In Costa Rica, it’s all about the ingredients. From mamon chinos and soursop fruits to cassava (yucca) and tumeric roots, exotic, intense, and fresh are the names of the game. A culinary vacation to Costa Rica revolves as much around seeking out and tasting the exquisite flavors of each region as it does sitting down to a delicious meal after an adventurous expedition.
Doka Coffee Beans, Alajuela, Costa Rica — Photo courtesy of colros
Foodies on all budget vacations can delight in the options in store here, and a food-centric trip can happily be built around dining. The country's two coasts are brimming with seafood and buffer a narrow, fertile ground in between; Costa Rica is a lush, equatorial isthmus brimming with exotic fruits and relatively-unheard-of roots all year long. Whether it's coconut-infused snapper with Russian salad in Puerto Viejo, a traditional Olla de Carne with cassava and plantains at the base of the Arenal volcano in La Fortuna, or Thai Seafood Soup at Tin Jo in San Jose, Costa Rica's meals are full of twists that have taste buds rejoicing at every turn.
Tom Yam Tale (Thai Seafood Soup) — Photo courtesy of Tin Jo Restaurant, San Jose
A tour of a coffee farm is an excellent introduction to Costa Rica's most treasured beverage. Cafe Britt's Classic Coffee Tour of their plantation just outside of San Jose offers an in-depth exploration of coffee's history in Costa Rica, a glimpse inside the intricate process from tree to cup, and a taste of the special Export Reserve of the country's premier gourmet brand. Have lunch in Don Prospero's restaurant for a generous buffet of Costa Rican dishes, and order souvenir bags of Cafe Britt to be sent home from the gift shop.
Gallo pinto is one of Costa Rica's prized national dishes; a mix of rice, beans and subtle spices served for breakfast makes for a protein-packed start to the day. Lunch, the most important meal of the day in Costa Rica, is often a casado of rice and beans, plantains, meat, chicken or fish in sauce and a salad is a prime example of filling and fortifying traditional Tico fare. Try them at any roadside soda, or better yet, at home made in a Costa Rican family kitchen.
Banana Tempura at Tin Jo, San Jose — Photo courtesy of Tin Jo
At Rancho Margot, on the edge of the Children's Eternal Rainforest in the verdant central valley, free-range cattle produce milk that is made into artisinal cheese and unforgettable handmade butter, while grass-fed beef and well-treated pigs make for meat with a taste in a different class altogether from that deemed prime by the USDA. At Finca Luna Nueva, nestled along the banks of the Pacuare River, intrepid foodies can visit an expansive bio-dynamic farm that fuels the entire restaurant and caters to those seeking a true slow food dining experience.
Stone Grinding Chocolate — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica
Single-origin cacao produced by indigenous families along the Caribbean offer in-depth workshops on their farms to explore this fruit of the gods from the tree to the bean to the bar. The women of the Bri Bri tribe in the Talamanca region offer a grass-roots way to fall in love with cacao, learn how to make chocolate by hand, and give back to the local community at the same time. Discovering the ancient secrets of the Aztecs and tasting one of Costa Rica's most treasured resources is a true treat for foodies in Costa Rica. Take the Tsirutami Tour, or book a chocolate and tapas and tasting on the Chocolate Forest Experience.