One of Costa Rica’s biggest exports is tourism, and Tamarindo is nothing if not a tourist town beaming with a vibrant international community. Its small downtown area is bursting with restaurants, cafes, smoothie stands, souvenir shops, and tour companies. Due to the high expatriate population and influx of tourists, you won’t find the traditional Costa Rican food and experience that you would further inland. But that doesn’t mean the victuals are mediocre by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re a street food junkie, you won’t find small street taco stands like in Mexico or food stalls along the roads like in Southeast Asia. Costa Rican street food is delicious, and some of the best eating spots are little roadside local restaurants and Sodas serving up the comida tipica (typical food.) Where might one find the best street food in Tamarindo?
Street Food Shortlist
If you're on the hunt for darn good, authentic Costa Rican cuisine, try Doña Rosa along the main road. Doña Rosa has been serving the most traditional Costa Rican grub out of the back of her station wagon on the streets of Tamarindo for ten years. Doña Rosa and her daughter make the food every morning in Cartegena, about a half hour drive from Tamarindo.
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She serves the typical casado, a platter with arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), black beans, fried plantains, and other traditional fare for only 2,000 colones or $4 USD. This is by far the most food served in Tamarindo for the least amount of money.
Still looking for local flavor? Head to FT’s Tamarindo Restaurant for simple local food. Soda El Buen Comer for delicious casado and watermelon drink.
Along the beach, you’ll see a variety of different types of vendors selling things like empanadas, churros, soft, delicate cookies called alfajores, beer, soda, water, amongst other things. Located on the beach closest to the estuary by Witches Rock is brown box stand, The Juice Box. The hipster-cool stand carries fresh juices like coconut water, carrot juice, and watermelon juice. The Mango Guy sells fresh green mango on a cup, what you can season with lemon, salt, pepper or hot sauce. Just look for the green cart Wednesday-Sunday in the afternoon. The Ceviche Guy sells a mean ceviche along the beach. Getting a bit hot? Find the red Snow Cone Cart selling "granizados" with your choice of flavors.
Places like Sno Shack, Mango Verde Smoothie Shop, and Mandarina for fresh fruit batidos (smoothies) that are made to order. The Sno Shack, in particular, makes a really good green smoothie that includes kale, spinach, basil and pineapple. In fact, they are the only place in town selling green smoothies. The Shrimp Hole for simple, yet delicious shrimp and rice dish. Los Angeles style parmesan hard shell tacos from Eat My Taco. Down the road from Witches Rock is a lady that sells kebabs that she bbq’s fresh. Take you pick between beef or chicken.
Keep an eye out the Pipa Guy selling pipa fria (cold coconut water). Walking the Tamarindo streets every day with his blue cooler filled with coconuts, the Pipa Guy attracts customers with his megaphonic voice that traverses the entire town. If you’ve never drunk the water straight from a fresh coconut, then you are in for a pleasantly delicious surprise. Want one of his t-shirts? Witches Rock sells them. Addy's Famous Cuban Subs for a Cuba Libre after a night out. Stop at the open food court area across from Plaza Conchal and great a smoothie at Pura Vida Tropical Juice Bar; Asian Fusion Bistro for sushi; La Princesa Cafe for coffee or a David’s Chai. If you have a sweet tooth, try the cheesecake. I've heard the cinnamon rolls are amazing, too. There are other places within this small food court worth checking out. Just a few store fronts over, next to Mandarina’s is Jazz'sTamarindo for crepes.
Bottom line, there are so many great places in Tamarindo to satisfy any sort of foodie. The unique blend of Tico and international communities has created a unique “local’ flavor.