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As most tourist towns often do, Santa Teresa is no exception when it comes to constant changes. One of the most apparent examples is the cycle of restaurant openings and closings. However, there are a few that have already withstood the test of time.
Beginning in the southern part of Mal Pais, favorite restaurant for fresh and varied cuisine and healthy portions, is Mary's Restaurante located at the north-east corner of the junction where the road turns inland toward Star Mountain Resort and the back road to Cabuya and Cabo Blanco, just before the Mal Pais fishing village (which explains the amazingly fresh fish specials).
Caracolas, across from the ICE tower, is a very relaxing setting next to the pool and gardens. The menu has a nice variety between typical ‘Tico fare’ and a number of inventive delicious dishes. They offer free WiFi and is a great place to spend a few hours during the heat of the day to have a meal, catch up on your emails, and hang out in the shade or enjoy a nice sunset and evening meal as you listen to the waves crashing on the rock outcroppings at the beach.
A great place to grab pizza and a beer, and take in the beach scene is Pizza Playa Carmen at the crossroads of Mal Pais/Santa Teresa. Off the dusty road and nestled among tropical gardens is the restaurant at Ritmo Tropical which also serves up a great pizza and has a good menu selection.
Located in the Playa Carmen commercial center (it is the first commercial area you see when you arrive) is Umi Sushi, which offers a full selection of Japanese cuisine. Product C has a selection of fresh seafood and serves up a refreshing ceviche.
Cross the street and find the restaurant at Frank’s Place, an old all time favorite. Down the street heading north is The Bakery, a pastry lover’s destination, fresh baked bread and bagels and a menu with variety for every taste and diet. A bit farther north, just before the first bridge is a terrific Argentinean barbecue, Las Piedras, known for it’s grilled chicken and ribs, (watch for their oddly unique sign enticing you to try their food).
There are two more bakeries; an Italian bakery, Mafra’s Panetteria & Cafe (near Tropico Latino) and a French bakery, Marianne’s (across the street and north of Brunella’s).
Across the first bridge from Playa Carmen and up a very steep hill is Brisas del Mar with it’s perfect sunset view and their ever-changing chalk-board menu; after the second bridge and continuing north: Rancho Itauna for their unique open-air restaurant with tables set in the beach sand; Habanero’s at Playa Cielo for a selection of Mexican fare with dining almost right on the beach; Burger Rancho, Pizza Tomate, Zwart Cafe, and Cafe Ginger all within a short distance from each other offer a reasonably priced meal without the fancy ambiance. El Pulpo Pizza is now located at Manala Hotel. Al Chile Viola, for authentic Florentine flair; near the north end of Santa Teresa is Nectar at Florblanca Resort for North American Cuisine at North American higher end prices; El Ray Patricio offers authentic Spanish Tapas and Palella; Budha Eyes at Pranamar is a peaceful setting away from the hustle and bustle of the hub of Santa Teresa; and Koji’s (located next to the bridge in Playa Hermosa) for some great sushi.
There are a smattering of local "sodas" throughout Mal Pais and Santa Teresa area which open and close randomly but there are enough of them that one is sure to be open when hunger strikes.
If your adventure takes you a few kilometers farther north to Playa Manzanillo and Bello Horizonte, you will have three restaurants to choose from: Atardecer Dorado Bar and Restaurante on the northern corner of Playa Manzanillo is a popular spot to watch the sunset and have a cold drink and meal. Approximately .5 K. inland to the pueblo of Bello Horizonte you will find Manny's, that offers up a menu with a number of great dishes but serves up the best thin crust pizza on the southern Nicoya! If you pass through Bello Horizonte and travel another .5 K. you will come across Dayka Restaurante, specializing in seafood and typical Tico dishes, have a swim in the pool while you wait for your meal and then enjoy the view of the valley below.
Keep in mind that most services here do not operate quickly, so relax and go with the slow flow! Almost everything is made by hand, so cooking isn't a matter of just heating something in a microwave. And, most of the time, don't expect to get your bill until you ask for it.
Prices generally are comparable with what you'd expect to pay in the U.S. Lunches and dinners (except at the few high-end places) can generally be had for 2,500 to 6,000 colones ($5 to $12). If you're pinching pennies, the best deal is often the Costa Rican casado, a full meal that typically consists of rice, beans, potatoes, plantains, a small salad and a protein (chicken, pork, beef or fish).