Fire takes legendary cantina at famous Pavones surf beach

The Bar and Restaurant La Esquina del Mar in Pavones was known as Dan's Cantina A.M. Costa Rica/Dylan Fioriglio

Fire demolished the legendary Bar and Restaurant La Esquina del Mar in Pavones Wednesday.

This is the structure that Dan Fowlie rebuilt in 1976 and served for years as the local gathering spot for locals, expats and surf-seeking tourists.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos said fire trucks could not get to the scene because of a bridge that had collapsed. A spokesmen for the fire agency in Golfito said the structure was a total loss. Firefighters reported getting the call about 5 p.m. The spokesman said there were no injuries because the building was empty.

An investigation began Wednesday, the spokesman said, adding that it may be weeks before there is a result.

Locals attributed the blaze to arson.

Fowlie, who is in his late 70s and now lives in the United States, pioneered surfing at Pavones, starting in 1974, when there were just a few locals living in the area. Pavones is south of Golfito and the waves are said to be second to none.

The history of the restaurant or cantina is as contorted as that of Fowlie, who was called the king of Pavones. He was an avid surfer, so when he found Pavones in 1974, he and his family moved there.

Fowlie helped the locals develop the area, but he was snagged on a U.S. drug charge involving property he owned in California. He did 18 years, and returned to Costa Rica in 2005 to regain the properties squatters and others had occupied. These presumably included the cantina.

That June Marco Badilla, then director general de Migración y Extranjería, issued a statement that said Fowlie would be turned away the next time he tried to enter Costa Rica. Badilla’s statement came after La Nación, the Spanish daily, reported that Fowlie had made a visit to Pavones and that some residents there were frightened of him, according to A.M. Costa Ricanews files.

Fowlie, in a telephone conversation then from California with a reporter, disputed much of what was contained in the La Nación article. He said that he plans to recover his property by peaceful means using the court system. Fowlie was a paternalistic resident in Pavones for years. He said he purchased the land along the Pacific coast mainly to save the trees from the slash-and-burn culture that was eroding the forest there.

He made a lot of donations to village infrastructure and schools before he was arrested in México in 1987 and extradited to the United States.

Nearly everyone who visited Pavones also visited the cantina. “What epic memories this place provided for so many,” said a resident Thursday.

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