San Jose is both the capital of Costa Rica and the epicenter of fine dining in the country. While visitors tend to simply fly in and out of the city, spending a full day at most exploring it, the restaurant scene alone could keep you happy for a lifetime. Many of those chefs exploring what it means to create excellent, high-quality food with Costa Rican produce live right there in San Jose. The Downtown area still attracts the majority of tourists, and old-school, long-established restaurants like the Grand de Oro Restaurant are great examples of how the food scene here has always had a dog in the fight.
Throughout the country, you’ll find plenty of restaurants where you can get a taste of the new Costa Rican culinary ethos (more on that later), but for a unique look into the world of food, you should absolutely visit where the majority of the dining industry’s produce comes from. There are thousands (yes, thousands) of fincas, or farms, lining Costa Rica’s countryside. These can range from big-scale industrial productions to small patches of private land.
Many are also home to eco-lodges or tourist-friendly restaurants. More and more are opening their properties to visitors who wish to learn about where their food comes from. At places like the Cedrela Ecolodge, you can stop by for a tour of the property (which also doubles as an avocado farm) or just dine at their avocado-heavy restaurant. If you’d like to just shop rather than learn, check out San Jose’s largest farmer’s market, Feria Guadalupe. Every Saturday morning, a bevy of farmers from all over the country come to sell their wares to amateur and professional chefs alike; you’re just as likely to see one of the city’s top chefs planning next month’s menu as you are a grandmother planning Sunday’s family dinner. Dozens upon dozens of rows of fruits, vegetables, and juices are spread out, with mariachi bands entertaining shoppers and smaller stores selling hot food on the periphery (try the Salvadoran pupusas at Salvador Pupuseria). Competition to get accepted to be part of the market is tough (and approved by the government), so expect the best of the best.