Being Vegetarian in Costa Rica
Row upon row of plump strawberries, gorgeous eggplants and super-size papaya beckon me every Friday as I navigate the tightly packed sidewalks at my local farmers’ market. Though I consider myself a true omnivore at heart, my body is healthiest and mind clearest when I stick to foods without a face. After all, you are what you eat. If you're concerned about being vegetarian or vegan in Costa Rica, rest assured, a bounty of fresh produce awaits you in this tropical nation. And the best part is that it's very affordable – especially if you avoid upscale grocers like Auto Mercado and buy at your local market.
You'll find healthy snacks and vegetarian items made by BioLand in every Costa Rican supermarket, and companies like NaturaStyle and Organica Costa Rica will deliver natural products right to your door. Costa Rica is a melting pot of cultures from around the world, and popular expat towns offer residents varied cuisine that caters to both organic foodies and herbivores. Your options are much more exciting than rice and beans: chow down on Thai, Israeli, Japanese or Peruvian dishes for a night out on the town, or ask about the area's local organic or farmers' market. Central Valley residents can sample a variety of inspiring vegetarian dishes at Vishnu restaurant. Their sandwiches and soy burgers are surprisingly tasty, and you can't beat their plato del dia, which runs less than $4 and will keep you sated all day.
Since moving here nearly six years ago, I've seen a marked increase in vegetarian and organic products for sale. Organic markets are increasingly popular, not only in San Jose, but in small towns throughout the country. In my hometown of Atenas, we have a wonderful organization that provides members with organic goods produced countrywide. I place an order each week, which the co-op fills from local producers, and for around $25, I get a week's worth of organic goodies and fresh produce. A wide variety of products can be ordered, from fruits and veggies to goat cheese, quinoa, maca powder, herbs, aged balsamic vinegar and soy products.
Just about every beach town, from Puerto Viejo to Dominical, has its own organic co-op or local market, so if you're a new transplant, be sure to check them out. If you live in the San Jose area, the following markets are worth a try.
- Feria Verde de Aranjuez - Saturdays from 6:00 a.m. to about noon; Barrio Aranjuez, San Jose, one block west of the Colegio Mexico.
- Feria Organica - Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Barrio Escalante, San Jose, Kasasana store, two and a half blocks north of the Centro Cultural Costarricense.
- Feria Organica El Trueque - Saturdays from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.; Barrio el Carmen, San Jose, 7 blocks south of the San Cayetano Church.
- Natura Mercardo Organico - 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. M-F and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sat; San Rafael de Escazu, next to the Centro Comercial Boulevard Rosa.