06 JUL 2017: Located on a high plateau in Costa Rica’s fabled Central Valley region (it’s home to volcanoes, waterfalls, and more), clients have a menu of options for day trips, scenic weekend getaways, and city-countryside itineraries for outdoor adventure, nature tours, and foodie excursions.  

Once you arrive to the main international gateway of San Jose, Juan Santamaria International Airport there are a variety of local attractions and hotels within a 2-hour drive.

Corso Lecheria Tour

Outside San Jose we took a drive to visit a new agri-tourism attraction called, the Corso Lecheria Tour Farm. The artisanal dairy farm which has only been in operation since last December features a fabulous cloud forest trail hike good for novice hikers and a two-hour guided farm tour in the luxury of a covered wagon (English guides available with advanced bookings) that wends past hills of tall grasslands.

There we were deep in the heart of volcano country between two national parks one of which is helmed by the Grand Poobah of active volcanoes, the Poas which only blasted its top a month earlier.

On my farm outing we spent the afternoon getting the ins and outs from Diego who used to operate his own butterfly farm. Our first stop was to change environments completely. We hit the cloud forest trail and embarked on this marked path where the only things heard was your breath and that of some cloud-forest birds.

Next we stopped to see some Jersey cows and their calves and for those inclined a milking was doable too.

Further into the tour we did a double blink. “What the heck’s this?” someone blurted. Before us stood this intergalactic, hermetically sealed building where it was important to wash hands and disinfect shoes in a petri-pond before entering.

It is Corso Lecheria’s latest incarnation: a hydroponic strawberry farm. “We want to get people to start thinking differently about traditional farming practices,” Diego says, pointing to a cluster of strawberries in this temperature-controlled manmade garden.

Fascinating stuff to observe even if strawberry farming isn’t an interest but it’s the passion, science and sheer wonder in creating such an enterprise I hope will make folks want to stop in and say “hola” when next in Costa Rica.

The rest ends in the resto. Plates of local fare dubbed gallos are served inside this restored dairy farm now a farm-chic restaurant where flower pots dangle by the old feeding troughs. We munch on the mini soft tortilla stuffed in your choice of cheese, beans, veggies, and an assortment of barbecued meats which is nicely washed down with you guessed it, chocolate milk or a fresh pressed strawberry smoothie. http://corsolecheria.com/

Cocoa with Sibö

Two dapper guys meet us as we drive into this place in the hills teeming with jungle foliage, shady trees, and an exterior that feels more like mama’s house.

Sibö around for only a few years has marketed itself as the next artisanal haute chocolate to watch. While not available in Canada (yet), that’s all the more reason you have to fly to Costa Rica to get one of these experiences created by master chocolatiers.

Julio is the historian and George is the chocolate creator. It’s really the story of two guys in a kitchen of a guest house who started with a big dream of making Costa Rican branded chocolates that are sustainable.

“So how does being sustainable apply to chocolate?” asks George, a Miami-transplant and former journalist who has called Costa Rica home for 22 years. “I came down for a six month volunteer English teaching position,” he laughs declaring his love of Costa Rica’s Pura Vida lifestyle.

Julio, a carpenter turned chocolate historian, takes over the sustainability theme. He discusses the cocoa production and how buying directly from farmers in small remote communities helps the environment, the local economy, and buying local has benefits on the social aspect of the community, as well as cultural connections.

“We wanted to create a culture of excellence, and, that it is possible to do things in a different way,” says Julio describing how Sibö buys the high quality organic cocoa directly from these small cocoa growers unlike the major chocolate companies that work through larger cocoa distribution networks undercutting farmer’s profits.

For this melt-in-your-mouth experience which is quite heavenly I admit the chocolate samples are elegantly placed on a tasting plate. You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking Sibö chocolate is out of this world either. The tasting experience mirrors those fancy wine flight tastings of Napa or Niagara.

Sibö is only 40 minutes from San Jose and makes a nice add-on for the growing foodie crowd who are craving locally made products. It did not disappoint. http://sibuchocolate.com/

Coffee with Doka Estate

Now you know you stumbled upon greatness when you learn Arabica coffee grown in Costa Rica is also available at New York City’s illustrious gourmet java emporium, Zabar’s as my NYC colleague so rightly pointed out.

In Costa Rica Arabica coffee rules. Then there’s Reynaldo, my coffee guide. He readily admits that he’s a five or six coffee cup guy a day man, but reveals coffee drinking has some health benefits too.

“Coffee fights fatigue,” he laughs and adds if you drink about 3 or 4 cups of black coffee, apparently it’s a diabetes preventer.

So, there I was. On the slopes of the Poas Volcano deep in the heart of volcano country surrounded by coffee plants and burly bushes of the bluest, biggest hydrangea flowers ever seen. It turns out the soil is so rich because of the volcanic acidic nutrients and with the high slopes the result is the perfect coffee marriage.

The estate is located 40 minutes away from the massive volcano along a road nicknamed “Hydrangea Alley” because of the profusion of these bulbous flowers along the roadside.

Clients also can suss out what the coffee estate website reports as “the largest coffee plantation in Costa Rica.” To boot, the plantation around for over 70 years has the oldest wet mill in the country.

The tour timing couldn’t have been better as a month earlier the mighty Poas erupted in the biggest blast in years sending plumes flying, ash falling and creating craters so big the park’s visitor centre was closed during my visit. https://dokaestate.com/

Overnight at Xandari Resort and Spa

Leave your troubles at the gates and enter paradise in this haven which loosely translates as ‘paradise.’ Indeed. The night of my arrival the rain subdued me to sleep but upon awakening to the shrill sounds of tropical birds, day break had begun, and so had my jungle fantasy.

The brainchild of a husband and wife team from California, the luxe resort is an ideal launch pad for sightseeing around this region. The late sculptor-architect Sherrill Broudy drew inspiration from the exotic setting and has created an open air gallery full of whimsy as displayed by the villas, themselves art pieces with their curved lines that Sherrill once said resemble the gentle smiles of the locals. See Picasso-like sculptures in bright colours pop against the green foliage as artwork towers along the pathways.

Mornings can be spent lounging at one of the resort’s pools, de-stressing at the spa or doing the Downward Dog in an alfresco yoga class while during afternoons clients can register for excursions or do self-drives to nearby Poas National Park. (Car rentals are popular in Costa Rica).

The resort also offers a free guided site tour on its sustainability programmes. Guests can take a guided hike along a marked trail to view the onsite falls, see the sculpture garden, view the pools, and stop by the garden and compost area to learn about conservation efforts.

At the end of it all, nothing beats watching the sunset from this lofty perch overlooking Alajuela, Costa Rica’s second largest city.

Submerged by palm-fringed canopies the wild calls of the Motmot end a perfect day in Costa Rica.

http://www.xandari.com/costarica

https://www.visitcostarica.com/en

 

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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