If you’re looking for somewhere both adventurous and relaxing than you’ve come to the right place. The pristine national parks, the calming presence of the cloud forest, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast, the organic coffee and cacao, and the diverse wildlife – Costa Rica is without a doubt a naturalist’s dream.
Here are our top three experiences:
Coffee and cacao tour
Costa Rica is known best for its coffee. We took a coffee, cacao and sugarcane tour in Monteverde with El Trapiche. The tour began with a walk through the plantation to learn about the farm and crops. We saw coffee trees, cacao plants, and sugarcane. We also spotted a few friendly birds.
We saw the entire production process from harvesting the coffee bean to the drying, roasting, and grinding. While I’m not a coffee drinker, you sure do appreciate the laborious process.
We also cut open fresh cacao pods and tasted these delicious little morsels of heaven. I’ve tasted raw cacao before so I was expecting a bitter taste, but the fresh cacao fruit is completely different with its sweet and fruity flesh on the outer shell. We were told to suck this slowly to enjoy the sweetness of the white skin. Eventually, we bit in and could taste the subtle bitter hints of cacao on our palate.
We then had the opportunity to grind the dried cacao, sample some and add sugar and milk until the ultimate combination was formed – rich and decadent chocolate. We were all licking our spoons avidly, asking for seconds!
Making our way around to the sugar mill, the farm owner was manning an ox-driven device that stripped the sugarcane off its juice. This is only for show, however, right next to this was a water powered mill that did the job at least ten times faster – and free of animal cruelty.
We saw the fresh sugar being melted in a bath (it smelt absolutely heavenly, like a toffee house) and we had a chance to mix our own bag of raw sugar.
The tour culminated in a rum tasting (made with sugarcane from the farm), as well as a coffee tasting and a savory dish made from a root vegetable on the farm. The rum was strong, over 60% alcohol, while the coffee was just incredible. The first time we had tried a macchiato and definitely not the last.
There are so many cloud forests to explore in Costa Rica. While in Monteverde we took a walk at Selvatura Park, known for its hanging suspension bridges and canopy zip-lining.
We walked across eight suspension bridges high in the canopy of the cloud forest, spotting many different birds as well as the calls of different animals. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any sloths, as it wasn’t exactly sloth-season, however, there are night tours available that may increase your likelihood of seeing these nocturnal creatures.
There was just the one near miss with a snake that had wrapped itself through the mesh of one of the suspension bridges, looking almost identical to a vine. A few quick photos later and we were delicately circumventing the snake to safety on the other side.
These tasty homemade dishes are Costa Rica’s national dish. You can find them in ‘sodas’ – the local eateries.
Traditionally served with chicken, pork, fish or beef as the main protein, the casado is then built up with an accompaniment of rice and beans, plantain, salad and a side of vegetables.
A nice little surprise at the end of each meal was either a slice of cake or small sweet treat, a Costa Rican customary.