A foodie’s guide to Costa Rica
As a destination, Costa Rica has become synonymous with adventure and eco-tourism thanks to its beautiful natural landscape. So it probably comes as little surprise that its food scene is hearty, energising and locally grown. With all the adventure you’ll be experiencing while on holiday in Costa Rica, you’ll require plenty of fuel – so here’s some traditional Costa Rican dishes to treat yourself to.
A popular dish with locals is the Casado. The word translates to marriage in English, and is an unpretentious dish that is a balance between rice, beans, meat – it could be fish, chicken or red meat - and green or pasta salad. It’s easy on the purse-strings, but it’s nutritious and will fill you up for a day of exploring.
When you wander through Costa Rica looking for somewhere to eat, you’ll see two types of dining establishments: restaurants and sodas. The restaurants are what we are accustomed to in the UK and cater to international tourists. Sodas, however, are a traditional Costa Rican affair where you’ll get served like a local (including the traditional Casado).
It probably comes as no surprise that a tropical country like Costa Rica is ripe with fresh fruit. Some varieties you’ll have heard of (such as mangoes, bananas and coconuts). But some you won’t have – such as guanábana, mamones, guayaba, maracuyá, and granadilla. Make sure you try at least one while on your visit.
Costa Ricans take their coffee very seriously. So much that only one type of coffee bean can be legally grown in Costa Rica. It’s called the Arabica bean and it isn’t the easiest to grow, requiring high altitude and mild temperatures - something Costa Rica excels at. Make sure you have a cuppa while in Costa Rica as even the budget-friendly cafés come equipped with espresso machines.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, there are other refreshing options. One of the most popular is refrescos, a fruit smoothie made from the water of milk. There’s also agua dulce: water sweetened with sugar cane, which is a common drink for kids.
If you’re looking to let your hair down, we recommend either guaro (a fiery sugar cane liquor) or the national beer, Imperial.
To finish off your Costa Rican dining adventure, treat yourself to a very sweet dessert. One of the most popular (and named national dessert by National Geographic Magazine) is the tres leches. It’s a cake that is typically prepared as a moist sponge or butter cake that is then soaked with a trio of different kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed and whole milk). Despite the very soggy-sounding description, tres leches is anything but soggy and is actually delicious.
Oh, and remember to try a Costa Rica flan.