10 BEST Restaurants in Monteverde, Costa Rica (Santa Elena)

In Santa Elena, you can indulge in various dining options suited to your tastes. For fine dining, you can visit the San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience and Restaurante Celajes at Hotel Belmar. Restaurante De Lucía, Farm to Table Escondido, and The Green Restaurant are great choices if you’re looking for something mid-range. For more budget-friendly meals, Soda La Amistad Monteverde and Restaurante Sabor Tico offer delicious and affordable options.

One of my favorite aspects of Santa Elena is its diverse culinary scene. Whether you’re looking for fine dining or just a quick bite, you’ll find plenty of options. During a family trip to Monteverde last year, we explored some of the best dining spots in Santa Elena. I’ve put together a list of top restaurant recommendations to ensure you have a fantastic culinary experience there.

Key Takeaways

  • The San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience is the best fine dining restaurant. However, it’s better suited for couples dinners than family meals.
  • Restaurante De Lucía and El Sapo Restaurant & Bar are the best mid-range restaurants for family dining. They both offer meal choices that the entire family can enjoy.
  • La Soda Coati is the best overall budget-friendly restaurant. During our trip to Monteverde, I saved a lot of money by eating here.

In the rest of this article, I’ll outline the 10 best restaurants in Santa Elena, Monteverde, covering everything from fine dining establishments to more budget-friendly options. I’ll detail the cuisines they offer and share my personal experiences with each. Let’s dive in.

Fine-dining restaurants

San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience

Location: Contact: Chira Glamping Hotel, 60109 Costa Rica

Price range: $170–$250

Cuisines: Contemporary, Fusion, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian-Friendly, Gluten-Free Options

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San Lucas offers an exclusive fine dining experience featuring a contemporary fusion of Central American and Costa Rican cuisines with vegetarian and gluten-free options. It’s atop the trees and has only eight tables, each on a private deck platform offering breathtaking views of downtown Monteverde. Personalized touches like name tags and reservations enhance the romantic ambiance of this restaurant.

During our visit, an attentive waiter guided us through a culinary journey, sharing insights into the history, culture, and regional flavors before serving a nine-course tasting menu. The stunning treetop backdrop perfectly framed each beautifully crafted dish. For an added experience, we tried the wine and cocktail pairings, which were excellent. I recommend booking the 5 p.m. seating to enjoy the sunset.

San Lucas designs the dining experience to be intimate and romantic, enclosing each table in a glass cube to protect diners from unpredictable weather while maintaining the feeling of dining among the treetops.

Despite the great food and presentation, there were some downsides. For one, there were 

lengthy waits between courses. The kid’s menu was also less impressive. Highlights included the culinary presentations, particularly the sea bass tiradito and lobster, and the unique presentation of the desserts in a wooden box.

The meals and drinks are quite pricey, which is what you would expect from a fine dining restaurant, so there are no complaints. 

However, it’s worth noting that San Lucas might be more suited for couples or adults than families with young children.

What I liked:

  • The personalized attention and romantic setting.
  • The meal’s educational aspect.
  • The location is beautiful and unique.

What I didn’t like:

  • Long waits between courses.
  • The children’s menu didn’t impress.
  • The restaurant is not suitable for a family dining experience.

Restaurante Celajes at Hotel Belmar

Location: 300 m NW of the gas station, 17-5655 Costa Rica

Cuisines: Bar, International, Healthy, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options

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This restaurant offers a diverse menu that includes bar, international, healthy, Central American, and Costa Rican cuisine, catering to vegetarian and vegan preferences.

Reservations are required, and the restaurant provides a range of amenities, including outdoor and indoor seating, ample parking with validation, wheelchair access, highchairs, alcohol service, a full bar, and free WiFi. Payment options include major credit cards like American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, ensuring convenience for diners.

You can expect a phenomenal dining experience with the option to dine on a beautiful patio. 

We dined at Celajes on our first night in Monteverde, enjoying a fabulous sunset dinner on the outdoor patio. The experience was exceptional, with some of the best food and service in Costa Rica. We arrived at 5:30 p.m. to savor drinks and the panoramic views. The vibrant sunset lasted 45 minutes, complementing our professionally prepared and delicious meal. 

