68 Best Restaurants in Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Cactus

$ Fodor's choice

It's easy to miss this unassuming eatery surrounded by cactus on the road to the beach, but you would be missing out on some of the area's best Costa Rican food. Starting with the humble dishes of his childhood, the chef elevates the menu with made-from-scratch corn tortillas made into tayuyás: sandwiches brimming with sweet and savory fillings like an omelet with cheese curd, ripe banana, honey, and custard, or shredded chicken spiced to perfection with avocado, tomato, and lettuce. There is also standard American fare on the extensive menu like burgers and pizza, and plenty for vegetarians. 

Carretera Playa Avellanas, Playa Avellanas, 50309, Costa Rica
2215--3899
Known For
  • Breakfast with ice cream
  • Mouthwatering casado
  • Great value
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed daily 3--6

Café Liberia

$$$ Fodor's choice

Step back 150 years into one of Liberia's grandest mansions, complete with an original ceiling painting of cupids, doves, and garlands of flowers. Creative takes on tropical ingredients, all with a French twist, make this the most sophisticated restaurant in town. Loyal customers drive over an hour for the incredibly fresh ceviche with mango and cilantro. Don't miss the Wagyu beef burger, the chicken pesto sandwich, or the mahimahi with chimichurri. Herbs are grown on-site, juices are 100% natural, and the organic coffee is perhaps the best you'll taste in Costa Rica. Save room for any of the fabulous desserts, like the classic cheesecake, lemon pie, or the molten chocolate lava cake made with Belgian chocolate.

Casa Inti

$$$ Fodor's choice

This friendly lunchtime Peruvian café has a revolving menu of flavorful delights made from fresh ingredients that are almost as beautiful as they are tasty. Try the ceviche (a slight change from the usual Costa Rican) in the breezy palapa or the lomo saltado or the eggplant---we promise you'll want to return every day for lunch. Note the odd hours so you don't miss out.

Playa Grande, 50308, Costa Rica
8520--5411
Known For
  • Authentic Peruvian food
  • Fresh salads
  • Tasty homemade desserts
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sat.--Mon. No dinner

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Costa Rica Sailing Center

$$ Fodor's choice

Relax beachside at the most laid-back yacht club you'll ever visit. There are bonfires after dark, live music, and sometimes an event like a chili cookoff or beer fest; plus, the kids can play in the pool while you enjoy a craft beer and good food. They also rent boats, paddleboards, snorkel gear, kayaks, and more to the public.

El Chivo Cantina

$$ Fodor's choice
With an atmosphere as fun and funky as the luchadora (Mexican wrestler) legend for which it's named, everyone will have a great time and an even better meal at this Mexican cantina. A large garden strung with lights beckons to families, and the long bar is a great place to try some churros after your meal.

Gusto Beach Creativo

$$$ Fodor's choice

A romantic setting, ocean breezes, and a creative Italian menu make this the one of the most popular restaurants in Sámara. By day, rustic wooden tables are shaded by white sails strung between palms; by night, diners bask in the glow of white globe lamps and light-festooned trees. You can sit under a covered area or out on the sand. The soundtrack is trendy, and the food is good too. Gusto starts the morning at 8 with great espresso and croissants; the rest of the day, there are salads, burgers, Italian fries sprinkled with Parmesan and pepper, and, of course, pizzas. Service is efficient and executed with style. Menu prices do not include the obligatory 25% tax and service.

La Luna

$$$ Fodor's choice

Dawn to dusk, this casually chic restaurant overlooking Playa Pelada is the most scenic place to have breakfast, lunch, cocktails, or dinner, with tables spilling out of the interior onto a wide, covered terrace and onto the sand. The menu is mostly Mediterranean, ranging from Moroccan-spiced or limoncello-marinated fish of the day, to beef or fish carpaccio and brick oven–fired pizzas. At sunset, you can cozy up in a settee on the sand with a cocktail, and share a Mediterranean platter of dips, including harissa-hot hummus served with fluffy pita. Breakfast, starting at 7 am, ranges from typical Costa Rican to full English, with eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, grilled mushrooms, and tomatoes. Vegetarians can opt for toast topped with avocado and goat cheese. Some outdoor, picnic-style tables make this restaurant family-friendly during the day, while the terrace tables are more romantic at night.

