We just got back from a phenomenal trip to Costa Rica complete with jungle hikes, close-up wildlife encounters, and lots of yummy local food. As it’s so lush and green in Costa Rica, lots of fruits and vegetables are grown in every town, so it’s easy to eat local.
Many foods that Ticos (Costa Ricans) eat are simple, inexpensive, and fresh. Fresh fruit is an obvious snack, and we gorged ourselves silly on papaya, melons pineapple, and rambutans as those fruits were all in season. Sadly we missed mango season by a couple of months!
We would also order the typical Costa Rican breakfast (actually called El Typico) almost every morning. It consisted of rice, black beans, corn tortillas and a fresh egg (usually fried) often with a few fried sweet plaintains. Sometimes this breakfast would come with a little local fried cheese which was light and tangy.
The typical lunch is called Casado and it’s not much different! Again it’s rice, beans, fried plaintains, pico de gallo, avocado and usually a protein like fresh local fish. Some fancier versions may include mashed potatoes, sliced vegetables salads or even pasta. Vegetables are often diced and sliced very small which was a fun way to enjoy vegetables like peppers and green beans.
As plantains are also used in place of potatoes, they were often served up as a bar food. Thick plaintain patties were fried up with a sprinkling of flake salt (called Tostones) and served with black beans, a chunky pico de gallo, guacamole and sometimes a locally made sour cream. Plantains were also sliced thin and fried similar to potato chips, so they were often served with fresh guacamole. Paired with a cold Costa Rican cerveza and life was good.
The one thing we noticed is that none of the foods served were ever spicy. Due to the Carribean influence and location of Costa Rica, we don’t believe that hot spicy food is really a thing there, or perhaps we were just served the Gringo versions.
As native San Diegans, we like things HOT. We did ask for hot sauce just about everywhere we went and we also had our own emergency stash of hot sauce packets. Most restaurants did have a little house made hot sauce, but it was served sparingly. Again, we don’t think spicy is the norm there.
If you’re in a coastal town and enjoy fish, be sure to try the local ceviches. Often fish is served in lime juice or a combo of lime coconut and topped with something basic like a fresh herb or thin cassava chips.
Fish is often caught THAT morning and served within hour. Don’t shy away from salads either! Fresh seared fish like ahi salads are amazing!
Ticos take their coffee seriously there, so make sure to try to coffee and also sample chocolate as it’s grown in many locations there. Fruit smoothies are also fresh and plentiful, so make sure to cool down with a banana mango smoothie whenever possible!
If you’re going to visit Costa Rica, make sure to eat and eat often. Everything was fresh and delicious and the people are warm and friendly. I can’t wait to go back again!