18 Best Restaurants in Arenal, Monteverde, and the Northern Lowlands, Costa Rica


$$$ Fodor's choice

In the wood-polished dining room of Hotel Belmar, this elegant restaurant, whose name means “sunset clouds,” is indeed the best place to admire the stunning views, with soft jazz and artisanal cocktails that set the tone for the farm-to-table menu. Start with the gorgeous cheese platter or the refreshing grilled-watermelon salad before moving on to the divine chicken stuffed with goat cheese, prosciutto, and spinach, and bathed in a white-wine-and-passion-fruit sauce. Although the tiramisu is big enough to share, after one bite you may suddenly become a little selfish. From 4:30 to 5:30, you can swing by for "Tico Time" featuring free appetizers, drink specials, and craft beers from their on-site microbrewery.

Orchid Coffee Shop

$$ Fodor's choice
An astonishing level of culinary perfection comes out of this A-frame shack serving breakfast, lunch, and early dinner. The menu is enormous, with crepes, pancakes, granola, and French toast alongside tomato soup, veggie panini, 25 types of coffee, and fresh smoothies made with homemade yogurt and local ingredients like pineapple, cucumber, carrot, and basil. With free Wi-Fi, ambient music, and local artwork, the cheerful setting in the center of town is the ideal place to take a break.

Que Rico

$$$ Fodor's choice

This lovely Italian-inspired restaurant adds touches of romance with wooden tables draped with red-and-white linens and soft music and candles. The menu is long, with options ranging from local ceviche to tamarind chicken, but the Italian specialties are best: the brick-oven Volcán pizza with ham, mushrooms, bacon, and pepperoni is a local favorite. Gluten-free options are available. You can also order from Tabulle, their sister restaurant next door, for some enjoyable Middle Eastern fare.

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Café Caburé


This restaurant/bakery/chocolateria is one of only a few in Costa Rica that grinds its own cocoa beans. Start with a meal in the open-air restaurant serving savory empanadas, mole dishes, and chipotle wraps with a creamy secret sauce before getting to the sweet stuff, like ganache with blackberry sauce, chocolate-passion-fruit mousse, and exquisite chocolate truffles.

Paseo de Stella Tourist Center in Old Monteverde, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Vegetarian options
  • Curried chicken and mango salad
  • Tours of adjoining chocolate factory
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Tues.


Fresh bold flavors, local products, first-class service, and marvelous murals elevate this basic roadside restaurant to a delightful dining experience. The chef and owner trained in Mexico, so you can taste the authenticity in the tacos and the mezcal in the margaritas. They don't open until 12:30, so don't plan for an early lunch.
Plaza Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Fresh guacamole and homemade chips
  • Tacos every which way
  • Churros

Don Rufino

The L-shape bar fronting the main street is a popular expat and tourist hangout. The user-friendly menu is marked with symbols of chili peppers for spicy dishes, a tomato for vegetarian dishes, and a check mark for those that are highly recommended, like the chicken seasoned with chocolate, coffee, and tarragon or forest lasagna made with wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and ricotta cheese. Their grilled meats are local, organic, and are served with a side of polenta, lentils, and caramelized apples in a balsamic dressing. The tilapia in bacon-and-tomato sauce is also very good. Although this is one of the more upscale restaurants in the area, there's no need to dress up here: this is still La Fortuna, after all.
Across from gas station, La Fortuna, 21007, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Organic, local meats
  • Friendly service and clientele
  • Occasional live music



Choose from the ever-changing menu or let the chef guide you through what might just be the best meal you’ll have in Costa Rica. You'll discover fresh dishes like filet mignon, shrimp risotto, organic Greek chicken, and blackened tuna. The menu is always changing, with a rotation of hits like palmito artichoke salad, mussels with mushrooms, and tender pork. Family style is a great option; it lets you have a variety of dishes. Opt for a table on the patio rather than a booth near the U-shape bar, unless you like a lot of noise with your meal.

