It’s not easy to find cheap food in Tamarindo, especially when you’re trying to keep it healthy. Here are the best reasonably-priced meals I’ve had for every meal (including apres-surf!).
Best Surfer’s Breakfast
Jazz’s Creperie – The most important thing for a post-surf meal is refueling with a combination of protein, carbs, and healthy/filling veggies. Our favorite high-volume breakfast (and the best value for any of the casado dishes we’ve tried) has been Jazz’s $6.50 Fish Casado. It’s 2 big patties of fried white fish served with white rice, black beans, and half a plate of fresh crunchy salad topped with a zig-zag of honey mustard sauce. I like to mix the rice, beans, and salad in a pile to eat together (the flavors balance out in a great way). On more than one occasion, we have inspired passerby who looked over at our food and decided they wanted what we’re having!
Total Cost: $6.50 (3.5k CRC)*
*Excludes 10% “servicio charge” which is a mandatory “tip” shared among the waitstaff, and any additional tip you want to give directly.
Best Local Breakfast
El Sabor de la Vida – One of the best food finds we’ve discovered was shockingly in a prime location right next to the beach. It’s an authentic “soda” restaurant that serves traditional dishes like Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) and Casado (a common dish made of rice, beans, salad, plantains, etc.) for ~$4-6 (2-3k CRC). The food is authentic, delicious, and inexpensive. However, portions on the light side and may not be enough food after a hard surf session.
Total Cost for 2: <$10! (5k CRC)
Best Breakfast to Go
La Princesa Cafe – This is a stall in the back of the Tamarindo food court that serves sandwiches and baked goods. When we first came here for a bacon, egg, and cheese (no bacon, but they gave us extra veggies instead) it cost about $4 (2k CRC) but they recently made the sandwich much bigger by using a different bread. It now costs 2,800, or 2,300 without ham, plus 300 extra for lettuce and tomatoes. A great way to make the sandwich more filling and nutritious is to add avocado, which you can buy from the Super Compro across the street (~$1).
I personally love their empanadas ($3/1,800 CRC) which are made with a light, croissant-like pastry. The spinach and mozzarella empanada comes with a great pesto-like salsa, but my personal favorite is the “Gallo Pinto” which is filled with cheese, beans, and veggies, and tastes incredible with hot sauce and sour cream. We also love their Chia and Oat Jar ($4/2,000 CRC) which is somehow sugar-free and vegan, but tastes like sweet, creamy, protein-packed oatmeal. It may be good for you, but trust me when I say this isn’t “health nut” food.
Total Cost for 2: $5-6 for a ham, egg, and cheese, $3 for an empanada, and $4 for a Chia and Oat Jar to share.
Best Value by Volume
Wild Panda/Suck My Cocktails – The name may be crude, but this cheeky bar at the corner of the Tamarindo Food Court has surprisingly delicious and inexpensive food. For 6,000 colones (about ~$11), the seafood paella comes with generous portions, yucca fries, and a salad with a delicious ginger dressing. Not what you would expect from a touristy joint on the main street!
Total Cost for 2: ~$11 (6,000 CRC)
Surf Shack Burgers & Wings – This is another place that’s a bit on the expensive side but can be well worth it for the taste. I love the (~$7/3,600 CRC) Vegetarian burger which just has a delicious marinated and grilled Portobello cap as the “patty.” You get one topping free (I chose avocado) and additional ones cost 400-750 colones ($0.75-1.50) each. I also got fries with mine which cost an additional 600 colones (little more than $1).
Total Cost for 2: ~$16 (8,600 colones)*
Longboards BBQ – If you’re staying at the Coral Reef Surf Camp and Hostel, you get a 15% discount here with the yellow wristband given to you at check-in. I ordered the only healthy things on the menu here, the Ensalada Grande (big salad) with a side of warm sweet corn. The salad was fresh and colorful, but a bit on the expensive side at $12 (including $3 for the tiny corn order!)
Total Cost for 1: $12 (~6k CRC), or $9 without Sweet Corn
Heladería Pura Vida – The cheapest smoothies we could find anywhere in town is at a stand in the Tamarindo food court that serves ice cream, smoothies, and some health foods like acai bowls. For only 1200 colones, you can choose 3 fruits for a smoothie made with bottled mineral water (never tap!) or pay a little more to have it made with milk, soy milk, ice cream, etc. The stand is unadvertised and off the main street, which may explain why it gets less customers than Mandarina, but it’s way cheaper, just as good, and popular with locals who do know about it!
Asian Fusion Bistro – For a coastal region surrounded by the best that the North Pacific Ocean can offer, Tamarindo has surprisingly few places to get sushi! If you’re looking for a splurge, the Bamboo Sushi Club is a great option for a sit-down meal in a gorgeous outdoor garden. I’m a simple girl, and dream about the Yum Yum roll ($6.50/3,500 CRC) at this Tamarindo food court stand, which is a 10-piece spicy crab roll topped with slices of avocado. They also have other great rolls in the same price range and a few Asian fusion entrees.
Total Cost for 1: $6.50 (3,500 CRC) for 10 pieces
Best Healthy Dinner
Falafel Bar – Falafel is almost always a good bet if you’re looking for vegan food while traveling because you’ll get a full range of protein and veggies for pretty cheap. My boyfriend and I stumbled across this place our first night here. A pita filled with veggies and 5 falafel balls will set you back ~$6 (3500CRC), and a salad with 6 falafel balls (no pita) is about ~$9 (4900CRC). I’m not sure when they’re closed but I’ve been here as late as 9pm.
Total Cost for 2: $15 (8,400 CRC)*
Best Pizza Dinner
Pizzeria La Baula – Open everyday after 5:30pm, this open-walled pizzeria is a little slice of Western-style dining in the middle of Tamarindo. The only salad on their menu ($6.50/3,500 CRC) had the freshest vegetables we’ve gotten since we’ve been here. The thin-crust pizzas are pretty big and cost between $6-13 (3,000-7,000 colones) with the Vegetarian costing $12 (6,400 colones). One pie with a salad is a decent-sized meal for 2 people under $20.
Total Cost for 2: $18.50 (9,900 CRC)* for a shared pizza and salad
The Buccaneers CLOSED! – We were here around 5:30pm (right on time for the “blue hair” special!) The Vegetarian pizza (~$9/5,000 CRC) was smaller and sparser than the one we had at La Baula and according to my boyfriend could have fed him alone without my help. Luckily, we also ordered a Casada Fish (~$6/3,000 CRC) which came with a filet of Tilapia so buttery I had to fight him for it, and a Salad Mix (~$4/2,000 CRC) that we dressed with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar from the table. The pizza was underwhelming, but we would come back just for the fish!
Total Cost for 2: $19 (10,000 CRC)*
If you’re looking for more ways to save money on food here, you may be interested in How to Eat Healthy for Less in Tamarindo
Read the rest of this series: Costa Rica on a Budget