we think that a 4 wheel drive is the only way to go. Flying into Liberia, and wanting to drive up and down the Pacific Coast near there, which car rental company do you recommend?

    I’ve heard stories of Avis, Hertz, etc, adding so many charges to your bill that it’s double the posted less than $20/day that they advertise, ultimately. And they don’t guarantee a 4 wheel drive or even offer one on their websites. But, I saw a car rental company founded by an American that charges $39 per day and includes a GPS, International cell phone and personal rescue service, and the customer reviews online were very positive. Is it worth the difference?

    We will be there for 12 days, so it saving money versus safety is our biggest issue! Please let me know what you think soon?


    • admin says:

      This is a difficult question because I hear all sorts of things about these companies. It seems they do a little bait and switch with the prices, so be prepared once you get to the office, what you were quoted is not the actual price.

      If you are driving in the dry season, you may be able to get away with a normal car. But I have found the coolest places up very steep hills that only a 4 wheel drive can access. So I guess it depends how adventurous you are.

      If you are driving up and down the Nicoya peninsula coast, I would recommend a 4 wheel drive. If you are driving towards Jaco, Manual Antonio, etc.. that road is paved and in very good shape.

      So, if you have room in the budget, I would go for a 4 wheel drive. I can honestly say, some of my best adventures were through a few rivers and up crazy roads. I don’t think I would have felt as safe if I had a smaller vehicle.

  3. Hi Nadine, Just finished your second book!

    You are a fantastically gifted writer. My wife and I also loved your Dad’s response to the those “reviews”. He’s obviously a very intuitive and smart individual. You show a real animated side of him in the rest of the book, so seeing this side was really great as well! The book continues to show that Costa Rica is a beautiful place with the elegance and calm of times long lost for most of the world. LOL, but there are things you have to give up to live there …as my wife found out with her 5 inch heals down a dirt road in Playa Del Coco! I caught it on my iphone:

  4. Pingback: Steiner 7×50 Marine Binocular

  5. Scott says:

    Nadine, I just finished your first book while becoming accustomed to our new home town of Playa Hermosa. My wife and I have shared some of your initial hurdles. I find myself applying your relaxed attitude. If I am patient, things seem to work themselves out. It is a great joy to find such friendly and welcoming people. Due to your narrative, I have our Transactional Attorney on speed-dial. I love visiting the farmers market and purchasing our entire week of fruits and vegetables for the price we used to pay for a bag of apples in the states. Pura Vidal, Scott

    • admin says:

      Thanks Scott. I’m sure you can relate to all those stories! And I bet you have some great ones of your own!

  6. Terri Eikenbary says:

    Hi Nadine, I just finished reading Billionaire while sitting by the pool in Atenas. My husband and I are here for two weeks and this will be our first trip to begin the planning process to retire here in four years. We honeymooned in Tamarindo years ago and have been in love with the country ever since. Your book just solidified our desire to be here full time. Thanks for the great read and funny stories. I’ll look for The Sequel as soon as I get back to the snowy cold of Utah.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Terri! Love Atenas by the way. Such a beautiful town, and with that new highway, so close to the beaches.

    • Arden Brink says:

      Hi, Terri — I happened to just read your comment here and wanted to say if you want to get in touch, we could talk. I also moved to CR in ’06 and now actually live in Utah of all places! 😉 (Moved down to CR from Maine, hence the “series name” for my book of “Mainers in Costa Rica” but now have a grandbaby in SLC area, so here we are!) Anyway, if I can be helpful to you at all, would be glad to.

  7. Pingback: Costa Rica (Country Guide) · WWW.MINFOWIZ.COM

  8. Jim Pearson says:

    Nadine, I am in the process of reading your book and it is great. I needed to laugh like that, however I feel for your husband. Sounds like he has a big heart and really loves you, just luck is not on his side sometimes. My wife and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica in May of this year and would love some advice if you have any to give. We are going to stay in Puerto Viejo and try to visit Panama while we are there. We are considering a move as soon as our last child gets out of school and cant wait. I hope all is well and that you are happier then ever. pura vida

    • admin says:

      My husband is hilarious! And I got to hand it to him, he takes chances, and that ultimately got us down here. Whereas I will usually say, “I don’t know, you think we should do that?” he is already saying yes in his head and driving us there.

      This has been a wonderful adventure and wish you all the luck on yours. It feels so great to be out of the office and in the sunshine. In many ways, I feel so much younger. It’s as if this little country fixed all the things I needed fixing.

    • Sabra Rounds says:

      Jim, Your situation sounds like ours! Our youngest graduates from high school in just over four years, then we are moving down–we’ve already bought property, and my husband and I are counting the days. We’d be there now, except our child doesn’t want to leave her friends–although she loves CR. You might enjoy reading our blog about our travels and eventual move:

  9. Tom Duffy says:

    Striking the celebrity pose ! Lookin good.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Tom, what a great restaurant. I love having an ocean view while having dining, especially when it is on top of mountain!

  10. Teri says:

    You are fabulous! Reminds me of Jen Lancaster with a whole different world to share. My beloved and I are planning on a scouting trip in 2014 with plans for a final move in 2017. Your book has me so excited to visit. Just downloaded the sequel. Keep it up. You have a new fan!

Leave a Reply