Celebrating Thanksgiving in Costa Rica—an emerging culinary travel destination—puts a new perspective on the foodie movement and sustainable culture. Because similar to the Pilgrims (who landed the Mayflower in America, becoming locavores by default), “fresh” and “local” foods are the only options for Ticos. It’s a cultural nuance that puts Costa Rica, Hotel Tropico Latino, and Pura Vida Adventures on the map of diehard gastronomists.
When you first sign up for a Pura Vida Adventures surf and yoga retreat, culinary travel might not even cross your mind. But upon your arrival, when we greet you with a tropical fruit smoothie or a traditional mojito, made with handpicked mint from the restaurant’s garden, “local” and “fresh” take on a whole new meaning. You see for us, surfing, food, and local culture go hand in hand and it’s the incorporation of all three that Chef Randy Siles, of Hotel Tropico Latino (the accommodations for Pura Vida Adventures’ retreats), integrates so perfectly in his farm-to-table and sea-to-plate fare.
Chef Siles’ creative cooking style incorporates Asian, Indian, and even Italian influences to transform light and fresh traditional Costa Rican dishes. His signature camp dish includes a fresh, locally-caught fish of the day—which he goes to the fishing village and hand selects himself—topped with a mouth-watering, light banana curry sauce and served with roasted garlic and mozzarella mashed potatoes and vegetables. He also makes an over-the-top superfood salad with fresh garden greens, kale, ancient grains—like quinoa or faro—avocado, and nuts. With this fine medley of tastes, Chef Siles has wooed our guests and coaxed worldwide food writers into headlining the artistic nature of his native cuisine.
Just imagine, after a full day of surfing—endorphins running high and muscles tired, yet invigorated—you waltz into our beachside restaurant with a fresh Pina Colada in hand and sit down to Chef Siles’ famous fish tacos, made with yet another catch-of-the-day, mixed greens, avocado, and a chipotle sauce; served with a side of patacones (lightly crisped plantain chips). It only takes seconds for you to realize that the culinary travel experience with Pura Vida Adventures is as much about self-discovery as is the surfing and yoga. Sampling different cuisines and trying Chef Siles’ interesting mix of textures, aromas, and flavor combinations makes our “out-of-the-box” vacations something truly special.
And the best thing about all this mouthwatering hubbub is the people that make it so. Chef Siles’ and his team of eight waiters and five kitchen staff—mostly all natives—are a part of our Pura Vida Adventures family. It’s a relationship that we are proud of, as our camp gives back to the sustainability of the local culture. By the end of your stay, you will adopt a first-name basis with these caring and generous souls. And it will be the friendships that form around the pastime of eating that you remember once your trip has come and gone.
So this Thanksgiving, while we’re down here munching on fare from the sea, we hope you are home thinking about what “fresh” and “local” mean to the sustainability of your community and family. But know that when you’re done, there’s an empty chair at our beachside table that we’d love to extend to you, Costa Rica style.