costa rica food
Costa Rica is synonymous with relaxing beaches, dense jungles, and mighty volcanoes. Most people visit Costa Rica for its natural wonders, but few discover the hidden link between the country’s ecological diversity and its cuisine. Owing to its biodiversity, this tiny Central American country serves up a wide range of foods that reflect their people’s commitment to preserving these environmental gifts. (Try your hand at cooking Costa Rican style »)
Pack your bags and your appetite, and prepare for a tour of the culinary riches of Costa Rica.
Farm to Table
From its magical rainforests to its serene beaches, Costa Rica spans various climatic zones, each with its own unique plants and animals. The people of each region take advantage of these gifts, transforming them into the nation’s most iconic dishes and beverages.
Fruit trees can be found from coast to coast. Visitors and locals alike delight in picking guavas, passion fruits, and pineapples, and gulping down fresh-squeezed juice. In rural areas, families use fruits and vegetables from their own gardens in every meal—farm to table. Dishes like gallo pinto (beans and rice), corn tortillas, empanadas, and salads are made with local products.
Recognizing this rich bounty of food products, Costa Ricans take pride in sustainable agricultural and culinary practices. Great care is taken to ensure that nothing goes to waste. With every mouthful of leftover beans and rice, Costa Ricans are mindful of how their actions impact the environment, and strive to make the most of everything they have. Even sweet treats like chunks of sugar cane are eaten fresh, without excessive production processes.
Speaking of sugary delights, Costa Ricans are culinary experts when it comes to sweets, especially chocolate!
The Sweet Life
For centuries, chocolate has sweetened the lives of the people who call Costa Rica home. Cacao plantations are common across the country. In recent years, more sustainable plantations have sprouted up as a result of the nation’s conservation goals. Many of these companies are family-owned and have taken charge of the entire bean-to-bar production process.
Visitors can take plantation and factory tours to learn about chocolate production. Certain plantations even invite guests to make their own chocolate and participate in chocolate workshops. After touring the plantations, be sure to pick up some sweet souvenirs. Favorite chocolate treats among the locals include Yipy chocolate wafers and Guayabitas, guava-filled chocolate morsels.
Wash down all that chocolate with another of Costa Rica’s most famous food products—coffee.
Like chocolate, coffee is an essential ingredient in the country’s food culture. Depending on their geographical location, Costa Rica’s coffee plantations specialize in developing roasts that reflect the uniqueness of each region. When it comes to flavor, Costa Rican coffee plantations take a minimalist approach. Instead of using heavy industrial machines, they take a more rustic approach to drying and roasting the coffee beans.
Plantation owners take great pride in these natural production methods. They are determined to preserve this key resource, both for their own livelihoods as well as the health of the environment around them.
Should you visit Costa Rica, we recommend taking a coffee plantation tour where you’ll learn all about sustainable coffee production. At the end of your tour, you can even enjoy samples and taste the extraordinary flavor of each roast. Unlike overproduced and bitter coffees, Costa Rican coffee has a very rich flavor. You won’t need any cream or sugar; the coffee is delicious all on its own.
Whether your travels take you to the beach or deep into the jungle, there is ample opportunity to experience Costa Rica’s sustainable food culture. With so many choices, don’t be shy about going back for a second helping!