Since the 1950s, Playa del Coco has grown from a sleepy fishing village to one of the most popular beach towns in Costa Rica.
Affectionately known by locals as ‘El Coco’, the town is now a bustling tourist stop for both Ticos and overseas visitors.
Located on the west coast in the province of Guanacaste, the lively tourist-friendly bar scene attracts young people at the weekends, whilst the quiet safe beach is perfect for swimming for families with children.
The intensely hot days culminate with an almost guaranteed glorious sunset which lights up the horizon as the beach front bars fill with spectators.
The number of condos in the town has rocketed in recent years, alongside the town’s growing popularity as a retirement destination for North Americans.
Unsurprisingly, there are a seemingly endless number of bars and restaurants in this small town, ranging vastly in budget and flavors. Here are some of the best to choose from:
The main street of Playa del Coco is like any popular beach resort – bars, cafes, restaurants and souvenir stores crammed alongside each other vying for the attention of the next passing tourist.
El Capricho is just one of the restaurants you’ll come across on this street. This colorfully decorated Mexican restaurant is well-priced with generous portions.
As well as the usual dishes you’d expect such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas, the Mexican inspired burgers are tasty and filling.
There is often live entertainment in the evenings making this a great place to sit and enjoy a margarita with friends.
Further down the main street heading away from the sea front is Le Coq.
This Lebanese inspired restaurant has more of a casual takeaway vibe with only a handful of outdoor seats.
Nevertheless, in this town where a meal out on a budget is hard to find, the portions are huge and the cost is low.
A main plate including choice of meat, fish or falafel, garlic potatoes, hummus, salad, pitta bread and drink, comes in at around $10. It’s amazing value and good quality food catering to meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
El Ceviche Mancora
Away from the hustle and bustle of the main street, El Ceviche Mancora is a hidden treasure in Playa del Coco.
Located on the road heading towards Ocotal beach, you could easily miss this place altogether. It’s a very small store front with a couple of tables outside, specializing in Peruvian food. Their ceviche – fresh raw fish cured in citrus juice – is unbelievably good.
Other main meals include various types of chicharrones – small fried pieces of seafood such as white fish, shrimp or squid – served with French fries or cassava chips.
Everything on the menu is delicious and there’s always something different to try from the specials list.
Run by friendly Peruvians, this place has a relaxed family vibe and is a great place to unwind and refuel.
Further along the road towards Ocotal, Restaurante Mareas is a small outdoor restaurant serving mainly typical Costa Rican food.
The tables are set amongst a clearing in the trees lit up by hanging fairy lights in the evenings.
If you’re looking to get away from the tourist hotspots and experience something a little more authentically local, this is a great place to enjoy a casado or rice and seafood.
The quiet location away from the main street means the prices are vastly cheaper than you come to expect in the town and it’s definitely worth the extra distance.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘snacks’ list on the menu – the portions are certainly big enough for dinner.
Soda Mar y Tierra
As in any Costa Rican town, family run restaurants serving traditional food are some of the best places to fill your belly at a decent price. In Playa del Coco, the one to look out for is Soda Mar y Tierra.
Off the main road heading towards the popular condominium area of Las Palmas, this small soda is well-known for its olla de carne – a rich Costa Rican beef stew made with potatoes and vegetables such as carrots and corn.
This is a casual, friendly restaurant – near enough to the town center to be convenient but far enough away to enjoy a quiet lunch.
Las Palmas is possibly the most popular condo area in the town for both short and longer-term tourists.
Here, Pueblito Sur is an open courtyard area hosting a number of different restaurants, cafés and bars, all sharing the same outdoor seating space.
The steakhouse Che Sirloin is one of the restaurants found here.
It’s very popular with tourists and comes highly recommended for their service and reasonable prices.
From steaks to hamburgers, this is obviously more suitable for meat lovers, but there are some limited vegetarian options available.
It’s ideal for an evening meal with a group alongside their regular live music events.
A lot of the restaurants are relatively expensive in Playa del Coco but if you’re looking for something special and have a higher budget, The Lookout is definitely worth it.
Having recently found fame on Netflix’s Restaurants on the Edge, this is a seafood and oyster bar located on the top floor of the Hotel Chantel in land from the beach front.
They are apparently the only restaurant in town which stocks live oysters, prepared to your taste. They also encourage special requests as the chef ‘loves a challenge’!
Set high up in the hills, the view is magnificent.
This is a different viewpoint from which to experience the magical sunsets, whilst enjoying a cocktail or local craft beer. Due to its unique setting, reservations are recommended.
There is an overwhelming number of options for places to eat out in Playa del Coco.
Undoubtedly, the quality varies, as does the price. For a small town, you can find many different international cuisines to suit every taste.
These are some of the best restaurants in Playa del Coco where you’ll be sure to enjoy the Tico hospitality and a tasty meal.