Langosta Surf Club

$ Fodor's choice

If you want to feel at home on vacation, head to this family-friendly neighborhood sports bar featuring in-house roasted deli meats, local artisanal products, and delectable salads. Choose dine-in or take out lunches like big turkey sandwiches with a side of pineapple slaw or the delightful pear Gorgonzola salad. After you eat, stay for a game of pool, Ping-Pong, or horseshoes.

Langosta Beach, Playa Langosta, Costa Rica
8332–9339
Known For
  • Fun atmosphere with lots to do
  • Huge deli sandwiches
  • Healthy, fresh ingredients
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

Lola's

$$ Fodor's choice
Gabe Bettinsoli

This hip beach café has exactly the kind of ambience one comes to Costa Rica for, with tables scattered along the beach amid palm and almond trees, hammocks swinging in the wind, palm fronds rustling, and surfers riding the glistening waves in front. Seating, or more precisely, lolling, is on reclining, African-style hardwood chairs, or at shaded tables. Along with fresh fruit smoothies, ultrathin vegetarian pizzas, and veggie soy burgers, the menu includes organic chicken and "responsible fish" (caught in nets that don't also trap turtles). Seared ahi tuna with sun-dried tomatoes and olive tapenade served on ciabatta bread is a winner, as are the ceviche, fish-and-chips, pesto pasta, and assorted salads. Mahi tacos are the latest addition to the menu, served with rice and beans. 

Mama Gui

$$ Fodor's choice

Located at Giada Hotel, poolside tables and ultrasophisticated cuisine make this Italian restaurant the best dining spot in Samara. Chef Gigio Palazzo prepares dishes with fresh local seafood, meat from sustainable farms, and organic-hydroponic produce. Start your experience with in-house cured pancetta with goat cheese, followed by mains like grass-fed tenderloin, organic duck breast, or homemade pork sausage. All breads, pastas, and pizzas are made from scratch, including the gluten-free favorites. Desserts are prepared fresh each day. The walls are enlivened by white fabrics and vibrant tropical-bird wallpaper in the cool interior. The attentive chef makes frequent appearances in the dining room and his enthusiasm is contagious. Service is polished and smooth. The restaurant is small and open for dinner from 5 to 11 daily.

Calle Principal, Sámara, Costa Rica
2656–2347
Known For
  • Imported Italian ingredients
  • Homemade pasta and savory sauces
  • Gluten-free pasta
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Wed. Sept.--Nov., Reservations essential

Nectar

$$$ Fodor's choice

Fresh seafood is the specialty at this poolside alfresco restaurant, with inventive daily specials that focus on the day's catch prepared with Asian and Mediterranean flavors. After 3:30, the dedicated sushi chef produces such treats as panko-crusted prawn roll with ahi tuna, mango, and avocado. Come for lunch and enjoy the calming sea view peeking through the tropical foliage, or come for a special-occasion candlelit dinner backed by the sound of the surf. It’s pricey, but worth the splurge if you crave a sophisticated scene.

Resort Florblanca, 2 km (1 mile) north of soccer field, Malpais, 60111, Costa Rica
2640–0232
Known For
  • Fresh sushi
  • Latin, Mediterranean, and Asian influences
  • Organic and local produce
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Reservations essential

Pangas Beach Club

$$$ Fodor's choice

You can’t get any closer to the water than at this outdoor beach garden, where rustic tables are shaded by enormous ficus trees draped with wicker lamps. Classic French cuisine with Costa Rican flavors include dishes like fresh seafood with fruit reductions and organic meats seared on hot lava stones. It's one of the few places in Tamarindo serving lamb, and 100% of the ingredients are local. For something light, try the tropical goat cheese salad with mango chutney or the yellowfin tuna tower topped with mango and avocado.

