The place for breakfast is Café Milagro (tel. 506/2777-0794, www.cafemilagro.com , 6 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), opposite Hotel Casa Blanca, with a full array of coffee drinks, pastries, sandwiches, and Nuevo Latino fusion dinners to be enjoyed on a tree-shaded patio.
Worth the journey, Ronnie’s Place (tel. 506/2777-5120, milugar [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr, noon–10 P.M. daily, $2–10) is the place to enjoy simple but tasty local fare, including seafood. Try the caramelized pumpkin in cane juice, best washed down with a piña colada served in a pineapple, or the house’s famous sangria. Plus you get ocean views.
The rustic but hip palenque at Bambu Jam (tel. 506/2777-3369, 6–10 P.M. daily) is a fabulous venue. The French-run restaurant serves the likes of beef stuffed with gorgonzola ($15) and mahimahi with almonds and lime ($12). Leave room for the profiteroles ($5).
For romantic elegance and tremendous nouvelle cuisine, head to the open-air Claro Que Si (tel. 506/2777-0777, 6:30–10:30 P.M. daily) at Hotel Si Como No. I enjoyed fried squid ($6), roasted bell peppers, olives, and avocado salad ($7), stuffed ravioli with seafood and spinach ($10), and chocolate ice cream pie.
Equally romantic by night is the Sunspot Grill (tel. 506/2777-0442, 11 A.M.–10 P.M. daily, closed in Oct.), at Makanda. This classy spot serves bocas such as calamari, mussels in Chardonnay broth ($7–9), quesadillas, sandwiches, and huge salads for lunch. Dinner is a romantic, candlelit gourmet affair; the menu includes gourmet pizzas, scallops with blackberry and balsamic reduction ($20), and divine focaccia with homemade herb butter. The extensive wine list includes many California reserves.
At last visit, I enjoyed the hip torch-lit, open-air ambience and gourmet fusion fare at Karolas (tel. 506/2777-8880, 7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily). In 2010, this venerable favorite relocated to a fantastic locale in the gardens of Los Altos Beach Resort. The urbane decor includes pewter floors. Lunch might mean a chicken wrap ($8) or burger. For my dinner, I chose wisely: a superb tuna tartare appetizer ($7) followed by Thai chicken with rice and macadamia sauce ($12). Ocean views are a plus.
La Luna (tel. 506/2777-9797, 7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily) at Gaia Hotel and Reserve, also offers world-class service as well as mouthwatering dishes. To start, I recommend the gorgonzola and sun-dried tomato tart ($6) followed by tequila-lime scallops ($25) or ginger and panko-crusted tuna ($18). Sorbets are served between courses. Go for the Sunday brunch ($20).
For fine fusion dining, I also like Restaurante Kapi Kapi (tel. 506/2777-5049, www.restaurantekapikapi.com , 4–10 P.M. daily), where a starter of Thai chicken lettuce wrap might be followed by sugarcane skewered prawns with coconut, tamarind, and rum glaze.
Gato Negro (tel. 506/2777-1728, 6:30–10 A.M., noon–6 P.M., and 6:30–10 P.M. daily), at Hotel Eclipse, has a warm ambience, conscientious service, and superb Italian cuisine, such as tagliatelle and salad Niçoise, carpaccio, and pasta.
You could be forgiven for dining two nights in a row at Victoria’s Gourmet Pizza and Pasta Grill (tel. 506/2777-5143, www.victoriasgourmet.com , 4–11 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), another fantastic option for the pasta grill, gourmet pizza, and divine Italian fare such as tuna chipotle and jumbo shrimp. It opened in December 2010 and is already the number-one Italian restaurant in town—no wonder, with fabulous hosts Marc and Gladis.
La Hacienda (tel. 506/2777-3473, www.lahaciendacr.com , 11 A.M.–4 P.M. Mon.–Fri., $5–25), at Plaza Yara, is a lovely contemporary-themed open-air space serving Mediterranean fusion cuisine, such as grilled marinated pork tenderloin with vanilla port and dried sherry sauce ($7.50).
There’s even a Hebrew restaurant, El Wagon (tel. 506/2777-0584) in an old railroad carriage opposite Hotel Costa Verde. Oddly, it pitches its Hebrew fare with English beer.