Exploring Costa Rica’s Unique Cuisine

11 February, 2019

Costa Rica is a place of stunning natural beauty, with a wide variety of microclimates and ecosystems that make it among the world’s centers for smart ecotourism. However, this natural wealth also lends a sense of color and character to another aspect of life in Costa Rica, the dining.

Dining in Costa Rica presents visitors with an opportunity to discover the country through other senses. Travelers can sample the flavors of its tropical forests, mountains, and seas while connecting with recipes and cooking techniques that trace their roots back for generations. Here’s a sample of what Costa Rica has to offer.

 Fresh Costa Rican produce at a farmer's market

Culinary Experiences

Ferias -- The Local Farmer’s Markets

For fresh and local ingredients brought to life in a local style, the ferias are farmer’s markets that take place throughout the week across Costa Rica. Featuring fresh produce from the region’s farmers, in tandem with other small shops and stands, these ferias are lively community gatherings, and double as a chance to sample some local, handmade options.

The menu, like the ingredients in Costa Rica, is seasonal and constantly changing. Fresh fruits & vegetables are the star, with organic poultry, eggs, fresh fish & seafood rounding out the key ingredients for the handmade meals made on site, which can accommodate a wide variety of dietary preferences

Handmade sauces, dried herbs & spices, fresh baked French pastries and gluten free baked goods, homemade cookies & ice cream, jams and jellies, honey, cacao nibs & fresh chocolate products, and even locally made Kombucha all round out the meal.

Ponciana Restaurant --  Inspired by Biarritz 1972

Costa Rica is a land with a diverse range of interesting climates and people, and Ponciana Restaurant, the culinary gem of Santarena Hotel, captures the coming together of all of these elements. 

Ponciana sources its dishes from ingredients found in the seas of the Pacific Ocean, in the mountains of the central country, and from farms all around the region. Built to be a place where people gather to exchange stories as they eat, drink, and socialize, this restaurant is punctuated by colorful, dishes with truly unique flavors.

Ponciana's chayote with preserved lemon, macadamia, fermented pineapple & dill

Soda Tapia, San José -- A Costa Rican Classic

Pura vida has many meanings, and quite a few of them can be captured in a classic local meal. In the heart of the country’s capital, San José, Soda Tapia serves up a Tico favorite: sandwiches served on rolls made with hojaldre and packed with local meats and vegetables, known as arreglados.

Soda Tapia is located in next to La Sabana Park, where this family owned spot has been cooking arreglados for more than 120 years. Like many sodas, Soda Tapia is also known for their gallo pinto, another staple of Costa Rican cuisine.

A beach barbecue, one of Bahía Group's personal dining experiences

A Personal Dining Experience

In the walkable beach town of Las Catalinas, one way to engage with the unique cuisine of Guanacaste region is with the chefs from Bahía Group. Their love for locally sourced ingredients and their diverse culinary backgrounds come to life with seasonal menus sourced from the area, in a wide variety of formats. For example, its founder Chef Gilberto Briceño hosts a number of pop-up dinners where his creativity and explorations of flavor come to life on the plate. 

Bahía offers a number of different options for visitors staying in Las Catalinas. Beach barbecues, a wide variety of personal dining options, and experiential dinners are the basics, and the team is adaptable to any number of different special requests. 

Each experience brings the creativity and welcoming personalities of the team to the forefront, for a chance to experience Costa Rica through its food, its chefs, and the many stories that they have to tell.

Chef Briceño also offers a chance for a deep dive into the plants, fruits, and herbs of the land around Las Catalinas in a guided foraging experience that culminates in a plant-based meal sourced right from the surrounding forests and beaches.

Forage with Chef Gilberto

Anywhere and Everywhere -- A Costa Rican Cup of Coffee

Café is one of Costa Rica’s most notable exports and its national pride, and there are enough blends, roasts, and varietals found in the country to make it a life’s work tasting them all. 

Like with wines and craft beers, each person’s tastes are different, and there’s always something interesting to discover locally. Small-batch roasters can be found across the country at markets or artisan shops provide a window into regional coffee, for a cup of the local flavor on a trip to Costa Rica.

A coffee at Pura Vida Ride outdoor outfitter in Las Catalinas

Tasting Costa Rica on a Visit

Each region in this Central American country presents a host of varied flavors and ingredients, thanks to its rich biodiversity and varied microclimates, waiting to be discovered.

From the tropical dry forests of the northwest to the Caribbean coast, locally sourced produce combines into a wide variety of unique experiences, all of which allow visitors to explore Costa Rica in a different way. 

Visit the Santarena Hotel

    See related posts

    Conservation at Work | Native Costa Rican Animals in the Las Catalinas Nature Reserve

    In early July, motion-activated cameras were placed all across the 1000-acre tropical dry forest reserve at Las Catalinas, with the purpose of...
    Read Post

    CVENT Ranks Guanacaste As A Top Meeting Destination

    Cvent announced today that Guanacaste has been ranked number 11 on Cvent’s annual list of the Top 25 Meeting Destinations in Caribbean and Latin...
    Read Post

    Salmorejo de Remolacha: Beetroot Bliss With a Twist

    After a long day at the beach, mountain biking or hiking, dinner is in order at Ponciana restaurant, located just off of Plaza Danta in the heart of...
    Read Post