Our entrees, ribs, and sea bass were very good, but the standout was the vegetable antipasto starter. My husband enjoyed a Tico Tonic cocktail while I had one of the in-house craft beers; both were excellent. The quality of the food, drinks, and stunning views brought us back the following night. We took advantage of “Tico Time,” their happy hour from 4:30–5:30 PM, which includes discounts on wine, non-craft beers, and specialty cocktails served with a small snack. 

We secured a balcony table at 4:30, enjoyed happy hour, watched the sunset, and later ordered a slightly less expensive dining option from the bar menu. The wait staff and bartender were gracious and attentive, creating a relaxed atmosphere without feeling rushed, though the prices were steep. However, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality.

The restaurant offers an excellent selection for vegetarians and vegans; we tried the brilliant curry de vegetables. Every aspect of our meal was perfect, from the artisanal cocktails with fresh flowers to the excellent bread with herbed butter and a fresh, flavorful Caesar salad with chicken. 

However, we faced significant delays with our food order the second time we visited. This led to a disappointing interaction with their waitress, who neglected to resolve an issue with missing entrees and just walked away.

The meal was average. We found dishes like the local fish on cauliflower purée to be underseasoned, and despite the higher price point of around $30 each, we received small portions of other entrées like the tortellini. Additionally, the brownies were delicious, but the accompanying ice cream did not meet the same standard. We did, however, enjoy the flan.

What I liked:

  • The sunset dinner on the patio was fabulous.
  • The drinks—the Tico Tonic cocktail and the craft beer—were great.
  • I appreciated the variety of vegetarian and vegan options available.

What I didn’t like:

  • The service and food were disappointing the second time we visited.

Laggus

Location: El Establo Hotel, 549-2050, Costa Rica

Cuisines: South American, Costa Rican

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Laggus, located on the grounds of the El Establo Hotel, offers South American and Costa Rican cuisine with a scenic view overlooking a picturesque lake and walking paths. The restaurant features a diverse menu, including grilled items, and a commendable wine list. 

Brightly colored tablecloths, fine china, and good glassware complement the restaurant’s ambiance. I started with potato leek soup, followed by an Argentinian-style steak with yucca fries, vegetables, and chimichurri sauce, and finished with chocolate crepes.

My husband enjoyed a grilled shrimp appetizer with artichokes, prosciutto, and eggplant Parmesan for his main course. I had a breaded chicken breast in lemon sauce with a mango-marmalade chutney. 

Despite the overall pleasant environment and good food quality, the service fell short of expectations for a premium dining experience. The wait staff appears to lack proper training. Minor mishaps like wine dribbling when poured and neglect in service, such as forgetting requests, detracted from the experience, making it feel average.

What I liked:

  • The restaurant has a beautiful lake view.
  • The menu offers a variety of delicious dishes.
  • The wine list is commendable.
  • The atmosphere is quiet and relaxing.

What I didn’t like:

  • The service did not meet premium expectations.
  • Staff occasionally forget requests and fail to check in with us.

Mid-range Restaurants

Restaurante de Lucía 

Location: 125m Sur Del Hotel Heliconia Frente a Monteverde Country Lodge, 5-5655 Costa Rica

Cuisines: Latin, International, Spanish, Grill, South American, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options

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Restaurante De Lucia is conveniently located near several popular hotels, including Hotel El Establo and Hotel Cala Lodge. It offers a variety of cuisines, including Latin, International, Spanish, Grill, South American, Central American, and Costa Rican, along with vegetarian and vegan options. This makes it a great choice for romantic dinners and fun evenings with family and friends.

We decided to eat here on our second night during our stay at Cala Lodge. The owner was very welcoming, and the margaritas were delicious. Although the menu choices were somewhat limited, the food was tasty. We didn’t need to make a reservation because tables were readily available and parking was convenient.

The first thing you’ll notice at Restaurante De Lucia is the beautiful natural cedar flooring that fills the room with a soft, delightful aroma. You may also want to try one of Costa Rica’s best guaro sours. I recommend trying the homemade chicken soup and the beef tenderloin, prepared with pride and care.

