Selva Tropical Restaurant & Butterfly Garden: Buffet and Butterflies
After our morning drive and aerial tram tour in the rainforest of Braulio Carrillo National Park, our first stop for a meal was at the "Selva Tropical Restaurant & Butterfly Garden". Located along Route 32 in Guapiles, from the highway the Selva Tropical Restaurant might not be easily noticed; however, the lovely, climbing flowers and tropical foliage, and the beautiful mosaic butterfly on the floor do draw your eye to its entrance once you are at its door.
Being already a little chilled from the lower temperatures and dampness of the rainforest combined with the overcast skies, I was craving a bit of warmth. I was a little disappointed that the restaurant was open air and a little too cool for me. However, had it been a sunny day I am sure I would have found it more appealing. The large restaurant had several dining areas with lots of small tables which were covered with very pretty, cheery tablecloths of colorful butterflies.
The Selva was a self-service buffet with several typical Costa Rican dishes including beans and rice, shredded chicken, tunafish, salads, and fruit. However, of the many wonderful buffet meals we had in Costa Rica, this lunch at the Selva was my least favorite. Waitresses did serve us beverages and dessert, but the service seemed more obligatory than helpful. On the whole, the food was only adequate.
Shortly after we were seated, an adorble orange and white feline appeared as if on cue. Although not shy, she sat there pleading for food with her eyes, and not being one to turn down any animal who needs food, this beautiful little cat became the happy recipient of most of my shredded chicken. I was happy to feed her as it was very apparent that she was not regularly fed.
Following a sopapilla-type dessert, it was only a few steps to the butterfly garden enclosure located behind the restaurant. Larger than I might have imagined, the aviary-type structure was filled with flowering trees, plants, bushes and the fluttering wings of hundreds of colorful butterflies, the most beautiful of which was the elusive "Blue Morpho". While most other butterflies at least touched down long enough for a quick photo snap, the Blue Morpho rarely seemed to settle for more than a split second and not long enough for any photos! Many people were able to have butterflies land on their hand which we all marveled at. We spent an enjoyable half hour or so in the Butterfly Garden before having to continue our drive to Caño Blanco.
As the meal and tips were included in our tour, I have no idea what the buffet cost. The Butterfly Garden was free to enter.
Favorite Dish: As mentioned before, of the many buffets we had during this trip, the lunch at the Selva Tropical Restaurant was my least favorite and no dish was outstanding nor were the waitresses friendly in my personal opinion. But the little feline and the Butterfly Garden certainly made up for that.
A stop at this restaurant for breakfast or lunch seems to be common on many tour companies intineraries on their way to or from Tortuguero as it is large enough to accommodate tour buses. Though the food was adequate (not more), it may be the additional draw of the Butterfly Garden which makes it popular. Or, perhaps we just arrived on a day when the Selva was not at its best!
Rancho Roberto's: Landmark Restaurant West of Guapiles
One of the last restaurants we visited in Costa Rica was "Rancho Roberto's". Considered a landmark in Guapiles, Rancho Roberto's was a large, open-air, thatched roof restaurant, with Mayan accents, a welcoming atmosphere and excellent food. Instead of the normal buffet, this "old rancho" offers a menu with great choices of chicken, beef and traditional Costa Rican dishes which were well prepared and in very generous proportions.
For an appetizer I chose the cerviche which included tasty portions of marinated fish, on a bed of lettuce with slices of yummy avocado and tomato. My entree was two large portions of grilled chicken breast with a baked potato, plantain, and vegetables. The meal was finished off nicely with a traditional flan for dessert. My husband chose a steak and pronounced it very, very good as well. The whole meal was excellent!
The restaurant owner visited our tables several times to make sure everyone was pleased with their meal, and checked to see if we given good service and were enjoying ourselves. It was a very pleasant time and I would love to go to "Rancho Roberto's when we visit Costa Rica again.
While at "Rancho Roberto's, Fico one of our esteemed guides and naturalist extraordinaire, bought some unusual though local fruit for all of us to try and it was not only delicious but a learning experience for all of us. Unfortunately I can't remember the names.
As this meal was included in our tour, I really have no idea what it might have cost. However, we learned while on our own a few times that food in Costa Rica is not as inexpensive as you might think. If we would have had to pay for our meal here on our own, I would have expected it to be at least US $50 for two with the appetizer, entree, dessert and beverage, plus 10% service and 13% tax.
NOTE: Next door is a tropical frog garden, US$5, which would be an interesting short stop if you have the time, however, we had to make our way back to Arenal which was still quite a distance away and therefore had no time to visit.
