Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Costa Rica and Nicaragua

After two months touring much of Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua, I found vegetarians would have an easier time than vegans in carnivorous Central America. Sometimes gallo pinto (mixed rice and beans) is a reliable meal, though it may be laden with animal products. Accommodations with kitchens make mealtimes easier, as canned beans, rice, avocadoes and other produce are available. Shops also offer Bioland soy cookies, protein powders, and granola bars.

An abundance of natural beauty, friendly people, and thrilling animal encounters more than compensate for extra food foraging. Near the gorgeous colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua, volcanoes and lakes are exquisite, and there's authentic culture at the Masaya mercados with crafts, bulk goods, and spices. There's no escaping, however, the poverty ... and the live animals ready to be sold for meat.

For respite from Granada's humidity and bustling vibe: Euro Café and The Garden Café , offering bagels and hummus (rare in Central America), fresh smoothies and tranquil patios. El Tercer Ojo has a spiritual ambiance, books to peruse, and a delicious vegetarian brochette. For some tasty Italian food on quieter Calle La Calzada, try Pizzeria Don Luca .

On the peaceful Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua, swim in a stunning lake with a view of volcanoes, hike to petroglyphs, or frolic with frogs and fireflies. Hacienda Merida is a good place to sleep and enjoy the buffet with soy meats, veggies and homemade bread.

Swimmers and surfers love the beaches north of lively San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua: Playa Marsella, Bahia Majagual and Playa Madera. Top herbivore dining spots are El Gato Negro , with coffee, books for sale and tons of travelers, and artsy El Colibri , with delicious Mediterranean meals.

Heading south into the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, heavenly beaches (1 of 3) [9/12/2008 9:37:44 PM] -- Vegetarian Travel - Nicaragua & Costa Rica

next to monkey- and iguana-filled rainforests were a highlight. In Nosara, Oasis Natural Foods is all vegetarian and offers soy ham and cheese, and Harmony Hotel has upscale veggie options. In Santa Teresa/Malpais, Zula

Restaurant makes great falafel, and Casa Zen has a relaxing gazebo for sipping chai and munching on Asian food.

Montezuma is a haven and so is its Café Organica , with fresh salads and dairy-free ice cream. In tiny Uvita, decompress on isolated beaches and treat yourself to Cascada Verde Eco Lodge , where after a rough day lying on hammocks observing rainforest wildlife, you can dine on garden-fresh vegan meals decorated with edible flowers.

Lands in Love (Tierras Enamoradas) is a vegetarian-friendly eco-vacation and nature adventure resort. Located 32km from San Ramon and close to Volcan Arenal, it offers all the amenities with a wide variety of tours and activities.

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica boasts beautiful beaches and has fun cultural flavor from reggae to local indigenous cacao farms. In Cahuita, Restaurant Natural Ingrid makes a unique garbanzo and onion sandwich, soups and salads. Cha

Cha Cha! and Café Corleone dish up yummy veggie fare. Stay at Centro Turistico Brigitte and wake up to a large breakfast of fruit, gallo pinto and ever-popular fried plantains.

San Jose, while not the prettiest city, serves as a hub for the rest of the country and has some worthwhile vegetarian choices. I stayed at Casa Ridgway, run by the Friends Peace Center next door, to meet activist travelers. It's within walking distance of Restaurant Naturista Shakti and Restaurante Tin Jo and fairly close to all-vegetarian Vishnu (also in Heredia).

Bring your Lonely Planet guidebook, some mosquito repellent, and flexibility - and you'll be delighted with the bountiful beauty of Central America.

Paige Newman has written and volunteered for many vegetarian and ecological organizations since choosing to go vegetarian at age four. She has lived in San Diego for five years and loves Latin America.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


I didn't have any problems finding vegan food in Puerto Viejo. There are actually a few vegetarian specialty restaurants in Puerto Viejo and the surrounding areas that offer plenty of vegan options. We stayed in a cabina that was run by vegan owners and they guided us to the best places in town. We also had a kitchen and cooked several meals while we were there. The produce there is so fresh and flavorful that what I cooked even tasted like gourmet food! Peter - are you vegan?

additional aritcles/updates

Hello, I agree if one had a kitchen, being vegan in Costa Rica would be easier than for those traveling frequently. Fyi, I have written many articles on vegetarian travel besides this one above (originally written for All my articles can be found at my blog:


Second Ola Verde opinion


           I second the opinion of a great experience at Ola Verda.

                    I eat there about 3 to 4 times a week, by far it is the best Nicaragua has to offer at any price based on cleanliness, quality,  service, variety, and freshness. I could go on but what really stands out is the owners mission and passion for the overall well being of her clients and her organic suppliers. Eating there is voting with your fork for healthy eating. 

                   you will feel comfortable there in birkenstocks or a suit, its a well run place. 

                        it has a website too,   ( google it ) it will give better directions as to where it is. Close to the Taiwan Embassy. 

                      It is one of the things I actually like about living in Managua 



the only way to live healthy in costa rica is by cooking. fresh produce is cheap and abundant.

when i was in san jose i ended up going to tin jo all the time because there are really not many alternatives for dining out healthy (and good). and it is NOT cheap. in vancouver i can choose between 150 restaurants in walking distance, most offer healthy choices -vegetables and seafood. also those restaurants are much cheaper than in cr. tin jo charged me 15-20 usd per meal pp, in vancouver i pay less than 10 for a comparable, larger portion meal. lunchtime many restaurants offer specials of 5-6 cad which equals 4 us.

cr is very expensive and quality of life is mediocre.



Vegan in Costa Rica

I have lived in Costa Rica for almost 6 years.  I find that being vegan is very easy, living on the Caribbean coast.  There are many, many options for me here.  I have also found a few wonderful places to eat in the San Jose area.  It is easier to eat vegan here than many other places I have spent time.  

My favorites in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon Province include:

Peace & Love, Bread & Chocolate, Casa del Pan, EZ-Times, Jammin', Chili Rojo, Cafe Viejo, Lydia's Place, Veronica's, Jungle & Reef, Miss Holly's.

My favorites in the San Jose area include:

 The Taj Mahal, Escazu; Bagleman's; Tutti Li, Escazu; Tin Jo, downtown; Mami's, Heredia

Ola Verde

The best restaurant experience i've had to date in Nicaragua, is Ola Verde, an organic restaurant in Managua with many vegetarian dishes.  prices range from moderate to expensive.  directions: located near the MetroCentro, it's two blocks down from the Pharaoh's, and 1/2 block towards the Lake, in the neighborhood Planes de Altamira.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.