You’ll find the ambiance pleasant, especially when the place is buzzing with energy. I particularly enjoyed my filet mignon. My husband thought his chicken lasagne was more than satisfactory. However, you should exercise caution when preparing the vegetable lasagna, as I found it to be slightly warm on the edges but cold in the middle, possibly due to hasty microwave heating.

While the wine list is acceptable and the main courses generally impress, the desserts might disappoint. For instance, the panna cotta I tried deviated from the traditional recipe, resembling something made with semolina rather than baked cream, and was served with an unappealing chocolate sauce.

Despite these issues, the background music creates an extremely pleasant atmosphere and excellent service. 

The happy hour cocktails are also worth trying. However, you might find the restaurant caters predominantly to tourists, with prices in dollars and pictures of dishes on the menu, making it feel overpriced. 

What I liked:

  • The restaurant’s location is convenient, close to several hotels.
  • The natural cedar flooring added a delightful aroma to the dining atmosphere.
  • The preparation of the main dishes, such as the beef tenderloin and filet mignon, was excellent.
  • The service was excellent, creating a welcoming environment.

What I didn’t like:

  • The menu choices were somewhat limited.
  • The vegetable lasagna was poorly heated.
  • The restaurant was tailored primarily to tourists, with prices listed in dollars, making it feel somewhat overpriced.

Farm to Table Escondido

Location: 50 meters south of the Monteverde Butterfly Garden, Santa Elena 60109, Costa Rica

Cuisines: pizza, contemporary, healthy, Costa Rican, vegetarian-friendly, vegan options

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If you’re looking for a place with a spectacular view and a passion for sustainability, this restaurant next to a nature reserve might be your next favorite spot. They offer a wide range of drinks, including alcohol, beer, cocktails, coffee, and happy-hour specials, as well as an emphasis on organic, vegan, and vegetarian options. The highlight for many is their farm-to-table approach, ensuring the ingredients are as fresh as possible.

When you visit, you must try their pizza with ajote; it’s amazing. And if you’re into lighter fare, their small plates are perfect. However, come early to explore the nature reserve, walk the trails, or visit their organic farm and butterfly garden.

The service and dining experience are somewhat inconsistent. While the ambiance and decor are top-notch, and the prices are reasonable, service can be slow and sometimes neglectful. On one visit, the dough was perfect, but the vegetables on my veggie pizza were undercooked and lacking in flavor. It’s also worth noting that you should double-check your bill for any discrepancies, as I’ve had to correct charges for items that were supposed to be complimentary.

Despite these issues, the place is charming, especially if you can catch the sunset from their field or the second-floor drinking area. 

What I liked:

  • I was captivated by the spectacular view and the beautiful nature reserve setting.
  • farm-to-table concept with fresh, organic ingredients.
  • There is an option to have vegan and gluten-free dishes.
  • The charming ambiance and decor.
  • The focus is on sustainability and the opportunity to visit the organic farm.

What I didn’t like:

  • The service was sometimes slow and neglectful.
  • The food quality is inconsistent, especially when it comes to the undercooked vegetables on the veggie pizza.
  • Issues with billing, including being overcharged.

El Sapo Restaurant & Bar 

Location: 250m north of the BCR in the Cerro Plano Senda Monteverde Hotel, 61201 Costa Rica

Cuisines: Grill, Contemporary, Healthy, Gastropub, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options

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You’ll find this restaurant 250 meters north of the BCR in Cerro Plano at the Senda Monteverde Hotel, Costa Rica. This restaurant offers a blend of Grill, Contemporary, Healthy, Gastropub, Central American, and Costa Rican cuisines. It is also vegetarian-friendly and provides vegan and gluten-free options.

My husband, our 5-year-old granddaughter, and I had a wonderful experience here. One of the staff members made the evening special for our granddaughter by providing s’mores that she could make by an indoor fireplace. From the moment we arrived, the staff greeted us in the parking lot, guided us to our table, and introduced us to the evening’s staff.

