Costa Rica Dining Guide...a Guide to the Restaurants of the Central Pacific
With an abundance of fresh seafood and a year round growing season for fruits and vegetables, it is no surprise that the cuisine in Costa Rica is excellent. With both European and Asian influences, depending on your mood, your dining options can range from “white table cloth” with breathtaking sunset vistas to a splendid “tipico” seafood feast under a tiki hut on the beach. That old adage that a great view equals lousy food does not apply here- even the places with the most spectacular views tend to have excellent food as well.
If your travels take you somewhere outside of the Central Pacific Coast, please feel free to contact us for recommendations.
Many restaurants feature wines from Argentina and Chile as well as cheeses from Europe. Virtually all restaurants take credit cards. Here are some of our current favorite dining experiences by neighborhood:
Esterillos & Bejuco
Cafe Vargas This new addition to Esterillos Este just opened in January of 2014. A small open air restaurant on the beach road 200 meters from Alma, this French-style seafood restaurant is serving up very good food at very reasonable prices. BYO. $
Los Almendros Over in Esterillos Oeste this tiny gem of a restaurant serves excellent Asian & Carribean cuisine. They are closed on Wednesdays and only accept cash so come prepared! Very good value for the price. $
Playa Bejuco Restaurant Located about a mile south of us, near the beach in Bejuco is the Playa Bejuco Hotel which features good food at modest prices. Popular with the local crowd. They are open from 7am through dinner. $
the Pelican Right down the beach from our own Alma del Pacifico Hotel, is this beachfront restaurant featuring a wonderful seafood menu. They are open for breakfast, lunch & dinner. $
Quepos & Manuel Antonio
El Gran Escape is Don Barry's favorite place to eat near the marina in Quepos. Try the seafood, it does not get any fresher than this! $$
La Luna Restaurant in the Hotel Gaia is a really lovely spot for a romantic evening. Beautiful food that is artfully presented. $$$$
El Avion While all the views in the Manuel Antonio area are breathtaking, we especially like the view here. Centered around a military aircraft that has been converted into a bar. Be sure to read the insert in their menu that explains how it came to be and its part of the Iran-Contra affair. $$
Cafe Agua Azul We happened upon this unassuming restaurant in Manuel Antonio while looking for a casual lunch spot. Thinking it would be a quick meal but nothing to write home about- we were happily surprised! It is a very casual environment serving excellent food with huge portions so sharing is advised. $$
Anaconda Restaurant A favorite for the famous Anaconda burger after a trip to Manuel Antonio- the proprietors claim "still more monkeys than people" means you should definitely check it out. Kid friendly. $$
Pizzeria Bocha is a funky open air pizza joint with gourmet pizzas. They also have an internet cafe. We highly recommend the Maradona pizza! $$
The Backyard is a great spot for lunch and people watching. We could sit there for hours watching the surfers on Playa Hermosa. Pretty Americanized menu - great for the kiddies! $
The seared yellow fin tuna at The Poseidon in Jaco Beach. We also recommend starting with either the tropical Caesar salad or the seafood soup. An excellent meal that never fails to impress. $$
Right on the beach in Jaco, El Hicaco is a really lovely spot to sit out under the stars. Lobster is their speciality and the bananas foster is an absolute must! $$$
Lemon Zest Restaurant TripAdvisor's #1 restaurant in Jaco. Innovative menu in a small unassuming space. We recommend calling ahead for reservations! $$
Hidden in the Pacific Center (look for the KFC) at the north end of town, Graffiti Restro Cafe & Wine Bar is a tiny gem. The menu features both tropical and Asian dishes and some fun cocktails. See our review here.
Caliche's Wishbone If you want a taste of the local surfing scene,Wishbone offers North American sized portions of Tex-Mex food right on the main drag in Jaco. Great for the kiddies! $
Los Amigos Definitely an after-dark spot, Los Amigos projects surfing films on the side of the adjacent building. Grab a table outside and enjoy the eclectic menu. Great for kids or teens who want a more relaxed atmosphere.$
Pops We would be remiss if we didn't mention this wonderful ice cream parlor (heladeria) in downtown Jaco. We recommend the brownie dynamite or the pistachio or (if you're feeling adventurous) try one of the tropical fruit flavors, like cas or guanabana. $
Villa Caletas One of our favorite experiences is sunset cocktails in the Anfiteatro followed by dinner at their Mirador Restaurant. Perched on a cliff 1000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, sunset is an unforgettable experience. $$$$
El Galéon Another really special place, El Galéon has a very inventive menu. Overlooking the Los Sueños Marina, this Travel + Leisure Favorite is a wonderful dining experience. $$$$
Lanterna Ristorante Stacey says that some of the best Italian food she's ever had has been in Costa Rica, and Lanterna is one of our favorites. One of the only enclosed and air conditioned restaurants on our list, Lanterna is a wonderful dining experience from the antipasti to the coffee. We really love the saltimbocca ravioli. $$$
El Pelicano Across from the beach in busy Herradura, El Pelicano has a great view and wonderful food. We like the lobster caesar salad for a nice lunch. $$
Well, new to us at least...We do try to sample each of the restaurants that we add to our dining guide however here a few restaurants that come highly recommended that we have yet to visit:
Karolas We haven't been here in years but we hear wonderful things about the reopened Karolas in Manuel Antonio.
Jungle Surf Cafe This open air restaurant in Playa Hermosa is known for its wonderful tuna. $$
Of course there are dozens of other dining options, please check with our concierge to hear about our current favorites and some of the more "off the beaten path" gems!
Dining Tips for Costa Rica
- It is safe to drink the water and eat the fruit and vegetables at virtually any restaurant in Costa Rica.
- Don't be afraid to try the small roadside restaurants (called "sodas") as these will be some of your most authentic, tasty & economical meals!
- Almost all restaurants will accept Visa and MasterCard. Larger restaurants will accept American Express as well.
- A 10% tip is automatically included in your bill. If you leave more it is always appreciated.