Costa Rica: a vegetarian paradise

Veggie Fajitas at Cocolores

Returning home from Costa Rica is rough, especially when you factor in the ridiculously cold weather that hit Montreal this January.  Typically when I get home from vacay, I’ll comfort myself with the familiar and delicious vegetarian foods that I have been deprived of on my trip, but not this time. The food in CR was so good, and so veg that I didn’t even have “favourite food withdrawal”.  Veggie fajitas, chia seed smoothies, breakfast burritos, fresh falafels, among other amazing new discoveries were some of the dishes that I feasted on in CR. Best of all, vegetarian food was so accessible that I think I may have put on a few extra pounds despite all the excursions and hikes. If you are a foodie with a taste for adventure (no pun intended), then I’d definitely recommend Costa Rica. I’ve included some food highlights below, take a look.

Imperial

Santa Teresa Beach

Costa Rica is a touristy place. Very touristy. So try to go during low season to avoid the hoards of beach bums. That being said, I went during New Year’s Eve when all hostels were at complete capacity and I still had loads of fun.

NYE on Santa Teresa Beach
NYE on Santa Teresa Beach

Santa Teresa beach is a hippie-esque surfer spot with laid back drop dead gorgerous people who come from all around the world to surf, do yoga and mellow out. The main strip is lined with numerous cafes and eateries which are mostly owned by ex-pats, offering an array of vegan and vegetarian options. Some of my highlights were:

Yummy Smoothies at Ginger Cafe

Falafel burger and live music at Zulu

Coconut curry and chic nighttime ambience at Kantana 

Breakfast Burrito and funky art at Zwarts Cafe 

Enormous pizzas and delicious iced coffees from The Bakery

Zwart Cafe
Zwart Cafe
Best Breakfast Burrito at Zwart Cafe
Best Breakfast Burrito at Zwart Cafe

I also enjoyed an amazing meal in neighbouring beach town of Montezuma. Montezuma is a great place to visit with it’s popular waterfalls that offer a free thrill with steep hikes, big jumps and a tarzan swing over water. After we were done playing around in what is basically a natural water park, we went down to Cocolores restaurant to have dinner on the beach. This place has an amazing beer selection and fabulous veggie fajitas – I was in heaven!

Monteverde

Monteverde was a nice change of pace from the buzzing beach towns. It is a great place to explore a plethora of National Parks, zip line and get some wildlife photos. The town area is cute but I must warn you, the food ain’t cheap. We cooked more and ate out less but still discovered some yummy finds:

Giant pizza & funky ambiance at Treehouse Cafe

Freaking Delicious Tacos & Burritos at Taco Taco

Best coffee in Costa Rica at Beso Espresso

Treehouse Cafe
Coffee at Treehouse Cafe

El Castillo – Essence Arenal

My last few days in Costa Rica were incredible partly because of my stay Essence Arenal. Fresh mouth air, great views, loads of wildlife and delicious vegetarian meals – just about everything that makes me happy inside.

The Views and Essence Arenal
The Views and Essence Arenal

Essence Arenal was located on an organic farm with loads of plants and trees to admire and taste which made the food to die for. The fun part is that they also invite you to help prepare the dinner meals which was somewhat educational and made for good vibes. The dinners are a little more pricy at about 15$ a pop but the breakfasts and lunches are a steal at only about $5! It’s also an excellent spot to explore the Arenal volcano and enjoy a dip in the hot springs!  I would definitely recommend it!

Essence Arenal
Traditional Costa Rican Dinner night @ Essence Arenal
Making Fresh Tortillas at Essence Arenal
Making Fresh Tortillas at Essence Arenal
A Traditional Tico meal at Essence Arenal
A Traditional Tico meal at Essence Arenal
Making Fresh Tortillas at Essence Arenal
Making Fresh Tortillas at Essence Arenal
Homemade falafels at Essence Arenal
Homemade falafels at Essence Arenal

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Desayuno Tipico

Another highlight was the desayuno tipico which you can find everywhere. Totally veg-friendly, just ask if there is pork fat in the rice and beans (incase). This breakfast got me through many long days of hiking.

Desayuno Tipico
Desayuno Tipico, Pico de Gallo, cream, plantains, tortillas and eggs with fresh coffee. Available everywhere!

Despite the hoards of tourists, I still really enjoyed Costa Rica.  There are definitely ways to get off the beaten track a bit more which I would do next time. Two weeks did not feel like enough time. You could spend weeks there and only scratch the surface. Since we were there during the holidays, a real highlight for me was being able to interact with lots of Ticos who were staying in the same hostels.  Costa Rican people are very warm and welcoming, especially when they are vacationing. If you’ve ever been there then you’ve definitely heard the phrase: “Pura Vida,” meaning the pure life. They use it for everything from greetings to thank yous to farewells. At face value, I thought of pura vida meaning that you live pure: eat well, take care of your body and mind. After more time there, I came to think of it more in terms of karma, you live the pure life by passing pure and kind gestures forward. At least that is how I came to understand it from my interactions with the locals. Although the meaning to Costa Ricans may be more profound, I felt that the words really did encapsulate the experience for me: A vast and natural land where good-natured people were plentiful. Mind you, we often get inspired while traveling, in any case PURA VIDA!

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