Welcome to Budget’s guide on everything fancy and delicious in Costa Rica. We’ve known you’ve done all thestunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and diverse wildlife. But there’s more to this beautiful country than all that, and you know it. Let’s guide you on a gastronomic adventure through some of the finest dining establishments all across the country, strategically located just one or two hours away from each other for the roadtrip of your dreams.
San José – A Gourmet Start
Your culinary adventure could begin in the capital city, San José, where you can land at Juan Santamaria International Airport. Head to the city center to savor your first taste of Costa Rican cuisine at Restaurante Grano de Oro. This charming restaurant combines local ingredients with European techniques, offering an elegant dining experience. The lush courtyard and candlelit tables create a perfect setting for couples seeking a romantic evening.
Heredia – Coffee and Cuisine
About an hour away from our previous destination, you will find the peaceful town of Heredia, known for its rich coffee culture. Start your day at the Café Britt Coffee Tour, where you’ll learn about the history of coffee in Costa Rica and enjoy a delicious coffee tasting. For lunch, head to the Café de los Deseos, a cozy restaurant that pairs coffee with a creative menu inspired by local flavors.
Arenal – Volcanic Views and Local Delights
One and a half hours away from Heredia, you will find the magical place of to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Lodge, where you can explore the beautiful waterfalls, gardens, and wildlife exhibits. Dinner at the lodge’s restaurant offers the chance to dine amid nature’s beauty.
Afterwards, you’ll want to drive for approximately 2 hours to the picturesque town of La Fortuna, located at the base of the iconic Arenal Volcano. The Volcano Restaurant offers magnificent views of the volcano while you enjoy a range of international and Costa Rican dishes.
Spend your afternoon at the Tabacon Hot Springs, unwinding in the natural thermal pools with the backdrop of the volcano. Then, dine at the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, featuring an extensive menu of gourmet cuisine. You’ll have a hard time deciding which is more impressive – the food or the view.
Monteverde – Cloud Forest Charm
After spending a night near the Arenal Volcanoe, and just a three hour drive away, you will reach the mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest, where you’ll find El Sapo Dorado Restaurant, nestled in the heart of the cloud forest. This rustic yet elegant eatery serves up delectable international and Costa Rican dishes, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing lunch.
After lunch, visit the Monteverde Butterfly Garden or take a walk through the charming town. For dinner, head to Tree House Restaurant & Cafe, a unique dining spot located in an actual treehouse. This treehouse-style setting and farm-to-table menu create a magical and intimate dining experience for couples.
Guanacaste – Beach Bliss
Approximately four hours away from Monteverde, you will reach the beautiful beaches of Guanacaste. Your first stop is Playa Flamingo, where you’ll find the upscale Coco Loco Restaurant right on the beach. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner as you listen to the soothing waves and watch the sunset.
Spend your day exploring the stunning beaches of Guanacaste or indulging in water activities. For dinner, a two hour drive will get you south to Playa Tamarindo, where you can savor seafood delights at Pangas Beach Club, a waterfront restaurant that offers fresh catches of the day.
Manuel Antonio – Jungle and Seafood
After a couple days of enjoying the Guanacaste sun, drive for around 4 hours to Manuel Antonio, a coastal town with both a stunning beach and a lush national park. For lunch, head to Barba Roja Restaurant, where you can savor fresh seafood while taking in panoramic ocean views.
Spend your afternoon exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, famous for its diverse wildlife and pristine beaches. For dinner, make a reservation at Emilio’s Café, an intimate and refined restaurant offering a fusion of Costa Rican and Mediterranean flavors.
Uvita – Whale Tail and Fine Dining
A couple hours away from Manuel Antonio, Uvita, a coastal town known for its distinctive whale tail beach formation is located. For lunch, indulge in an oceanfront dining experience at Sabor Español, serving delectable Spanish cuisine.
After lunch, visit Marino Ballena National Park, where you can enjoy snorkeling, whale-watching tours, and stunning beach walks. For dinner, visit Exotica Restaurant, an elegant spot offering fusion cuisine in a romantic jungle setting.
San Gerardo de Dota – Birdwatching and Bliss
Three and a half hours away from Uvita, you will find San Gerardo de Dota, a hidden gem in the highlands of Costa Rica. Your lunch spot is at the Quetzal Restaurant, which offers local cuisine and a serene atmosphere surrounded by cloud forests. This area is also a fantastic spot for birdwatching, especially for the resplendent quetzal.
In the afternoon, explore the Savegre River Valley, take a guided tour, or simply enjoy the tranquility of the cloud forest. For dinner, head back to your accommodation or try local dining options in the area.
Back to San Jose
Your culinary road trip comes full circle as you return to San Jose, a 3.5-hour drive from San Gerardo de Dota. Spend your final evening in Costa Rica at Andiamo La near Santa Ana, if you’re feeling like some great Italian cuisine, or thrive in any of Barrio Escalante’s restaurants and bars.
Enjoy the freedom of discovering Costa Rica hopping from one gourmet experience to the next, with Budget Costa Rica. Pack your bags, hit the road, and discover the flavors of Costa Rica, one memorable meal at a time.
Remember to check our guide for the best rental option according to your plans and needs here.