Manuel Antonio is one of the most-visited towns in Costa Rica, and for good reasons. Not only does it house some of the top beaches in the world, unique wildlife, and some of the happiest people, but it also has some of the best restaurants Costa Rica has to offer.
From breathtaking beachfront views to neighborhood digs, Manuel Antonio restaurants have a knack for local flavor. After visiting here for a month and now living here for longer, we have developed a love for some fantastic local establishments that tickle our taste buds. Here’s a list of our five favorite local spots to feast, relax and take in some unparalleled views, and sip on some spectacular Costa Rica coffee.
Best coffee and breakfast
Located in the heart of Manuel Antonio, Cafe Milagro not only brews their own coffee (both light roast and dark roast) but they have an impeccable menu serving all-day food with a tropical twist. This colorful and comfortable restaurant is a haven for people who work on their computers and has several different areas to sit down and enjoy a cup of joe. They have plush outdoor couches, roadside people-watching views, and for a more private and intimate dining experience, a covered back patio. Whether you would like a full-blown Tico breakfast or a personal french press coffee while reading a good book, this is your spot. Their nightly light-up decor and live dining music makes this establishment stand out on the main stretch. When you head out full-bellied from Cafe Milagro, don’t forget to check out their quaint gift shop full of Costa Rican antiques, packaged Milagro coffee, and unique trinkets for your friends and family back home. And in the mango season, they offer free mangoes on your way out. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Mango crepes with blackberry drizzle
Personal french-pressed coffee
Traditional omelet with side potatoes and homemade bread
Best typical food with a view
Easily located on the main road through town, Salsipuedes holds the spot for best typical Costa Rican food. Whether its desayuno (breakfast), lunch or dinner, their fresh food with a view should not be passed up. Almost everywhere in Costa Rican serves typical Costa Rican-style breakfast but there’s something magical about the way Salsipuedes fries their plantains. No seriously. As a self-proclaimed plantain connoisseur, I can attest to the deliciousness. Their portion sizes are so large that you can split a meal into two portions or you will most likely have leftovers. Food aside, Salsipuedes has one of the best views for a Costa Rican sunset. I am completely in awe at the beauty every time I enter the restaurant from the side entrance. Noted by visitors as the best restaurant to watch the Costa Rican sunset, I have yet to find a better view while enjoying my dinner.
Typical food at Salisipuedes
Best late night eatery
If you’re looking for local dining that has a plethora of burritos and traditional Costa Rican food, this is your spot. From the moment you step into the open-air restaurant you are greeted with smiles from the owners, which from the jump makes this local neighborhood restaurant welcoming. Located on a side street next to a tiny supermarket, this isn’t your typical touristy dining experience. With over 15 different types of burritos accompanied by fresh salad and homemade plantain and yucca chips, you will never leave unsatisfied. Even though burritos are their speciality, they also have a menu full of traditional plates such as olla de carne (meat and vegetable soup: pictured below), casado (typical Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, beans, salad, plantains and your choice of meat) and some favorites like nachos and quesadillas. All restaurant’s kitchens in our town close at 9:30 PM but not Express Burrito, they are open until midnight and deliver all over Manuel Antonio and even surrounding towns. These owners don’t only stick to restaurant cuisine, they also dry their own delicious fruit and hand-package each batch. These incredible take-aways are packed with dried mangoes, bananas, watermelon, strawberries, and pineapples. Once you bite into your first tangy fruit, you can’t help but finish the entire pouch.
Olla de carne (Costa Rican vegetable and beef soup)
One of the many burritos
Beautifully-packaged dried fruit
Best dessert with a view
This brightly-colored and uniquely decorated Mediterranean restaurant with a beautiful panoramic ocean view is located right off of the main drag. The coffee is strong, the pastries are plentiful, and the cuisine is healthy. Emilio’s is a great place to relax and unwind after a day at the beach or to fill your belly before heading out for an adventurous day. Our favorites are the traditional eggs Benedict and melt-in-your-mouth French toast for breakfast and the homemade Falafel sandwich for lunch. If I could skip dinner every night for a piece of their decadent peanut butter mousse pie, I would. It’s just THAT good. Their glass counter display has over 10 different homemade desserts, something for everyone with a sweet tooth. If you don’t have time to have a meal here, don’t pass up a quick stop to Emilio’s for a cup of coffee and a dessert before you head to bed.
Best hidden gem
This gem tucked away on a windy road just before the peak of Manuel Antonio settled on a 90-acre farm with stunning views, is a classic spot for all types of guests. Known for its American cuisine with a touch Costa Rican flare makes Ronny’s Place a must-try for an first-time visitor. Speaking of first times, I was blown away at the amount of character this establishment boosted. On my first trip to Ronny’s, I met the Ronny, who made himself available on the spot to chat for as long as I’d liked. There is something special about a man who wants to discuss his love for his restaurant, it’s location, and his passion for his customers and all things Costa Rica. It’s romantic lighting coupled with a fun, enthusiastic crowd, sets Ronny’s in a different category than the rest. Our favorites include the vegetable soup, the coconut shrimp with mango salsa, and any fish dish on the menu. Their extensive drink menu makes it hard to choose your first drink but when you spot someone sucking on their signature coconut concoction, it’s an instant must-have. Served in a hollowed-out coconut, it is just as delicious as it looks. Plus holding a coconut alcoholic beverage instantly ups your coolness factor.
Lastly, make sure you ask for the banana flambé dessert, trust me. I’ll leave the surprise for you!
Cocktails at Ronny’s Place
Note: These restaurants are not in any specific order, our love for them is equally divided.