Candlelit tables twinkle from the sand, beckoning pedestrians from the side of the road De Paso is nestled between the trees and the water's edge. Named for the path that connects the road to the jungle path and the beach, this little restaurant serves up some excellent, and inexpensive, plates from afternoon til night. Fish tacos are one of many specialties, including pizzas, pastas, and a seafood dish of the day, and there are always two-for-one drinks on happy hour special. This is a beach casual place, flip flops and shirts are optional, a pura vida vibe is the only requisite for dining here.
Recommended for Best Value because: Sip two-for one cocktails with your toes in the sand while watching the sunset.
Sophia's expert tip: Try the two for one mojitos at happy hour and chocolate cake for dessert.
At the center of Puerto Viejo a large hand painted sign points the way to "The Best Damn Coffee in Town." Cafe Rico also serves some of the best breakfasts around and offers a mighty fine lunch selection, too- all served in a shady, open-air space surrounded by lush vegetation (look for sloths and exotic birds in the trees) and the best used book selection. The service is friendly and you're more than welcome to while away the morning, rent a bike or snorkel equipment, and even do your laundry here (which gets you a free cup of damn good joe).
Recommended for Best Value because: Here is one of the few places in town that serves Cafe Britt.
Sophia's expert tip: Find the best selection of used books lining the shelves of the cafe.
Maxi's Restaurant is truly a classic, planting its stilts in the sand several decades back, when it was the only restaurant in all of Manzanillo, and it practically still is. Located at the very end of the long road that runs all the way from San Jose down through Puerto Viejo, Maxi's stands overlooking the beach It's this prime location, mixed with the familiar, laid-back vibe of its proprietors, a menu stocked with fresh seafood Caribbean dishes, and a bar that makes Maxi's such a landmark. The two story, open-air restaurant is casual enough for flip flops and board shorts, but cool enough to host special occasion dinners, parties, and game-watching, too.
Recommended for Best Value because: Affordable meals and valuable memories are made at Maxi's.
Sophia's expert tip: Go for drinks and the view- it's also a nice place to celebrate a birthday.
Veronica's Place is a completely vegetarian restaurant on the Caribbean coast where the chef owner is Veronica herself, a Puerto Viejo native whose roots trace back to Jamaica and whose culinary style reflects her deep knowledge of local ingredients. Try the coconut rice and beans, Ron Don soup, and yucca pudding for dessert. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, vegan, or raw, and made with good health in mind. One of Veronica's specialties is fruit and ginger whipped into a refreshing smoothie, a unique concoction that will linger on your taste buds and in your memories long after the last sip.
Recommended for Best Value because: Not only is Veronica's Place a vegetarian restaurant, it's an inexpensive one, too.
Sophia's expert tip: If you like the cuisine, consider a cooking class with Veronica herself, a steal at only $25, including a big vegetarian spread.
The Point is a friendly, casual sports bar on Playa Negra Beach in Puerto Viejo de Limon that offers sports on seven screens and Costa Rican craft beers on draft. With the opening of The Point, the region finally has a place where visiting Americans can feel right at home while gazing out at a black sand beach next to the Caribbean sea. It may be on the outskirts of town, but don't let the immense skull and crossbones at the entrance fool you, this spot is full of friendly people and fun times, especially if you like watching sports.
Recommended for Best Value because: Great bar food you won't have to regret splurging on later.
Sophia's expert tip: Soak up brews with the burger and fries, it's the best and made with high=grade beef.
Bread and Chocolate is now an institution of a cafe in Puerto Viejo, where locals and tourists enjoy gathering to partake in some wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and signature baked goods. Highlights include handmade truffles, delectable brownies, and scrumptious muffins. There are only a handful of tables in this tiny open-air cafe nestled on a side road in the center of town. Coffee is served in individual French presses, and everything is made fresh in the busy kitchen. Bread and Chocolate is open from 6:30am to 6:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 6:30 to 2:30 on Sundays (closed Mondays). It's cash only.
Recommended for Best Value because: Handmade truffles and steaming French Presses please foodies with a sweet tooth for a deal.
Sophia's expert tip: Bread and Chocolate makes colorful custom cakes for special occasions.
Named for the stellar Caribbean surf that unfolds just across the road, Tasty Waves Cantina does much to revive the classic surfer vibe that first drew tourists to the area; whatever the weather, from the torrential rains that bring mud slides to the places perched along the coast, like Tasty Waves is, to the punishing yet rewarding rights and lefts that make Cocles the most coveted spot along the Caribbean to surf, this laid-back bar restaurant and beachfront lounge spot has a pool table, and everybody is happy to be here, sharing this little slice of la pura vida over tacos and tequila shots.
Recommended for Best Value because: Tasty's Taco Tuesday and two-for one well drinks are great deals.
Sophia's expert tip: Check Tasty Waves Cantina's famous Taco Tuesdays, for good vibes, good times, and of course, good tacos.
At Soda Lidia, traditional dishes like rice and beans infused with coconut and served with chicken in Caribbean sauce will delight your senses and fill your belly- and all without putting a dent in your wallet. It's a casual place nestled against the jungle's edge behind the main thoroughfare of Puerto Viejo, where Lidia still runs her ktichen like a tight ship and locals gather to catch up after a day of surfing. It's casual but cozy, and the casados include Lidia's special slaw- if you have yet to try patacones (fried plantains), here's a great spot to do so.
Recommended for Best Value because: Take-away plates are great for picnic lunches and DIY date nights.
Sophia's expert tip: Try a refreshing fruit batido (smoothie) to complement an authentic Caribbean meal- the Chicken in Caribbean sauce is a favorite.
Whether you're in the mood for American-style pancakes made with real organic chocolate and golden bananas or a platter of huevos rancheros, the Lizard King Café has something on its menu for all. Burritos at the Lizard King are legendarily large flour tortillas stuffed with farm-fresh ingredients and topped with the chef's own special salsa. The lunch menu includes a range of dishes from traditional Costa Rican casados to Caribbean specialties and twists on Mexican favorites, like reggae roots nachos and the marlin and pineapple kabobs served with coconut rice. Homemade bread and pastries are treats, as are the cheeseburgers.
Pan Pay is Puerto Viejo's most popular spot for locals; here is where everyone comes for coffee, croissants, baguettes for later, and to catch up with the neighbors. If there's a soccer game on, you can watch it here. It's a casual open-air spot adjacent to the police station, overlooking the beach. Outside tables have a view of the water. Prices for breakfast and lunch are the best value in town portions are generous. Owned by two Spanish brothers who take baking seriously, the glass display is brimming with goodies that are hard to resist. Pan Pay opens at 7 and closes in the late afternoon.
Recommended for Best Value because: This is the best value spot for breakfast in Puerto Viejo de Limon.
Sophia's expert tip: Fresh baked baguettes sell out so get there early to get yours.