The restaurant perfectly cooked the food, from the pasta dishes to the cocktails, using fresh ingredients. The restaurant pays close attention to dietary restrictions and allergies, ensuring a gourmet experience for both breakfast and dinner. The service was swift and accommodating, the wine selection and entrée choices were superb, and even my meat-loving husband was impressed with the veggie burger. 

However, the portions were notably small, given the higher prices. The restaurant and hotel’s decor was beautiful but a bit too stark for my taste, and the seating was slightly uncomfortable because the chairs were too low for the tables, though we managed to add cushions from other chairs.

What I liked:

  • The service was exceptional from the moment we arrived.
  • The food, including pasta dishes and cocktails, was delicious and made with fresh ingredients.
  • They paid close attention to dietary needs, ensuring a gourmet experience.
  • The views of the cloud forests and sunsets were stunning.
  • It’s a family-friendly restaurant.

What I didn’t like:

  • The portions were small, given the higher prices.
  • The decor was a bit too stark for my taste.
  • The chairs were too low for the tables, so the seating was uncomfortable.

The Green Restaurant

Location: Plaza Monteverde, Local #31, 2nd Floor. The only entrance is on the second floor (60109 Costa Rica).

Cuisines: International, Fusion, Healthy, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options

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The Green Restaurant, located on the second floor of a small shopping mall, offers a menu that blends international, fusion, healthy, and Costa Rican cuisines with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Among other establishments, it’s a cozy spot that might be a little hard to find due to its tucked-away location.

After a night’s walk, we had a fantastic time here. The service was cheerful and excellent throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed the filet steak with gorgonzola cheese sauce, cooked medium-rare to perfection, and a delectable tuna dish accompanied by smashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. On a nice evening, the outdoor seating was an excellent choice, complemented by quick service and delicious and well-presented meals. My husband and I were impressed by the side dishes, which included French fries and vegetables with the rib eye and salad, as well as sautéed potatoes with the tuna. Compared to a less impressive meal at our hotel the previous night, the glass of Malbec significantly enhanced our dining experience.

However, the interior felt more akin to a fast food place than a restaurant, lacking character, which was somewhat disappointing. Also, the service, while friendly, was quite slow; I had to request my check at the register after a 20-minute wait. Despite these issues, the homemade feel of the food and the overall quality make it a place I’d recommend, especially if you reserve a table in advance to avoid turning away.

What I liked:

  • The filet steak with gorgonzola cheese sauce was outstanding.
  • The service was cheerful and excellent.
  • Outdoor seating was available, perfect for a nice evening.
  • The glass of Malbec we received improved our dining experience.

What I didn’t like:

  • The restaurant was hard to find, tucked away on the second floor among other establishments.
  • The interior felt more like a fast food place and lacked character.
  • The service was very slow; I had to get up and request my check after a long wait.
  • To prevent turning away, it was necessary to reserve a table in advance.

Budget-friendly Restaurants

Soda La Amistad Monteverde

Location: Southwest from Supercompro 300, walk down the street past the church at the T-intersection. Turn right toward the Super Compro Supermarket as the road curves left, walk down the concrete steps to the dirt road below, turn left, and walk up the hill 200 meters. Soda La Amistad will be on your left. Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Cuisines: Latin, Healthy, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options

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You can find Soda La Amistad in Santa Elena, Costa Rica by walking southwest from Supercompro, passing the church, and following the road towards the supermarket. At the T-intersection, you turn right, continue as the road curves left, descend some concrete steps, follow the dirt road below, turn left, and walk up the hill for 200 meters.

This quaint restaurant specializes in Latin, healthy, Central American, and Costa Rican cuisine, offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. It’s one of the most affordable restaurants and a fantastic spot to enjoy local foods such as tortilla soup, quesadillas, and notably large and tasty empanadas. The empanada crust, in particular, is crunchy outside and fluffy inside, making it standout. 

Local and international patrons frequent the casual atmosphere with simple decor, creating a lively dining experience. Vegetarian options are readily available.

However, there are a few downsides: the menu options are somewhat limited, and the restaurant only accepts cash payments. Additionally, while the prices are generally reasonable, the casados are more expensive than at other local spots.

Despite these issues, the friendly staff and genuine local dining experience make it a recommended visit for those looking for traditional Costa Rican food.

What I liked:

  • The food was reasonably priced and delicious, especially the tortilla soup, quesadillas, and empanadas.
  • The casual decor and lively atmosphere were enjoyable, enhanced by a mix of local and international patrons.
  • The staff was friendly and accommodating, even with dietary restrictions like vegetarianism.

What I didn’t like:

  • The menu options were limited.
  • They only accepted cash, which was inconvenient.
  • The casados were more expensive compared to other places.

Restaurante Sabor Tico

Location: Segunda Planta del Centro Comercial Monteverde Shopping Center, Santa Elena, Costa Rica.

Cuisines: Latin, Central American, Costa Rican, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options

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This restaurant offers an inviting mix of Latin, Central American, and Costa Rican dishes with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

You’ll appreciate the generous portions and fair prices, which are ideal if you love hearty meals. The casados are particularly impressive, with a substantial serving of maduro (plantains) rather than just a small piece. The restaurant is located on the second floor and offers stunning sunset views from the outdoor patio. 

The cozy ambiance, accented with traditional Costa Rican décor and the live soccer game playing on TV, added to the vibrant atmosphere when we visited this restaurant.

They prioritize safety and cleanliness, which made me feel secure, especially as they carefully accommodated my seafood allergies. Generally, the service is quite attentive, although there was a notable delay during our second visit.

The broad menu features standout dishes like the grilled fish casado and corn tamal, which are filling and satisfying. The fresh pineapple frozen fruit drink was particularly popular with the kids.

However, there was a drawback; unfortunately, the chicken dish was dry and lacked enough sauce, making it difficult to enjoy. Despite this issue, the overall atmosphere, portion size, and value still make this restaurant a great choice.

What I liked:

  • The portions were very big and well priced.
  • They handled my seafood allergies carefully, making me feel safe.
  • The ambiance was cozy and enjoyable, especially with a soccer game playing.
  • Dining at sunset provided great views from the second-floor location.
  • The restaurant had a clean environment and very attentive service.

What I didn’t like:

  • On the second night, the service moved very slowly, almost as if we had forgotten.
  • The chicken dish was dry and lacked enough sauce, making it tough to eat.

Rest. La Soda Coati 

Location: Santa Elena, 5655-080, Costa Rica

Cuisines: Italian, Latin, fast food, Central American, Costa Rican

Vegetarian-Friendly, Vegan Options

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If you’re looking for a place in Monteverde that’s great for saving money without skimping on quality, Coati Restaurant is a top choice. It’s conveniently located in the heart of Santa Elena, making it easily accessible on foot from any downtown hostel. They offer a diverse menu that includes Italian, Latin, fast food, Central American, and Costa Rican dishes, complete with vegetarian and vegan options.

You’ll find the ambiance welcoming and the service friendly when you visit. Even on a busy night, they served the vegetarian spaghetti and a simple casado promptly. Try the omelette with ham, cheese, and salsa if you want something hearty.

The restaurant offers traditional Costa Rican meals and adds international twists. The panoramic views of the cloud forest add to the serene atmosphere, making your dining experience at Coati truly enjoyable. If you’re in the mood for a casual, affordable meal with fast service, this is the place for you.

What I liked:

  • The restaurant is conveniently located in the heart of Santa Elena and easily accessible by foot.
  • The ambiance was welcoming, and the service was friendly.
  • Even on busy nights, the food arrived promptly.
  • The panoramic views of the cloud forest created a serene atmosphere.

What I didn’t like:

  • There wasn’t anything specific that I didn’t like during my visit.

Wrapping Up

Monteverde, Costa Rica, particularly the charming town of Santa Elena, offers a delightful array of dining options that cater to diverse tastes and preferences. From traditional Costa Rican casados to innovative international cuisine, each restaurant brings its own unique culinary offering. 

Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty, budget-friendly meal or looking to indulge in a gourmet experience, Monteverde’s top 10 restaurants provide something for your preference and budget.

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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