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 Romantic Dining because: Views of the sunset over the sea from the upstairs dining room are especially enchanting.
Sophia's expert tip: Ride a bike to this local landmark at the end of the road at the edge of the Manzanillo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge.
The first of its kind in Puerto Viejo de Limon, KOKI Beach is a truly eco-friendly establishment; a bar, restaurant and lounge made almost entirely from reclaimed materials that takes relaxing and dining and turns them into art forms. With a full bar and a lunch and dinner menu that incorporates lots of local organic produce, Koki Beach invites guests to relax and stay awhile, while giving them plenty to look at- the water's edge is just across the way, and the design details like the unique chair collection and tables made from old doors will have you feeling inspired, and impressed.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Drinking wine and feeling fine are the hallmarks of this romantic restaurant.
Sophia's expert tip: Koki Beach is a great place to go on holidays to see unique artistic presentations like the wine bottle tree at Christmas and take advantage of seasonal specials, like the ceviche.
Clearly named for the undeniably 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 winsomely laid-back bar restaurant and beachfront lounge spot with a pool table is happy to be there, and share the beauty of this beautiful place with tacos, tequila shots, and of course, Tasty Waves.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: If you've a soft spot for soft tacos, cold beers and surfers Tasty Waves Cantina is just the spot.
Sophia's expert tip: Check Tasty Waves Cantina's famous Taco Tuesdays, for good vibes, good times, and of course, good tacos.
Jungle Love Cafe a tiny place surrounded by greenery between the secluded beach of Playa Chiquita and Manzanillo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge. Here you'll find delicious plates of food made to order with locally grown ingredients in a most romantic of settings. It's a secluded open-air gazebo with only a handful of tables and a few seats at the small wooden bar, and it's a fine place to linger over a dinner and dessert date. Jungle Love Cafe is family owned and has an intimate feel that makes one feel at home, even five kilometers south of Puerto Viejo de Limon.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Small, secluded, and surrounded by greenery, Jungle Love Cafe leaves you satisfied and wanting to come back for more.
Sophia's expert tip: Take home a jar of the Jungle Love Cafe's "Slow Death" homemade pepper sauce for your spice lover back home.
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 mussels on the half shell and ceviche are fine appetizers to get you in the mood for an excellent meal. Italian owners have created a menu with the home country's influence but focused on fresh local ingredients and expertly prepared seafood. If you haven't happened upon it while visiting Cahuita, it's worth asking to be pointed in the right direction and is a pleasant stroll just north of town. Bonus: There is a full bar here, too.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: If you score a seaside table at sunset, the rest of the evening will come naturally.
Sophia's expert tip: Grab a table outside and enjoy the view.
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, delectable brownies, and scrumptious muffins. There are only a handful of tables on the raised deck just off the main road in the center of town, but even when there's a full house it just seems cozy rather than crowded. Coffee is served in individual French presses, and everything is made fresh right there in the busy kitchen that Tom oversees. 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 also cash only.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Chocolate truffles made with local cacao are undeniably aphrodisiacal.
Sophia's expert tip: Bread and Chocolate now makes custom cakes for special occasions.
Amimodo is an old-school yet new-school family style and family friendly Italian restaurant on the main road in Puerto Viejo. A nondescript, single story cafe style that's invitingly and casual from the street side and the beach side, Amimodo doesn't need to toot it's own horn; those in the know have been coming here for excellent authentic Italian dishes and special occasions since the doors opened nearly twenty years ago. The seating spills out from inside to out, and there is a little bar inside for pizza and cocktails. Some nights a live band plays spirited Caribbean music, but mostly it is a mellow vibe.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Amimodo's pizza is the best for sharing- at a candlelit table in the sand, or taken to-go and eaten in private.
Sophia's expert tip: Try the Happy Hour "drink of the day" like a Pipa Loca, fresh green coconut spiked with rum and garnished with an exotic flower.
Restaurante Tin-Jo has rightfully named itself "the best" restaurant in Costa Rica, offering delicious, healthy Asian cuisine from its home in an original colonial mansion in the heart of San Jose. What started out as a Chinese restaurant in 1972 has blossomed into Thailand, Viet Nam, and Japan for its inspired menu. The menu is full of vegetarian and naturally gluten free options, and the desserts are exotic, decadent, and to-die-for without being bad for you. Tin-Jo also offers yoga and meditation classes throughout the week, and hosts Miercoles Candelas every Wednesday evening, when the lights are turned off in favor of candles. Televisions are nowhere to be seen and cells phones are turned off in the Bamboo Room, a sanctuary annex of Tin-Jo.
Whether you're in the mood for fluffy pancakes made with real organic chocolate or a platter of huevos rancheros, the Lizard King Café has something on its menu for practically everyone. Burritos at the Lizard King are legendarily delicious flour tortillas stuffed with farm fresh ingredients and topped with special salsa unlike any other. The lunch menu includes a range of farm fresh dishes from traditional casados to Caribbean specialties and twists on Mexican favorites, like the reggae roots nachos and the marlin and pineapple kabobs served with coconut rice. Homemade bread and pastries are treats, as are the cheeseburgers.
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 charismatic as he is talented in the kitchen, and his recommendations of daily specials are always spot on, but you can't go wrong with anything on the simple yet well-rounded menu. It's romantic yet family-friendly, unpretentious yet undeniably special, and easily one of the top 10 best restaurants in Costa Rica. Look for the wooden sign past Cocles beach south of Puerto Viejo de Limon.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The epitome of romance is this little Italian restaurant nestled in the rainforest.
Sophia's expert tip: The bruschetta mixta is a perfect appetizer for two, delicate toasts topped with a variety of Italian ingredients like roasted eggplant and proscuitto crudo.