If I was allowed only one meal a day in Costa Rica, and I could choose which meal, there’s no question that I would go with breakfast.
For all their lack of culinary inspiration, the ticos manage to pull off some pretty delicious gallo pinto—the national breakfast dish that involves black beans, rice, cilantro, onion, and pepper (and sometimes eggs and fried plantains)—along with rich coffee and sweet tropical fruit concoctions. Expats round out the breakfast scene with their own recipes brought over from Europe and prepared with local ingredients.
Some of my favorite breakfasts in Costa Rica involve morning buffets (the Marriott Los Sueños wins this category), while others are far more focused and simple, for example, the fabulous egg skillet at Orosi Lodge. Know this, though: narrowing down the competition to just five in this category was supremely difficult because in Costa Rica, breakfast is taken as seriously as it should be.
The German owners of this charming inn have been serving the same breakfast since they opened the place at the turn of the century: eggs, tomato, and thick bacon sprinkled with spices and sizzled in a skillet. The organic coffee served at Orosi Lodge is also delicious, and grown right up the street at Coffee Cristina, which exports most of its product but roasts a tiny portion just for the hotels guests.
Marriott Los Sueños Ocean & Golf Resort
At this indulgent breakfast buffet there is gallo pinto. There are cheese-covered breakfast casseroles. There are also eggs, sausages, hash browns, a waffle station, and little crème-filled pastry ducks. There are so many fruits, cereals, and yogurts and bagels. I could keep going but why bother? The seaside setting is also very charming, and to put it succinctly, this place makes me want to sing “A Veritable Smorgasboard” from “Charlotte’s Web.”
Though it’s got a name that suggests local fare, this is an expat restaurant that kills it. Soon after the British owner opened this little indoor/outdoor breakfast café and bookstore in Puerto Viejo, it developed a reputation for fantastic coffee, natural fruit smoothies, and to-die-for egg dishes. I strongly suggest the huevos rancheros.
Restaurante La Criollita
This charming local restaurant in San José’s Barrio Amón serves up large portions of Costa Rican breakfasts (read: gallo pinto and more gallo pinto). You can even watch as the staff prepares your dish in the open kitchen. Because the restaurant is set in a busy neighborhood, the meal can be ordered “express,” which is truly a novelty in this country.
Every Saturday morning, the expats who live near the base of Chirripó—Costa Rica’s tallest mountain—gather at Restaurante Marin for breakfast. And you better believe it’s hearty one. Egg plates are enormous and fruit-filled, sweet crepes are covered in whip crème and chocolate. The only trouble is finding a table.