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We are spoilt for choice with a glut of good restaurants on the Caribbean coast, but which are the most romantic restaurants?
On honeymoon, or indulging in a romantic getaway, celebrating your anniversary or perhaps dizzily celebrating meeting each other yesterday, you need romantic restaurants with atmosphere, ambience and great food.

For me the most romantic restaurants are quiet, intimate, atmospheric, serve food that is creative and delicious, have good cocktails and fine wine, are lit well (not too much light and not too little) and of course excellent but unobtrusive service.

If these elements are also what you’re looking for in romantic restaurants, then this is your list! In no particular order here are my favourite romantic restaurants on the Caribbean coast:

La Pecora Nera, Cocles:

La Pecora Nera

La Pecora Nera

Justly famous, this Italian restaurant is the place for foodies. Not only one of the most romantic restaurants but also one of the best in Costa Rica. Owner Ilario is a skilled and creative chef who cooks with passion that you can taste. Choose one of his tasting menus ( 4 or 5 small courses) and enchant your taste buds with one surprise after another.  His home-made shrimp and pumpkin ravioli is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. His food is unforgettable, his house wine is perfectly paired and when you team that with sitting in a candle lit rancho in a rainforest garden you have a magical evening in the making.

El Refugio, Punta Uva:

El Refugio

El Refugio

Tiny and intimate, at El Refugio you feel as you’re eating in the middle of the jungle. With a small but assured international menu, the food is consistently good and whether you choose perfectly prepared salmon, a juicy entrana steak or a vegetarian stuffed oven baked pancake, do leave room for the decadent dulce de leche dessert with two spoons. Add Passion fruit cocktails, generous glasses of wine and excellent service and this little gem of a restaurant is one to fall in love with.

La Casita Azul, Cocles:

La Casita Azul

La Casita Azul

Put yourself on the veranda of this pretty Caribbean painted house and share plates of super Spanish tapas with a glass of chilled white wine by candlelight. But save enough room for a paella for two: simply but expertly prepared and full of flavour. Friendly service, romantic (quiet) background music and atmospheric, La Casita Azul has got it right in my romantic restaurants book.  They even present you with little foody surprises — and I do love to be surprised.

Congo Reeff, Puerto Viejo:

Congo Reeff

Congo Reeff

This is one of the newer restaurants in Puerto Viejo and fast gaining a reputation for seriously creative and delicious dishes. It’s a French Fusion Bistro and the French owners certainly know what they’re doing: menus change weekly, many dishes are original and the fusion is between French cooking and Costa Rican tropical ingredients. Beautifully presented, expertly balanced flavours and perfect service make for a divine meal. But there is more:  set in a hidden garden behind Luluberlu art gallery/shop, Congo Reeff is gorgeously and stylishly decorated with artwork and romantically lit. A feast in all senses.

Todo Es Posible, Puerto Viejo:

Todo es Posible

Todo es Posible

And now for something different: Rustic Romance. This little Italian restaurant may not be conventionally one of the most romantic restaurants, but then romance is not always conventional right? Perhaps, it’s the little garden out the front where you can sit under the trees at simple wooden tables lit by coloured tea-lights as delicious cooking smells waft around you from the open kitchen or perhaps it’s because the food is so obviously made with love. It’s a simple, casual and cosy little place but the food takes it to the next level for me. Home-made bruschetta and pastas are mouthwateringly good and if you want to know how good real Sicilian pizza is, this is the place. The service is friendly and warm and the atmosphere relaxed. This is rustic romance at its best.

Amimodo, Puerto Viejo:

Palapa Table at Amimodo

Palapa Table at Amimodo

Sorry but this is another Italian restaurant… which makes me wonder, are many Italians just really good at putting all the ingredients together to serve up romantic restaurants ? Well Amimodo is doing a fine job of it. The restaurant is very pretty, with lit art, comfortable seating and atmospheric lighting but they have one extra special ingredient: they back onto the beach. So, if you’re in time (or make a reservation) you can sit in romantic splendour underneath a thatched palapa with your feet in the sand and an ocean view. I wouldn’t go here to eat pizza (although they do great ones) because pizza is not my idea of romantic dining: Amimodo has several Italian speciality dishes and this is the place to try them.