Favorite Dish: Though everything I ordered was very good, it was nice to try Cerviche for the first time, and the Cerviche at Rancho Roberto's was absolutely delicious!! Though our meal may not have been considered strictly typical Costa Rican food, we thoroughly enjoyed every morsel.
La Saca ~ Fine Restaurant at Hotel Arenal Manoa: Dining in the Shadow of Arenal
Given the lovely grounds and views at the Hotel Arenal Manoa, we were very pleased to have all breakfasts and 2 dinners at the hotel's restaurant, La Saca, during our 3 night stay.
The restaurant occupied its own beautiful spot among the scattered bungalow accommodations with a spectacular view of Arenal. Following the custom of many restaurants in Costa Rica, La Saca was "open air" --- open on 3 sides covered by a roof. The restaurant felt tropical because of its surroundings but was not over decorated inside. Casually divided by a low wall, the restaurant had two sides with one side being the place where individuals could order a lunch or dinner from a menu, while the other side was designated to serve groups with buffet breakfasts, lunches, or dinners.
On our first evening Rick & I chose a table for two and ordered dinner from a limited menu but with many good choices. I ordered the crusted tuna steak with sauteed vegetables and Rick ordered the Surf & Turf special, salad, with a glass of wine. Portions were extremely generous and we both thoroughly enjoyed an excellent meal. The service was attentive without being intrusive. With 10% service included, and 13% tax, the reasonable meal price escalated to $62.50. This price for a meal of this quality would be considered very reasonable at home.
The breakfasts and dinners which we enjoyed buffet style on the other side of the restaurant were always bountiful, beautifully prepared with an excellent selection available. Breakfast always included fresh fruit, rice and beans, a meat, usually a chicken dish, omelets to order, toast, waffles, etc. Lunch would be several hot dishes, salads, fruit, rice and beans, etc.
Service was very good as was the food and nicely presented -- but the view of Arenal Volcano from the restaurant was spectacular --- what more could you ask for, so I highly recommend "La Saca" on all counts!!
Favorite Dish: The crusted tuna steak with vegetables was excellent. However, I also liked the buffets for breakfast and lunch because of the variety of offerings. This restaurant may be more expensive than those in LaFortuna, but since we had no transportation other than our group's tour bus, there was no possibility to try for dinner there.
Pizza Soda La Parada: Open 24 Hours in La Fortuna
On our way to our hotel near Arenal Volcano, we stopped in La Fortuna where we were given some free time to have lunch, explore and shop. We chose to have lunch at one of La Fortuna's open air restaurants located just across from Parque Central and the central bus stop, and roughly in the middle of town on the main street. The restaurant itself is rather non-descript both inside and out, but the location is good.
Soda y Pizzeria La Parada seemed like a great place from which to view the goings on in La Fortuna and also try a typical Costa Rican dish called a "Casada." Casada means "married" in Spanish and the dish is a "marriage" of several different foods on one plate. A typical casada would include: Rice, beans, salad, fried plantain and mashed potato, with either beef, pork, chicken, fish, or veggie.
As can be seen in one the accompanying photos, my casada included all of the above and I chose the fish to complete the plate. It was a good solid meal and very filling for a very reasonable price of approximately US $6 each. Soda Y Pizzeria La Parada's specialties are pizza, and steak but they also offer "Buffet de Comidas Tipicas" and a good number of other choices on their extensive menu.
A word of caution: don't let the waiters talk you into buying two pizzas when only one will serve two people nicely unless you are on the verge of starvation!! This is what happened to two friends of ours who had lunch with us at the Pizzeria y Soda La Parada, and it also happened to us at a pizza restaurant in San Jose. Though in both instances the pizza looked, smelled and tasted delicious, pizza tends to be more expensive here than typical Costa Rican dishes. While our casadas were about US$6 (3000 colones) or so each as previously mentioned, pizzas at this restaurant were roughly US$11 each (5500 colones), making casadas the better bet for those dining on a budget. Tack on an Imperial beer for another great taste of Costa Rica -- it won't break your budget!
This restaurant is open 24-hours a day which makes it a great choice for late night snacks or a full meal.
Favorite Dish: Pizzeria y Soda La Parada had no physically outstanding features, and was not one of the few recommended by our guides, but we found it a more than decent place to try our first "casadas", the service was good, and the meal was a good value for money. I found the fish and all its accompaniments excellent. However, had we more time to spend in and around La Fortuna, I'm sure we would have returned to try their delicious looking pizza!!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Restaurante El Balcon de Europa in San Jose: Oldest Restaurant in Costa Rica
El Balcon de Europa Restaurant was an excellent find in downtown San Jose. We stopped here for an early dinner after visiting the Plaza de Cultura and though we were the only diners at the time, we still found it a warm and inviting place.
