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Costa Rica Travel Guide

Costa Rica — Food and Restaurants

Costa Rica is a good place for people who like healthy food based on corn, rice, avocado, fresh vegetables, seafood, and meat. The food tends to be traditional in rural areas, while the cities offer a wider range for more adventurous eating. Drinking and dancing are popular entertainment options for both locals and visitors, with Friday and Saturday being the main party nights. The surfing towns are a good place for fun, while the mountains are good places to relax, eat well, and get some sleep.

Bars and Pubbing in Costa Rica

San Jose, the capital, has a variety of nightlife. There are several districts which have restaurants and bars, although much of the action is centered downtown, where clubs such as the Blue Marlin Bar (Hotel del Rey, Avenida St, San Jose) and Key Largo (opposite Hotel del Ray, Avenida, San Jose) serve up live music or DJs. The upscale suburbs of Escazú and Santa Ana have some chic bars, while Heredia has more of a student vibe. Salsa dancing is popular, with Salsa 54 Club (Calle 3 between Aves. 1 and 3, San Jose) being the real deal –full of locals who can groove.

For a more cultural experience, Costa Rica has a thriving theater scene with lots of small venues producing regular performances, often burlesque or comedies. More high-brow shows are held at the National Theater (Plaza de la Cultura, City Center, San Jose).

Away from the cities, much of the revelry is found at the beach. Jaco is about 80 miles from San Jose and has casinos and clubs like the popular Monkey Bar (100 meters north of Hotel Tangeri, next to Municipal Park), which is open until 2:30 a.m. The surfing town of Domenical, a six hour drive from San Jose, is another lively option, with hangouts like Thrusters Bar (waterfront, town center, Domenical) offering drinks, darts and pool tables. Bohemian Montezuma is the party capital of the Nicoya Peninsula and where Rastafarians abound in the rowdy Chico’s Bar (Town Center, Montezuma).

Dining and Cuisine in Costa Rica

Costa Rican cuisine is a rich blend of indigenous, Spanish, African, European, and other influences, with the corn-based tamale being one of the more traditional dishes, along with gallo pinto, a rice-and-bean mix seasoned with onions or cilantro that is available for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Beverages to try include guaro, a vodka-like fermented sugar cane that is usually sipped with water and lemon. Alternatively, local and imported beer is readily available, with Pilsen and Imperial being the most common brands. Costa Ricans also drink refrescos, non-alcoholic fruit shakes, and locally-grown coffee, which is always excellent.

San Jose offers the highest quality dining, with the plant and antique-filled Park Cafe (100 N Rostipollos, La Sabana, San Jose) recognized as one of the best options for elegantly-presented, modern gourmet Costa Rican cuisine. The French chef at Restaurante Grano de Oro (Hotel D’Oro, Calle 30, Avenida 2 y 4, 251, San Jose) combines European and tropical plates for divine white-tablecloth dining beneath stained-glass windows.

Various other international options are available, including the vegetarian-friendly Tin Jo (Calle 11, Av. 6 y 8 Detras de la Iglesia La Soledad, 150 metros al sur, San Jose) serving Asian fusion among Thai-style décor in a converted house. Alternatively, the attractive garden restaurant, the Taj Mahal (half mile east of Centro Comercial Paco Calle Vieja Hacia Santa Ana, San Rafael de Escazu, Costa Rica) has well-priced Indian food.

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