Monteverde's rare cloud forest ecosystem sits high above sea level in the mountains of Costa Rica. Your base for excursions will be Santa Elena, a relatively quiet mountain village that welcomes travelers to the area's multiple nature reserves. Here you'll find a good array of restaurants, from mom-and-pop shops serving reliable local fare to Italian spots known for wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta.

Hotel Belmar

Orange-scented dorado with carrot and ginger pure, at Celajes (photo courtesy of Hotel Belmar)

If you're looking for a one-stop shop for all your dining and drinking needs, this luxury hotel has a restaurant, cocktail lounge, and craft brewery on site. The restaurant at the Belmar is Celajes, which has balconies looking out all the way to the Pacific. The menu is a list of refined plates that include beef carpaccio, smoked trout salad, pork ribs in tamarind sauce, grilled octopus, and more. Most ingredients are grown on site—even the cocktails at the hotel bar utilize fresh and seasonal ingredients.

But the real star here is the property's organic farm. Here they grow all manner of vegetables and herbs, going beyond broccoli and cilantro and rounding out the list with aloe and lavender. They even have a section of shaded garden set aside to grow their own coffee beans. Belmar also offers daily tours of the farm so guests can get a glimpse of the operation up close. 

Morphos

A relaxed and funky vibe at morphos (photo courtesy of Morphos)

Located about 50 meters from the Banco Nacional, Restaurante Morphos is in a funky building, with exterior walls covered with painted images of the famous blue morpho butterfly. The menu features Costa Rican specialties like sopa de mariscos (seafood soup), casados (a typical dish of beans, rice, fried plantains and choice of meat), and arroz con pollo (rice mixed with chicken). More international fare includes items like burgers, pasta, sweet and sour pork, and sea bass cooked with pineapple, mango, and white wine.

The drinks list includes a standard variety of red and white wines, as well as plenty of batidos (fresh fruit smoothies). For dessert, try the coconut flan or the decadent tres leches cake. This eatery is a smash hit with locals and tourists alike, open daily with live music every Monday evening.

Orchid Coffee

Dig into some waffles at Orchid Coffee (photo courtesy of Orchid Coffee)

Orchid Coffee has a few locations throughout the country, with one right next to the famous Orchid Garden in Monteverde. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's got a homey feel inside as well as a nice terrace. Orchid bills itself as a coffee shop but you'll find a creative menu of diverse offerings including a wide variety of fresh salads, soups, crepes, pitas, and paninis. Its long list of breakfast offerings includes waffles and scrambled eggs with mushrooms and dried tomatoes, pancakes with caramelized bananas, eggs benedict five different ways, and both regular and veggie omelets. On a side note, you won't find better cheesecake in the entire region.

Soda la Salvadita

La Salvadita is a humble eatery that serves delicious food (photo courtesy of Soda la Salvadita)

There are few more authentic Costa Rican experiences than eating at a soda. Sodas are casual eateries (think tropical diners), that are typically family run and offer long menus of Costa Rican staples as well as fresh juices. Soda la Salvadita is no different—this is the place you come when you want to descend on a hearty Costa Rican breakfast dish like gallo pinto, a plate of black beans mixed with rice and served with eggs and fried plantains.  The exterior may be nothing flashy, but don't let that fool you—they do authentic Costa Rican comfort food here, all home cooked and delicious. Also, it might just be the best-value restaurant in Monteverde. 

Tip: stick with the traditional local menu items. If you order a Caesar salad or another dish from outside Costa Rica's borders, it likely won't bear much resemblance to what you're used to at home. 

The Open Kitchen

The mango and shrimp salad at The Open Kitchen (photo courtesy of The Open Kitchen)

The Open Kitchen is a good option for groups because it offers a little something for everyone. Located in an artistic/industrial loftlike space, it bills itself as a "traditional restaurant," and indeed you can find staples like shrimp and mango salad. But The Open Kitchen was started by an Israeli expat, reflected in menu items like falafel, hummus, kebabs—and even fish and chips.

There's a lot of veggie options on the menu as well, including vegan burgers and wraps. And it wouldn't be a Costa Rican restaurant without fresh fruit smoothies. You can expect a few twists with these too, like a banana smoothie with tahini and honey, and the spinach shake with flaxseeds.

The Treehouse Restaurant

A treehouse vibe at The Treehouse Restaurant (photo courtesy of Treehouse Retaurant)

Treehouse Restaurant might win as the most unique eatery in Monteverde. Set in an open space designed around a large strangler fig tree, the hardwood floors and arched beam ceilings here are designed to give it the feeling of, well, a treehouse. The menu includes typical Costa Rican plates like casados, and they do some impressive seafood dishes. You can go big with their enormous platters served on banana leaves in hollowed out tree trunks and piled high with everything under the sun—steaks, ribs, yucca, plantains, and more. The ambiance here is fun, with live music on hand every night of the week. 

Tramonti

A thin-crust pizza at Tramonti (photo courtesy of Tramonti)

For a reliably tasty Italian eatery in Monteverde, you can't beat Tramonti. Located near the cloud forest reserve, they have a solid menu of homemade pasta with a number of sauce options from pesto to bolognese. Their thin-crust pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven, and other staples include lasagna and steak are respectable. Pair your main course with their solid house red, and for dessert, try the tiramisu, along with a zippy cup of fresh espresso. 

For more info on planning a trip to this region, check out our Ultimate Guide to Monteverde.