A Guide to Traditional Caribbean Cuisine in Costa Rica

Coconuts: the essence of the Caribbean
Coconuts: the essence of the Caribbean | © Ewen Roberts / Flickr
Jenn Parker

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is like an entirely separate country compared to the rest of Costa Rica. It is often referred to as “the other Costa Rica.” The history, culture, landscape, architecture, music, and cuisine is different from the west coast and central region. While everything about the Caribbean coast is intriguing, the traditional cuisine in particular is something you will definitely want to let your taste buds explore.

Loved by over 40s

Traditional flavors

While the traditional flavors of the rest of the country are anything but spicy or strong, Caribbean cuisine is full of spice and powerfully fragrant flavors. The traditional spices of the Caribbean include ginger, allspice, curry, and cinnamon. The most popular flavor of the Caribbean is definitely coconut.

The most famous dish

Rondón is a traditional stew that is made in the Caribbean. This delicious and hearty stew includes fresh seafood, coconut milk, tubers such as sweet potato, plantains, peppers, and other vegetables. The soup is slowed-cooked so that all the flavors really blend together. A bowl of this stew is sure to provide you with all the energy you need to get back out there and surf, go for a snorkel, or take a hike through the rainforest.

The taste of the Caribbean

Not gallo pinto

Rice and beans are two staples that are prevalent throughout the country, however, Caribbean rice and beans are rather unique. Instead of black beans, on this side of the country red kidney beans are more popular. The rice is made with coconut milk and the dish includes Panamanian peppers, curry powder, thyme, garlic, red onion, red bell pepper, sugar, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and coconut oil. You can imagine the smell that wafts through the air when this traditional dish is in the making!

Local snack

Patís are a local snack that resemble an empanada, meat pie, or turnover. The flaky and savory patís are typically stuffed with beef or chicken and infused with turmeric. It is not uncommon to see street vendors selling different varieties of this local favorite, as well as to find them in bakeries and sodas up and down this coast.

Patís in Puerto Viejo

Sauces and marinades

Salsa Caribeña is the ultimate salsa to accompany your seafood dishes. This local salsa is made with coconut milk, tomatoes, butter, sugar, pepper, onions, chili peppers, and thyme. You will be able to enjoy this salsa almost anywhere you eat on the Caribbean coast. The most popular marinade for fish, chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables is Jamaican jerk. This spicy rub will add a lot of heat and flavor to your meal.

Something sweet

Pan bon (“good bread”) is a dense and sweet bread-like cake that is made with vanilla, honey, sugar, coconut, dried fruit, and walnuts. Sometimes you can even find pan bon with chocolate. As with a lot of the local dishes, every family has its own secret ingredients. This delectable bread is amazing in the morning with a cup of fresh Caribbean coffee.

Big flavors in a small town

Toad water

Agua de sapo, which literally translate to “water of toad,” is a refreshing and uplifting traditional beverage. It is basically a lemonade made with brown sugar and a lot of ginger. On a hot Caribbean day, this drink is absolutely divine.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.