10 Best Costa Rican Restaurants Feature Local Flavor, International Fusion

Costa Rica’s cuisine is continuously evolving under the influence of other cultures who bring their spices and styles to the country’s traditional fare, which varies from region to region. Gallo pinto (spotted rooster), a mix of rice and beans cooked with garlic and cilantro, is Costa Rica’s most ubiquitous breakfast fare, served with eggs and a dollop of natilla (sour cream) on the side. Try an excellent version at La Criollita in San Jose, where you’ll also find tasty casados (marrieds) at lunch time, laden with chicken, beef or fish, rice, beans, and salads. Other traditional dishes include olla de carne (soup of beef, carrots, plantains and yucca, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). The Caribbean coast is strongly influenced by Afro-Caribbean culture and there the cuisine has a distinctly Creole flavor. Pati are spicy meat snacks that resemble empanadas but are packed with special Caribbean flavors, find the best at the small shack in the center of Puerto Viejo de Limon. At Maxi’s Restaurant in Manzanillo, dip into a steaming bowl of rondon (run down) soup made with yucca, plantains, coconut milk, and shellfish or pork. Locally grown cacao lends its rich flavor to the selection of baked goodies at Bread & Chocolate, and don’t miss a latte made with Café Britt, the country’s premier brand of coffee at Café Rico.

Lubnan is one of San Jose's only authentic Middle Eastern restaurants, and many will agree that it's the best. The Lebanese owners have filled the menu with plenty of regional dishes from lamb shish kebabs to fattoush salad with chicken to a...  Read More

La Fuente de los Mariscos
Photo courtesy of slamonica

For excellent seafood, La Fuente is the place. Overlooking a busy parking lot and highway, it's perhaps not where one may expect to find delicious ceviche and stand out langosta (lobster) but indeed it is. The inside is so small you'll be...  Read More

With such an international selection of food to choose from in Puerto Viejo, it may seem that the Caribbean flavor has been lost in translation, but that is clearly not the case at Soda Lidia, where traditional dishes like rice and beans infused...  Read More

Sobre las Olas
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

Perched on the edge of the coral reef overlooking the beautiful coast of Cahuita, Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambience. The best seats are outside nestled between the palm trees, where...  Read More

With a name like Chimera, one might expect an a diverse selection of food, and this Santa Elena restaurant delivers. Every plate is a creative fusion of flavors, many of which are Latin, all of which are wrought from the bounty of local...  Read More

La Pecora Nera
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

If delicious authentic Italian cuisine served in a delightful open-air restaurant well off-the beaten track on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than La Pecora Nera. The Italian chef Ilario is as...  Read More

At the center of Puerto Viejo a large hand painted sign points the way to "The Best Damn Coffee in Town," and if you follow the sign to the otherwise incognito spot behind the main road you will not be disappointed- but it's not just excellent...  Read More

Bread and Chocolate has become a landmark cafe in Puerto Viejo, and for good(ies) reason. Locals and tourists enjoy gathering to partake in some wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and signature baked goods here, which include handmade truffles,...  Read More

La Criollita
Photo courtesy of slamonica

La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has something on the menu for everyone. The fare is traditional Costa Rican; generous portions of meat, chicken and fish with rice, beans and salad on the side, and big...  Read More

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...  Read More


Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia