La Fortuna has four primary options for grocery stores (since you probably aren’t planning on shopping in the mini markets that you’ll be able to find on most every street). There is the cheapest, local place named “Palí” on the edge of town. (I say local, but Pali is one of many of the names Walmart Central America uses for their chain of stores). There is the Super Christian chain that has by far the best selection, although at a slight mark up. Mega-Super falls in the middle of those two. Finally the newest option which opened in 2016 is called Super Rosvil. Make sure to read to the end of the post to find the best butcher shop as well. For a detailed map, check the bottom of the post.
I pretty much do all my shopping here now. It is a small, Costa Rican owned chain of grocery stores (La Fortuna was their 6th store). The prices are marginally higher on some things (and cheaper on others) than Palí, but cheaper than Super Christian and Mega-Super. The selection is the second best of the four (Super Christian has a little bit more, but not much), and you’re supporting the local economy instead of making the Walton family even richer. They have a large and well stocked section of fresh fruits and vegetables which is nice and also the best stocked alcohol selection of all the grocery stores.
located on the main road heading out of town, Palí goes by the slogan “The lowest prices”, and that is generally correct. It’s the reason that you rarely see a local checking out with a cart full of groceries at Super Christian. In fact even though Super Christian is larger, they only have two or three carts, because people don’t do their grocery shopping for the week there.
You go to Palí to get the essentials. If you need basics like bread, milk, rice, beans, fruit, vegetables, etc. you want to go to Pali. (Although if it happens to be a Friday check out the Farmers market). They have the lowest prices, but they also have the least selection. Unless you want something specific meat wise (like a steak) you’re good shopping at Pali for meat as well.
Mega Super is the in-between grocery store. I rarely shop there in all honesty. They just struggle to fill a niche in La Fortuna; they have higher prices than Pali, but without as much selection as Super Christian. The benefit greatly from being located directly adjacent to the bus stop and having more parking than Super Christian and being centrally located. Occasionally if Super Christian doesn’t have something specific (for example they used to be the only place to stock BBQ flavored Pringles) you may be able to find it here.
Super Christian Grocery Stores
Super Christian is actually a local chain of stores. In town La Fortuna you’ll find Super Christian #1 and #2. Just up the hill towards the volcano is #4 (#3 is in a town about half an hour away, heading towards Rio Celeste). #1 is the oldest and has the least selection of the three in the La Fortuna vicinity, so I rarely go there. In town itself #2 is the best grocery store. It is located right on the corner of the park which makes it very convenient to get to. The store was expanded about two years ago which also made it the largest grocery store in La Fortuna.
This is the place to go if you want familiar foods and snacks; US brand potato chips, nuts, pretzels, candy, etc. I prefer the meat market at Pali because of it’s lower cost and larger selection. However for packaged meats like bacon, prosciutto, salami, etc. you’ll have to shop at Super Christian. They also have a large alcohol selection. For craft beers Super Christian #2 has by far the biggest selection in town; even more than the liquor stores.
You can also find some fresh produce that is harder to find at Pali like one of my favorite fruits, the passion fruit. Imported fruits like strawberries, apples, pears, etc. will be more likely to be found there as well. All this selection and a convenient location does come at a cost however. Costs at Super Christian will run about 10-15% higher on all items, which is why I suggest shopping at Super Rosvil for most of what you need, and getting the rest at Super Christian.
If you are heading up towards El Castillo or Lake Arenal you can swing into Super Christian #4. It is the newest of the three and has a very nice layout and large selection.
Both my wife and I love to cook and enjoy each others cooking, but there is one thing that we always have to cook for ourselves and that is meat. As a food aficionado and lover of the culinary sciences I cannot bare to cook a steak beyond medium, preferably medium-rare. Ticos on the other hand prefer to let their steak cook until it is well done, and then leave it to cook another five minutes beyond that.
This results in it being very difficult to even buy a decent steak in La Fortuna. All of the grocery stores have their beef pre-cut to about 1/4″. Like I said, they like to eat shoe leather steaks, so why make it thicker. None of the grocery stores keep whole hunks of beef to cut into a steak for you either, so for this you must go to a butcher shop. The best one in La Fortuna itself is Carnicas Carranza located on the corner of the park in front of the Catholic Church. If you don’t know Spanish, just say “lomito” show on your thumb how thick you want it, and say how many you want. A quick word of warning, none of the butcher shops are open on Sundays; if you want a good steak on a Sunday, you’re just plain out of luck.