First off, I should mention that this trip to Costa Rica wasn’t about exploring the culture and local food, I’ve been to Costa Rica several times before to do that, and this trip was solely about relaxing and enjoying vacation comforts which include tasty food!
The vegan scene in Tamarindo is so solid, it deserves its own post. As soon as you arrive in town you will get so vegan excited at all the signs for organic, vegan, vegetarian, raw, etc. foods.
But this awesomeness comes with a price. Eating out in Tamarindo is far from cheap. In fact, you’ll find the prices similar to what you would pay at home in North America.
Thankfully, there are several vegan friendly grocery stores including two specialty organic stores, and one main grocery store that even has vegan cheeses and fake meat products so you can eat vegan a little cheaper.
To give you a sense of what to expect, below are some of the vegan friendly places and prices for a meal. Note that there are far more than what is just listed on Happy Cow so don’t be shy to poke around and try other spots than what is listed in the app. Prices are as of October 2018.
Pura vegan – this was my natural first stop as the only all vegan place in town. It is actually a stand in the El Mercadito trendy food court. I say trendy because on a Friday night there is a DJ and a fun vibe with people drinking at the sailboat bar in the middle. This food court area is definitely worth checking out and if you eat at Pura Vegan, you will pay 4000 colones for a vegan burrito. They have a mixed array of other foods including pad thai and cheesy fries.
For an incredible sunset, check out Volcano Brewing, a craft brewery with a restaurant next door with the best sunset views. Nothing on their menu is obvious vegan (except maybe guacamole and chips) but you can build a black bean burger with no cheese for 6845 colones. The burger is incredibly filling – basically an entire can of black beans! I loved it. Disclaimer: I did not confirm if the bun is vegan.
For breakfast, check out Monkey Waffle. Their vegan waffle prices are higher than advertised prices on the menu for regular waffles. I paid 4800 colones for a vegan waffle with an ocean view. Totally worth it.
But… if you really want to breakfast you need to hit up The Garden Cafe. Tucked into a jungle setting off the main road where you can hear howler monkeys, this place is owned by a vegan and the food is on point. Avocado toast with hummus was 3600 colones and was probably the most filling meal of my trip besides the above mentioned black bean burger. The chia pudding is also worth trying!
Lokos por Acai, also in the El Mercadito food court needs to adjust their hours to open for breakfast. After trying their acai bowl (3400 colones, medium, 2500 small) I went back wanting another for breakfast and was disappointed they don’t open until 11. Best acai bowl in Tamarindo.
If you do want an acai bowl for breakfast, Nordico coffeeshop has them (3000 colones) or there is an acai bowl food truck you can find at the farmers market on Saturdays.
In another little outdoor foodcourt you will find La Princesa Cafe. The vegan sandwich for 3600 colones had me wanting to go back every day for another. The biggest disappointment of my trip was when I went back for more of their vegan banana bread (700 colones) and they were sold out.
Speaking of baked goods… Pimienta Verde Mercado Organico is an organic grocery store with a kick ass bakery section. They sell these incredible chocolate almond butter cups for 1875 colones. I heard from multiple sources that their vegan ice cream is to die for but I never made it past that first cooler with the chocolate almond butter cups to try!
Beside Pimienta Verde is the Juice Cafe where you can get a protein smoothie for 2500. This is also where I went to get some snacks for my travel day – an energy ball for 700 colones and a cookie for 1000 colones. Both travelled well and sustained me in the not so vegan friendly Liberia airport and the not so vegan friendly Westjet flight.
I was kind of on a burrito kick and tried the vegan burrito at Sprout for 5166 colones and the vegan burrito at Oveja Negra for 5442 colones. Neither were advertised as vegan so required some slight modifications to make them vegan. For a late night snack, try the chips, salsa and guac at Oveja Negra for 2500 colones. The guac portion was tiny but they gave me enough tortilla chips to serve the entire bar.
If you want to eat more traditional Costa Rican food (and save money) check out the smaller local spots. Most typical Costa Rican dishes require only minor modifications to make them vegan. There is also a lady selling plates of authentic Costa Rican food from the trunk of her car for 2500 colones on the main road at lunchtime which are apparently amazing.
Lastly, there is a Subway in Tamarindo if you’re really missing that veggie sub from home.
After 6 days in Tamarindo, I had a pretty solid grasp on the vegan food options which helped when I needed to get some food to go for my stay at the Hilton Liberia and my flight home. The Hilton offers a basic Costa Rican meal of rice, beans and vegetables for 5900 colones as their only vegan option, and the airport didn’t seem to have anything vegan friendly other than fruit cups. Thankfully I had packed my own fruit from the market before I left (you will see outdoor fruit stands as well as multiple grocery stores in Tamarindo) and some snacks from the Juice Cafe.
This list is by no means comprehensive as many places were closed for low season but it should give you an idea of what to expect when eating vegan in Tamarindo. One last tip: always ask for hot sauce. Being vegan shouldn’t mean bland but sadly, it often does…