San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Where to Get the Bird

It’s that time of year, when U.S. citizens look for a gobbler to gobble down, even here in the tropics, where the birds have to be imported from abroad.

But just when you thought the turkeys and their trimmings would pop up on store shelves in all their abundance, most of Costa Rica appears to have skipped November and moved straight on to Santa Claus and his minions of plastic snowmen (the only kind that can survive at this latitude, of course).

What’s a thankful expat to do?

First of all, don’t give up. It may be tempting to settle for a very large chicken, but really, it’s not the same.

Second of all, check out some of the country’s higher-end supermarkets. Auto Mercado ( for one, with dozens of locations around the country, typically offers a decent selection of homespun North American food for those pining for a taste of home on Nov. 22.

While you probably won’t find fresh sweet potatoes there (the Costa Rican equivalent  of camote just isn’t quite the same), the supermarkets offer several brands of the canned varieties – especially sweet, perfect for that casserole thing with the marshmallows on top that Aunt Stacy used to make.

Likewise, for many expats Thanksgiving isn’t right without stuffing. Boxes of the instant, stove-top variety are on prominent display this time of year at Auto Mercado and other supermarkets in the country, such as Wal-Mart owned Más x Menos ( and specialty store Muñoz y Nanne (, 253-4646) in the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro.

If boxed stuffing is not your thing, it might be difficult to find an alternative.

Homemade sage stuffing – the kind people traditionally associate with turkey – is awfully difficult, mainly because the sage is almost impossible to find here.

In Spanish, it’s known as sabia. Please let us know if you find any.

Finally, the really important part: the bird.  As early as late October, Auto Mercado had frozen turkey for sale, both whole and parts (from about ¢2,750/$5.30 per kilo). Pavolandia, an importer of turkey to Costa Rica, seems to be the brand of choice.

The meat counter at Más x Menos in San Pedro informed The Tico Times that turkey would be available for both Thanksgiving and Christmas shoppers. Likewise, Muñoz y Nanne also was advertising turkeys, both frozen (about ¢3,500/$6.70 per kilo) and cooked (about ¢6,900/$13.30 per kilo).

Carnes Don Fernando, with locations in the western suburb of Escazú (289-9165), Santa Ana (282-0181) and Curridabat, east of San José (271-3334), will offer frozen (about ¢3,500/$6.70 per kilo) and cooked (about ¢5,975/$11.50 per kilo) turkeys; make sure to call ahead and reserve.

In the northwestern province of Guanacaste, the meat department at Supermercado Luperón in Playas del Coco (670-1197) says it can get you a turkey, and in years past this supermarket has been a hub for Thanksgiving activities in the region.

Other reliable places in years past have included PriceSmart (, 288-0008, membership required) and Wal-Mart owned chain stores Maxibodega ( and Hipermás (

Many supermarkets ask that you call ahead of time to reserve yourself a bird for the holiday.


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