Food in Costa Rica
Costa Rican cuisine can be described as simple but healthy. The spiciness often associated with Latin America comes mostly from Mexico. Most Costa Rican food is not spicy, but when it simmers in a large pot, the flavours blend.
Gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and beans with a little coriander or onion. Although it is most often served for breakfast, it can also be served for lunch or dinner.
Casado, meaning married, is the typical lunch in Costa Rica and consists of rice and beans with meat, chicken or fish, always accompanied by salad and fried plantains.
The plato del dia is the plate of the day. It is often a casado, but with the meat or fish selection of the day. Usually around 5.00 USD and includes a natural juice.
Good quality fresh fruit is plentiful and inexpensive. Mercados are a great place to enjoy Costa Rican fruits and other produce, and many include sit-down snacks. We encourage you to experiment as some local fruits do not travel well as they are easily mashed or have a short shelf life. Mangoes found in North American shops are much more fibrous and less sweet than those from Costa Rica. Fingerling bananas are much creamier and less tart than those found in North America.
Don’t forget to stop at a rest area on one of the roads: a casado and a beer will cost you about $3.
Don’t forget to try the Salsa Lizano, which you are sure to find in any restaurant. It is a mild vegetable sauce, slightly sweet, with a hint of curry. It is often referred to as Costa Rican ketchup. It’s an acquired taste, but Ticos eat it with almost everything. Take some home with you! You can find small bottles at any market.
Also, as is common in Central America, the standard breakfast is rice and beans.
Vegetarians will find it surprisingly easy to eat well in Costa Rica.
Don’t forget to tip tour guides, drivers, bellboys and chambermaids. Restaurant bills include a 10% tip, but leave an extra tip for good service. North Americans often get better service because they are used to tipping separately, but it is not necessary.
Cattle are raised on grass; the meat will taste different from that of cattle fed on maize. The types of meat served in local restaurants are also different. Chicken does not taste much different.
Drinks in Costa Rica
Drinking water is available in most places, so don’t worry about drinking tap water. Bottled water is also available at reasonable prices.
Refrescos are drinks made of fresh fruit (cas, guanabana, sandia/ watermelon, mora/blackberry, fresa/strawberry, granadilla/passion fruit), sugar and water or milk. All lemonades (family restaurants) serve it. You can also just buy the usual international lemonades. We recommend ‘Fresca’, ‘Canada Dry’ and the local ‘Fanta Kolita’ (fruit punch).
The national drink is called guaro, which is made from fermented sugar cane. It is similar to vodka and is usually drunk with water and lemon. Note that it is not a very “clean” liquor, so be careful.
There are about 8 different national beers (and most international beers) sold in cans, bottles and even kegs. The most common beers in the country are Pilsener and Imperial: all bars and restaurants serve both. Bavaria, “Bavaria Negra” (dark) and Bavaria Light are considered better quality but are more expensive, Rock Ice and Rock Ice Limón (lemon flavour) have a higher alcohol content and are less common in rural areas. Heineken is produced locally under licence and is also more expensive.
The ready-to-drink coffee is excellent and (again) considered one of the best in the world.