Located in the resort section of Playa Panama, in the center of the Gulf of Papagayo, Abbocato is a restaurant that itself feels like a resort. Abbocato sits on a hill and features a formal dining room with a large terrace and swimming pool that looks out to million-dollar views of the bay (definitely come for sunset dining). But the food is worth the trip too, as it's not only refined but interesting as well. The chef, Andrea, is from Italy and offers four-course meals every night, switching between Mediterranean and Asian themes. You can even come for a cooking class and learn the culinary techniques of a wide variety of cuisines including Indian, Thai, Japanese, and of course local Costa Rican.
Be warned that if you come to Ginger in Playa Hermosa, you may fall in love with this unique restaurant concept and eat nowhere else during your stay. Tapas-style small plates with an Asian-fusion twist are the name of the game here: noodle salads, pork lettuce wraps, Asian beef tacos, samosas, and a lot more. There's no shortage of to-die-for desserts—try the decadent pavlova, chocolate torte, or peanut butter banana parfait. Elegant decor and patio seating further establish Ginger as a nice place to splurge on excellent al fresco dining.
Father Rooster Beachfront Bar & Grill
With a name like Father Rooster, you can bet you're in for a fun dining experience. The place, located right on the beach in Playa Ocotal (about a mile south of the main beach hub of Playas del Coco) definitely has the party vibe down with its colorful hanging lanterns, friendly service, live music, and seating right on the sand. They offer cantina staples like chips and guacamole, quesadillas, baskets of chicken fingers and fries, and of course, plenty of luscious tropical cocktails.
Expect fresh seafood in the form of ceviche, grilled snapper, fish tacos, and various salads and wraps—all best enjoyed with a view of the sunset. Vegetarians won't leave hungry here either, especially if they opt for the patacones (fried plantains) and portobello burger, which is as meaty as a meatless burger gets. When dining outside, keep a lookout for howler monkeys hanging around in the nearby trees.
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La Casita del Marisco
La Casita del Marisco, which translates to "the little house of seafood," is exactly that. It's a humble little place that occupies prime beachfront real estate in Playa Hermosa, making for unforgettable sunset dining. All the fish is fresh here, and the highlights include lobster platters, fried red snapper, grilled tuna in ginger sauce, and even New Orleans-style jumbo shrimp and etouffee. They also do a garlic seafood platter that's overflowing with delicious shellfish, paired nicely with something from their cocktail menu—we like the mojito and daiquiri.
La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita, located in Playas del Coco, is a solid pizza spot with an amiable expat Italian owner. Done up like a Mediterranean villa, the tiled courtyard tables are where it's at—pull up a seat next to the glimmering pool. Once you've staked out your dining area, you can feast on a number of standout dishes like handmade pasta, thin-crust pizza, grilled seafood, and lots of salads and vegetarian options. The Italian wine list is great, and desserts include a legit tiramisu. And the old-world, romantic ambiance at La Dolce Vita is only made better by live music every Monday and Friday night.
Le COQ Lebanese Health Food
If you're looking for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner, head to Playas del Coco and visit Le COQ. Located a block from the beach, this tiny eatery is run by a couple of friendly Canadians out of an unassuming window facing the street. It may not be fine dining, but what it does offer are large portions of good, inexpensive Lebanese cuisine. The chicken shawarma is a go-to, and they also do kafta and a number of tasty wraps. Vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu items abound, like falafel with spicy salsa, hummus, and various salads. The owners will even substitute ingredients to accommodate food allergies. Save room for dessert—the baklava is worth cheating on your diet for.
Santorini Greek Restaurant
This is another option in Playas del Coco, with a more comprehensive menu than the name might indicate. Obviously, Santorini Greek Restaurant offers staples like moussaka, calamari, and gyros, but the menu departs from the Mediterranean and does a bit of globetrotting. Everything from chipotle burgers to Cobb salads and pizza can be found, along with a great big breakfast selection. Perhaps go for the tall pancake stack, or a classic omelet (or both). More of a red meat person? Heads up: there's a tenderloin steak special every Friday night.
Zi Lounge is a popular sports bar on the main drag of Playas del Coco, which boasts something of a night-club vibe (lots of classic rock, lots of dancing). It's set around an outdoor bar, great for al fresco dining and merrymaking. The menu consists of hearty pub fare like fish tacos, burgers, wings, big salads, etc. However, if you're coming for lunch or dinner and you like Italian-American comfort food, forgo the menu and order the delicious chicken parm—it's justifiably famous. Inveterate partiers will have one more solid reason to hit up Zi Lounge: they have the longest happy hour in town, with live music every night.