Tamarindo  is blessed with some of the most creative restaurateurs in the country, and it’s hard to keep up with the ever-evolving scene.
The French Panadería La Laguna del Cocodrilo (tel. 506/2653-0255, 6 A.M.–7 P.M. daily) offers an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast in the garden ($5). It also sells delicious croissants, chocolate éclairs, fruit tarts, baguettes, and bread, plus enchiladas and empanadas at lunch. For hearty gringo breakfasts, you can’t beat the beachfront Nogui Bar/Sunrise Café (tel. 506/2653-0029, 6 A.M.–9:30 P.M. daily).
The Smilin’ Dog Taco Factory (tel. 506/2653-0658, 11 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) appeases the Tex-Mex crowd with tacos ($1.75), burritos ($3), veggie burritos, quesadillas, and soft drinks (no alcohol). Another good bet is the elegant Coffee Navi (7 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), outside the Tamarindo Diría hotel. It serves quiche, Caesar salad, panini, and cappuccinos. Somewhat simpler, and offering fabulous focaccia sandwiches, is Buon Appetito (no tel., 6 A.M.–midnight daily).
For a cool, unpretentious beach option, try Nibbana (tel. 506/2654-0447, www.nibbana-tamarindo.com , 7:30 A.M.–10:30 P.M. daily), where chef-owner Fabien Mandréa prepares an eclectic menu ranging from salads and seafood to pizza and pastas, enjoyed alfresco beneath the palms.
The hip El Jardín del Edén (noon–10 P.M. daily, lunch $6–13, dinner $15–60), at the hotel of that name, serves fusion dishes such as jumbo shrimp in whiskey and tenderloin in black-truffle sauce. Its sophisticated decor is perfect for singles (at the bar) and couples (in romantic thatched mezzanines).
A winner for nouvelle dining is Capitán Suizo (tel. 506/2653-0075, 7 A.M.–9:15 P.M. daily), where German chef Roland Brodscholl infuses European influences with fresh tropical produce. The creative menu runs from a perfect papaya soup with curry, coriander, and ginger ($5.50), to pumpkin gnocchi with tomato sauce and basil ($12) and tilapia in orange sauce ($15.50). The dinner menu changes daily. A guitar trio plays on Monday, and it has marimba music on Wednesday and a beach barbecue on Friday.
Nearby, and setting a new standard for style, the French-run Langosta Beach Club (tel. 506/2653-1127, www.thelangostabeachclub.com , 10 A.M.–10 P.M. daily) has a Miami South Beach–style chic, with its pool, palm-shaded deck, and stylish chocolate and taupe themes. The paninis and scallop skewers ($19) are recommended. For seafood, who could resist Chilean mussels in white wine with leek onion and garlic ($15)? Divine! Go on Sunday evening for live jazz.
The air-conditioned, glass-enclosed elegance of Carolina’s Restaurant (tel. 506/8379-6834, 6–11 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) offers superb nouvelle dishes, such as papaya-curry soup ($7) and tuna filet in fresh green spicy sauce ($15). It has a five-course tasting menu ($75, including wines).
Chef Tish Tomlinson’s world-renowned Dragonfly (tel. 506/2653-1506, www.dragonflybarandgrill.com , 5–11 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) delivers mouthwatering fusion dishes, such as Thai-style crispy fish cake with curried sweet corn. You dine beneath canvas, but the place exudes romantic tropical elegance enhanced by fairy lights. It’s open for dinner only and closes for the month of October; cash only.
Cordon Bleu–trained Israeli chef Shlomy Koren serves up delicious Mediterranean dishes at Seasons by Sholmy (tel. 506/8368-6983, www.seasonstamarindo.com , 6–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), at Hotel Arco Iris. The daily menu depends on what local produce is available. How about stuffed rigatoni with shrimp in a light creamy tomato sauce ($7.50) as an appetizer? And Middle Eastern–style chicken marinated in red wine and spices ($13)? It has a great wine selection and friendly, efficient service courtesy of some of the loveliest waitresses around. Choose from a contemporary styled interior or alfresco by the pool.
Marianne Pratt and Tom Bales’s El Mirador (tel. 506/2653-0147, 5–10 P.M. Tues.–Sat.), on the 4th-floor rooftop above Super Compro, serves up a fabulous view over Tamarindo . You won’t be disappointed by the thin-crust wood-fired pizza, or world cuisine—from hummus with pita to pork loin and filet mignon.
The first choice for sushi has to be Sushi Club (tel. 506/2653-0082, 5–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), a tiny poolside sushi bar at Hotel Luna Llena. Cool music and an open-air setting complement superbly fresh sashimi and nigiri. The 40-piece Love Boat is perfect for hungry couples. There’s also a Sushi Lounge above the Aqua disco, and at Bar1.
Southerners missing their gravy and grits will feel right at home at Doña Lee’s Country Kitchen (tel. 506/2653-0127, 6:30 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), opened in 2010 at the former Stella’s. Go on Monday night for football and barbecue ribs.
For groceries, head to Supermercado Tamarindo (9 A.M.–5 P.M. daily) or Super Las Palmeras, 100 meters east of Hotel Tamarindo Diría. The Supermercado Olas, below Aqua disco, hosts a fish, fruit, and veggie market (9 A.M.–1 P.M. Mon. and Fri.).