Costa Rican Copo: A Shaved Ice Treat

A Costa Rica copo is a shaved ice treat that is enjoyed by both children and adults throughout the country on hot days, usually at the beach.

We created this guide to explain exactly what is in this version of Costa Rican ice cream, tell you a bit about why it is sometimes referred to as a “churchill,” and give you info on where to buy one or make your own.

What is a Costa Rica Copo?

copo Costa Rica

A copo is a  treat that is often enjoyed on a hot day in Costa Rica. It is made with shaved ice, powdered milk, condensed milk, flavored syrup (the traditional syrup is the kola flavor), and sometimes vanilla ice cream on top.

It’s basically like the Costa Rican version of a snow cone. 

Usually, we would refer to this as a copo, but in the Puntarenas area it is always called a Costa Rica Churchill. We have also heard it referred to as a granizado before as well.

In our opinion, this treat is a little too sweet for our liking. I usually ask for mine without condensed milk to cut back on the sweetness.

So, if you aren’t a huge fan of sugary things, I suggest you do the same. 

Where did the name “Churchill” come from?


Now I can’t really say if this info is true. But this is what Costa Rica copo legend says…

The original “Churchills” were first concocted in the coastal city of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. 

In the 1940s, a local entrepreneur by the name of Joaquín Agüilar Ezquivel, would often order a snow cone with a unique blend of ingredients at the local ice cream shops. 

The ice cream vendors found the ingredients to be odd but good and thus christened the concoction “Churchill” in honor of Ezquivel. 

Apparently, he bore a striking resemblance to the British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill.

Where can you buy a copo?


Copo vendors can usually be found walking along beaches pushing their carts.

In the cart they have a large block of ice, a tool to shave it, the toppings, a variety of syrup flavors, cups, and spoons. 

You can’t often also find them at farmer’s markets.

And if you are driving past Playa Caldera (near Puntarenas), you’ve got to stop for a Churchill. There is a whole line of vendors with stalls selling them.

Copo Recipe

Are you interested in bringing a little bit of the culture into your home with a Costa Rica copo? 

We’ve got you covered! 


  • 1 cup of shaved ice
  • 4 tablespoons of snow cone syrup
  • 2 tablespoons condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk


First, you will need to get shaved ice.

I suggest just putting ice in a zip lock bag and pounding it with a rolling pin or something like that.

Or, maybe you can just save yourself the drama and buy pre-shaved ice.

Next, put half of your shaved ice in a tall glass.

Add half of the condensed milk, powdered milk, and syrup on top.

Layer the rest of the ice on top and finish with the rest of the toppings.

You can also add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top if you want to get real crazy.

Other Delicious Costa Rican Treats

Costa Rican Copo: A Shaved Ice Treat

Personally, I find Costa Rican traditional desserts to be notoriously too sweet for my liking, but you might disagree. 

Another common treat on a hot day (so basically every day in the beach towns) is a visit to Pops. Pops is an ice cream shop that has locations all throughout the country. 

Thomas is a big fan of their mint cappuccinos. I can’t eat or drink their stuff. It is wayyyy too creamy for me. 

So, if you have stomach issues, proceed with caution.

They now have decent icy juice options though, which you can get made with water rather than milk. I suggest going with that if you are a little concerned about lactose overload. 

Or, if you are on the beach and need a refreshing option, there are almost always people selling fresh coconuts to drink. Yum!

Costa Ricans also love tres leches cake as a sugary dessert option. This is made by cooking a white cake, poking holes into it, and pouring in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Again, this is so so sweet mostly because of the condensed milk.

I’m not sure why Costa Ricans love condensed milk so much, but I’ve even seen people just straight-up drinking cans of condensed milk in this country. 

It cracks me up. 

I guess we all have our weird cultural food quirks that we don’t realize are weird to other people. 

What do you think? Are you going to try a Costa Rica copo while traveling the country? We think you definitely should! Even if you find it to be too sweet, it is a good way to get a taste of the country’s culture (pun definitely intended).

You Might Also Find These Posts Helpful:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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