After the tour I had a true farm-to-table experience with a coffee-infused lunch at the plantation’s El Tigre Vestido restaurant, whose dishes incorporate coffee with traditional local plants like the tiquisque root (a starchy, potato-like root vegetable) and guineo (unripened, green bananas). More-familiar ingredients such as tamarind, ginger and tomatoes are also used. The coffee gave each dish deeper flavor, whether it be a roasted tomato soup, a red wine-and-coffee reduction or a homemade coffee ice cream. Pura Vida on a plate.
PURA VIDA LESSON 2: EXPLORE NATURE.
With more than 25 national parks and 58 wildlife refuges, it’s not surprising that one of Costa Rica’s main draws is its diverse environment. It’s common to spend time exploring the rain forests and observing wildlife, so I scouted offbeat activities to engage with nature.
On a hot day in the rainy season, a canyoning tour is an adventurous way to cool off. If you’ve wanted to repel down waterfalls in the rain forest, this is your chance. The Desafio Adventure Company, based near the Arenal volcano, offers half-day trips to the Lost Canyon, where you can repel a series of refreshing waterfalls, including a guided repel from a 200-foot cascade.
Instead of taking a traditional day hike through the sticky rain forest, I turned on my flashlight and joined a night hike. Searching for tarantulas, snakes, tree frogs and other nocturnal creatures in the darkness at the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge is fascinating and frightening. While I’m terrified of spiders, day or night, this tour is a true testament to Costa Rica’s biodiversity.
Along the coasts, seeing a baby sea turtle at night is a rainy-season treat. From July to November, the Pacific and Caribbean shores are crowded with turtle hatchlings scurrying from their sandy nests to the sea. In Tortuguero on the northeastern Caribbean coast, many beachside accommodations offer night tours to visitors hoping to spot green, leatherback and loggerhead turtles (among others) in action. Conservation groups such as Turtle Trax in the Guanacaste province run programs, along with nonprofit PRETOMA (official name: Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas), focused on protecting or relocating beach nests and tagging adult turtles. For travelers looking to get involved, there are volunteer programs available with a commitment of only one week.