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During our two trips to Costa Rica, we tried a lot of local food. In San Jose, we stayed with a Tico family (this is how Costa Ricans call themselves) for five nights. Our rental included breakfast and lunch, and it helped us to learn what locals eat at home. 

We also ate at inexpensive restaurants in San Jose and around the country.

Sopa negra

Sopa negra is a traditional Costa Rican soup.

We loved sopa negra (black bean soup). Besides black beans, this soup includes onions, peppers, tomatoes, spices, and fresh cilantro.


Ceviche is a popular dish all over Latin America.

Costa Rica was the first Latin country where we tried ceviche, tasty seafood appetizer. Later, we ate ceviche in Mexico, Ecuador, and other South American countries. The seafood for this dish is marinated in lime juice, garlic, onion, chili, cilantro.


Casado always includes rice, beans, fried plantain.

One of the most popular dishes is casado. We already knew that the word “casado” means “marriage.”  But it took us a while to understand that this dish, just like a real marriage, has many variations. Each restaurant “marries” its own combination of ingredients.

Almost all the casado that we ate had the same main ingredients: rice, beans, fried plantains. The rest was up to the chef. We had casado that included fresh salads, cooked vegetables, chicken, beef or fish. We probably never saw the same combination since we tried to eat at different places.

Gallo pinto

Gallo pinto means "spotted rooster" but does not include chicken.

The slightly similar dish is gallo pinto, a favorite breakfast food. The “culprits” are the same: rice, beans, cilantro, onions. This popular dish does not include chicken. However, the translation of gallo pinto is “spotted rooster.”

Since I am not a big rice eater, I couldn’t get used to eating it for breakfast. But Alexander loves rice, and he always enjoyed gallo pinto. I agree that it is a tasty dish, but it is just not for me.

Patty (empanada)

Patty (empanada) is a pastry filled with ground meat.

Patty (empanada) is a savory pastry filled with spiced ground meat. For me, it is the best breakfast. Also, the patty is good for a quick snack.

Olla de carne

Olla de carne is a meat stew.

Once, at a small roadside café, we were served olla de carne. It is a stew (or soup?) which has large chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, taro root, cassava, corn in a rich beef broth. While enjoying this dish, we kept guessing if it is a soup or a stew. Doesn’t matter how you call it, olla de carne is a winner.

Costa Rican desserts

Arroz con leche is made with rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon.

As to my indifference for rice, I make a big exception for arroz con leche. This dessert is made with rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon. 

Talking about desserts, our family loves any kind of custard. That’s why the flan was on the top of our list throughout the whole trip.


We loved strong and aromatic Costa Rican coffee.

While writing about the food in Costa Rica, we must mention its world-famous coffee. We were impressed by the smart design of the rustic coffee makers we saw everywhere: a wooden pour-over apparatus which had a reusable filter made out of white cloth.

The filter is placed on the wooden stand, the boiling water is poured over the coffee grinds, and two minutes later they serve you the strong aromatic drink. In some rural areas of Costa Rica, we drank better coffee than we ever had back home, and for a fraction of price.


Refresco is the favorite drink of Costa Ricans.

Costa Rica is a tropical country which has a rich variety of exotic fruits. While traveling through this country, we were gorging ourselves on mangos, papaya, chirimoya (custard apple), lychee.

The favorite drink of Costa Ricans is refresco. It can be made with either water or milk and blended with many different combinations of fruits and berries. Each refresco was a delicious, healthy treat.

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Best time to visit

The best time to travel to Costa Rica is during the dry season, from mid-December to April.

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