Costa Rica’s “Gallo Pinto” es Delicioso!

by on Sunday, 16 June 2013

A typical Costa Rican breakfast including gallo pinto (at centre)

Central America’s “Rich Coast” boasts a great variety of locally grown produce and wonderful cuisine. Gallo Pinto is one of the many traditional meals that you can’t help but learn to love during your ISV Costa Rica volunteer and travel program.  Gallo Pinto literally means “spotted rooster” and contains rice mixed with beans, and has a number of local variations.  It’s a typical meal for breakfast; loaded with carbs and protein, your energy supplies are given a huge boost for the day, especially when served with eggs, fried plantain (similar to bananas), cheese, corn tortillas and/or avocado. Just be careful, too much and you’ll come home looking like a gallo gordo!

Costa Ricans also traditionally eat lots of salad, fresh fruit (especially pineapple, watermelon, papaya), vegetables (cassava, a starchy potato-like root, broccoli, tomatoes, etc), meat (such as chicken, pork, or beef), and traditional flavored tropical juices (try mora/blackberry, piña/pineapple or guanabana/soursop… yum).  Costa Rica also grows some of the BEST COFFEE IN THE WORLD and their rural history is strongly linked to coffee production. From 2005 to 2011 ISV supported specific Costa Rican growers of fair trade shade-grown organic coffee by selling bags of coffee to ISV participants. Proceeds went towards a variety of local conservation and community development efforts. (You can read more about this initiative here).

ISV has provided support to a number of local Costa Rican organic coffee growers © International Student Volunteers

On your ISV volunteer project you’ll likely get to try many of the traditional Costa Rican dishes. If you have any special dietary needs, they can usually be accommodated (within reason), but please inform your Project Leader when he or she contacts you via email. If you suspect that you will not like such typical Costa Rican fare, we suggest you bring along some extra snacks, such as energy bars.

If you are staying with a host family on your Project, we encourage you to try the foods that your ‘family’ cooks for you even if they are different than what you are used to at home. It is polite, and if you like it, your host family will be happy to hear that from you.  Always offer to do your own dishes and be very thankful to your host families for cooking your meals.

The many different varieties of fruit and vegetables in Costa Rica will allow you to be adventurous with your choices

On the ISV Adventure Tour, meals will vary from traditional foods as those mentioned above to pasta, fish, soup, fried rice, etc. (don’t expect burgers and pizza unless you are in a specialty restaurant). There will be more options on the Tour, and many meals will be buffet-style. On travel days, we will occasionally stop at grocery stores (supermercados) so that you may purchase snacks, etc. for bus rides.

Responsible tourism tips: Eat locally and connect with the culture by trying the local Costa Rican dishes in favor of foods you enjoy at home. Taking souvenirs back home? Consider buying some local Costa Rican specialties to take home, such as organic fair trade coffee. You also might try and aim for one less serving of meat per week. The UN estimates that meat production accounts for up to one fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. When choosing which meats to eat in Costa Rica, choose chicken over pork and beef. Pigs and cattle have much larger ecological footprints and emit huge amounts of methane (a very potent greenhouse gas).

To learn more about ISV’s program in Costa Rica visit our website:

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:


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