The Best Foods to Eat in Costa Rica
As a self-confessed foodie, cuisine plays a key role when it comes to planning my trips. I’ll heavily research a destination’s typical food, the best restaurants, what the locals love, and the cocktail of choice, until my mind is made up and I’m boarding the plane, ready to start my next culinary adventure. However, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly follow my usual plan with my last holiday to Costa Rica. Those beautiful deserted beaches, the incredible wildlife, the lush rainforest, and the chance to see a sloth in the wild had all convinced me to book my flights and, while I naturally researched the food and drink, I resigned myself to finding pretty average fare – which couldn’t have been further from the truth. I enjoyed some of the best meals of my life here, and this is just a taster of my favourite bites from Costa Rica:
You’ll find Casados in nearly every restaurant you dine at in Costa Rica. A simple but delicious dish of white fish, rice and beans, mixed salad and plantain, we quickly made it our mission to seek out the best place for this local speciality. After spending the day relaxing on an almost-deserted beach in Puerto Jimenez, we strolled over to a tiny beachside café and ordered the best casados I’ve ever tasted. We were told the fish had been freshly caught that day, but what really topped it off was the extra fried plantain we were presented with. It was truly delicious and I’m not ashamed to say I polished off the whole lot.
One of the many benefits of being so close to the coast is that you have access to some of the freshest fish going. During our time in Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific Coast, we enjoyed succulent seafood every day, but we found the best at Café Milagro. I opted for the fish of the day, mahi-mahi, which was served on a bed of sweet potato mash with grilled vegetables and a ‘secret sauce’. I’m still none the wiser as to the secret ingredients which made this dish so delicious, but it’s a meal I’ll never forget.
Admittedly, stuffed peppers are not your typical Costa Rican delicacy, but I felt the cuisine I experienced at Danta Corcovado Lodge simply had to be mentioned. As if staying in the middle of the rainforest with alfresco bathrooms wasn’t enough, we were treated to three-course dinners every night at this incredible retreat. As you can see, the chefs didn’t scrimp on the portions, which I had no complaints about. I happily cleared this entire plate of food and rounded my meal off with a passionfruit cocktail. When in Costa Rica…
Again, not exactly a traditional Central American dish, but after a few weeks of travelling, we fancied something a little different and sought out Restaurante Viola in the beach town of Santa Teresa. It had been recommended to us by another couple staying at our hotel and it didn’t disappoint. I took the waitress’ advice and opted for the shrimp ravioli, which was served with fresh spinach, pine nuts and a generous helping of parmesan cheese. Paired perfectly with a large glass of merlot, I was too stuffed for dessert – but of course found room for the restaurant’s signature cocktail, a strawberry daiquiri; the ideal nightcap.
By far the winner of the freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted was whipped up by a local fisherman, who simply rowed up to our boat off the shores of Santa Teresa. We were on a snorkelling trip and about to discover the underwater world, when he suddenly appeared in his boat and began preparing oysters and scallops. Served in their original shell and seasoned to perfection with lemon and lime juice, this sumptuous snack was beautifully presented. And I’m not sure if it was the delicious taste or the magnificent surroundings, but I’m happy to report I went back for seconds – you know, just to be sure it really was that fresh.
With so much fresh fish on offer in Santa Teresa, it can be tricky to narrow down the options. We took a punt on the aptly-named ‘Fish Bar’ on our final night in this beach town and kicked ourselves for not finding it sooner. The restaurant’s speciality dish was divine – succulent sesame-crusted tuna steak cooked to order, served with a wasabi sauce and asparagus and pumpkin. Hard to beat!
After waving goodbye to the coast, it was back to San Jose to catch our flight home – but not before one final epic feast at Alma de Amon in the city centre, where we enjoyed fresh fish and shrimp tacos, yucca fries and guacamole with pineapple. With it being our last night, we decided to treat ourselves and ordered churros to share, served with a delicious caramel dipping sauce. I just about managed to take a quick picture before devouring the whole lot. Until next time Costa Rica…