Next to Villa Decary, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Lamb curry
  • Wine cellar
  • Macadamia cheesecake
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch, Reservations essential

La Choza de Laurel

The aroma of rotisserie chicken, porterhouse steak, and fresh fish bathed in garlic attracts passersby to this open-air restaurant a short walk from the center of town. Wooden picnic tables and a cigar shop storefront replicate an old Costa Rican village, adding a cultural touch to your meal. The menu is overwhelmingly large—as are portions—ranging from pastas and burgers to soups and salads.
400 meters (1,312 feet) northwest of church, La Fortuna, 21007, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Banana splits served in a pineapple
  • Choza plate with chicken
  • Black bean soup with homemade tortillas

Los Platillos Voladores


It might not look like much from the outside, but this Italian restaurant has homemade dishes like tortellini in sage butter, lasagna with bubbly, browned mozzarella, and crispy thin-crust pizza with folds of prosciutto. Start with a caprese salad and move on to one of the pasta dishes buried beneath a blanket of shaved Parmesan. The back patio is a quaint spot to enjoy a glass of red wine. If you stop by for dinner, make it an early one; the place closes at 7:30.

Hwy. 142, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Large portions
  • Rich panna cotta
  • Panini to go
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Monteverde Beer House

Middle Eastern food and craft beer are rarities in Monteverde, but this bold combination has filled a void in the local culinary scene. An open kitchen serves a simple menu of kebabs, falafel, hummus, feta salads, and pita sandwiches.


With its rain-forest murals, glass patios, and tree-stump tables, you’re never far from nature in this pleasant restaurant. Parsley potatoes, and creative sauces like pineapple curry, blue cheese, or bay-leaf-and-garlic sauce (a take on chimichurri) infuse the menu of flavorful chicken, pork, beef, or fish dishes.
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Friendly service
  • Fresh salads
  • Peanut butter pie

Pollo Fortuneño


This bustling open-air eatery has an extensive menu, but they specialize in wood-fired chicken and ribs. It's worth a stop to grab a rotisserie chicken if your room has a mini-refrigerator or a barbecue picnic lunch for your hike. Other items include a mashup of Costa Rican cuisine (ceviche, chicken and rice) and American favorites like burgers and nachos.

Rte. 142, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Fall-off-the-bone ribs
  • Delicious patacones (fried plantains) and dips
  • Pollo

Rain Forest Café

Reasonable prices and excellent quality have made this café a traveler’s favorite, with meals ranging from churrasco (grilled meat) and empanadas to salads and sandwiches. There's typical Costa Rican casado (chicken, beef, or fish served with rice, beans, plantains, and salad) along with tempting desserts like chocolate pie, carrot cake, flan, and a variety of pastries. The free Wi-Fi and books-for-borrow might help you escape from reality, but the wall lined with bagged coffee for sale will remind you where you are.
In front of Hotel Las Colinas, 125 meters (410 feet) south of park, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Scrumptious macadamia cakes
  • Local coffee
  • Crazy Monkey smoothie made with banana, milk, cinnamon, and coffee

Restaurante y Pizzería La Parada


This locals' favorite late-night eatery (open until midnight) does a brisk business serving pizza, pasta, nachos, burgers, and grilled fish. There's a buffet, if you'd rather just point and choose. The reasonable prices and convenience make this local cafeteria one of the more frenzied spots in town, so look elsewhere if you want some peace with your meal. This is a convenient place to stock up on snacks for long bus rides. ("La Parada" refers to the bus stop.)



Waiters in crisp black aprons scurry attentively around the three dining rooms here, serving a wide variety of dishes. Start with yuca croquettes filled with local provolone, followed by mouthwatering favorites like shrimp in mango-coconut curry or chicken served with a guava reduction.

Turnoff to Jardín de Mariposas, off main road between Santa Elena and Monteverde, Monteverde, 60109, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Nice views of valley below
  • Extensive cocktail selection
  • Chile relleno

Stella's Bakery

This local institution is a good place to get an early-morning fix before heading to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Pastries, rolls, muffins, natural juices, and coffee are standard breakfast fare, and light sandwiches, soups, and quiches are on offer at lunch.

Taco Taco

This always-busy casual eatery is a great place to stop for tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex fare, which you can eat in the dining room or outside on the patio. The meat is slow-cooked and flavorful, but fish and veggie options abound as well.
Southeast of Banco Nacional in El Corazon de Santa Elena, Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Baja tacos with tempura-battered fresh avocado
  • Pork carnitas
  • Extensive beer list


This glass-walled restaurant is warm and inviting, with dangling fairy lights, hardwood floors, candles dripping onto old wine bottles, and chefs tossing dough high overhead beside a wood-fired oven. The pulpo (octopus) and beef carpaccio are ultrathin, a perfect accompaniment for the pizzas that come piled high with toppings like asparagus, mushrooms, ricotta, and Gorgonzola. Service is excellent; takeout is available.