Patagonia Del Mar

$$$ Fodor's choice
This open-air Argentinian grill has a lovely ambience, great views of the beach across the street, and even better steak and seafood. Lounge poolside with a cocktail and sushi or sample their good wine selection with some shrimp tempura while the kids play on the swings.

Playa de los Artistas

$$$ Fodor's choice

Arty driftwood tables and sculpted chairs scattered along the rocky beach and an inventive Mediterranean menu have made this one of the most scenic, as well as one of the best, restaurants in the country for almost 30 years. The eclectic menu changes daily and features local seafood, lamb, beef, and even duck. The decor is funky with "found" art and hanging lamps, and the restaurant is most spectacular at night, when flickering lanterns combine with crashing surf to create a dramatic and romantic dinner experience. Daily pasta specials focus on seafood. Portions are plentiful and artistically presented on huge platters.  Don't pass up the velvety dark-chocolate tart if it’s on the dessert menu. The restaurant is sometimes open Saturday night, on the chef's whim; call ahead to find out.

Montezuma, 60111, Costa Rica
2642–0920
Known For
  • Spectacular beach setting
  • Homemade ravioli
  • Funky found-art decor
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Wed.

Product C Playa Carmen

$ Fodor's choice
For the freshest, tastiest, and most affordable seafood in town, make a beeline to this fish market and restaurant that also features the most entertaining chefs. A trio of cheerful Canadian expats shucks, slices, grills, and prepares fresh local oysters, sashimi, grilled fish fillets doused in ginger and sesame dressing, savory fish cakes, and refreshing ceviche. The velvety, flavorful fish pâté is addictive. Take a seat at the counter inside and enjoy the buzz and banter in the open kitchen, or sit at an umbrella-shaded table under palms in the courtyard. There are other restaurants in the Central Valley with the Product C name, but this is the true original.
Centro Commercial Playa Carmen, at Cruce, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
2640–1026
Known For
  • "candied" tuna with pineapple glaze
  • Friday-night live music
  • Ice-cold craft beer
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed weekends. No dinner

Restaurant Deevena

$$$ Fodor's choice

An unexpected outpost of divine French cuisine, this oasis of elegance overlooks a sparkling blue pool edged by lush palms, while lounge chairs shaded by orange umbrellas tempt diners to stay overnight (six stylish rooms are available). Lunch and dinner feature lots of local seafood, produce, and goat cheese from the chef’s nearby farm. Try the fresh grouper fillet bathed in lemon-herb-butter sauce, or the seared ahi tuna with ginger-carrot puree. Vegetarians can feast on ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms, sage, and sun-dried tomatoes. Desserts include classic French options—fruit crepes, crème brûlée—as well as chocolate lava cake with raspberry compote. The service here is exemplary. You can order wonderful wines by the glass or bottle—a rare opportunity in these remote parts. While waiting for your meal to arrive, ask to view the photo album of the chef’s famous clients.

The Lookout

$$$ Fodor's choice

As if the breathtaking view high in the hills above Playas del Coco weren't enough (you may recognize it from its feature on the television series Restaurants on the Edge), the innovative menu at one of the few oyster bars in Costa Rica takes it a step further. Try the oysters raw or grilled or order the tuna nachos alongside a spicy ginger margarita or watermelon mojito. More creative dishes include avocado fries with chipotle dip, lobster grilled cheese, Korean beef tacos, and the ahi tuna sticky rice bowl. Come for happy hour from 1 to 3 and stay until the sun goes down. Reservations are recommended for sunset dining.

Rooftop of Chantel Suites, up hill in Vista Marina, Playas del Coco, Costa Rica
4033–7588
Known For
  • Fresh raw oysters, delivered Wednesday
  • Tuna poke bowl
  • 17 Monkey Head Brewing company beers on tap
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

The Surf Box

$ Fodor's choice

Pop into this charming spot with “California cool” and cozy up in the corner booth, where the clean white walls set a backdrop for rainbow-hued books and surf-themed wall decor. Outside, be prepared to share the pura vida vibe and maybe a table—it's communal seating, and it gets busy during brunch with treats like homemade bagels with egg and avocado and rich ricotta pancakes.