Sobre Las Olas, Cahuita:

Sobre Las Olas

Sobre Las Olas

Last but by no means least, this super little restaurant specialising in seafood has one of the most spectacular views and fabulous food. Sobre Las Olas (Above the Waves) is perched on a small cliff and so in front of your table is simply palm trees, ocean and sky. (Do reserve to get a table outside.) The food is impressive: simple ocean fresh ingredients excellently prepared and presented. Last time we shared Swordfish Carpaccio, Spicy Mussels and Braised Squid and each mouthful was a taste of heaven. Perfect. And to add to perfection they have an extensive wine list. Go for a romantic lunch or on a moonlit night: you will never forget the view.

So there you have it: my favourite romantic restaurants which cater to my love of creative food, served with passion where all your senses come alive and leave you feeling more in love than when you walked in.

 

 

Puerto Viejo is not ‘just’ Puerto Viejo. The region commonly known as Puerto Viejo is actually made up of 6 different neighbourhoods, set along a 16 kilometre (10 mile) stretch of coast. Each neighbourhood has its own character but all have beautiful rainforest backed beaches, so the question could be Puerto Viejo: Where to Stay? Which neighbourhood will suit you?

Well, in general, the further away from Puerto Viejo town you are, the more wildlife you will see and the quieter your surroundings will be. That doesn’t mean though that all restaurants are in Puerto Viejo town: far from it. Some wonderful restaurants are scattered along the entire coast.

So, here’s a brief description of each neighbourhood to help you find just which one suits you.

Playa Negra: 1-2 kilometres (0.6 – 1.25 miles)

The Old Barge at Playa Negra

The Old Barge at Playa Negra

Playa Negra is North of Puerto Viejo and famous for its Black Beach. The distance from town will depend where in Playa Negra you choose to stay. Accommodation options include a couple of beach hotels and various vacation rentals, so if you would like to be out of town and enjoy black sand this may be your spot. With only one bar and one restaurant in Playa Negra, be aware that you’ll probably want to go to town some evenings. Taxis are easily arranged. The photos of it on enjoymexico.net/rentals/cabo-san-lucas/villa-turquesa/ are really something to look at, just don’t do that to your self in the middle of your work year.

Puerto Viejo town:

Shop and Dive Operator in Puerto Viejo

Shop and Dive Operator in Puerto Viejo

If you like plenty of nightlife then choose Puerto Viejo town. Most of the bars, music venues and parties happen here. So, with plenty of cheap accommodation options you can easily walk or bike between ‘happenings’ and use your budget to party! Accommodations can be noisy but this won’t matter if you’re out most nights. Of course most of the shops are also in Puerto Viejo town and there’s a large selection of restaurants. The ATM’s and pharmacies are also only in town plus the majority of tour operators .

Cocles: 2 – 4 kilometres from town. (1.25 – 2.5 miles)

Beach Break & The Island at Cocles Beach

Beach Break & The Island at Cocles Beach

If you’re looking for tranquillity but want to be near Puerto Viejo town, Cocles is the place for you.  The distance again depends on where you choose to stay as Cocles stretches along the coast. Playa Cocles is a long beach and Beach Break is a popular surfing spot, whilst the other end of Playa Cocles has pretty natural tide pools to laze in. There are plenty of accommodation options from hotels to lodges to vacation rentals and some seriously good restaurants. The supermarket in Cocles has all the basics, plus imported goods and an extensive selection of wine and spirits so you can stock up without going to town.

Playa Chiquita: 4 – 6 kilometres from town. (2.5 – 3.75 miles)

 

Late afternoon at Playa Chiquita

Late afternoon at Playa Chiquita

Playa Chiquita is like a little world of its own. Full of expats from every corner of the world, if you need your palm reading, want to know what your tarot cards say, do some reiki or take a yoga retreat, this is your place. Accommodation options are various ranging from small hotels to cabinas to vacation rentals. The supermarket El Duende Gourmet has lots of interesting speciality items and there are a few cute cafes and places to eat.

