After a long day of hiking at Manuel Antonio National Park, I stopped by Cafe Agua Azul for drinks and food without knowing anything about the place. From the road, the building looked like it hung off a cliff with just air, jungle, and ocean below.
After I parked out front, I walked up the set of stairs into a wonderful open air dining room. I was right, the views were amazing. This is why I decided to stop here and I’m glad I did.
Like many of the restaurants in Manuel Antonio, Cafe Agua Azul features an open air dining room. You will find no walls but a roof held up by wooden posts allowing ocean breezes in.
There was only about ten wooden tables and a small bar, so the place can fill up quickly at dinner time and on weekends. If you worry about not finding a table, try to arrive during late afternoon before the evening rush.
The lively dining room shares the same space with a small open kitchen and bar. As you enjoy the views of the ocean from your seat, you can also watch the chef and him team preparing and cooking food all night long.
Cafe Agua Azul is literally hanging on the edge of a cliff with the jungle below. If you look down, you might be able to see a monkey passing by.
As you enjoy your food and drinks, make sure you stop to take in the natural beauty and vast ocean that surrounds you. In the distance to the left you can see part of Manuel Antonio National Park. Can’t beat the view, especially at sunset.
Arriving late afternoon, I was offered the dinner menu which consisted of creative seafood appetizers and entrees including tuna, red snapper, shrimp, mussels, and calamari. Other options included pasta and chicken.
There was also another “munchies menu” that included more bar friendly options such as a one pound burger, nachos, chicken fingers, chicken sandwiches, fajitas, tacos, and quesadillas.
Unfortunately, no happy hour specials were offered which is so common with other restaurants in Manuel Antonio.
I decided to start with an appetizer to get a better understanding of the type of food served here. I started with the Tuna Tostadas (5,300 colones).
The three tuna tostadas were piled high with spicy tuna, avocado, peppers, onions, and cilantro and topped with a creamy wasabi sauce. Served on the side were three slices of lime for an added kick of acid.
I was surprised with how many ingredients were packed onto one tortilla chip. The cubed pieces of raw tuna were extremely fresh, the avocado and wasabi cream sauce were creamy, while the onion and tortilla chip added a nice crunch.
All the ingredients worked well together. The presentation was beautiful. The flavors were simple, but delicious. Sometimes simple is better.
To be honest, the original plan was to order an appetizer and move on to another restaurant down the road. After trying the tuna tostadas, I decided to stay and order more food.
Panko Breaded Tuna
Impressed with the tuna tostadas, I decided to try out the Panko Breaded Tuna (9,200 colones). A lightly seared panko crusted tuna was served with a vegetable slaw and cream cheese rangoon, similar to a wonton. On the side was a dollop of wasabi and pickled ginger.
I was pleasantly surprised with the generous amount of tuna as with most fish dishes these days, you only get a small piece of fish.
When I ordered the dish, the waiter came back and asked me how I wanted the fish cooked. I told him seared, but as pink as possible on the inside. With that said, the fish was only slightly seared and raw on the inside like sushi. This was ok with me, but if you want the fish cooked more thoroughly, be sure to notify your waiter before.
The panko breading was prepared perfectly. It was crispy and did not fall off the fish. I was surprised how the chef could cook the breading so perfectly while not overcooking the fish.
For just being made with vegetables, the slaw was colorful, delicious, and seasoned well with salt and pepper. The slaw was made using caramelized onions, roasted red peepers, and squash.
The strangest thing on the plate was the cream cheese rangoon. I am not really familiar with the term rangoon, but it looked like a deep fried wonton. The crispy pocket was filled with cream cheese that was slightly sweet and tasted more like sour cream.
Costa Rican Snapper
Similar in presentation to the panko breaded tuna, the Costa Rican Snapper (9,000 colones) was made with a grilled piece of red snapper, green papaya, sweet plantains, and a spicy orange Thai sauce.
Though the piece of red snapper was not as large as the tuna, it was still delicious, moist, and cooked well. I especially enjoyed the crispy corners of the fish that added a great crunch to an otherwise tender and soft fish.
The orange Thai sauce that glazed the fish was sweet, salty, and tangy. It reminded me somewhat of an orange chicken sauce but with more orange zest and rind. Underneath the fish was a simple scoop of white rice.
The vegetables accompanying the fish were similar. Fresh, colorful, and seasoned well. The only difference was the slightly crunchy squash slaw that resembled pasta. Mixed in with the slaw were a few pieces of plantains, though I wish there were more.
The service was very friendly and informative. The attentive servers, who spoke both English and Spanish, consistently checked up on me to see if everything was ok. I felt like I could have sat here all day long enjoying a drink and the views.
Manuel Antonio is filled with endless overpriced and touristy restaurants. Cafe Agua Azul is not one of them with creative and fresh dishes, friendly staff, and great views. I highly recommend you stop by once for a drink or dinner and enjoy the views.
- No happy hour specials
- Small dining room can fill up quickly