When you think of travel, food may not be the first thing that comes to mind – that would be more of the where? the what of accommodations? the what we’ll do? – but cuisine can mark the difference between a good vacation and one of your most memorable getaways.
Food is life. It’s our link to culture – the flavors of Costa Rican ingredients, both by land and by sea. It’s how we refuel after a morning’s surf or a day spent hiking through endangered dry forests. Food is both necessary and a luxury; it’s a choice we make, every day and many times a day. And, when you’re a culinary kind of traveler, it’s something you want to get right.
And so, we’d like to introduce 24 – yes, 24! – of our favorite Tamarindo restaurants. (Including personal recommendations from Blue Water’s owner, Becky!) These restaurants serve everything you look for in your vacation dining: both locally owned small eateries and world-class restaurants, at once seafood-forward and vegetarian-friendly, your choice of sunset and ocean views or garden seating.
Because Tamarindo is the kind of destination where you can enjoy fine dining with your feet buried in the sand; a smoothie, blended from just-picked papaya and fuchsia-hued dragon fruit; fresh-from-the-sea lobster and just-caught mahi-mahi… All the flavors, ingredients, and ambiance you dream of.
We’ve listed them here alphabetically, and broken up into a few of our favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots, with some pinch-hitting from vegetarian and vegan-friendly all-arounders. That said, know that many of these Tamarindo restaurants are open all day – from breakfast through evening drinks, or some iteration thereof.
And now, with no further ado:
Tamarindo Restaurants for… Travelers Who Brunch (and Breakfast)
Everyone loves brunch. Or a hearty breakfast, for that matter. Maybe it’s the ease of no alarm clock and the subsequent lazy morning with no set timeline. It could be the just-once-in-awhile indulgences that so often grace a brunch menu. And it’s certainly the excellent company, a languid meal, and the ambiance of paradise.
Whatever the draw, here are five Tamarindo restaurants that serve up the kind of incredible breakfast or brunch that you’ll want to wake up for:
1. *Becky’s Recommendation: Nordico
This superb coffee house is a favorite for breakfast, smoothies, and healthy breakfast options. And then, there’s your favorite coffee: Hot or cold, sweet or not, black or milky, straightforward or fancy – Nordico brews everything from Americanos and pour-over local brews, to cold-brew lattes and ice cream-infused affogatos. Phone: 4700-9521
A must-brunch spot among our favorite Tamarindo restaurants, Breakfast Grinds is almost entirely dedicated to all things morning: hearty breakfast sandwiches and rainbow-hued fruit plates, healthy granola and what may be the country’s best breakfast burrito. Phone: 8594-6509
3. La Panaderia de Paris
What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to La Panadería de Paris (the French Bakery), the name is a promise: They have it all, including some of the tastiest (and indulgent) fresh coffee and croissants to fuel your tropical morning. Phone: 8561-0604
4. Pico Bistro
If you’re the kind of diner who craves a cappuccino and raves about a locally sourced meal, then you’ll love the offerings at Pico Bistro. You can’t go wrong here but we have to say – the Nordic breakfast, stacked with local eggs, goat cheese, fresh bread, and salmon, is a forever winner. Phone: 8841-5338
Tamarindo Restaurants for… A Languid Lunch
Sometimes, even when you’re staying at one of our Tamarindo vacation rentals with a gourmet kitchen, you don’t want to prep lunch. That’s what vacation is, right? A break from your standard routine. And with that in mind, we introduce you to a few of our favorite Tamarindo restaurants for lunch.
Note that many of our lunch and dinner restaurant recommendations are interchangeable. If you can’t make it midday, just wait for the sun to go down.
When you’ve already surfed away your morning, you’re likely to have worked up a big appetite. When hunger strikes, Eat at Joes is an easy favorite for its nachos, sushi, sandwiches, and more! Phone: 2653-1238
6. El Mercadito
When you’re looking to grab a quick bite – and especially if you’re traveling with a group of eclectic dining tastes – you won’t go wrong at El Mercadito, located next to Bocaraca condos and diagonal from the Diria condos parking lot. This newer food court-styled spot hosts several Tamarindo restaurants, including options for Japanese, Argentinean, and vegan/vegetarian meals.
