Costa Rica is one of the eco-friendliest countries in the world where locals think anything outside of organic is pretty weird. Due to its excellent climate, sprawling jungles, gardens and farms, you can grow just about anything here, so all your meals will be unbelievably natural and fresh. In fact, you won’t really find a bad dining spot. Even if you go off the beaten path and find some random restaurant, it’s going to be insane because some hard-working kitchen cooked up your meal using family recipes. There’s a distinct Latin American and Caribbean influence in the culinary scene, which gives tons of flavor, and did we mention most everything you eat is just-plucked fresh? In Costa Rica, you’re going to fall in love with food, so fork up at these restaurants that are among the best in the country.
Caracol RestaurantPapagayo Peninsula, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
If you’re not staying at Four Seasons, you may not even know this restaurant exists. Heck, you may not know it exists even if you’re staying here. Caracol isn’t on the property; it’s way out there at the Arnold Palmer designed Four Seasons Golf Club. It was so exclusive that it was only open for members but then the luxury tourism boom happened and people raged and now it’s open to anyone with a reservation. Caracol is an American Steakhouse that arguably has the best chops in town (from dry aged beef to Costa Rican cuts). While everything about it may work against you in terms of convincing your lady (a steakhouse on a golf course), trust us. It is very romantic, very classy and they also serve seafood like lobster. It’s only open for dinner, and you might want to roll in looking like you’re mafia or something. Everyone dresses to the nines here.
Cool and Calm CafePlaya Manzanillo, Limón Province, Costa Rica
Cool & Calm is exactly what it implies: It’s cool and it’s calm, bro. What it failed to mention is that it’s original, authentic and exactly what you’d picture a Costa Rican restaurant to feel like. The al fresco restaurant in Manzanillo looks like it was put together by some renegade group of dudes who never built a restaurant before. Even tables are made out of tree trunks. It’s truly no frills and laid-back in that Costa Rica way, and the food is amazing for such a random shack, so much that they offer really popular cooking classes. It’s all about the seafood, considering the owner (a former lobster diver) and his other American ex-pat friends are obsessed with seafood and cooking it up behind the kitchen. Obviously, you’ll order the lobster (get it with the seafood pasta) and be calm and cool when you do the “reef to plate” tour where you dive for your own lobster or fish, because that’s a whole thing here too.
Bromelias del RioCafetería Bromelias Del Río, Heredia Province, San Isidro, Costa Rica
Remember when we said random, off-the-beaten-path restaurants you’ll drive past will be insanely good no matter what? Bromelias del Rio is a classic example. In San Isidro, just off Highway 32, Bromelias is super rando with only a few tables but the huge serving of excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes hit all the right spots. Think of it as a Costa Rican diner, only with gourmet diner food. It’s a total hot spot for locals, and even though it’s in said rando location, it’s set in a tropical garden by a mountain stream, so whip out your camera. It’s mostly known for its sandwiches (huge piles of lomito, for every hungry man needs), so expect lunch to be packed, though we can’t stress that breakfast and dinner is also worth it. Bromelias is owned by a Colombian, so the coffee is as good as it gets.
Koji'sKoji's, Calle Buenos Aires, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica
In Santa Teresa, a popular beach town (insert best romantic activities story), you’re hardpressed to find a gourmet or fine-dining restaurant considering the bohemian vibes. But now that it’s got a good balance of foodies and more affluent travelers coming through, there’s a little more high-end stuff to love, like Koji’s. Off a dirt road, Koji’s is by no means a palace but it’s intimate and stunning with the Zen-like back patio lit with stringed lights and wooden tables lit with candles. The sushi is legit. The executive chef, Koji, is from Japan, so it’s a totally legit sushi joint with the freshest fish in town. Obviously feast on sushi, but don’t leave without ordering the Koji Roll, loaded with shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, spicy tuna and a special sauce.
Maxi's by RickiMaxi's by Ricky, Calle San Rafael, San José Province, Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Some honeymooners stop in San Jose, the capital, to see the urban side of Costa Rica, whether they are flying in or want to spend a night or two (insert main regions story). While we say don’t spend more than a day here (two nights tops), you’ll want to arrange your itinerary so it revolves around Maxi’s by Ricki. Maxi’s is a total institution that just moved from Manzanillo to the suburbs a few years ago, and it’s unanimously considered one of the best restaurants in Costa Rica. It’s pretty genuine as a local haunt. You’ll find a lively scene with mostly Costa Ricans dining on traditional rice and beans made with coconut milk, Caribbean chicken and the most popular dish, the rondon soup. It has that signature, low-key, colorful Costa Rican vibe, and it’s such a legendary place, people drive 25 minutes outside San Jose to come in droves. If you’re a foodie, not eating here is a sin.
El Mirador RestaurantArenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, Puntarenas Province, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
El Mirador at Arena Del Mar (insert best resorts story) in Manuel Antonio may be the best hotel restaurant in Costa Rica, and that’s saying a lot considering most five-star hotel restaurants are fantastic. To give you some history on how seriously they take their F&B, they had a visiting chef program where they flew in top American chefs (like Top Chef alum Jason Cichonski) to whip up tasting menus. Only a hotel with a huge budget can do this, but a hotel who loves to spread their Costa Rican influence across the world says a lot more than that. Anyway, the restaurant is perched in nature where you can see the ocean and a bunch of monkeys hopping around. Obviously, a million thumbs up for the food. Super fresh, super organic, super tasty. Think grass-fed beef, hormone-free chicken and fish from local markets. If it’s on the menu (it’s seasonal here), get the pork tenderloin with chocolate, tamarind and yucca, a stellar dish and fan favorite.