Did you know that Costa Rica has one of the blue zones of the world? If you’re not familiar with this term, blue zones are regions where people tend to live longer than the average. There are a total of 5 blue zones in the world, one of them is located in Nicoya, Costa Rica. Many factors influence this longevity in citizens, from the climate, to lifestyle to food.
Costa Rican food may not be known worldwide but the staple of our cuisine and the most traditional dishes we have, originated from the Guanacaste area, where our centenarians live. Their food consists of a lot of legumes, home grown vegetables like corn, green beans, and local leafy greens, a moderate amount of animal products and lots of fresh herbs like oregano and cilantro. When visiting Costa Rica make sure to try the gallo pinto, casados and tamales, all dishes ingrained in millenary culture.
Freshness is always one thing that you can certainly count on when it comes to our cuisine. Many fruits that foreigners don’t like in their own country become a favorite of theirs when visiting Costa Rica. Papaya is a great example. Never say you don’t like papaya until you’ve tried a good ripe Costa Rican papaya, or the real sweetness of a picked-directly-from-the-tree Costa Rican mango. Our fruit is grown here for local consumption and has the opportunity to reach its ripeness in their local environment as opposed to the a lot of tropical fruit and vegetables that are shipped from our country out to different places in Europe and the US which, to help it make the long journeys, is send green and tends to taste like a bland version of the local one.
Costa Rica is a multicultural country, therefore we find influence from the many different cultures that have rooted here. Contrary to the Pacific side, our Caribbean side is predominantly influenced by Afro-descendants who came from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Haiti. The food in this part of Costa Rica tends to be richer, with bolder flavors and spices like cumin, thyme and coconut. When you visit this part of the country, you must try the decadent rice and beans, Caribbean chicken and for a quick grub some pati or enyucados and -for those more daring foodies- make sure to try the locally-made hot sauce, you will love it.
Of course you can’t leave Costa Rica without trying ceviche. A perfect balance of local flavors combined for a simple yet delicious dish. The more traditional one is the fish ceviche but you can find ceviches made of shrimp, shellfish and even plantain.
Leaning into less traditional and more adventurous venues, Costa Rica serves food from many different parts of the world. Here in Manuel Antonio, for example, you can find Indian, Israeli, Thai, Italian, Japanese food and many more, not the typical Costa Rican cuisine but what makes those particular places wonderful is the fusion of their culture with the local produce and products that you can find here. In the need for many to bring flavors from their home here, they end up creating a new version influenced by the freshness and goodness of our country.
Not many places in the world are like Costa Rica. Make sure to try the local food, you won’t regret it!