This has to be one of the posts I’ve been most excited to do since returning. I loved the food in Costa Rica and each region had slightly different flavours. Even the dips with patacones ranged from traditional bean dip and salsa in Monteverde to flavoured mayonnaise in San Jose.

One thing I will stipulate here for budget travellers: if you want to eat cheaply, you have to eat like a local. Now I admit, sometimes I didn’t eat that local, trying out other South American cuisine as well as Costa Rican, however if you do eat local you can do it a lot cheaper. For budget travellers, keep an eye out for the rice and bean dishes, gallo pinto and empanadas. Bakeries will also be amazing places to grab a snack for lunch.

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is the traditional Costa Rican breakfast, consisting of rice, beans and often eggs however this can be substituted for other forms of protein such as steak. This is an amazing breakfast option – it’s local, filling and means you don’t need as big of a lunch when you’re out all day.


Along with ceviche, patacones were my favourite new food from Costa Rica. Patacones are fried plantain in garlic and salt, and served with a variety of dips. Most places in Costa Rica serve them and they’re a perfect mid-afternoon snack for two. Patacones in the photo below!

Patacones in Monteverde with bean paste, salsa, avocado and garlic mayo

Coffee (in Monteverde)

I know it’s not technically food. But bear with me. The coffee in Monteverde was some of the best coffee I have ever tried (and I say that being a coffee-lover). If you’re up in Monteverde, I highly recommend stopping at one of the coffee shops and having a coffee or iced coffee, which often come with flavoured syrups.


Ceviche is technically Costa Rican but most places serve it as it is a traditionally South American Dish. It would be my must-try if you’re visiting. Ceviche is fish or seafood marinaded in lemon juice. It’s served with Plantain crisps/chips and sometimes avocado and other vegetables.

Olla de Carne

This was one of the dishes that I cooked at the Costa Rican Cooking Class I did in La Fortuna. It’s a traditional chicken dish served with rice and beans (as with most Costa Rican dishes).


Chifrijo is pork and beans, and other traditional one to try while you’re out there. As I mentioned earlier, sticking to the very local rice and beans dishes means that even if you’re eating out, you’re going to be keeping your costs down considerably.

Caribbean rice and seafood dish

It’s going to have to go unnamed as I cannot remember the actual name for it, but if you are on the Caribbean coast (in a place like Cahuita) you have to try the rice and seafood dishes. I tried this in Taste of Cahuita, a traditional Caribbean restaurant.

Fresh Juice

Fresh Juice

All over Costa Rica, there will be fresh juices and smoothies. These are awesome. Especially up near the rainforests, I remember having a ‘vegano’ smoothie which was absolutely delicious (nuts, honey, herbs and fruits) and so many mango and pineapple fruit juices. They also use metal straws pretty much all over, so there’s no plastic straw waste either!


From my foodie experiences in Costa Rica, I would say three things.

  1. Don’t be afraid of trying the traditional, smaller establishments without much choice. I had some of the nicest meals in the smaller places, including one that had the three daily specials just written on a whiteboard outside.
  2. If you’re needing to eat cheap, eat local.
  3. Rice and Beans will be everywhere, in pretty much everything.

If you’re looking for specific restaurant recommendations, or want more of a general overview of Costa Rica/areas in Costa Rica check out my Costa Rica series on my blog.

Costa Rica Series Out Now…

2 Week Costa Rica Itinerary
What to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica?
Itinerary for 3 Days in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
What to do for 5 days in Cahuita?
Why you should visit Tortuguero