We love to eat local- especially in Costa Rica. Check out our recommendations for the top five restaurants in La Fortuna de Arenal, Costa Rica- and be prepared to eat well on a modest budget!
Where Is La Fortuna Located?
One of our all time favorite places to visit in Costa Rica is the town of La Fortuna- where the Arenal Volcano is located. The town center is about an hour and 15 minutes from my husband’s hometown of San Ramón, which makes it the ideal day trip for our family. While a major tourist attraction and mainstay of the Costa Rica tour circuit, La Fortuna maintains it’s small town charm. We love to bump through the souvenir shops, hike the nearby hills, and of course spend countless hours soaking in the myriad volcanic hot springs nearby. But my favorite part of our visits is the food… there are so many amazing places to eat in and around La Fortuna, and here we review our top restaurants in La Fortuna. And since eating out in Costa Rican can get expensive, don’t forget to check out our top tips for saving money in Costa Rican restaurants.
Top 5 Local Restaurants in La Fortuna de Arenal
#1. Soda La Parada- My absolute favorite “restaurant” in La Fortuna is the Soda la Parada. It’s located in the heart of La Fortuna, in front of the bus stop (la parada means bus stop in Spanish), on the southeast corner of the park. Over the years they have expanded the space at least three times, and the restaurant is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All they do is churn out amazing typical Costa Rican food at rock bottom prices, and this restaurant is a local favorite. DO NOT miss this restaurant if you visit La Fortuna.
#2. Bar/Restaurante Nene’s- Another favorite place of mine is Bar/Restaurante Nene’s.I stumbled upon this restaurant almost 15 years ago, when I took my parents to La Fortuna for the first time and we were looking for a breakfast spot. Locals pointed us to Nene’s and I’ve been recommending it ever since – with one caveat. The breakfasts are amazing because you can get both traditional Costa Rican fare such as gallo pinto, and they also have a great American breakfast with toast and scrambled eggs. We always visit Nene’s for the evening meal of hamburgers – they are amazing! The patty is fresh, then seasoned and cooked to perfection, the French Fries hand cut and friend to golden perfection (try them Costa Rican style, with ketchup and mayonnaise drizzled across the top and eaten with a toothpick!). So. Good.
They also have a great bar – nice wine selection, (which isn’t always easy to find in Costa Rica), super cold beer, and a mean Cuba Libre (rum and Coke). The caveat I have about Nene’s is that the rest of the food on the menu isn’t actually that good – and I just checked Trip Advisor and most reviewers agree with me. So, if you are in the mood for a great Costa Rican style hamburger, Nene’s is your place.
#3. Luigi’s Pizza. Luigi’s Pizza has been a staple in the downtown restaurant scene in La Fortuna for years. When I used to visit La Fortuna on a college budget, we would eat pizza here because the portions are big and the prices are fairly low. Service can be slow here, but the wait is definitely worth it… especially if you order the white pizza. Yum!
#4. La Cascada Another downtown staple for many years in La Fortuna is La Cascada (the waterfall), a restaurant that is impossible to miss because of it’s big thatched roof, located on the southwest corner of the park. La Cascada is a bit more “upscale” of a restaurant, in that the prices aren’t quite a low as the other restaurants on this list. But, this is the best place in town to try a typical arroz con pollo, arroz con camarones, or casado. This is the restaurant where locals will go on Sundays when they splurge on a plate of traditional Costa Rican food. It’s so delicious and right in the town center!
#5 Restaurante Pura Vida Located a the very edge of town just before you head up to the hot springs, this Chinese-owned restaurant and cabins houses the best American-style Chinese food I’ve found in Costa Rica. White rice, and all the favorite dishes, great service and low prices, this is a great restaurant to visit if you are looking for a different style of cuisine in La Fortuna. (As a side note: I’ve never stayed at the hotel, but I’ve heard that the beds are nice.)
What Else You Need To Know About La Fortuna Costa Rica
If you want to hear about more favorite places in La Fortuna, check out my episode of Tico-ish with Ryan of Costa Rica Outsider, where we highlight our favorite hot springs, restaurants, and hikes in La Fortuna.
And there you have it: our insider reviews of the top five restaurants in La Fortuna, Costa Rica- at the foot of the Arenal volcano. All of these restaurants are within walking distance of the church in the center of town, and all are locally owned and operated. I’d love to know- Have you visited any of these restaurants? What did you think? Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments below!
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