Punta Uva: 6 – 10 kilometres from town. (3.75 – 6.25 miles)

Arrecife Beach at Punta Uva

Arrecife Beach at Punta Uva

The beaches of Punta Uva are famous and justly so — some would even say that they are amongst the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Swimming and snorkelling are sublime here so if you don’t mind being further from town and want to spend most of your time on the beach, this could be your neighbourhood. It is a quiet jungle neighbourhood with few amenities. Accommodations are mainly vacation rentals and Bed & Breakfasts. With only one or two restaurants or cafes, you may need some transport to visit Playa Chiquita and/or Cocles.

Manzanillo: 16 kilometres from town. (10 miles)

Beach to escape to at Manzanillo

Beach to escape to at Manzanillo

If you want to get way off the beaten track Manzanillo is the place for you. It’s a quiet village although at weekends it becomes full of local families enjoying beach barbecues. The beaches at Manzanillo become prettier and wilder the further you go into the wildlife refuge. Accommodation options are mostly vacation rentals or a few cabinas and there’s a couple of simple places to eat.

So there you have it: Puerto Viejo: Where to Stay. You’ll know by now which neighbourhood appeals to you and they all have their charms. See you soon!

Barefoot Luxury Arrecife beach, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

 

Golden Arrecife beach, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Golden Arrecife beach at sunset, just minutes from Geckoes Lodge.

So you’re dreaming of getting off the beaten path and forgetting all the trivialities of daily life… it’s time to leave the alarm clock at home along with your shoes, appointments and obligations.

Indoor Outdoor Living at Casa del Bosque, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Indoor Outdoor Living at Casa del Bosque, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

You’re searching for a place where you can truly relax, leave your watch behind and call time your own. You need some natural beauty and wildlife, perhaps an adventure or two and you don’t want it manicured and presented on a plate.

Take to the saddle and feel the freedom.

Take to the saddle and feel the freedom.

Zipline through the rainforest canopy and spot wildlife.

Zipline through the rainforest canopy and spot wildlife.

Of course there are myriad places to choose, with far too many websites promising you Paradise at a reasonable or even discounted price and you haven’t got the energy to trawl through and what’s more, are they selling what you’re looking for?

Is Puerto Viejo and its sister settlements of Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica the place for you?

Perhaps…

But if a golf course, pool aerobics, room service, shopping malls, theatre, or an all inclusive resort is your idea of the perfect holiday then read no further.

Pareos for sale in Puerto Viejo.

Pareos for sale in Puerto Viejo.

But if you’re looking for a small eclectic beach town laid out along a strip of coast where the rainforest meets the ocean, with an atmosphere so laid back you have no option but to relax and where there’s loads to see and do but also a string of beautiful beaches to do absolutely nothing on, this may be the place for you.

Gorgeous Arrecife beach.

Gorgeous Arrecife beach.

Fosh Tacos delivered to your hammock: Barefoot Luxury!

Fosh Tacos delivered to your hammock: Barefoot Luxury!

Puerto Viejo is not for everyone… there’s a lot of things that it doesn’t have… like the ubiquitous chain restaurants and shops, theatre, cinema, ancient sites and all inclusive resorts.

You may have seen the traditional description of this area with photos of picture postcard beaches of white sand and leaning palm trees, houses in rainbow colours, Afro Caribbean cuisine, restaurants catering to every taste, howler monkeys hanging around in the trees and a sloth casually crossing the road.

Monkey Party at Geckoes Lodge

Monkey Party at Geckoes Lodge

Traditional house in Caribbean colours

Traditional house in Caribbean colours

And possibly you’ve checked out the smorgasbord of activities and trips on offer from the popular zip-lining through the rainforest canopy to surfing, white water rafting, diving, snorkelling, fishing and dolphin watching to organic chocolate tours, Caribbean cooking classes, jungle or beach horseback riding to indigenous tribal visits and so the list goes on.

Surfing at Cocles Beach: Ride those waves!

Surfing at Cocles Beach: Ride those waves!

Barefoot Luxury: Caribeans Chocolate Tour, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Organic Chocolate Tasting is a delicious part of Caribeans Chocolate Tour.

