Costa Rica is known for it’s incredible bio-diversity, beautiful beaches, and warm friendly people – but one side of their culture that is often overlooked is the food. Costa Rican cuisine is a combination of a variety of Latin flavors, most of it using all natural ingredients including some of the freshest fruits and vegetables on Earth. There are no shortage of typical Costa Rican dishes, but we grabbed a group of local friends and fellow anglers and asked them “If you were coming on a fishing vacation to Costa Rica, what’s are the ‘must have’ dishes to try?” Here are the top five answers:
1. Gallo Pinto
If you visit Costa Rica on a fishing vacation, it will be nearly impossible for you not to try gallo pinto. This is probably the most popular dish among Costa Ricans, so much so that many ‘Ticos’ will eat it every single morning for breakfast. You’ll find it served at any hotel, restaurant or ‘soda‘ (Costa Rican diner) in the country, so it’s very easy to find. It’s a very basic combination of white rice and either red or black beans cooked with onion, bell pepper, cilantro and topped with local spices. This is often served with corn tortillas and braised plantains and your choice of eggs. It is light yet hearty, so it’s the perfect way to start your day no matter if you are lounging at the beach all day or off marlin fishing.
This is the true staple of Costa Rican cuisine and can be found in every home, restaurant, or hotel in the country. Similar to gallo pinto, a casado is a full meal served at lunch or dinner that consists of white rice cooked with bell peppers and onions, black beans, salad, braised plantains and a choice of meat (beef, chicken, fish). The word ‘casado‘ in Spanish in fact means married, which is why you always see the rice and beans together on nearly every dish in Costa Rica. On the Caribbean Coast you’ll get a modified version of your casado with ‘rice n’ beans.’ Here the rice and beans are slow cooked together with coconut milk and local habanero peppers to add a signature Caribbean spicy touch to the meal. You’ll only get authentic rice n’ beans if you are on Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica tarpon fishing, anywhere else is just pretending. You can certainly order your casado with the fresh fish you catch, so just ask for a “casado con pescado, por favor” next time!
There is no way we could have a list of the top food in Costa Rica and not include fresh fish! One of the favorite bocas in Costa Rica, a term that is used to refer to appetizers, is ceviche. Ceviche is a dish of raw fish slowly cooked in lime juice – yes you heard it, just lime juice! Soft white meat from fish like snook, dorado, and tripletail make for incredible ceviche. Combined with a blend of red onions, cilantro, bell peppers, hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste and you have an incredibly fresh, healthy, and delicious meal you won’t forget.
4. Fresh Fruit
This one may seem oversimplified, but trust us, your taste buds will come alive when you try the fresh tropical fruit here. Next time you go to the grocery store take a look at the tiny stickers on the pineapples, bananas, and mangos – chances are it’s right here in Costa Rica. Now imagine how much better they’ll taste if instead of traveling 3,000 miles to sit at your grocery store for days you travel 3,000 miles south and are eating fresh pineapple in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while trolling for sailfish. Tastes better already, doesn’t it? Another Tico pastime is to pluck mangos right from the tree and eat them with a tiny bit of salt – it’s hard to get any fresher than that!
Last but not least, the unanimous vote amongst all those polled included this local icon – Cerveza Imperial. You’ll see their iconic red and yellow phoenix icon displayed all over the country on restaurant signs, billboards, and souvenirs as it has been the most popular beer in Costa Rica for the past 90 years. Imperial is a staple aboard any fishing boat in Costa Rica, so rest assured you won’t have to go far out of your way to try this tasty lager-style beer.