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5 Tips for Dining in Costa Rica

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While planning your Costa Rican vacation, one of the things that you likely encountered was the rave reviews about Costa Rican food. While similar to other Latin American cuisine, Costa Rican food differentiates itself in that it tends to be much healthier due to the inclusion of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
These five tips will help you navigate the delicious landscape of Costa Rican cuisine.

1. Know what's available and hours of operation
There are three primary types of dining establishments in Costa Rica.
Tourist restaurants in popular tourism centers.
Ranchos that serve both traditional and international fare.
Sodas -- small, family-run restaurants.

Sodas are open from about 7:00 AM to early evening, and you can expect many of them to be closed on Sunday. Ranchos and restaurants in tourist centers are generally open from lunchtime through 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Most Costa Rican restaurants, except for those in hotels, are closed between Christmas and New Year's Day and during Holy Week in the spring.

2. Seek out traditional fare.
As always when traveling, it's much more interesting to enjoy the traditional foods of the region. Casado, ceviche, gallo pinto, chicharones, empanadas are only a few.

3. Don't forget the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
Towns such as Puerto Viejo offer dishes that are made with curry, ginger, and coconut milk. Don't miss Caribbean Chicken and Ron Dom.

4. Put aside the sodas.
Costa Ricans drink hot coffee all day long. Look for Volio or Café Britt brands in supermarkets. You can also enjoy coffee in souvenir shops.
Chan, a slightly sweet drink made from chan seed, is another popular beverage. Chan isn't always found in restaurants. Purchase it at holistic health stores (Macrobioticas) or at the farmer's market.
Don't forget the national favorite: pipa fría -- chilled coconut water. You can buy it at street intersections, on the beach, and at vegetable stands.

5. Know what to avoid.
Lonely Planet has a list of foods that are best left alone. This is one writer's opinion, so use your own judgment. They recommend that you avoid mondongo (tripe soup), ceviche de pulpo (octopus ceviche), and the eggs of rare turtles, to name a few.

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