La Cocina de Doña Marta

As one of the most developed beach towns in Costa Rica, Jacó bustles — always offering residents and visitors plenty to see, eat and do. But you need to remember, this is still Costa Rica, where “most developed” remains a relative term. That means you can find Jacó’s beaches, waterfalls and trails empty on many days throughout the year, revealing the true magic of this Central American land.

There’s no question we all love the small beach town life that Jacó offers, along with the sense of “punching above its weight class” given the mix of creative entrepreneurs living here. It is also nice to know that authentic Costa Rica still exists within the town and it is certainly easy to find rural experiences just a few minutes in any direction from Jacó Center.


One of my favorite quick get-aways, where it’s easy to fall back into Costa Rica’s authentic charm and natural beauty, is Rancho Shadday, also known as “la cocina de Doña Marta.”


Just a short drive from Jaco’s Maxi-Pali, this exquisite eatery is easy to get to but feels worlds apart. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended, especially in rainy season, as you need to climb some winding hills. However, I’ve seen all sorts of transport modes on this road, including many mountain bikes, ATVs, motorcycles and even pedestrians.


Directions are simple. Cross the highway from Maxi-Pali and stay on the road for 12 kilometers until you see the Rancho Shadday sign. (This is the same road that continues to Bijagual and many other fun adventures).


Be on the lookout en route, as you’ll pass a small waterfall and potentially see some wildlife as well. On a recent trip we also passed newly harvested beans drying in the sun on the roadside, slightly reminiscent of my trips to Asia.

The big roadside sign welcomes you to the unassuming Rancho Shadday. Perched at the top of the hill, above the road, you’re afforded amazing views in every direction. You can look west down the valley to spot Quebrada Ganado and the ocean beyond. 


One of the first things you may notice, after the view, is that the open-air restaurant has a packed dirt floor. And a bunch of chickens that sometimes run between tables. On a previous visit here, I saw three kids move their soccer game from the parking area to the cover of the restaurant when rain showers broke out. Using the wooden bar as the goal, the small kids laughed and played, giving us a great pre-dinner show.


Fare for the asking


There is no menu at Rancho Shadday … at least I haven’t seen one. Typical (traditional) Costa Rican food is served; just ask what options they have. Food is cooked on a traditional wood-fired stove. There is also a sugar cane press that the staff uses to make fresh juice. You can also ask to press some yourself if they aren’t too busy. It’s a fun throw-back experience for the kids.


During our last visit, we decided on the casado with fish, rice and shrimp. Three meals and three natural fruit smoothies cost 14,000 colones in total (about $24). The staff were all smiles and very accommodating. 


Doña Marta, the owner of Rancho Shadday was pleased to share her story. Having asked where  this friendly local with a great sense of humor comes from originally, I was told she “was born 100 meters from the kitchen.” Doña Marta inherited the land from her father and started the restaurant 14 years ago. 


A subsequent addition to the business was a Tarzan swing, similar to a bungee jump but affording better views as you swing from a platform out into the valley below. For $20 you too can have bragging rights. But I suggest maybe eating your meal after this experience, not before! It looks pretty intense.





Rancho Shadday is currently open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

We paid cash but did spot a credit card machine. 

Telephone 8759-0263

Find your way there on WAZE or Google Maps

post a comment

45 − = 36