I ordered the speghetti with pesto sauce and my husband opted for the speghetti with arrabiata sauce. We both thought our dinners were quite good, although my dish could have been just as tasty with a little less pesto. A small basket of bread was placed on our table and we each ordered bottled water, and Rick ordered an Imperial beer. Our tab was 14,250 colons or about US$28.50 plus tip.
We lingered over dinner perhaps longer than usual because the interior of the restaurant was so charming. El Balcon de Europa lists itself as the oldest restaurant in Costa Rica, having been established in 1909. The warm wood-paneled walls make a beautiful backdrop for a large collection of sepia-toned photos showcasing scenes from old San Jose, people, and places. The intricately constructed coffered ceilings were a magnificent piece of carpentry work. In addition to the many tiny tables wrapped in crisp white and red-checked linens, green plants, and pleasant lighting really added to the atmosphere.
Given the fact that at one time Italians craftsmen had been brought over to work on a number of architectural building projects, they also were employed to help build the country's railroad. So while it seemed unusual to find such a lovely Italian place in Costa Rica, the skilled Italian craftsmen from long ago have left at least a small pocket of influence in San Jose.
Favorite Dish: The menu at El Balcon certainly has its fair share of Italian offerings, but it also reflects a sampling of other Mediterranean dishes as well. Apparently the current owner also has tried to bring some French choices to the menu as well. But, I certainly did enjoy my Italian meal.
The portion size of my pasta was very good. Not to say anything unflattering about El Balcon, but if you normally expect a soup or salad to be an included part of your meal, I would say that it does not seem to be the case here. Also, the basket of bread, while appreciated, was quite small, and the bread itself probably not up to Italian standards of being fresh, hot and a substantive accompaniment to the meal.
Pizzeria La Fabricca: Near Hotel Indigo
On the first evening of our tour, we were on our own for dinner. We decided to go to a nearby shopping center to look for a restaurant rather than be limited to the restaurant in our hotel.
Just adjacent to our hotel was a small shopping area with several good choices for dinner. We settled on Pizzeria La Fabricca as pizza appealed to both of us and as the restaurant apparently was a popular place with locals, we thought it must be good. Along with pizza, there were other Italian dishes to choose from, but the wood-fired, oven-baked pizzas looked authentically Italian and the aroma was was mouthwatering!
When we asked our waiter the approximate size of the pizza, he seemed to indicate that a pizza would only feed one person so we each ordered a pizza. How untrue! When they arrived, EACH pizza was certainly large enough to certainly feed 2 or more people!! The pizza was fabulous, but we could not finish eating both!
The seating area for this restaurant was enclosed in glass and we felt a little like fish in a fish bowl, but it actually was very pleasant.
Opening Hours : Mon – Wed: 12pm-10:30pm, Thu-Sat: 12pm-11pm, Sun:12pm-10:30pm
Favorite Dish: The pizza from Pizzeria Fabbrica was totally fabulous with its thin, crisp crust, fresh mozzarella, and excellent sauce. I highly recommend it. Our waiter told us a pizza would only feed one person so we thought they'd be small. But, as you can see from the accompanying photos, 1 pizza would have easily fed 2 people. So unless you are extremely hungry, one pizza is sufficient for 2 people.
[At another restaurant in LaFortuna, 2 people from our tour also were led to believe that one pizza would only feed one person --- so that they ordered two pizzas and it was way too much.]
As pizza here seemed to us to be more expensive than other meals, you may want to consider that and the size of the pizza when ordering. Though I cannot remember the exact price, our two pizzas were at least US$10 + each, plus water, a beverage and tip and the total tab was not exactly inexpensive.
Lot's of them: Soda's the local way to go
Everywhere you go you will see roadside sodas or restaurants run by families. You can get a great meal there.. or a crappy one.
Beans, Rice and a bit of salad comes with everything in Costa Rica. so don't even think about it when ordering.. it's chicken plus BR&S or Fish + BR&S or some kind of meat + BR&S.
Plastic tables & chairs are de rigeur.
Favorite Dish: What else .. anything with Beans, Rice & Salad.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Que Rico: Decent Italian food near La Fortuna
I usually like to stick with local food as much as possible when I travel, which is why I was slightly disappointed to find out that one of the restaurants we'd be having dinner at was an Italian restaurant. Que Rico is located at the Arenal Volcano Inn and although the menu does offer some Costa Rican dishes, its specialties are pasta and oven-baked pizza. I ended up ordering the spaghetti pomodoro and quickly got over my disappointment of not eating a local dish since it actually was quite tasty, as was the slice of volcano pizza I had a chance to try. Service was slightly uneven - our half of the table had a great waiter, the other half didn't have as much luck; but overall, if you happen to be staying at or near the Arenal Volcano Inn and get a craving for Italian food after several days of eating nothing but casado (they also deliver pizza to nearby hotels), I'd say go for it!