One of our forever favorites, La Esquina is town-famous for its incredible wood oven-fired pizzas. Not only is their dough game on point, but this is one of the best spots for lunching on a budget. And, need we say, everyone – from grandparents down to picky kiddos – will be delighted with what’s for lunch. Phone: 8667-4992
A “Hidden Garden” within Tamarindo, L’Estanco is our newest hotspot for Mediterranean-Peruvian fusion cuisine: a savory blend of all things fresh, colorful, and full of flavor. Because, while it would be easy to assume that it’s all about the ambiance – the lush, garden ambiance is admittedly top-notch! – this local gem equally obsessed with the quality of its food. Phone: 6021-4545
Tamarindo Restaurants for… Fresh Dinners for Daring Diners
When most people think of Costa Rica, they most often home in on beaches and ziplines, tropical forests and the sparkling Pacific. We don’t often top the list of world culinary destinations and yet – well, yet.
Our favorite Tamarindo restaurants are open for dinner and inspired by the flavors of Costa Rica and the gastronomic stylings of an entire world. The results are delicious and pair with a side of beachfront sunsets, tropical drinks, and the freshest seafood and produce this side of the equator.
9. *Becky’s Recommendation: Bamboo Sushi Club
There’s space for excellence in fine dining in Tamarindo. Case in point: Bamboo Sushi Club, offering a unique experience that blends the best sushi in town with the world’s highest quality fish, both locally sourced and imported. Their attention to detail and insistence on fine service are reflected both in their excellent plating and exceptionally professional staff. A particular favorite on a warm summer night! Phone: 2653-4519
10. *Becky’s Recommendation: Pangas Restaurant
A Tamarindo gem and one of the world’s best dinner backdrops, Pangas is known for its oceanfront location, where the river meets the sea. You can dine outside or in; we love the second-level covered dining – the best of both worlds, especially during a cool evening shower. Pangas serves award-worth seafood, local and international cuisine, with a full menu of great drinks. Reservations suggested. Phone: 2653-0024
A new beachfront bar and restaurant, agua|salada serves both drinks and eats as Instagram-worthy as they are delicious. With a focus on crisp flavors and ultra-fresh ingredients – we’re looking at you, ají ceviche and crispy fried snapper! – and an affinity for tropical fruit cocktails and inventive desserts, this eatery easily ascends to new favorite spot for enjoying a Tamarindo sunset with your feet in the sand. Phone: 8849-1111
We love Dragonfly for both its food and ambiance: outdoor seating, low-lit dining, and a garden setting. It’s the perfect foil for good food, pulled from an eclectic Asian fusion menu. Phone: 2653-1506
13. La Palapa
A perfect spot to enjoy the sunset or dine with your toes in the sand, La Palapa has found a way to perfectly blend a casual atmosphere with fine dining: lobster thermidor and shrimp curry, Cajun-blackened tuna and a seafood lover’s surf & surf. Pair that with a great selection of international wines and other alcohol, and you have a recipe for a memorable meal. Phone; 2653-0362
14. Longboard Grill
Stow your own longboard before heading to one of our favorite dinner spots: Longboard Grill, serving real smoked BBQ around huge flat-screen TVs playing your favorite games. The nightly specials usually sell out by 7 or 8 p.m., so don’t be late! But if you are, don’t worry – the fish tacos are such a close second, that it’s nearly a photo finish. Phone: 2653-0027
There’s no ambiance more ambient than oceanfront at Nogui’s! This is not only the spot for a wonderful Pacific-view meal – surf ‘n’ turf, ahi poke, or whole lobster, anyone? – but also for one of our favorite desserts in Tamarindo: PIE! We’re talking classics like banana cream, coconut cream, and chocolate cream, paired with tropical interpretations including pineapple pie and passion fruit pie. Enjoy! Phone: 2653-0029
