Sitting between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica remains a popular holiday destination. It’s best known for its wildlife, rainforests and sustainability efforts, but the food scene is also gaining traction. Here are some of the best foodie reasons to visit.
If you ask a Costa Rican about where to find the best food, they will almost certainly point you towards the nearest soda – small family-owned restaurants that serve traditional grub. The typical cuisine here is simple and filling. Dishes burst with flavor and make the most of local produce as seen in the casado, the nation’s favourite lunch dish of beans, rice, salad and plantain.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Alongside traditional dishes and eateries, there has been a recent boom in high-profile chefs bringing modern interpretations to classic plates. High-end restaurants have emerged over the past decade and there has also been a growing move towards satisfying the global desire for street food from food trucks and carts.
Savour authentic Costa Rican cuisine and visit some of the country’s most alluring destinations with Culture Trip on our specially curated nine-day Costa Rica trip.
Barrio Escalante – the heart of Costa Rica’s food revolution
If you want to sample the best of old and new, head to Barrio Escalante in San José. This neighborhood was once a quiet residential corner of the capital, but is now the trendiest place in the city. Outdoor dining spaces, lively late-night drinking spots and expensive restaurants sit alongside traditional sodas. The result is one of the best food destinations in the world, and an essential stop on any trip to Costa Rica.
If you’re staying in the area, make sure you treat yourself to a Saturday trip to Feria Verde de Aranjuez. The farmer’s market is one of the best ways of seeing the fresh ingredients you’ll end up tasting throughout your stay in San José. The other thing you will inevitably end up sampling here is the coffee. Costa Rica is seen as one of the best producers of quality coffee in the world, and they’ve perfected the art of serving the perfect cup of joe.
Cocoa is another big export, and Costa Rican chocolate is some of the best around. Dessert menus are always worth checking out, and cold drinks often come with a dollop of chocolate, and a hint of something stronger for the grown-ups.
A recent trend – although one that has arguably been part of Costa Rican gastronomy for as long as anyone can remember, without any fanfare – is the move towards farm-t0-table cuisine. You’ll find celebrated practitioners such as chef Jose González taking the concept to award-winning levels at al mercat, where the farm and restaurant are both part of the same chain.
Barrio Escalante is a short walk from the popular downtown district and you’ll find plenty of innovative dishes here, such as sirloin served in coffee sauce, which may not be to everyone’s taste. Let’s take a look at some of the top dishes in the nation that you have to try at least once.
Costa Rica’s favourite dishes
You’ll find some variety of these dishes right across the country, with a regional tweaks along the way. Here are the dishes you should try.
Casado: We’ve already mentioned this ubiquitous bean, rice, salad and plantain staple. Some serve it with a side of grilled meat or fish to enhance the earthy combination of base ingredients. The name translates into English as “marriage”, although it’s unclear whether that’s a reference to the marriage of ingredients or if the name stems from the lunches that wives made for their husbands to take to work.
Gallopinto: This is another fascinating term for a pretty simple dish; it means “painted rooster”, and the dish itself consists of beans, rice, cilantro, onions and garlic. Expect to find a serving of this on your breakfast menu, as it goes well with eggs.
Olla de carne: This hearty stew is popular year round, although you’ll find it mainly served on weekends. It’s a simple mix of beef, vegetables (including cassava) and a thick reduction that goes well with a side of rice. Expect most no-frills sodas to have their own version.
Ceviche: Originating from Peru, this cured seafood dish is unsurprisingly popular in Costa Rica which has an abundance of fresh fish. Marinated raw fish is served cold with a strong citric kick that can take some getting used to, but the simplicity of it means that ceviche found on food carts on the roadside by the sea will be as good as that eaten in any high-end restaurant.
Chifrijo: What do you get if you cross chicharrones (fried pork skin) with frijoles (beans)? Well, the answer popped up in a San José bar about 30 years ago and is now the ultimate snack to go with your beer.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
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.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
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!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
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.