German Bakery: If you feel like a strudel
This is a bakery / restaurant that serves a great western style breakfast.. you know eggs.. with some German baking thrown in. We found their fare to be tasty and of decent value. It was a change from the rice and beans that we were eating a lot of.
I just read that they are selling the business for $160,00.
Favorite Dish: Pastries.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Rancho Bahia Gigante restaurant: Open Air
Rancho Bahía Gigante has a full service bar and restaurant that served excellent food.
Since the hotel was full, they always had a table set up for us out on the patio of one of the cabins. That was "our table".Related to:
- Road Trip
Toad Hall: On the road from Nueva Arenal to Fortuna
On the side of the dirt road and overlooking the jungle and Lake Arenal is the Toad Hall, a combination restaurant and gift shop.
I remember that the prices were higher than normal and the food was pretty good but not great.
We were the only ones there at the time. so it may not be a popular spot due to it's location, about 5 miles outside of Arenal.
They sell art from Costa Rican artists:
Ceramics by Cecelia Figueres and Oscar Zeledon; Paintings by Ana Barrientos, Ruth Borchers, Fernando Paramo; Woodwork by Barry Beisanz; & Banana paper items by Mauricio Mata, Ana Ligia.
As it turns out this too is for sale at $625,000.
Favorite Dish: Well, my son Colin is a vegan, so travel dining can be an adventure. Beans and rice and salad usually works out well. However, it seems like fruit was the only breakfast option around Arenal. As you can tell from the picture, he was getting a bit tired of that.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Road Trip
El Patio del Balmoral: Nice spot for people-watching in downtown San Jose
El Patio is the restaurant/cafe/bar of the Balmoral, one of downtown San Jose's fanciest hotels. It's located right on the pedestrian portion of Paseo Colon, usually called Avenida Central, so if you get the chance make sure to grab a table near one of the windows to soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city. However, those looking for a more quiet ambience won't be disappointed either since it's also possible to sit in the middle of the restaurant's lush tropical garden. We ended up spending quite a bit of time at this restaurant, at first because we only wanted to have drinks, and then because we decided to stick around for a light meal. Service was really nice the whole time we were there, starting with the gentleman who warmly greeted us at the door, and the soups we ordered (azteca and black beans) were delicious and very reasonably priced.Related to:
- Food and Dining
Hotel Oasis del Pacifico: Asian seafood
This hotel has an open air restaurant that serves very good food. The wife of the owner is from Singapore so it has some Asian spices in the meals.
Favorite Dish: The wife of the owner is from Singapore so it has some Asian spices in the meals.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
The Tropical: Local foods and a great view...
We ate at this small resturant on a beach tour that we took. It was a small but nice place. The food was very good. The local food tends to be good, no matter what resturant you eat at. The only thing that was different was the hamburger, the meat was not like back home, but it was still very good..
The best feature was the view. It is located on a beautiful small beach and cove.
Sitting at the table and watching the ocean and waves was fantastic....
There seem to be no shortage of places to eat.. Many times the small local place is better than some big resturant...
Favorite Dish: We had the basic dish of chicken, rice, and vegatables..
Also had a plate of fruit and ice cream including the all day event ,beaches etc for a total of $35 Each, not to bad...
As always they seem to give you alot for your money...Related to:
- Adventure Travel
El Rio: Soda
Fortuna / Arenal
Soda are little snack-bar like restaurants in Costa Rica. You'll find them everywhere, usually small with a few tables and stools at the counter. They'll serve tipical comidas, or typical meals, usually full plates combining rice, beans, salads, plantain and meat or fish, for a very good price, well under 10$ for two peoples including drinks of freshly squeeze fruits. This one in La Fortuna, openned on two side with view on the city and the Rio Burio, served the best Casados in town!
You have to try it at least once, for the experience, but hopefully as often as you can for your health, enjoyment of the country and budget!
Favorite Dish: Fruit juices are fresh and sweet.
Casados are huge and tasteful and come with a weird little rice and milk desert (some like, some don't). In fact, the plate was so big, I had to switch to just rice (arroz) and meat (con meat en salsa is the best one I think).Related to:
- Budget Travel
Costa Rica Hotels
San Pablo De Turrubares, Costa Rica (Formerly La Finca Que Ama Hotel)
Good for: Business
I don’t know how many of you have stayed in an all inclusive hotel before... but this resort was so...more
Very friendly an to other d helpful staff. The newer rooms are excellent. good value relative...more
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