The Vacation Food Hunt
It is written, “Man cannot live on pizza alone.” Fact. Eventually, he must go out, make fire, and cook something yummy. Today’s savvy caveman is hunting for good deals on quality ingredients. This is no easy task in Costa Rica. In Tamarindo, there is an art to food-gathering.
Oh sure, you can probably find most things at Automercado, if money’s no object, but you won’t find everything. To get the best deals, and have the most options, you should plan to cover some ground.
Here is a comprehensive list of places you need to know about if you plan to venture out of the cave:
Tamarindo Feria (Saturday Market) – (in the park behind the ABC building) Fruits and veggies, baked goods and preserves. Prepared meals. Lots of arts and crafts. Fun place to shop. You will see the same people at the Thursday night market.
Pimienta Verde – (ground floor in big white Pacific Park building on the road to Langosta) All things organic, great quality at a good price. Fresh produce delivered Wednesday and Sunday. Open daily with a good selection of skincare products, household cleaners, packaged goods, and bulk grains and beans, plus cakes and snacks, and drinks like kombucha. Shop here first and then walk over to the Feria.
Thursday Night Market – (on the other road out of town, in the plaza in front of the gym) Good place to have a drink, eat some food, shop for presents. Hang out and listen to live music. There’s a community cooperative kitchen.
Villarreal Verdura Stand – “Verdura” means produce. Right near the main crossing in Villarreal, the veggie-stand has good prices. Deliveries come on Mondays so get there by Tuesday to get the best selection. Also: they keep a stash of smoked cheese in their cooler if you ask for it.
Almacen Organic and Natural – (2nd floor Galerias del Mar, next to Mermaids and Sailors) Small store selling vegan, organic and gluten-free products, grains and seeds, spices and some hard to find items needed to make vegan cheeses and desserts.
Walter’s Fish and Cheeses – (just past the Y in the road to Langosta, bear right). An Italian deli that sells all things Italian, including delicious pastas, olive oil and balsamic and a great selection of wine. Order a cheese platter or sandwich and chat with the charming staff, or take it to go. They make their own cheese!
Mega Super (Villarreal) – This market just doubled in size this past year. They have the best market prices on fruits and veggies, although they can run out of things from time to time. Their prices are very competitive.
Automercado – In the mall at the entrance to Tamarindo is a first-world supermarket that stocks most of your favorite brands from the United States and Costa Rica. Higher priced than the Villareal supermarkets Mega Super (local brands, good veggies) or Maxi Pali (Walmart), you can save some money by shopping on Wednesday, the Dia del Campo, when many items, especially meat, fish, and cheese are discounted. Delivery for a nominal fee.
Super 2001 – Centrally located in Tamarindo, across the street from Pacific Park, you may pay a price, but you can find some specialty items here. They stock Italian, Chinese, and even some Kosher food.
Super Compro – In the tall building where Higher Ground Bar is located, Super Compro has Tamarindo’s cheapest prices for wine and alcohol.
Centro de Carnes Villamar – (just before the main Villarreal intersection, past the post office) A local butcher shop with very good prices. Clean and air-conditioned. Very helpful staff. They deliver.
Come Frutas (Villareal Veggie Market) – Across the street from the soccer field in Villarreal is a very comprehensive fruit and vegetable stand. Mostly Costa Rican produce, with some imports as well. They also sell frozen fish, chickens, and have a great collection of exotic chips. Open daily, they deliver.
Siempre Fresca – (on the main road between Villarreal and Tamarindo in a big green building, this produce market delivers all over town. They recently expanded to include cleaning supplies and common pantry items. Very good prices.
Bodega Sandwich Shop – This is the only restaurant on this list. Bodega carries coconut oil. They also have an assortment of other natural food items for sale.
Food Lab – Pippo is one of the main Italian food importers for Costa Rica. Food Lab, next to the Mailbox’s Etc, is a distributor for them. Their prices are the same as buying direct so there’s no need to drive to the Pippo in Liberia. Cheeses, meats, nuts, sauces, and all things Italian can be found here.
Días Carmona (The Fish Guy) – Tuesday and Friday afternoons, buy fresh cuts of fish, at prices that will make you feel guilty. He is usually in the rotunda at the end of the main drag. Look for the flatbed hauling two huge blue and white coolers, with a very friendly man at the helm.
Pop up fruit stands – Any day, any time of year, in any location, you may find someone selling fruit. This is a priceless aspect of Costa Rican life: grab bags of seasonal fruit at rock-bottom prices. These fruit stands are all over town and you will most likely find one close to your Costa Rica house rental. Buy massive quantities and give them out to people you meet. Make new friends.
Honey Guy – If you find the guy selling honey, buy some. You will pay way more in the market, and it may be lesser quality. Usually, the honey guy is selling recycled rum bottles full for $6.00.
Tamarindo has a lot of convenience stores in various neighborhoods, including:
Super Las Olas – Under Breakfast Grinds in the center of town. A good place to pick up some water and snacks for the beach across the street.
Super Las Palmas – across the street from Super Las Olas, near Hotel Diria. Open late.
Super Compro – In the tall building where Higher Ground Bar is located, Super Compro has good prices for wine and alcohol.
Super 2001 – On the road to Langosta, across the street from Pacific Park, you may pay a price but you can find some specialty items here. They stock Italian, Chinese, and even some Kosher food.
Pura Vida Market – (just beyond Super 2001) very clean and well-stocked convenience store.
Super Langosta – (last turn off the Langosta Road before the estuary) Good neighborhood store that keeps on getting better. Light on fresh produce but well stocked with wine and liquor, chips sodas and canned goods.
Pop up fruit stands – Any day, any time of year, in any location, you may find someone selling fruit. This is a great chance to try some of the exotic varieties of tropical fruits in season.
A little farther outside of town….
Foody Goodies (Huacas) – You can custom order organic and non-organic fruits, veggies, spreads, cheeses, and more. They carry unique items you can’t find anywhere else. Order by 9 pm on a Friday and pick up Wednesday. Email [email protected] for more info.
Conchal Consignment – On the way to Brasilito, in the Plaza, on the corner. Yep. Food, at a consignment shop. They carry gluten-free products, but will also order hemp seeds and gluten-free oats if you ask for it.
Of course, this list is not the final word in food. As Tamarindo grows, along with the surrounding towns, so do the options. It’s great. With a town this diverse you can count on it. There will be as many new places to buy food as there are places in which to eat it.
Christina Spilsbury and Rick Macsherry have lived in Tamarindo since 1989. They own and operate Sunset Catering.