All in all it paints a pretty attractive picture especially when you add the wonderful wildlife spotting of laying leather-back turtles, huge iridescent blue Morpho butterflies, disguised iguanas, technicolour toucans, neon dart frogs, speedy agoutis and fishing pelicans alongside the famous smiling sloths and swinging monkeys.

The ever Smiley Sloth

The ever Smiley Sloth

Pelicans fishing at Gandoca.

Pelicans fishing at Gandoca.

Toucan eating Palm fruit at Geckoes Lodge.

Toucan eating Palm fruit at Geckoes Lodge.

So is it ‘just’ this Caribbean menu that brings visitors back again and again, even those that have sworn to never revisit the same place twice because their Bucket List awaits?

Dart Frog in Geckoes gardens.

Dart Frog in Geckoes gardens.

Maybe…

But maybe it’s all of the above plus something less tangible. After all there are other places in the world that also offer the visitor a menu of entertaining diversions, a glimpse into another way of life and a chance to indulge a Caribbean fantasy.

Puerto Viejo and the surrounding area offer something more that resonates not only with locals and the 46 nationalities that call here home, but also with the most casual of visitors.

Perhaps we could call that ‘extra something’ the sophistication of simplicity.

Less is more: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Less is more: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Imagine a place where many of the superficial pretentious trappings of modern life are stripped away: Where the type of car you drive, the fancy clothing, the type of phone, the size of your house or TV screen or the title you hold at work becomes totally irrelevant.

Where you are simply You.

Rainforest and Ocean at Punta Uva Beach

Rainforest and Ocean at Punta Uva Beach

Where nature is not something you go and visit, but something you live within and are part of. Remember looking up at a sky full of stars and feeling infinitesimal in comparison? In that moment we are aware of the power of nature and our place within it.

Emperadora with Green Tree Frog at Geckoes Lodge

Emperadora with Green Tree Frog at Geckoes Lodge

But the 24/7 world dampens that perception by assigning a place for nature and controlling it, which is probably why so many of us take every chance to escape the frenetic complications of modern life to something simpler, something natural, something that isn’t man made but real.

Feel the peace of Gandoca lagoon and watch the birds and monkeys in the trees.

Feel the peace of Gandoca lagoon and watch the birds and monkeys in the trees.

So is Puerto Viejo all about getting back to nature and relinquishing all your worldly goods?

No, it’s about remembering what it is to derive pleasure from simplicity which affects us all on a deeper level than the often superficial, fleeting pleasure of packaged entertainment. It’s the difference between the thrill of surprise at coming across a troupe of Howler Monkeys as you walk along the beach as opposed to seeing them in a zoo. It’s going to sleep to the sound of cicadas rather than traffic. It’s lying on pale sand with a fish taco whilst watching pelicans swooping and diving for their fish lunch.

Howler taking a Siesta

Howler taking a Siesta

It’s sometimes not being able to get everything you want but having to make do and in so doing finding satisfaction in the same.

We are creative creatures: the more we have delivered without effort, the more entitled we feel and the more bored and demanding we can become. We derive satisfaction from effort and the more developed our world becomes the more we seek the simple pleasures and the rewards they bring.

In that simplicity is the sophistication of perspective. It’s simple wisdom that Puerto Viejo and its sister settlements have in spades: essentially that those quasi sophisticated possessions and preoccupations are nigh meaningless in a natural habitat.

That Less is More.

Someone who has never been here recently asked me,

So, I’m confused, is Puerto Viejo developed or under-developed?”
The answer is, both.
Under-developed in gaudy consumerism, pretensions, entitlement and predictability.
Highly Developed in simple pleasures, which I would argue is the ultimate in sophistication.

Hanging Heliconia in Geckoes gardens.

Hanging Heliconia in Geckoes gardens.

Less is More: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Barefoot Luxury at Puerto Viejo beach.

Barefoot Luxury at Puerto Viejo beach.

But don’t take my word for it: Come and see for yourself.

Great news! Soon you can start using cool service Imbrex, that is specialized on real estate data, so you will be able to find anything you interested in. Stay tuned!