Flamingo, Costa Rica
8437–7128
Known For
  • Acai bowls bursting with healthy goodness like fruit, chia, and homemade granola
  • Innovative smoothies with eco-friendly metal straws
  • Miami-inspired Cuban sandwich
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No dinner Sun.

Tres Hermanas Bar-B-Q & Grill

$$$ Fodor's choice

This roadside grill is home to the country's best barbecued pork and beef, slow roasted for 16 to 18 hours over a wood fire and served with dynamite barbecue sauce. Sides go beyond coleslaw or fries to include lentils stewed with bacon and onions. If you've been tempted to try Costa Rican–style chicharrones, try them here—served with refried beans, local cheese, tortilla chips, and salsa. Beyond barbecue, there are imported beef steaks, plus a filet mignon smothered in mushroom sauce. If you can persuade any noncarnivore to enter the premises, the menu also has salads and fish. A playground keeps small children occupied while parents dig in. And there's a Pops ice-cream parlor attached to the restaurant.

The Tres Hermanas restrooms are the poshest and cleanest on the long stretch of highway between Puntarenas and Liberia.

Ylang Ylang Restaurant

$$$ Fodor's choice

One of Montezuma's most scenic and sophisticated restaurants, Ylang Ylang is nestled between the beach and the jungle, offering views of waves crashing against the rocks. The lunch menu lists a selection of sushi, salads, wraps, and sandwiches with various vegan, gluten-free, and raw dishes. The ocean view and elegant terrace setting make it worth the 10-minute walk down the beach. At night, the restaurant turns on the romance with flickering candles and an inventive dinner menu that ranges from Thai-style teriyaki tuna steak to penne in seafood sauce. Whatever you choose, you'll want to save room for desserts, such as the tiramisu espresso crepe. 

Angelina’s

$$$

Guanacaste-inspired and locally sourced, the cuisine here pays tribute to the owner's Italian roots with dishes like lobster tail served with homemade black pasta. This restaurant is one of the area’s more upscale places to dine, with marble tables, parchment lamps, and driftwood-integrated decor under an open-air patio. There are vegan and gluten-free options, and $4 cocktails from 4 to 6. The wine list is extensive and microbrews are on tap. It’s worth saving room for the flourless chocolate cake with coffee reduction and homemade ice cream.

Flamingo, Costa Rica
2654–4839
Known For
  • Homemade thin-crust pizza
  • Wide-ranging wine list
  • Juicy steaks aged in custom Himalayan salt chamber
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No lunch

Aqua Sport

$$

There’s not much “aqua sport” going on at this Peruvian beachfront restaurant, unless drinking margaritas in a hammock somehow qualifies. It’s the kind of place you drop by on day one, and find yourself coming back to for the remainder of your vacation—blame the setting of Adirondack chairs lining the beach combined with fresh fish like grilled snapper served with shoestring fries. There are seven types of ceviche and a seafood soup that is good enough to make you miss the sunset between bites. For something absolutely non–Costa Rican, try the Peruvian Causa, a spicy potato-layered dish with tuna, octopus, or shrimp. You can also order familiar favorites like tacos, burgers, and surf and turf. Service is slow and prices are high, but there’s live music and tables in the sand.

Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
2672–0151
Known For
  • Delectable fish tacos
  • Cheerful location on the beach with a tree swing for the littles
  • Tato burger—juicy beef patty with bacon, cream cheese, and whiskey

Aura Beach Club

$$$$

The hammocks, palapas, pool, and beach here are open to the public, so take a dip, grab some beach food, and take in a sunset, all the while trying to spot some red macaws. Showers, toilets, tables, chairs, towels, and more are available for use with a $70 minimum food and beverage purchase. 

