• Grano de Oro Restaurant (San José; tel. 2255-3322): This elegant little hotel has an elegant restaurant serving delicious Continental dishes and decadent desserts. The open-air seating in the lushly planted central courtyard is delightful, especially for lunch.
  • Park Café (San José; tel. 2290-6324): A former Michelin two-star chef has set up shop in the interior patio garden of an old downtown mansion. The results are predictably fabulous. The regularly changing menu here is always varied, creative, and fairly priced.
  • Product-C (Santa Ana; tel. 2282-7767): This is just about my favorite seafood restaurant in Costa Rica, and it's not even on the coast. Fresh fish is bought at the Puntareanas docks around dawn every morning, and these folks even raise and harvest their own oysters.
  • Ginger (Playa Hermosa; tel. 2672-0041; Serving an eclectic mix of traditional and Pan Asian-influenced tapas, this sophisticated little joint is taking this part of Guanacaste by storm. They've got a list of creative cocktails to match the inventive dishes.
  • Mar y Sol (Playa Flamingo; tel. 2654-4151; In a beautiful open-air dining room on a high hilltop with great views, the Catalan chef here serves top-notch international fare.
  • Dragonfly Bar & Grill (Tamarindo; tel. 2653-1506; Southwestern American and Pacific Rim fusion cuisines are the primary culinary influences at this popular restaurant. Portions are large, service excellent, and prices fair.
  • Lola's (Playa Avellanas; tel. 2652-9097): With a perfect setting on the sand and excellent hearty fare, this is one of the best beachfront restaurants in the country.
  • Nectar (at Florblanca Resort, Santa Teresa; tel. 2640-0232): Guanacaste's best boutique resort also has one of its best restaurants. The menu changes nightly but always has a heavy Pan-Asian fusion flavor to it. The setting is romantic and subdued, in an open-air space just steps from the sand.
  • Playa de los Artistas (Montezuma; tel. 2642-0920): This place has the perfect blend of refined cuisine and beachside funkiness. There are only a few tables, so make sure you get here early. Fresh, grilled seafood is served in oversize ceramic bowls and on large wooden slabs lined with banana leaves.
  • El Lagarto (Playa Sámara; tel. 2656-0750; Witnessing the giant grill stations being fed with fresh coals from a raging fire overhead is worth the price of admission here, but the food and ambience are also fabulous. The menu is large, and the fresh seafood and massive steaks are all expertly prepared.
  • Sofia (Monteverde; tel. 2645-7017): Sofia serves excellent New Latin-fusion fare at a small space about halfway along the rough dirt road between Santa Elena and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Their sister restaurants, Chimera (tel. 2645-6081), which specializes in creative tapas, and Trio (tel. 2645-7254), which is a hip, bistro style joint right in town, are also excellent.
  • Lemon Zest (Playa de Jacó; tel. 2643-2591): Set unpromisingly on the second-floor of a small shopping complex, this place serves up the best and most creative meals in Jacó. A wide range of world cuisines influence the adventurous menu here, which is complemented by a good wine list, and topped off with stellar desserts.
  • El Patio Bistro Latino (Manuel Antonio; tel. 2777-0794; A casually elegant little place, El Patio Bistro Latino has made a name for itself in the Manuel Antonio area. The chef's creative concoctions take full advantage of fresh local ingredients.
  • La Pecora Nera (Puerto Viejo; tel. 2750-0490): I'm not sure that a tiny surfer town on the remote Caribbean coast deserves such fine Italian food, but it's got it. Your best bet here is to allow yourself to be taken on a culinary roller-coaster ride with a mixed feast of the chef's nightly specials and suggestions.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.