The Best Restaurants in Costa Rica
Spend your days in Costa Rica going from national parks to open air restaurants. Along with some of the best rice and beans in Latin America—they show up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—there’s plenty of seafood and other proteins. Local ingredients include seafood, corn, beans, and root vegetables so you’ll see a lot of them on Tico tables. And the culinary scene is expanding quickly so expect flavors from Asia and Europe in the mix too.
Guanacaste Province, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
North of Santa Teresa, in Playa Hermosa, you’ll find sushi master Koji Hyodo carving yellowfin tuna, red snapper, and sea bass at his tinkling, tin-roofed restaurant, Koji’s. His signature Koji Roll wraps spicy tuna around fresh shrimp paste and avocado. Then the entire roll is drizzled with a secret sauce and dipped in crunchy tempura bits. The grilled octopus is lightly fired, then sprinkled with sea salt; his lobster sashimi, sliced so thin you can almost see through it, starts with a crunch and finishes sweet.
Beach front Provincia de Guanacaste Playa Avellana, 50303, Costa Rica
Among Playa Avellana’s numerous pleasures, the small-town, almost-no-cars vibe sets the scene for true relaxation—as well as fun. Look for Lola’s—perhaps the hippest spot in town—in the tiny business district and try out fresh, locally sourced pizzas, mahi-mahi tacos, and veggie burgers; smoothie lovers will go nuts. Locals and visitors pack in under the almond trees late mornings after surf excursions and other adventures. Be on the lookout for Lolita, the piglet daughter of the original Lola (sadly no longer with us) as she frolics in the sand or ranges across the property.
Provincia de Guanacaste, Los Pargos, Costa Rica
Petite, luxurious Villa Deevena is at the heart of nature in Playa Negra, Los Pargos. Its clean lines announce this is something different and the magical dishes that come from Chef Patrick Jamon’s kitchen have created a local sensation, with an emphasis on seafood, always fresh and locally sourced. Exuberant tropical tastes (with a dash of the French) add to a refined, never-mass-tourism vibe.
C. 33, Empalme, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
This Madrid-style tavern specializes in Spanish as well as Italian, Lebanese, and Mediterranean tapas. Like many other spots in Barrio Escalante, Olio is known for its lively atmosphere—yet not so lively you can’t carry on a conversation. Its exposed-brick walls and eclectic decor lend it a particular warmth. The restaurant is also famed for cocktails, European wines, and fusion sangrias in locally inspired flavors like pineapple or watermelon.
61101, Provincia de Puntarenas, Jacó, 61101, Costa Rica
El Pelicano is a local spot recommended by some folks that live in the area. It’s a lovely beachfront spot that drops ‘fresh from the water’ seafood on your plate, along with ice cold beer (or wine) to accompany it. The dining area is big, open and airy, and big enough to seat the masses. The crashing of the waves is also soothing as you down ‘just one more bite’ of that locally crafted meal that came from the water you can hear.
5R43+VQJ, Provincia de Alajuela, Poás, Costa Rica
Besides Poás’s impressive volcano, this beautiful region is home to cozy down-home restaurants. One standout is Freddo Fresas, named for the strawberries (fresas) that constitute the region’s principal crop. Diners here enjoy tasting local specialties such as hand-thrown tortillas, chorreadas (a sweet-corn pancake iteration), tamales, bean empanadas, and other rustic yummies. Their strawberry-based desserts—fashioned from fruit just picked from the restaurant’s garden—are a must. Never too acidic or overly sweet, the perfect berries are like nothing you can get at your hometown supermarket. Try fresh strawberry juice or eat the fruit in the Costa Rican mode, i.e., with condensed milk or melted chocolate.
Av 11, San José, Costa Rica
A shared love for southern Italian comfort food and a chance encounter in the supermarket drew chefs Antonio d’Alaimo and Ciro Genova into this gastronomic venture. The Italian duo, known to everyone as Ciro and Tony, personally welcome every guest to their small dining room. The menu features, among other things, veal marsala, snapper in wine sauce with fresh tomato and laurel, and tortellini Alessandro (pasta stuffed with chopped ham and cream). A wide-ranging wine list and tempting dessert menu help round out the evening.
Main road to Tamarindo, 500m SW from Auto Mercado, in front of El Tesoro, Provincia de Guanacaste, Tamarindo, 50309, Costa Rica
Cozy and comfortable, it’s hard to leave Pangas. The hours fly by here, where the Las Baulas estuary meets the Pacific, at wooden tables, right on the sand; or beneath marvelous, sparkle-lit trees in a setting that’s practically one with the surrounding nature. A tropical fusion menu makes the most of local bounty, featuring innumerable fruits, grass-fed beef, and locally caught seafood; fresh-prepared cocktails intensify the vibe. Surf-racks and showers available to those coming off the waves; reservations suggested.
Av 13, San José, Costa Rica
Restaurante Whapin is a great option for getting to know—and love—authentic Caribbean cuisine, with its unusual spices and unmistakable coconut infusions. A yummy snapper, Cahuita-style, does plenty to breach the distance between San José and the Caribbean. And that’s what good eating is all about: building bridges to the world’s farthest corners, one delicious bite at a time.
Calle 11, between Avs. 6 and 8, C. 11, San José Province, San Jose, Costa Rica, Costa Rica
Tin Jo, a family-run restaurant, has five themed dining rooms, each dedicated to a different Asian culture: Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, and Thai. Guests order from a menu that includes selections from all the countries’ cuisines, so you can sit in the Indian hall and enjoy a sushi dinner while your companion has wonton soup and chicken satay. You won’t forget the experience . Don’t dream of leaving without trying the exotic sorbets, such as blackberry with anise, or zacate-herb with lime.
Calle 5, Amón, San José Province, San José, 10101, Costa Rica
Alma de Amón, located in old-school Barrio Amón, seeks to revive some of Latin America’s very best dishes. The border-crossing cuisines are served by candlelight in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Among the recommended dishes: traditional Costa Rican olla de carne (a beef and vegetable stew), Puerto Rican–style mofongo, with fried plantains, and Cuban guava pastries. The artisanal sodas—created by Canadian mixologist Liz Furlong—include standouts like the Dr. Clorito Picado (named for a pioneering physician and malaria researcher). The grapefruit concoction is served with a red-syrup-filled syringe for color. The vivid red cocktail happens to match the restaurant’s walls, which are hung with portraits of eminent Latin Americans like Pope Francis, Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz, and the legendary soccer star Pelé.
From Soccer field in Potrero 4 Km North, Provincia de Guanacaste, Las Catalinas, 50304, Costa Rica
Set tight in the jungles around Hotel Casa Chameleon, at Las Catalinas, the restaurant Sentido Norte is 45 minutes from the Guanacaste provincial capital, Liberia. A hilltop restaurant helmed by Costa Rican chef José López, it showcases a mix of local tastes and other modern classics, from sunrise until sunset daily. French toast with plantains, and ceviche punta penca (shrimp, octopus, and avocado) are current top orders; don’t miss the liquid enchantment on offer at the bar, perfect for sunsets, and aguas de sapo, a sweet, spiky pop made with guaro aguardiente.