Best Gastronomic Experiences to Have in Costa Rica

Locals know best
Locals know best | © inAweofGod'sCreation / Flickr
Jenn Parker

There are so many unique experiences to have while visiting Costa Rica. There are opportunities to marvel at nature deep in a rainforest, witness an arriba on a moonless night, dance the night away at a local fiesta, and indulge in a number of gastronomic experiences that will create a taste memory you will never forget.

Cold pipa on a hot day

A pipa is what Costa Ricans call a coconut. This ultra hydrating, naturally abundant, and delicious beverage from the earth is one of the most satisfying drinks you can have on a hot day in Costa Rica. It is likely that you will spot a pipa vendor patrolling the beach with a cooler full of icy ones waiting to be cracked open. Pipa sellers are masters with a machete and can lop the top of the pipa clear off so that you can enjoy the fresh liquid inside. Say no to the plastic straw that will be offered along with your pipa though, as there is a big movement to get rid of plastic straws and other single-use plastics in Costa Rica.

Pipas galore

A made to order empanada

While most pandarías (bakeries) and cafes will most likely have pre-made empanadas for sale – which are delectable – there is nothing quite like having an empanada made to order. Traditional Costa Rican empanadas are more mini quesadilla-like in shape and thickness. In some sodas you can choose your filling and your empanada will be constructed and fried on the spot. Typical fillings include cheese (queso), ham (jamón), refried beans (frijoles molidos), chicken (pollo), or beef (carne).

As fresh as you can get

Gallo pinto for breakfast

Gallo pinto is a staple in the traditional Costa Rican diet. This perfect marriage of rice and beans is typically served at breakfast and is one of the best dishes to fuel your day. It is even better served up with eggs, sweet plantains, queso fresco, and a homemade tortilla. This divinely delightful breakfast can be found at any local soda, most restaurants that have a full breakfast menu, and nearly all hotel or resort restaurants. This is the perfect plate to add a little salsa Lizano too.

Coffee from the source

Costa Rica is internationally recognized for its coffee. With multiple coffee growing regions, nearly 70,000 coffee farmers, and dozens of highly rated organic and sustainable coffee brands, drinking a cup of Costa Rican coffee while in Costa Rica is an experience for the books. What’s even better is having a cup of freshly brewed coffee at the coffee farm which you just toured.

The good stuff

A pejibaye with mayo

Pejibayes are a highly nutritious, filling, and favorite snack in Costa Rica. A pejibaye (pay-hee-by-yay) is the fruit from a peach palm tree. This is one of the most widely available fruits in Costa Rica, along with bananas, papayas, plantains, and pineapples. In order to enjoy this mouthwatering treat, they must be boiled for several hours in order to soften and then peeled and de-seeded. The taste and consistency is similar to a sweet potato and is best served with mayonnaise.

Treat yourself to the best snack in Costa Rica

Christmas tamale

A cherished family tradition in Costa Rica is the production, distribution, and consumption of the Christmas tamale. These scrumptious bundles of flavor are a labor a love. The typical tamale contains some type of meat mixed with spices, potatoes, and vegetables surrounded by cornmeal dough and then wrapped in banana leaves, tied with string, and placed in a pot of boiling water to cook. Every family has their own traditional recipe. During the holidays, you can enjoy these savory envelopes of Christmas goodness at a local soda and also sometimes at the farmer’s market and from street vendors.

Fresh ceviche and an icy brew at the beach

The secret ingredient in Costa Rican ceviche is ginger ale. This mixed with fresh squeezed limes, cilantro, peppers, onions, cucumbers, and freshly and locally caught fish makes for the perfect late afternoon boca (snack) to enjoy the beachfront with an icy cold Costa Rican beer. Oftentimes, ceviche is also served with homemade tortilla or plantain chips. After a long day of adventuring, there are few things finer than kicking back and enjoying the late afternoon on the beach with this perfect combo.

From sea to boat to belly

Culture Trips 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. 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 places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,665 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article