Eating in Costa Rica has been an adventure all its own. Our cabina is equipped with a small outdoor kitchen. We have a nice size fridge/freezer, small microwave, toaster, coffee pot and a two-burner stove. No oven, no dishwasher and generally poor lighting conditions at night. Despite these challenges we have really done very well at preparing our own food. We tend to buy enough food for a couple of days, keeping our fruits and veggies fresh and processed foods to a minimum.
Food prices in Costa Rica are generally comparable to those you would find in the US. A loaf of non-white bread is about $2.50, eggs are about $3.50 for a carton of 15 free range eggs, $1 for a dozen tortillas and $1.50 for a 2 lbs bag of black beans. Perhaps unexpectedly, local fruits are fairly inexpensive: about $1.50-$2 for the best pineapple ever, 60 cents for an avocado, and less than $1 for a large bunch of bananas. Other items are extremely costly: Beer is $8-9 per six-pack (local beer only)*, cheese is $8-10/lb, and $6 for a small jar of peanut butter. Additionally, we happen to be staying in the one region of Costa Rica where the tap water is not safe to drink. We mitigate this cost by buying a large 19 L jug of water every 2 days for about $6 (smaller 6 L jugs are about $4-5 each). We have found juice and yogurt to be VERY sugary (although the box says 100% juice, I’m not sure I believe it)
Eating out is even more expensive. This is no different than at home…we often struggled with the work/life balance in this area. Too exhausted after work, school and activities, we often ate out. My middle certainly suffered the ill effects and so did our savings. Here in Costa Rica, we haven’t indulged too much. The costs are similar to what we payed in Colorado for a dinner for four (so far an average of about $35 per meal). The difference is that now we are on an extremely tight budget: if we want to eat out, an excursion or event is likely out of the question or must be scaled back. Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “why did they have to go to Costa Rica to discover that? I live it every day!” We were certainly blessed to not have this be an overwhelming concern in the States, but looking back we can see how this impacted us even beyond the obvious costs.
Here in Costa Rica we have found a much better paradigm. Amy and I now cook together…what used to be a debate is now a partnership. We clean up after each meal together too, otherwise we pay the price of a million fruit flies, ants and wasps in the morning. We often cook simple food for dinner such as our version of Casado (rice and beans with some form of protein) or pasta, fresh fruits and veggies. Lunches are generally sandwiches with more fruit and breakfast is cereal and/or eggs. One of my favorites is taking the leftover rice and beans from the night before and frying an egg to break over the top of it. Our kids have taken to this new mode too. They are constantly “starving” (snack foods are crazy expensive) so they have been willing to try many new things. Fresh made guacamole, various rice and bean concoctions and squash casserole are just of few of the former “gross” foods they now trying and generally loving.
|Pita Bonita||This place was worth every penny. It is a hundred meters down the road from us in Punta Uva. Amazing fresh hummus, great falafel and spectacular kabob accompanied by super fresh pita bread that I couldn’t stop eating. The owner, Elan, is an Israeli expat who moved to the area for a new way of life. He was very helpful and friendly.||$50.00|
|Jungle Love||The ambiance was fantastic (except for Mack throwing a pouting fest that resulted in her spilling her very full banana batido, a fresh fruit “shake”, all over the table). We were tired and all a little out of sorts. We had been in Punta Uva about a week by this time and needed a bit of comfort food so we decided that it was a great pizza night. The pizza was fair, but having had many amazing pies and slices over the years I may be a bit slanted. For me, the sauce was a tad sweet and the crust was a little too biscuit-like. The toppings were fantastic: fresh garlic, sautéed spinach, delicious mushrooms and a slightly spicy sausage were a winning combination. We ordered a large and a medium pizza and had enough leftovers for a nice lunch (although reheating pizza without oven is a challenge).||$42.74|
|Pan Pay||This bakery and restaurant was recommended by our Spanish teacher. It is located near the beach in Puerto Viejo on the north end of town. The place was small and the server was impatient with our lack of Spanish. It might have just been the woman helping us as others appeared very friendly. The girls loved the Batidos here and my Pinto Gallo with Tocineta (rice and beans mixed with bacon and eggs) was awesome. The girls had Bocadillos with Queso and Tocineta. Not bad, but not amazing.||$19.81|
|Soda Chino||A Chinese influenced soda in Limón. This place served chop suey alongside the traditional casados popular in sodas across Costa Rica. We only had fries and four cokes…don’t think the food would have been great based on what we saw.||$10.67|
|Wok and Roll||We took a drive to Turrialba, a mountain valley dominated by an active volcano. It was cloudy, so the only eruptions we saw came from the backseat as Quinn was carsick multiple times on the winding mountain roads (she started the day in a dress, upon arrival in Turrialba she changed into pants and a t-shirt purchased in town, ended the day naked, poor girl). We chose an eatery featuring Chinese food because Mackenzie likes it so much. It was a pretty good option, with nice kid friendly dishes and an amazingly friendly staff. Amy and I shared the Singapore Noodles (one of my favorites) and it was very well prepared. This was a pretty expensive place, but it is close to the main square.||$40.00|
|Punta Mona Center
for Regenerative Design
& Botanical Studies
|“An 85 acre off the grid, beach front, family owned,
environmental education center,
botanical collection, permaculture farm
and eco-lodge, dedicated to regenerative ways of living.” The vegan fair was amazing, a squash dish with hearts of palm, garlic, coconut milk and coconut oil; Kale and lentils with savory mushrooms; fried plantains with guacamole. Amy and I enjoyed it immensely and it was about $10 per person. I am not sure if you can arrange to simply eat there on your own, but our tour guide Omar arranged the lunch for us after a kayaking tour.
*A former colleague of mine was certain I was crazy for going on a trip where alcohol may be out of the question because it is such a budget buster. She suggested that I mitigate the cost by forming a GoFundMe. Well Mindie, here it is: Buy me a Beer