San Jose Restaurants and Dining

(San Jose, Costa Rica)

View of local Costa Rican shops and eateriesThere is a wonderful choice of food on offer in San Jose. Restaurants serve everything from international choices, such as Indian, to region choices, including all kinds of Peruvian and Costa Rican specialities. The hotels in San Jose are good places to find quality cuisine, while cheaper and equally tasty dining options can be found at low-key local eateries.

For a look at how the locals eat, head for the bustling Mercado Central, San Jose's number one food market. Here you can dine on fresh seafood at any one of the casual restaurants or quick-serve food counters. The city's bars are also great places to pick up locals snacks, known as 'boca' (similar to Spanish Tapas), while fine dining is never far from hand if required.

Photo of central plaza

When to Eat / Opening Hours

Eating can be done at all hours of the day in San Jose, with locals enjoying hearty meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while snacks such as fresh fruit and pastries are also consumed throughout the day. Head for a 'soda' (a diner-style establishment), for a 'gallo pinto' breakfast. Sodas open early while other restaurants typically don't open until 11:00.

Most local restaurants are open for lunch, but close during the afternoon (14:00 to 18:00). Dinner starts late and should be a leisurely experience, with diners seeing this meal as an opportunity to socialise late into the evening. While most restaurants close by 23:00, there are a few all-night options along the Avenida Central.

Picture taken in the city centre

What to Eat

While traditional Costa Rican cuisine is based on corn, beans and rice, it is also influenced by the country's two coastlines, which are the source of San Jose's abundant fresh seafood. Cheaper still is beef and chicken, which unlike the seafood is not exported. If you just want a snack along with a drink, order a 'boca'.

Dishes not to be missed include 'gallo pinto', made with eggs, black beans and rice. This makes for a hearty breakfast. For lunch, try the rice, cabbage, plantain and bean dish known as 'casado', a local favourite. Meat pastries are popular snacks, while seafood makes for a great evening meal with 'ceviche' (marinated seafood) being tasty.

If you fancy a break from Costa Rican cuisine, there are dozens of international eateries on hand, serving up everything from Japanese to Indian and Italian. Most hotels feature restaurants with an international menu.

Where to Eat

There are a number of quality dining venues around the National Theatre and on the Avenida Central, including affordable American style eateries serving daily specials and even an elegant French style cafeteria. There are also a few all-night eateries here.

For local food at even better prices, the Mercado Central is the place to go, or alternatively, look out for the street vendor stalls, which serve up fresh fruit. One step up from sodas are 'tipicos', which usually serve larger portions and have some specials. If you prefer American style fast-food restaurants, then San Jose city centre is home to both KFC and Pizza Hut, amongst other familiar names.