For a Central American city of its size, San José has a surprising variety of restaurants – Italian, Thai and even macrobiotic – along with simple places that offer dishes beginning and ending with rice (rice-and-shrimp, rice-and-chicken, rice-and-meat). For excellent típico cooking, try the upmarket restaurants specializing in grills or barbecues (churrascos).

Many of the city’s best restaurants are in the relatively wealthy and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of San Pedro, along Paseo Colón, and in Escazú. Wherever you choose, eating out in San José can set your budget back on its haunches. Prices are generally steep, and the 23 percent tax on restaurant food (which includes a 10 percent “service charge”) make it even pricier to eat out. The cheapest places are in the centre, especially the snack bars and sodas, where the restaurant tax doesn’t apply. Sadly, however, the best of these are disappearing at an alarming rate because of competition from fast-food outlets. The sodas that remain generally open early, close late and are cheap and cheerful. A plato del día lunch in a soda will rarely set you back more than $5. They also have empanadas and sandwiches to take out – combine these with a stop at one of the fruit stalls on any street corner and you’ve got a quick, cheap lunch. The pieces of papaya and pineapple sold in neatly packaged plastic bags have been washed and peeled by the vendors and should be safe, but if in doubt, wash again. Snacks sold at the Mercado Central are as tasty as anywhere, and there’s a good cluster of sodas hidden away in the Galería shopping arcade, Av 2, C 5/7.

Fast-food outlets in San José are proliferating so rapidly that at times it can look like a veritable jungle of Pizza Huts, Taco Bells and KFCs, not to mention McDonald’s. Cafés also abound; some, like Giacomín, have old-world European aspirations; others, such as Spoon, are resolutely Costa Rican, with Josefinos piling in to order birthday cakes or grab a coffee. Most cafés serve exclusively export Costa Rican coffee which has a mild, soft flavour: for more on coffee. As is the case with shops and restaurants, some of the best cafés are in the shopping malls outside San José. Bakeries (pastelería, repostería) on every corner sell cakes, breads and pastries, most of them heavy with white refined flour. Worthwhile bakery chains include Musmanni, Spoon, Schmidt and Giacomín. The city’s fantastic ice cream is another source of woe to dieters. Pops is the best of the major chains, with particularly good fruit flavours.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Costa Rica features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best hikes in Costa Rica

The best hikes in Costa Rica

Over a quarter of Costa Rica’s landscape is protected by its comprehensive system of national parks, wildlife refuges and biological reserves. As well as …

28 Mar 2018 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
9 tips for travelling in Costa Rica

9 tips for travelling in Costa Rica

Inspired by pictures of Costa Rica’s primordial-looking shores, rainforests brimming with exotic creatures and steaming volcanoes that tower above the clouds?…

03 Oct 2017 • Chloe Cann insert_drive_file Article
14 magical sunrises that prove it's worth getting up early

14 magical sunrises that prove it's worth getting up early

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there's nothing more temp…

16 Apr 2015 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs