How to Grocery Shop in Costa Rica (as a Gringa)
I liked these Frijoles (Beans), but Alex did not. The red was my favorite and they are just beans mixed with a green sauce that is the "salsa of Costa Rica". It is a nice condiment (not too spicy) that every restaurant will have, and you should ask for it because the food tends to e a little dry. A small bag of beans like the ones below is about $1 and the larger is $2.
Back to baby items...
It is possible to find everything you need, but you might end up paying an absorbent amount of money for it. Case in point -- after 2 hours of driving looking for the WalMart in San Jose, we spent $150 (yes, DOLLARS) on a cheap pack and play. Baby items are EXPENSIVE. We stuck with the Nestle brand most of the time, along with Huggies. They were middle of the road in price and standard quality. They certainly were not luxury items, but everything baby costs about twice what it does in America.
Moving onto chips and salsa. As mentioned above, "salsa" as we know it in the states doesn't exist in Costa Rica, which seemed strange. They make KILLER guacamole with giant avocados and have a green sauce that is a nice compliment to any Costa Rican meal. The chips are terrible though. They are typically round, from a bag (not fresh, even in restaurants) and always taste a bit stale. We were very excited when we found this product:
A few more notes:
1. Most grocery stores took credit cards, but the smaller ones only take colognes.
2. Shop only where there are prices. Otherwise, you will get the "white price" for your items.
3. Soft Drinks are quite expensive in restaurants, but good smoothies can be had for a little over $1. Make sure they are fresh juice, not just flavored water.
4. Learn to love guacamole -- it is great in Costa Rica and you can always find it.
5. Buy fruit along the road and not in the grocery store. Pineapples are 3 for $2, as are mangoes and other delicious, fresh cut items. The most stands were on the road from San Jose to Arenal.
6. Drink bottled water, even though Costa Rican water is "safe".
7. Ants will find anything -- even closed plastic bags of food (never opened!) Buy what you need for 2-3 days and grocery shop often. Otherwise, you will throw a lot of food away or eat a lot of ants.
8. The casada is the typical lunch meal of Costa Ricans and includes white rice, black beans, meat, fried plantains and typically some little sides. we had a couple fabulous ones, a few good ones and 1 or 2 not-so-great ones. 2500 colognes is a good price and stick with chicken. The beef is VERY lean and chewy.
9. Ice cream is ok. Haldarias are in most little towns and you can samples interesting (weird!) fruit flavors for a dollar or two.
10. ANYTHING at the "eco lake restaurant" in Nuevo Arenal (look for the signs) is fabulous, inexpensive comparatively and there is free wifi. Alex also liked Iguanas in town and Toad Hall is ridiculous, but the food was tasty. I wouldn't stay there though.