Costa RicaCosta Rica

How to Eat a Pipa

Relaxing in the shade of a swaying palm, I hear a vendor hawking "pipa fria!" as he pushes his makeshift cart down the beachfront sidewalk. It's nearly noon on Playa Espadilla, one of my favorite beaches in Manuel Antonio, and the summer sun has got me parched. A nice cold drink of pipa is just what the doctor ordered -- both nutritious and rehydrating after a morning in the hot Costa Rican sun. The water from young, green coconuts is one of Mother Nature's gifts: just sweet enough, but not too saccharin, and packed with electrolytes. Leave your sports drinks at home, the clear liquid from a coconut (known as agua de pipa) contains magnesium, potassium and calcium, and at less than a $1 a pop, you can't beat the price. 

With two expert hacks of a machete, the pipa vendor cuts off the top, places a straw through the flesh, and serves up one of the country’s most heavenly drinks. And after I slurp up the water, he opens up the nut to reveal the soft, white meat inside. While pipa vendors are more common in coastal areas, you can buy young green coconuts all over the country; check out the fruit aisles of your local market or grocery store. Here are a few tips for selecting and opening a coconut:

  • If you want coconut water (agua de pipa), always select a green coconut. Mature brown coconuts are wonderful to eat, but have minimal liquid inside.
  • Find the three dark spots on one end of the coconut; they look somewhat like a face.
  • Use a screwdriver, knife or something similar to pierce the one soft spot. Place a straw through the hole and you're ready to go. 
  • With a machete, tap around the middle of the coconut until a large crack appears, allowing you to break the nut in half. Scoop the soft flesh out with a large spoon and enjoy!

How to Eat a Pipa in Pictures