Local Specialities in Costa Rica

Find out about traditional dishes and local specialities in Costa Rica, as well as details on eating out...

The capital city, San José offers the greatest variety of food in Costa Rica from fine dining to small restaurants, or sodas, serving snacks and light meals. Away from the capital city the food is less varied and has strong roots in peasant culture. Fresh seafood is widely available, particularly along the coasts where there is a lot of choice. Ceviche, or marinated seafood is popular nationally. It is often made from sea bass (corvina), shellfish (conchas) or shrimps (langostinos) and is served with lemon, garlic, onion and sweet red peppers. Lobster and shrimp are eaten throughout the country; sea bass is the fish of choice in San José.

The Caribbean coast of the country has its own distinctive cuisine typified by curry, ginger and coconut milk. Coconut is a staple ingredient used in curries, cakes and desserts. Foods to seek out include Jamaican jerk style chicken, spiced breads, curried goat and shrimp and pepperpot soup. Other distinctive foods in this region include akee, a yellow fruit which is boiled and sautéed with salted cod, a spicy meat pie called patí and rondon, a dish of fish or meat with yams, plantains, breadfruit, spices and peppers.


Breakfast in Costa Rica is usually black beans and rice with onions and peppers served with sour cream, corn tortillas and fried eggs. It is a hearty meal.

Eating Out

Eating out in Costa Rica is generally a relaxed experience; restaurants are typically open between the hours of 11:00-14:00 and 18:00-23:00. Some restaurants are open 24 hours a day.

There are many good restaurants serving fine food from around the world in San José. Top quality Italian pasta, Japanese sushi and Spanish tapas can all be found in the city. Away from the capital there is generally less choice though an increasing number of gourmet chefs and hoteliers are opening fine restaurants around the country. There are many good restaurants on the Caribbean coast serving the local Jamaican influenced cuisine. There are a number of Italian restaurants in San Vito reflecting its significant Italian population.

Small family run restaurants or sodas can be found throughout the country. Sodas tend to have few tables but are friendly and offer big portions. Street food is very popular in Costa Rica and many of the country's favorite dishes can be bought from roadside vendors.