Cheap eats in Cahuita, Costa Rica
Cahuita is a pretty difficult place to visit for a budget traveler. The prices to eat and drink are about the same as in the states. Not exactly budget friendly. Cahuita can still be visited though by the budget traveler if they know the cheap places to eat and drink. My girlfriend, Natasha, and I spent a month in Cahuita and learned from the locals, the ex-pats, and through trial and error, the least expensive places to eat and drink. By following these tips it’s our hope that we can save our friends, the budget travelers, a few dollars on their stay in Cahuita.
Most restaurants in Cahuita basically offer you the same fare for lunch and dinner; rice and peas with a small salad and your choice of protien (fish, chicken, or beef). This meal will set you back, almost no matter what restaurant you’re in $6-$7usd. That may not sound like much, but for 2 people traveling together, eating out a few nights a week, that can really add up. We had to find some alternatives if we wanted to stretch our travel budget. The following establishments were very helpful in doing just that.
Del Rita Patty
This little patty shop is, unfortunatly, only open on the weekends, which is a shame. The patties here are delicious and cheap. If you’re unfamiliar with Jamaican patties then you’re in for a treat stopping by here. Jamaican patties are basically little pot pies filled with a variety of choices; beef, chicken, lobster, veggies, etc. Del Rita usually sold a couple of different patties; usually one sweet (banana or plantain), and one savory (mostly beef). They were perfectly saesoned and cooked, and only cost 500 colones ($1usd). One patty is more than enough for lunch, and usually for dinner if you’re a light\broke eater. The owner also sells a delicious loaf of banana bread for 1000 colones ($2) which is great to take home for breakfast in the morning. You can easily get 4 servings out of one banana bread. Whenever we saw her “Hay Patty” sign out on the main road we made sure to stop by for some cheap eats. Del Rita Patty can be found by walking from town center toward the park. Take a left on the last street (none of the streets in Cahuita have names) before you get to the park and the building is the first one on the right.
The Patty Guy
If you find yourself in the center of town, and see a guy on a bicycle with a cooler on the front of it flag him down (chances are someone else has beat you to it). He also sells patties in town, just as good as Del Rita, and also only charges a dollar. Don’t dilly-dally though if you see him. I watched him park outside of a bar one evening and sell out his entire stock of patties in less than 10 minutes. It’s always been my philosiphy while traveling that if I see a crowd of locals, gathered around a street food vendor, that I better get to that street vendor and find out what’s going on. I’ve never been disappointed, especially with the patty guy in Cahuita.
The French Bakery
A french bakery in Cahuita? That’s right. Not only do they do a decent job, but they’re dirt cheap. Unfortunatly, if you’re staying in town, it’s a bit of a hike to get there. Not too bad of a walk; about 15-20 minutes. To find it you’ll take the one road out of Cahuita to the main highway. Once you reach the highway you’ll take a right. The bakery is located almost immediately on your left, in between the bar and the “department” store. Here you’ll find all kinds of baked goods for your eating pleasures. We mostly stuck with the savory items (we’re budget travelers and don’t waste money on sweets). Here you can buy a small, pre-cooked, ham and mushroom pizza for 1500 colones ($3usd), or a delicious jerked chicken empanada for 750 colones ($1.50usd). Either of which is enough to fill you up. All of the savory foods are sold at room temperature so you have to either be ok eating it that way (which we most definitely are). If you want it hot you can either have them warm it up for you, or take it back to the hotel and throw it in the oven if you have one. This place is great if you’re trying to stretch your food budget. You can hardly cook for yourself at these prices.
I’m, admittedly, a fried chicken fanatic. I just can’t help it, I love the stuff. Imagine my delight in finding a group of locals queued up outside of a fried chicken place in Cahuita. I knew this was bad; not only my health, but my food budget. Turns out Barahonas was quite resonably priced (hence the line of locals). For between 600 and 2000 colones ($1.20-$4usd) you can get a piece of fried chicken and a pile of plantain chips. The wing was your cheapest option, at 600 colones, and was more than big enough to fill you up. The breast was the priciest piece of chicken, at 2000 colones, but was large enough to take half home for leftovers. Every piece of chicken I ate there, and trust me, there were many pieces of chicken eaten there that month, was delicious and perfectly cooked. Not to mention half the price of a sit down meal anywhere else in town. If you find youself at this gem make sure you get some of her homemade, and very spicy, pickeled veggies to go with your chicken.
Cafe El Parquecito
This little restaurant sits right next to the small park in town (hence the name). This place is only open, I believe, for breakfast. Cafe El Parquecito most definitely has the cheapest breakfast in town, not to mention the best rice and peas I had in Cahuita. A typical breakfast of rice and peas with two fried eggs and toast will set you back around 1500 colones ($3usd). That’s about $1.50 cheaper than anywhere else in town.
So many people have an aversion to eating “street meat”, and that’s a shame. Some of the best meals I’ve eaten in my travels have been from street vendors. The food is authentic, filling, and inexpensive. What else could a budget traveler want? On the weekends numerous street vendors set up at the park in Cahuita selling their wares. Most consist of some kind of a skewer of grilled meat and veggies. Each vendor is different, but most sell their skewers for between 500-1000 colones ($1-$2usd). A couple of skewers with tortillas is more than enough for dinner and will set you back a fraction of the cost as one of the restaurants in town.
If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen where you’re staying you’re going to want to check out the roving produce trucks in town. These trucks are the same ones that the stores and restaurants in town buy their produce from. You’ll be buying produce fresher, and cheaper, from these trucks than from any of the stores. I remember craving a fresh salad one day and buying up lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot and avocado from one of these trucks. I bought more than enough for 3 salads and only spent around 2000 colones ($4usd). Way cheaper than eating out, or even going to the store.
What’s better than buying incredibly fresh and inexpensive produce off of one of the produce trucks? Picking it fresh from the trees around town for free (just make sure you don’t go onto anyones private property to do it). While staying in Cahuita I ate roughly by body weight in mangoes that I picked from the trees in and around town. In addition to the dozens of mangoes I was also able to find, growing wild; Jamaican apples, coconuts (delicious when kept in the fridge to drink later that night), limes, key limes, basil, ackee (be carefull with ackee, it’s poisonous if not ripe), and oranges. A wonderful bounty can be had, for free, for the adventurous budget traveler.