Islita Beach, Punta Islita, Costa Rica
2656–3500
Known For
  • Ubiquitous seafood, particularly whole red snapper
  • Patacones
  • Brick-oven pizza

Bamboo Sushi Club

$$

As soon as you cross the bamboo bridge, you’ll be instantly transported from a strip mall to an ocean-side Zen garden where the fish is bought fresh from the boats. Try a frozen mojito and start with a seaweed salad and steamed dumplings, then dive into the sashimi and sushi.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica
2653–4519
Known For
  • Fresh-off-the-boat sushi
  • Frozen passion-fruit mojitos
  • Spicy edamame

Bistro Cantarana

$$

You can usually count on good food at this second-story restaurant in the trees. You can get wild with crocodile fingers, or try something more familiar, like the handmade pizzas. There are several vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-free options on the menu. Presentation is always beautiful, and service is efficient and friendly.

Hotel Cantarana, Palm Beach Estates, Playa Grande, Costa Rica
2653–0486
Known For
  • Fresh seafood like tuna poke bowl and fish tacos
  • Unfussy breakfast fare
  • Homemade tortillas and sauces
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Wed.

Bohemia Café

$
Take a beach break and stop at this funky open-air café for a smoothie or espresso, and stay for a panini or avocado toast—just make sure to get here before the freshly baked bread runs out. The seats may be unconventional (think swings and couches) but the food is pure delight.
In front of Sámara Natural Center, Sámara, Costa Rica
6346–3590
Known For
  • Spicy panini
  • "Bohemian" smoothie
  • Strong coffee
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Café de Paris

$$

Vestiges of the original Swiss-French owners linger on at this bakery and alfresco eatery, open for breakfast and lunch. In addition to hearty sandwiches, the café serves burritos, bowls, and salads. It's a good place to cool off, and perk up, with a café frappé (espresso blended with bananas and ice cream). The adjoining bakery is great for take-out beach picnics, with French-style bread and an array of pastries and tarts, including chocolate mousse. There's free Wi-Fi.

Main road, on corner of Playa Guiones entrance, Nosara, 50206, Costa Rica
2682–0087
Known For
  • Lunch with a dip in the pool
  • Bakery goodies like baguettes, tarts, and pastries
  • Coffee and espresso
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Café closed Sun. No dinner

Café Del Sol

$$$

There's something for everyone any time of day at this three-story bakery/bistro/lounge/cocktail bar.  In the morning, there are savory quiches and homemade granola as well as tartlets, pies, and every other type of sweets and bread (including gluten-free), while lunch has a more upscale menu with delectable soups (bouillabaisse), salads (poached lobster), sandwiches, and artisanal pizza. Dinner standouts are linguine del mare with lobster, shrimp, octopus, and clams, or tender grilled guava barbecue short ribs. 

Corner Of Hwy. 911, Potrero, 50304, Costa Rica
Known For
  • Tapas like fresh-from-the-sea tuna tiradito and sea-bass ceviche
  • Rooftop cocktails
  • European-style patisserie breakfast noshes
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Tues.

Café Playa Negra

$$

This surf café features such Peruvian specialties as ceviche and causa (cold mashed potatoes studded with shrimp and tuna chunks). The menu also includes a few familiar favorites like hamburgers and BLTs. Desserts are homemade and delicious, and the pisco sour cocktail is not to be missed. 

Casa Almendro

$$
The best perch along the Paseo de los Turistas is a table on the breezy veranda of this updated seafood and grill restaurant with a beach view. The menu is modern, with starters like salads, ceviches, and huge disks of patacones (fried, squashed platanos), served with frijoles and shredded beef. Along with the classic fish fillet grilled with butter and fresh garlic, there's a spicier option with a jalapeño and fresh tomato sauce, as well as tuna in teriyaki sauce and grilled salmon. Grilled beef and barbecue pork ribs will satisfy meat eaters. Save room for flan de coco, dense and creamy with toasted coconut and caramel sauce. This place has polished service, with friendly, attentive waiters.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
2661–0901
Known For
  • Sea bass ceviche
  • Seafood grill
  • South American, Italian, and Spanish wines