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A Foodie’s Guide to Studying Abroad in San José , Costa Rica

June 17, 2024
by Alexa Lambert
A cafe interior featuring a long pastry case holding many different baked goods

The Go-to Restaurants and Cafes of a Student Studying Abroad in Costa Rica 

While I was so blessed to have my Mama Tica at my homestay make me breakfast and dinner each day, I often need a good lunch spot, cafe to do homework, or a restaurant to try with friends on the weekends. I studied abroad in San José for a semester, and I found some places that I frequented often—sometimes a little too much. I love going out to eat and trying new places, and I would consider myself a foodie. I shared tips to save money while studying abroad in Costa Rica, and now I’m going to share with you the four places that I frequented the most, which are all walkable! 


Jardín de Lolita 

Jardín de Lolita is perfect to visit at any time of day. This establishment was actually introduced to me by CEA CAPA, as we went as a group on our first day in Costa Rica to meet everybody. Whether you’re craving pizza, tacos, ice cream, something healthy, or a typical Costa Rican dish, they have it all. It is the cutest large outdoor area with several different restaurants to choose from. It isn’t so great for indecisive people like me who think everything looks good, but it’s great for going with friends when you’re all craving different things! My personal favorite is the pizza shop, Il Vicolo, and I love to finish it off with gelato at Dolce Gelato. 

A tray of food on a table including quesadillas and french fries next to a tall glass of an orange drink

A delicious quesadilla, fries, and juice combo for only $9 at Cuarto & Cuarto. The Tajin rim was the cherry on top for the mango and pineapple juice! 


Le Rendez-Vouz 

Le Rendez-Vouz is my go-to lunch spot during the week. The second I got out of class, I walked over to get my sandwich and smoothie combo. I either opt for the chicken pesto or vegetarian sandwich, and pair it with a fruit smoothie. The two items cost only $6, and the meal is so delicious and satisfying! They have so many fruits to choose from for their smoothies, and I usually opt for papaya, mango, and pineapple. You can also pair the sandwich with fries for the same price.

Not only do they have great sandwiches, but they have delectable baked goods. I also came here often after class for a midday pick-me-up. I usually order a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), and depending on my mood, I grabbed either a brownie or almond croissant—both of which are mouthwatering. This is definitely a favorite among the students at Universidad Veritas as well, as I’m always running into a friend here! 

A table with a laptop, tall cold coffee drink, and plate with a cinnamon roll

Midday coffee and cinnamon roll to get me through my homework. 


Looking for a sweet treat in any part of Costa Rica? POPS is the place to go. I went to several places around the country, and in every single place there was a POPS ice cream shop. Even if I’m in the middle of nowhere at a rest stop with zero service, there’s a POPS. And that’s for a reason—they have amazing ice cream! When I need a little treat during the week, there’s multiple locations around San José that I can walk to, or when I’m at the beach and need something to help me cool down, I can always rely on POPS. They have a ton of different flavors to choose from, and they also have milkshakes, sundaes, smoothies, yogurt, and even crepes! My go-to is two scoops of galetta, or cookies and cream, in a waffle cone with extra Oreo pieces crumbled on top—so delicious! 

A hand holding an ice cream cone with a spoon sitting in the ice cream in a restaurant setting

My Oreo ice cream cool-down treat by the beach in Tamarindo! 


Cumpanis is a gem that I randomly stumbled on one day during a walk exploring the area. I’m a sucker for a cute little cafe, and that’s exactly what Cumpanis is. It’s a great spot to drink a coffee, sit and chat with a friend, grab a quick lunch, or sit and knock out some assignments. I spent four hours there this weekend applying to summer internships, and the delicious iced latte and avocado toast I had sure helped fuel me.

They also have a plethora of pastries to choose from, as they make everything by hand in house. Their homemade bread is so fresh and delicious! I love how the shop is so open, so even when you are sitting inside you’re still getting some fresh air. The environment is so cute and welcoming, making working there for hours enjoyable! 

A plate with avocado toast next to a laptop on a table with a tall cold coffee drink sitting behind them

The said avocado toast and iced latte I had while internship searching. 


While I only mentioned a few spots, San José has a great selection of cafes and restaurants. There are so many places that I passed by that are still on my list to try! I made great friends with the employees, as they’re so kind and helpful. They’re a big factor in making the experience so great! 

A cafe interior featuring a long pastry case holding many different baked goods

Pastry galore at Cumpanis!

Alexa Lambert is the Content Creator - Blogger in San José, Costa Rica, and is currently studying at University of Miami.
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