Costa Rica is a small country that sits proudly between two coasts and boasts an exciting array of flavors from one side to the other. The history of Caribbean and Latin influences combined with the country’s natural treasures means that local dishes are delicious yet simple and traveler-budget friendly. I’ve eaten every Burrito in Mal Pais, sampled all the Cosados in Santa Teresa and snacked on Ceviche in all of the bars in between. Basically I’ve done my research and for anyone who’s heading out to Paradise, here’s what to prepare you palate for:
I’d usually start the day with some easy to eat fruit, usually whilst running to go for a surf and in Costa Rica the most glamorous tropical fruits literally grow on the trees around you. You get the classic coconuts, bananas and papayas, as well as some more exotic specimens. Granadillas for example are sweet and sour fruit, similar to a passion fruit and Guanabana (soursop) is sweet, creamy fruit, with a green, spikey exterior and is perfect for smoothies.
If you need something more hearty for Breakfast, Costa Rica does Breakfast Burritos better than the Americans and Mexicans combined (no evidence to back this up but they are good). The Breakfast Burrito is on the menu everywhere and usually consists of a flour tortilla with avocado, scrambled egg, cheese, Pico Gallo and Gallo Pinto (we’ll get to these) and hot sauce.
Yucca Fries. Yucca Chips. Yucca Mash. Yucca is everywhere! It’s Costa Rica’s answer to the potato. They do everything with it. Plantain is another thing that’s everywhere. Basically a savory Banana, don’t make the mistake that I made (every day for a week) and eat them raw, they are minging but fried they are good and mashed and fried in a medallion shape alongside dip and salsa and you have Patacones, a lovely light lunch. Cerviche is another classic, which is served in all the bars and compliments a local beer perfectly. It is simply fresh raw fish in lime juice and spiced with peppers. Chifrijo is a less healthy bar snack which combines rice and beans, meat with a tomato and lime juice. The meat used in the dish is normally crispy fried pork chunks or pork skins.
The backbone of the Costa Rican diet is Gallo Pinto / rice and beans. Literally rice and beans cooked together until the rice soaks up the bean juice. It’s served with everything and each local restaurant has their special ingredient. It makes up a part of the ultimate Costa Rican meal, the Casado, which combines Gallo Pinto with meat or fish, fried onions, salad, fried plantain and sometimes cheese, covered in hot sauce. It’s basic, hearty and cheap. Perfect surfer food.
Costa Rican Coffee is the best in the world. There are plantations everywhere in the Highlands and every bar, restaurant and cafe sells good, proper coffee. If you don’t like a teeth-gritting start to the morning there’s a sweet breakfast drink called Agua Dulce (Spanish for sweet water), which is literally boiling water mixed with cane sugar. My second favourite drink in Costa Rica is ‘Agua de pipa’; a green coconut with a straw to drink the water from inside of it. That coco water stuff in the UK has nothing on the real deal. Then there’s numero uno; the beer. Imperial and Pilsen are the main beers in this country and are best served at sunset after surfing for 6 hours.
If you are heading on one of our Surfing Holidays in Costa Rica, you will be staying in the Surfers’ Paradise Santa Teresa, which is also a foodies heaven. There are some incredible restaurants and ‘sodas’ around and here are some of our favourite restaurants and cafes:
- Don Jons serve the famous Breakfast Burrito, which is incredibly tasty and filling. $$
- The Zwart Art Café (next door) do the best banana pancakes and banana cake $$
- Almendra Sweets is a personal favourite for their incredible cakes, quiche and service. It’s on the way to Playa Carmen on the jungle side and usually with funky music playing. $
- Pita Place is on the way to Playa Carmen on the beach side and does great falafel and Mediterranean cuisine. Perfect light lunch. $$
- Burger Rancho is on the same row as Pita Place and reserved for the hungrier luncher. Great burgers, with the fish burger being a personal favourite. $$
- Local Sodas: A ‘Soda’ is the name for a local restaurant and usually look like shacks but they are popular amongst the locals and are all over Santa Teresa. They will serve the best casados, which is the hearty local dish of Steak/ Pork/ Chick or Fish, with fries, salad, rice, beans and plantain. $
- Soda Tiquicia, which is 200m north of La Lora and on your right is the jewel in the crown for us. They do the best Casado in the area as well as huge tasty burritos. $
- Pizza Tomate, which is a few doors down (south) of Don Jons, do the best pizzas in the area. $$
- Pasta Basta, which is just before you get to Playa Carmen on the jungle side does the best home made pasta and usually have a good vibe with live music or a DJ til late. $$
- Habaneros, is just before Pasta Basta and on the beach side is quite expensive ($10 for Lobster tacos, hardly breaking the bank) but is amazing. Right on the beach, hammocks for you to rest in your food coma and good Mexican beers and ales! $$$
- Koji’s, is on the way to Playa Hermosa. It’s a very fancy sushi place, easily the best sushi in the area and the best we’ve ever had, with a romantic atmosphere. Relatively expensive and reserved for special occasions. $$$
- Roc A Mar. This is overlooking the wave Super Suck at the north end of Santa Teresa beach. Probably the best place to watch the sunset, they do an amazing Sunday BBQ for $10, with all types of food on the grill, served with delicious cocktails. $$$
- Maries in Mal Pais and is the best restaurant in the area. The bacon and broccoli pizza is outstanding. $$$
If you fancy eating, surfing and yoga’ing your way through Costa Rica, check out our surfing holidays here.