A classic choice and one of our guests’ favorite Tamarindo restaurants, Las Baulas makes great pizza in a great location. Families head here for the casual atmosphere and onsite playground, while parents return (frequently) because of the excellent pizza and fair prices. Phone: 2653-1450
If your palate demands a steak, then reserve a night to visit Patagonia. Rooted in the finest Argentinean tradition, this local favorite is known for its relaxed atmosphere, excellent food, and good energy. Seating is based on a first-come, first-serve basis. Phone: 2653-0612
18. Jonny Tamarindo
Located on the main strip, Jonny Tamarindo sits directly beachfront, where it unites a few of the world’s favorite cuisines. Here, you’ll find the best of Key West, combined with flavors from Chicago, French tastes, and Latino cuisine for good measure. And, did we mention? They offer Happy Hour, twice a day! Phone: 2653-2222
A Tamarindo favorite and the oldest restaurant in town – established in 2000 and long under the same expert administration – Wok N Roll gets a nod not only for its punny name, but as the only Tama eatery to serve authentic Asian cuisine: Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Mongolian, plus incredible fusion sushi. And during high season, check out their oyster tank (the only one in town)! As they say, this is the place “where wok stars and sushi groupies get together”… Phone: 2653-0156 / WhatsApp: 8893-2736
20. El Vaquero Bar
An easy favorite and one of the Tamarindo restaurants latest to close (midnight), El Vaquero serves up the best of “cowboy” cuisine, including pulled-pork sandwiches, savory jalapeño poppers, cowboy steaks, BBQ ribs, and gourmet burgers – and that’s just to name a few. Be sure to request (off menu) their famous nachos! Phone: 2653-1262
Tamarindo Restaurants for… Adventurous Vegetarians & Vegans
Plant-based diners of the world, we hear you! We are you. And you’ll be happy to know, we’re already well-fed at many of the Tamarindo restaurants we mentioned above. Indeed, you can find several vegetarian and vegan options at almost any (almost) eatery in Tamarindo.
That said, sometimes you’d prefer a little more variety. A bit more creativity. And for those times, we’ll hungrily point you in the direction of these four vegetarian-friendly restaurants: gastronomical gems that pull their inspiration from world cuisines and Costa Rica’s most colorful, rich, and wonderful fruits and vegetables.
21. *Becky’s Recommendation: Green Papaya Taco Bar
It’s not often that a taco bar pulls off great organic and vegetarian cuisine, but Green Papaya not only does it, but excels at it. Swing on up to the bar or pull up a tree-stump stool to enjoy anything from cream-cheese tortilla roll-ups and egg salad with avocado to stir-fried veggie burritos and chips ‘n’ dip. Phone: 2653-0863
22. La Pachanga
When in doubt, head to a pasta joint, right? Well, yes, but don’t let that deter you from sampling the excellent goods at La Pachanga, where the handmade pasta, ravioli, and pizza absolutely shines. Your options are many. Phone: 8347-7001
When you’re looking for a quick refresher or an easy refuel, head in the direction of Mandarina. This smoothie & juice bar sits oceanfront and serves up the kind of naturally vegetarian, fruitfully colorful fare you’ll love. It’s the perfect respite on a hot beach day! Phone: 2653-2911
A restaurant, bar, and café, Rumors is not just a great choice for vegetarians, but one of the few Tamarindo restaurants with air-conditioned inside seating. Featuring international cuisine, this local favorite fills vegetarian and vegan cravings with vegan poke bowls and bean quesadillas, house guacamole and portobello burgers, vegan black bean burgers and portobello risotto. Phone: 2653-2641
We hope we’ve whet your appetite! Now that you’ve perused our list and marked down your favorites, we hope you won’t be shy.
Get in touch and we’ll be happy to point you in just the right direction of whatever it is you’re looking for. Or, we can just make a recommendation for a must-try dish or after-hours drink. Because we’re foodies, too.