Costa Rica has received a lot of hype in the last years as the ideal tropical vacation spot. Now more than ever, people are visiting Costa Rica on their vacations, sometimes even taking quick trips multiple times a year. These repeat visitors already have pinpointed the most beautiful beaches, the most active bars, and their favorite food joints. First-time visitors, however, have to start from zero. A google search in preparation for your trip will leave you with an endless amount of information, and the options can be overwhelming. You’ll have your resort hotels booked, restaurants scouted, and jungle hikes reserved with the most prestigious guides before you even hit the ground. One thing first-timers to the area often forget, however, is to plan time out for Costa Rica’s favorite pastime: relaxing in a beach-side hammock with a drink in hand.
There are an endless amount of guided hikes and cultural tours to take during your trip, but don’t make the classic mistake of packing your itinerary too full. You’ll want to plan a couple afternoons of your trip to be dedicated to pure relaxation. And nothing goes better with relaxation than a beverage. Whether you find yourself being pampered at a Pacific resort, chilling in a Caribbean bungalow, or bundled up tree-top level overlooking the Costa Rican cloud forest, there’s a traditional drink made specially to deepen your relaxation.
Natural juices, often called “naturales” or “refrescos,” are sold in any town on nearly every corner. Costa Rica is the land of exotic fruit, and the people have not failed to take full advantage of this gift. Juices from fresh-cut fruits will be hand-made and served on ice for just pennies. This may be one of the best ways to explore Costa Rica’s most natural asset. Pick up a juice at least once a day. This juice can accompany a large breakfast, or be served from a street-side cart, the juice poured into a bag tied around a straw, to be enjoyed as your tour the streets. Try tasking new fruits to you. You just may find that a papaya juice or an mango-cantaloupe mixture is your new favorite drink.
When sold in a juice bar, these drinks are usually fresh and healthy. When sold on a cart on the streets, you’re receiving the same fresh, locally-grown fruit juices, but usually made with a whole lot of sugar. Fortunately, you’ll have the drinks made fresh right in front of you, so make sure you ask for yours to be made with little or no sugar for the most natural taste and healthiest option.
You may drink coffee every day, but when in Costa Rica, it needs to be savored. This drink is to be enjoyed as slowly and as often as possible. Costa Rica is a coffee lover’s paradise, and entire regions of the country are dedicated to growing this important bean. You very likely have tried a Costa Rican blend in Starbucks or in your own kitchen, but you will almost never have the chance to drink a fresh, local cup of joe. Here, coffee will be easy to find, but make sure you don’t drink a cup without asking about it first. Ask your server where your bean was sourced from and try tasting as many coffee blends as you can when in town. If you find a favorite blend, look into the company’s farm. There’s a good chance that the farm offers tours complete with taste-testing and local meals. You may just find yourself within a couple hours’ drive from relaxing on a sustainable farm, drinking a fresh brew which has never left the campus.
Agua de Sapo
This drink can be translated to “toad water,” which is why most visitors to the region will never dare to try it. They’re missing out, however, because this drink is a tropical and refreshing blend of water, unrefined sugarcane sap, lime juice, and ginger. A Costa Rican version of ginger beer, this refreshing drink will get your taste buds tingling. This drink comes from an Afro-Caribbean background, so your best bet for finding an authentic mix will be on the Caribbean Coast of the country. You won’t want to leave the Limon Province without trying a cup or two. Making a great Agua de Sapo is a point of pride for a Costa Rican chef or bartender, so as you tour the region, be sure to try this drink from various sources.
Guaro is sometimes translated into English as “moonshine,” but that’s just because the English language hasn’t yet developed a word for this special liquor. Guaro is a sugarcane based liquor that offers a smooth and sweet drink. The distillery process is simple, and it can be taken as a shot or mixed with your favorite mixer you might use with rum or vodka.
After a long day of rainforest hikes and volcano climbs, you’ll deserve a cold drink. Head to any Costa Rican bar, guaro will be their main drink. Try the local brand called “Cacique,” but drink with caution, your body might not yet be accustomed to this strong, tropical treat.
In the United States, Horchata hits the supermarkets along with eggnog every Christmas. In Costa Rica, however, this drink is enjoyed year-round for any event or refreshing treat. Locally, horchata is made with milk, rice flour, sugar, and a whole lot of cinnamon.
This is Costa Rica’s finest rum. Rum, being a beverage made from tropical sugarcane, is a source of great pride for Central American countries, and the best brand is a common debate among Central American friends. When in Costa Rica, drink Ron Centenario, you’ll gain a lot of respect by the locals. This rum comes in a variety of ages and blends, so you’ll need to do some tasting before you find your perfect drink. It’s a smooth rum, so you may be able to drink it on the rocks rather than with a mixer. Fortunately, you have plenty of time to experiment, since this rum will be found in any restaurant, bar, or hotel in the country.
Only in Costa Rica is the word “pipa” used to describe a green coconut. The iced water of that coconut, or “pipa fria,” is possibly the most preferred drink in the entire country. It’s easy to find too, since street-vendors and cart-pushers will be shouting out its name to attract customers. Don’t spend time searching for this drink, it will come to you. Anytime you’re at a popular beach, stuck at a trafficked intersection, or shopping a market, you’ll run into fresh pitchers. The water will be poured into a plastic bag tied around a straw, and you’ll enjoy it on the go. When you have the chance, try to order 3 or 4 tied bags as well to bring to your hotel with you. Nothing will be more refreshing and hydrating as a fresh, iced coconut water after a steamy, tropical hike.
Beer, or “cerveza,” is still the world’s favorite drink, and it’s a good idea to try a local brew every time you hit a new country. In Costa Rica, the American Lager Imperial is the fast favorite. You might also find some new microbrews coming into play in more populated towns. If there’s one phrase you need to learn before your trip, it’s “mas cerveza, por favor.” Make sure your relaxing vacation is complete by ordering the coldest beer in the fridge to be delivered to your beach-side hammock. You’ll be delighted by your morning explorations, but a beach afternoon of doing nothing but chatting, laughing, and watching the sunset with a cold beer will be nothing less than perfect.