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For a country that is more known for its rich biodiversity, stunning natural landscapes, and friendly locals, making a Costa Rican wildlife holiday one of the best in the world, this little Central American country is also somewhat of a foodie paradise. The country’s cuisine is a reflection of its diverse history and cultural influences.

Another weapon up Costa Rica’s sleeve when it comes to its cuisine is something we’ve already mentioned – its climate and biodiversity. There is an absolute bounty of riches thanks to the variety of climactic zones, which create the perfect conditions for growing a huge range of local, seasonal produce.

In this article, we’ll open your eyes to the world of Costa Rican cuisine, and deep dive into its most famous culinary export – coffee.

What to eat in Costa Rica

One of the most popular dishes in Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto. This traditional breakfast dish consists of rice and beans cooked together with onions, peppers, and spices. It is often served with scrambled or fried eggs, cheese, and a side of plantains. Gallo Pinto is a staple in every Costa Rican home and can be found in almost every restaurant and café in the country.

If you are looking for a snack, then you cannot miss out on the Empanadas. These are small pastries filled with cheese, beans, or meat and are usually deep-fried. Empanadas are a popular street food in Costa Rica, as they are in much of Latin America, and can be found in almost every corner of the country.

empanada street food

Another dish that is a must-try in Costa Rica is Casado. Casado means “married” in Spanish and refers to the combination of rice, black beans, salad, and a choice of meat. The meat options range from grilled chicken or fish to beef or pork. Casado is a hearty and filling meal that is perfect for lunch or dinner.

Costa Rica is also blessed with incredibly rich seas and oceans that are bursting with life, and rarely are you more than a couple of hours drive from the Pacific or the Caribbean. All this means that the country can serve up some of the best seafood you will ever taste in your life. Whether that’s a succulent fish barbecue on tiny Isla Jesusita or a fresh ceviche in Drake Bay, all you need to add is a cold beer and a tropical sunset to make for a truly special meal.

What to drink in Costa Rica

As for drinks, Costa Rica has a rich coffee culture, and it is home to some of the best coffee beans in the world. Wherever you are in Costa Rica, you can be sure that any host will be almost immediately offering you a coffee. Another popular beverage in Costa Rica is Horchata. It is a sweet and refreshing drink made from rice milk, cinnamon, and vanilla, and the perfect beverage to cool down on a hot day.

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Costa Rican coffee

It’s probably only in Costa Rica that you could pull up to any establishment, whether that’s a gourmet restaurant, a roadside café, a beach bar or a local garage, and you can come away with a cup of coffee that tastes like nectar.

Costa Rica’s coffee culture is an integral part of its history and economy, as well as contemporary culture and local tradition.

History of Costa Rica’s Coffee Industry

The coffee industry in Costa Rica dates back to the early 19th century when coffee plants were introduced to the country by European colonizers. Initially, coffee was grown on small farms for domestic consumption, but by the mid-1800s, it became a major export crop.

The coffee boom in Costa Rica transformed the country’s economy and society. It led to the development of a middle class and the expansion of infrastructure, including roads and railways. Coffee also became a source of national pride and identity.

coffe beans in costa rica

Present-Day Coffee Industry

Today, coffee remains an essential part of Costa Rican culture and economy. The country produces some of the world’s best Arabica coffee beans, which are highly sought after by coffee connoisseurs.

The coffee industry in Costa Rica is primarily made up of small-scale farmers who grow coffee on family-owned plots. The government regulates the industry, ensuring that farmers receive fair prices for their crops and that coffee production meets environmental and social standards.

Costa Rican Coffee Culture

Costa Rica’s coffee culture is deeply ingrained in its daily life. Coffee is a staple beverage and is often consumed with breakfast or as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon break. Coffee shops and cafes are popular meeting places for friends and business associates.

Costa Ricans take pride in their coffee and the unique flavors of their beans. The country’s coffee is known for its bright acidity, chocolatey undertones, and fruity flavors. The coffee’s quality is due in part to the country’s microclimates and volcanic soil, which create ideal growing conditions for coffee plants.

Visiting Costa Rica’s Coffee Plantations

If you want to experience Costa Rica’s coffee culture firsthand, visiting a coffee plantation is a must. Many of our holidays in Costa Rica allow you this opportunity, and visitors can learn about the coffee production process, from picking the beans to roasting and brewing the coffee. You can also sample some of the coffee and purchase bags to take home.

Costa Rica’s coffee culture is an essential part of the country’s history and identity. The industry has transformed the economy and society, and coffee remains a source of pride and passion for Costa Ricans. If you are a coffee lover, a visit to Costa Rica’s coffee plantations is a must, and you will not be disappointed with the unique flavors and aromas of the country’s coffee.


At Not In The Guidebooks, we work hard to find you itineraries and establishments that get you to the heart of a country’s cuisine. We seek out the authentic food the locals eat and the traditional dishes you would never find at home, so that you can access a new and exciting slice of culture – which, after all, is what travel is all about. So, when you plan your next adventure holiday in Costa Rica, make sure to indulge in the country’s rich and diverse cuisine.

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