Life on our volunteer project was very pleasant. We were fed three meals a day, and this isn’t an exaggeration, but even till this day I still miss our chef Yami’s cooking. It was just such a balanced diet, with lots of rice, beans, vegetables, meat and fresh juice at every meal. However, we’re not Costa Ricans (unfortunately). We sometimes needed those fatty foods, and those sweets. Luckily, even a small town like Ostional has 2 restaurants in town. Las Tortugas Pizzeria was our go-to place. They did the best batidos I have ever tasted! When I travelled around the country after my volunteering project, I would order a batido with all my lunches and dinners (and some breakfasts too), but nowhere was the same as the pineapple ones from Las Tortugas. I really hope this post will inspire you to go to visit Ostional. Don’t forget to visit this wonderful pizzeria while you’re here.
Like I said, we get fed three times a day, which meant that most of the time I was only at Las Tortugas for a quick smoothie break before we got back to work. This was enough to get us satisfied. Most Costa Rican restaurants are al fresco, so Las Tortugas is no different. Just remember to put on your insect repellent- the mosquitoes in Ostional are no joke!
The whole place has a very relaxed vibe. Think beaches, small towns (with limited tourists) and tropical weather.. There’s an open kitchen here, with only two chefs, and there’s also the owner who serves everyone. I love that kind of feeling, because by the end of my one month stay in Ostional, the owner and I got to know each other really well.
And the menu itself? Las Tortugas offers so much more than just pizzas and batidos, even though I’d be happy to have that perfect combination any day. They offer other Western foods like pastas and burgers, but they also had typical Costa Rican foods like casados and arroz con pollo. It’s a shame that I didn’t actually try any of their foods, because our food at the research station was just so good and so filling. Oh well… That leaves me something for next time!
Having said all that, we still managed to grab ONE meal there in the entire month that I stayed in Ostional. We’d told Yami that we wouldn’t need dinner for the night as we wanted to eat at this place, and oh was I pleased. As much as I love rice and beans for every meal, it was still so comforting to eat a carb-loaded and hearty pizza. I got an ‘Ostional Pizza’, which thankfully didn’t have any turtle eggs, as Ostional is the second most important beach in the world for the nesting of Olive Ridley turtles. Instead, this Ostional Pizza had some of the freshest ingredients that you’d normally expect on a pizza. Damn. I was so conflicted- food was so good at the research station, but hey, if food wasn’t included as part of our volunteering project, I would definitely eat here everyday.
I sort of lied. I did eat another thing at Las Tortugas. Here’s the story: On Christmas Day at the research station, we all ate dinner together in the kitchen. We’d listened to salsa music while we ate, and danced for hours afterwards. We’d cut up a fresh pineapple for everyone to enjoy. Suddenly, my Italian friend said: “Come on, it’s Christmas! It’s not Christmas without desserts!” And this was when we made our spontaneous decision to try whatever Las Tortugas had on offer for desserts. Lucky they were still open at 10pm! We had a banana split, as it was the only dessert item on the menu (I told you Costa Ricans don’t eat sweets!). It was the first time in over 20 days that I had something sweet. While I don’t remember it as well as their pizzas or batidos, it still did its job to satisfy my sugar cravings.
But, like I said, the most memorable thing about Las Tortugas is their fresh batidos. In a month, I think I came here for a batido at least 10 times, and those times are after I had already eaten seconds at the dinner table. Unlike the milkshakes and smoothies we have here in Australia, drinking their batidos was like drinking the fruit itself. After a long day of working in Costa Rica’s humidity, there couldn’t have been a better way of relaxing than sipping my fresh batidos.
I’ve tried all their batido flavours- pineapples, passionfruit, papaya and watermelon. While I love all of these fruits, my favourite would remain to be pineapple. At home, pineapples are always so sour, so I knew I had to seize every opportunity that I could to eat as many pineapples as my body could take. No regrets, really. These batidos were always so sweet, even when I compared the ones with and without sugar. There was always a perfect amount of bubbles. There was always a generous and hearty amount of pineapples. There was no strange tingly taste. In fact, we loved those pineapple batidos so much that we had a motto in the research station: “Una piña para la niña!” (A pineapple for a girl!)
Las Tortugas was also just a really great place for people to hang out. You’d catch all different kinds of people here- big families who were visiting Ostional for a few days, expats, locals. The owners have created such a friendly and welcoming vibe. Fact: the first time that I was here, they showed me one of their dogs, who had recently given birth to five puppies. Those puppies were only about the size of my hand, but were so energetically running around their area. No restaurant owner in Australia would be that friendly to you, not even if you go into a small town. Only in somewhere like Costa Rica would you meet people like that!
Not only that, the owner always offered to give us extra batidos when we visited, even though we always insisted on paying. We couldn’t have any alcohol in our systems as volunteers, but I also heard that the owner also gives people free margaritas and piña coladas. I remember once I didn’t bring enough colones for a batido, but the owner still gave one to me. This guy just consistently touched our hearts! Pura Vida!
The owner’s unstoppable kindness was actually what inspired me to write this blog. I don’t usually write about restaurants, as I always feel like I struggle to find the ‘right’ words to describe gustatory experiences. I first thought Las Tortugas was just going to be a place that people would only know about if they serendipitously eat here, but it’s incredible to realise that one person can change your perspective so dramatically. I really hope this blog inspires you to put Las Tortugas on the bucket list when you visit Ostional. Pura Vida!