Whether touring a local coffee plantation or grabbing dinner in a restaurant with a spectacular view of a nearby volcano, travelers who visit Costa Rica have an opportunity to sample a bounty of local fare. Bustling markets overflow with regional produce, and the fruits of the earth are the primary ingredients in many of the popular local dishes.
Costa Rica, our latest Destination Adventure location, celebrates its Independence Day on September 15. Now seems like the perfect time to explore those fruitful foods of this popular adventure and eco-tourism destination.
Daily pilgrimages to buy fresh local produce gave James Amerson of Pensacola, Florida, a great taste of Costa Rica's simple, natural eats during his 2007 visit.
"From mangoes to papayas, Costa Rica has every kind of fresh fruits or vegetables," he wrote. "Each day of our trip, we explored the outdoor markets that you can find just about everywhere in Costa Rica."
He shared colorful photos of market fruits and the bustling markets where he purchased them. He also enjoyed trying the local cuisine against the backdrop of stunning views, and washed it all down with an Imperial beer.
Jill Thornton of Greenville, South Carolina, also tried some of the local fruits during her 2007 excursion in Costa Rica. While in Puntarenas, she enjoyed walking the beach and exploring the colorful local vendors.
"We made sure we stopped for some ready-to-sip coconuts. A little touristy, but made for some fun pictures!"
For many visitors, the coffee plantations are also a desired stop. Costa Rica has some of the best coffee in the world. Brett Line of Washington headed to Monteverde for ziplining, but made sure to also save time for a coffee tour. He saw different kinds of beans prior to being roasted, and got to try some coffee at the end.
"I don't know too much about coffee, I just know it tasted good," he said.
Despite being a away from the coast during that part of his visit, he also found a restaurant in Monteverde that served him a heaping sushi boat full of delights from the deep. The boat even had ropes made from strings of shredded carrot.
But of all things he tried there, the best was the ceviche, a food made from marinated seafood. He said it was the freshest he had ever had, and ate ceviche just about everywhere he could.
One thing that every iReporter mentioned eating is Gallo Pinto, a dish made from rice and beans, is a simple but popular down-home comfort food in Costa Rica. It's widely considered to be Costa Rica's national dish. Even the Burger Kings there sell it.
Amerson says he enjoyed eating the Gallo Pinto with Lizano sauce. The condiment is also popular with eggs at breakfast. Costa Rica has many local sauces with unique flavors, which visitors are encouraged to try.
Anna Berte of Bel Air, Maryland, also raved about the food in Costa Rica. She tried a lot of different restaurants during her stay this summer, and found herself frequenting a particular beach bar in Tamarindo over and over again.
"Not only did it have great local food and fresh seafood, it had great atmosphere," she said. "The restaurant is half outside and half inside and the servers are extremely accommodating and friendly and every night they had some sort of entertainment, whether it was a lone singer or a fun mariachi band."
She'll never forget dining on a four-course feast in a restaurant with giant picture windows overlooking the Arenal volcano. But it was the chance to experience Costa Rica's local flavors that she valued the most.
During a lunch stop on the way to the volcano, she ordered a hearty plate of arroz con pollo. She said her dish was full of rice, chicken, sweet corn and beans.
The vibrancy packed into this simple, traditional meal won her over, just like the beautiful country where she was eating it.
"Even though that might sound ordinary, you have to be there to taste the freshness and the love the locals put in their food," she said. "The chicken tastes simply fresh and straight off the grill and the rice is cooked with spices that makes you want to keep on eating the rice."
If you've been to Costa Rica, we're curious what you would recommend and what you've enjoyed. Share what you think a traveler should eat, and any food-related adventures you've had in the comments area below.
CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at great places for eager explorers. Each week, we'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals and the best photos and stories from readers. Have you been to Costa Rica? Share your story with CNN iReport. And next week, we'll journey to Munich, Germany, for an Oktoberfest extravaganza.
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