When it comes to “the simple life”, Costa Rica has it figured out! Pura Vida, or Pure Life/Simple Life, is a lifestyle I wish everyone in the world, especially American’s, could emulate.

I first had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica in 2008. This was my first international trip, let alone my first ride in an airplane! I spent 3 weeks in the mountains and Pacific coast and got to experience some of Costa Rica’s most iconic attractions like Arenal Volcano, a catamaran ride to a beautiful tropical island, ziplining through the jungle, walking through the local markets, and experiencing local life in Grecia. While my experience wasn’t 100% what I thought it would be, it was the first trip that opened my eyes to international travel.

Thirteen years later, I made my way back to Costa Rica and traveled to Costa Rica’s Costa Ballena region, not once but TWICE in one year! And you better believe I was on a mission to discover the best gluten-free restaurants in the area. Here are my top picks!

Citrus (Ojochal)

Citrus was my first stop when my husband and I arrived in the area late in the evening in January. This place has a VIBE! We sat down and immediately became immersed in the relaxed, laid-back lifestyle of this foodie town. We started off ordering drinks and Nems as an appetizer. These Vietnamese fried rolls came packed with shrimp, pork, mushrooms, fresh herbs and ginger, and a delicious dipping sauce.

The appetizer went down quickly, we were starving, so we ordered our entrees, Shrimp Pad Thai and the Umami Dragon Eye Sushi Bowl. It’s difficult to screw up Pad Thai, so needless to say that was delicious. For me, the sushi bowl was a HIGHLIGHT! I ordered the mixto, or mix with both salmon and tuna, and it was like a deconstructed sushi roll masterpiece. It was also so filling. You get so much fresh salmon and tuna alongside jasmine rice, shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled cucumber, and sriracha.

Citrus is a popular spot among travelers and locals and a must-stop!

Fuego Brewing (Dominical)

During our two visits to the region in 10 months, we went to Fuego at least 4 times! Fuego is a special place, offering up a treehouse like atmosphere in this quiet surfing town. This place is a great spot to hit after a day at the beach when all you want to do is kick back with a few drinks and chow down on some amazing appetizers. You’ll have a variety of gluten-free options to choose from, but these were a couple of my favorites.

  • Patacones (be sure you get their homemade sauces on the side!)
  • Quesadillas
  • Edamame
  • Street Tacos

Falafel Uvita (Uvita)

I am a sucker for Mediterranean cuisine and Falafel Uvita did not disappoint! To say I love falafel is an understatement. This gluten-free ball of chickpea magic is perfect as a snack or as an entire meal. Falafel Uvita offers up a variety of menu options, but the plates are where you will find your gluten-free choices. The chicken shwarma was also delicious alongside their tzatziki dip. 10/10 recommend!

Phat Noodle (Dominical)

How can you go wrong with Asian Fusion!? You can’t! Phat Noodle is another must-stop and their daily happy hour drink specials are hard to beat. Everything on the menu is delicious and many can be made gluten-free. Here are some of the items I tried:

  • Picked Green Papaya Salad
  • Veggie & Crab Rangoons (I know these aren’t 100% gluten-free but wonton wrappers don’t bother me)
  • Vegetable Pad Thai
  • Pineapple Fried Rice

Al Chile Que Si (Uvita)

This gem was a pleasant surprise! No joke, some of the best tacos I ate across both visits to Costa Rica in 2021. Only stopped in here once, but the guacamole and salsa appetizers and chicken and pork tacos were outstanding.

Hornorable Mentions

  • Manuel Antonio Falafel Bar (Manuel Antonio)
  • La Palapa at Hotel Cuna Del Angel (Dominical)
  • Exotica (Ojochal)
  • Cafe Mono Congo (Dominical)
  • Bar Jolly Roger (Uvita)
  • Mama e Papa (Ojochal)
  • Pancito Cafe (Ojochal)
  • Sabor Espanol
  • El Hornito
  • Sibu Cafe
  • Gusto Italian

Comment/share your favorites in the comments below!

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