When you visit Costa Rica and you want good local food, you have to eat at a soda. Trust me. You haven’t experienced real Costa Rica if you don’t eat at a soda. Oh and no I don’t mean eat next to a pop can!
Sodas are what Costa Ricans call their local Costa Rican restaurant. A Costa Rica soda are normally small, mom and pop open air restaurants that serves only traditional Costa Rican food. It’s the best place to experience eating out like a local!
Here is what you need to know about eating at a Costa Rican restaurant, or a soda.
Costa Rica Soda
Every town you visit in Costa Rica has a soda. Most of them hang a Pepsi/Coca Cola or Imperial sign outside and the name is something like “Soda Tipica.”
If you want to eat like a local, then you must eat at a Costa Rican soda. Also, if you are traveling in Costa Rica on a budget, sodas are cheaper than touristic restaurants so it’s a great way to save money on food.
Eating in a soda in Costa Rica is best and only way to get a taste of true Costa Rican food as that is all they serve. Normally they are family run and it’s a fun way to practice your Spanish and try different local Costa Rican food.
Sodas are buffet or menu style. We personally like buffet style because they will have a bunch of different choices so you can choose whatever you want. Additionally, the buffet style is a lot easier if you’re vegetarian/vegan or have food allergies. You can read this post for more information on eating vegetarian in Costa Rica.
A typical menu for a soda in Costa Rica goes like this: entradas (appetizers), platos tradicionales (traditional food) which are casados, pasta, arrozes (arroz con pollo/mariscos/camarones/calamares) and platos fuertes. Platos fuertes are usually a whole fish, steak, the special of the day or something like that. Small sodas may only offer casados which is the most typical Costa Rican lunch/dinner made of rice, beans, salad and a meat.
Another thing sodas usually have are chileras which are pickled spicy vegetables. If you like spicy food, you have to try this! Great addition to any traditional Costa Rican dish.
For drinks, they usually have sodas and natural juices like cas, watermelon, mango or soda. In Costa Rica, it is not normal to drink only water. They like to have a soda or fruit juice with their meal.
Eating at a Costa Rican soda is probably one of the best ways to get to know the locals and meet people. It’s easy to spot sodas and you can find them everywhere. Even if you’re driving on what seems to be a road into the middle of nowhere, you’ll find a soda!
If you’re staying at an Airbnb or if your hotel doesn’t include breakfast, we recommend going to a soda for a hearty cheap breakfast. All of them will have gallo pinto, the rice and beans traditional breakfast.
Here’s a fun short video we made of a soda in our hometown in Guanacaste, near Tamarindo. Definitely check it out if you’re in the area!
Our Favorite Sodas in Costa Rica
Here are some of our favorite sodas in Costa Rica. We always eat at sodas when we travel because they’re cheaper and it’s what Yeison is more used to since he is Costa Rican.
- Los Pelones: This is our favorite soda in Playas del Coco. We love their breakfast.
- Brasilito: In Brasilito. Has good rice with shrimp and seafood.
- Tipica Las Palmares: In Montezuma. Their patacones and guacamole were amazing and it has an ocean view.
- Ardilla: Near La Paz waterfall gardens. Nice little soda with good Costa Rican tacos.
- Coloso #2: Our favorite soda in La Fortuna. Soda Viquez is another good one.
- Sabor Tico: Our favorite soda in Monteverde. They have a very expansive menu with items you don’t normally see at every soda which is super nice.
- Almendros: A great soda in Uvita by the entrance of Marino Ballena National Park. Huge portions!
- Soda Sanchez: Great soda in Quepos near Manuel Antonio. We liked their breakfast.
- Rustico: The best soda in Jaco, it’s so good it’s been on the local news.
- Tapia: One of the best sodas in San Jose, Costa Rica.
- Marea Baja: Nice soda a little outside Jaco for when you need food late at night as it’s 24 hours. Super cheap too.
- La Tiquicia: Our favorite soda in Santa Teresa.
- Soda Lidia’s Place: This soda is in Puerto Viejo and they serve typical Costa Rican-Caribbean food so you will find different dishes like rice and beans, rondon and more.
If you’re in San Jose, I recommend going to the Central Market in downtown. Soda Tapia is a classic.