Grocery shopping in Costa Rica doesn’t look like it does at home, especially if you live in the US or Canada, where supermarkets take up a block of real estate and are appointed with expensive delis and 22 year old wine stewards. Supermarkets in Costa Rica are smaller with fewer products and more utilitarian lighting. They’ll feel foreign at first. But, isn’t that part of the fun of travel? To help you find what you need for survival and sustenance, here’s a primer of shops in and around Samara. All are locally owned as for as I know, except as noted.
Super Stefanie – Closest to Casa Mango and Casa Papaya, Super Stefanie is tiny store with an odd entry. But, she’s got all the stuff you need for a first dinner after a long plane ride or a week’s worth of breakfasts: eggs, pasta, butter, vegetables, soft drinks and beer. As in most small groceries here, liquor is limited to rum, but a little Flor de Caña and orange juice on the terrace feels just right in the tropics. Super Stefanie is at the foot of the hill in the district of Matapalo, on the dirt street parallel and closest to the beach.
Super Iguana Verde – Currently my favorite grocery, the Iguana Verde has a surprising variety of products for a medium-small store. If you’re looking for things you might find at home – gnocchi, fish sauce, Kalamata olives – this place is your best shot. The wine selection is one of the best in town. They usually have the burrito size flour tortillas. The Iguana Verde is west of town, past the districts of Cantarana and Cangrejal on the road to Nosara. Not far by foot if you walk along the beach.
Monkey’s – Don’t miss their bakery next door. Even though I’m not a fan of pastries, theirs look tempting. the reason I go in is for the fresh “Ciabatta”. The “Eiffel” is a fairly crunchy French bread but the “French” bread is a long loaf of white. Next door to Iguana Verde.
Samara Organics – Angelina and her partner keep a nice supply of organic staples, including soaps and personal products. During the high season, they keep the cooler stocked with fruits, vegetables, sausages, eggs, and cheeses. In the green season, when crowds are smaller, fresh items must be ordered for weekly pick-up on Tuesday mornings. That’s when the farmers and bakers and jam-makers bring their own organic products to the store. Also Friday afternoons.
Licorera las Olas – Las Olas is a small grocery store with a big selection of liquors, wines, and beers along with most groceries you need. Although not pertinent to this post, Las Olas is also a great tackle shop where you can learn all about the local peces and who will guide you to find them. Las Olas is just one block east of the central bus stop in Samara.
Dona Lechuga – Next door to Las Olas, this vegetable stand has a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. And long hours. I’ve rarely found it closed.
Carniceria – The best butcher in town, Alex and his crew serve up fresh beef and pork, as well as frozen chicken 365 days a year. They’ll grind burger “molida especial” to order, from better cuts of beef. They make their own sausage and occasionally have fresh “Queso Tico”, eggs and flan. The Carniceria is at the northwest corner of the soccer field or “plaza”, past Banco de Costa Rica.
Pescaderias – Fish can be frustratingly difficult to find in this seaside town. (I think, because a lot of the fishermen don’t have freezers, the best fish gets sold to the restaurants who do.) See my post of 18 June 2012 to track some down. Or let someone else cook it for you at one of our great eateries.
Super Samara – The town’s original “Super” has been serving tourists and foreign residents for as long as I can remember. Owner, Yetty, is great at figuring out what the people want and giving it to them. Besides an assortment of chips, beer and beach snacks, you’ll find frozen meats and fish, cheeses from the better Costa Rican creameries, real Mexican salsa, and cranberry juice. The Super’s location, across the street from the beach, makes it a handy stop for supper provisions after a swim and surf-side lunch.
Fruit Stands – In-season fruit is usually sold from a couple of carts or stands just across from the Palí, near Banco Nacional. They move around a bit and the selection is limited to “in-season”.
Carrillo Saturday Market – Just one guy with a truck, but he has a nice variety of fruits and vegetables in the area, every Saturday morning. A little hard to find, he’s just past Licorera la Guaria – another great grocery – in a parking area hidden from the street in Puerto Carrillo, about 7 kilometers east of downtown Samara.
Palí – The biggest supermarket in town is the Palí, where you’ll find the perimeter aisles filled with all the foods traditional to the Tico diet: rice, black beans, coffee, tuna fish, and beer. The vegetables are usually fresh and good quality. Meat and chicken, not so much. Fish is unheard of most days. Fruit varieties are limited but there’s always limón, papaya, and. The interior aisles are stuffed with soaps and household products. There’s a a narrow selection of liquor, beer and wine. I used to start my shopping here because I believed they had the best prices but now I’m not so sure. Pali, is located across from Banco Nacional and the hardware store, just west of the main street to the beach.