Last Updated: Nov 29, 2014
Considered a gift from the gods, cacao beans were revered more than the gold chalices that kings drank their chocolate drinks from. Before Europeans discovered how to make candy bars, the Native Americans of Central America were drinking hot chocolate and using the sacred cacao beans as currency. For Central America, has long been the caretaker of the cacao bean.
As the landscapes of Central America transformed, so did its cacao production. Moving from small, wild farms planted in the forest to industrial size farms for the purpose of export, cacao evolved with the times. Today, cacao is part of Costa Rica's cultural identity. Visitors can enjoy this legacy on tours around the country where they'll walk through steps of production, learning its history and tasting chocolate along every step of the journey.
Puerto Viejo and the south Caribbean remains Costa Rica's largest cacao producing regions. Hike through miles of cacao forest or join a tour and taste the different flavors of each farm's chocolate. To experience chocolate in its purest form, visit the ChocoRart organic cacao farm in Playa Chiquita outside of Puerto Viejo on the southern Caribbean coast. Owned and operated by a Swiss couple, the farm harvests, ferments and roasts cacao in the same traditional manner that the Mayans used for thousands of years. Sugar is added to the chocolate, as are natural flavors such as ginger, coconut, vanilla and nuts. Tours are offered by reservation only and a chocolate tasting is included.
Down the road in Playa Cocles, Caribeans offers tours of its heirloom cacao farm where they'll take you on a journey from bean to bar while tasting chocolate sourced form single farms in a tasting that will re-define how you think about chocolate.
Just 30 minutes north of Playa Chiquita, the Bribri Reservation is famous for its chocolate products. For hundreds of years, the Bribri have cultivated cacao – a plant they see as sacred – and utilized its beans for important rituals and traditional remedies. Chocolate tours are available to several Bribri homes, where cacao artisans take visitors through the chocolate-making process, from harvest to chocolate bar. Best of all, delicious, homemade chocolate is available for purchase at the end of each tour.
Tirimbina Rainforest Center, on the outskirts of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, offers a delectable chocolate tour – one of its most popular attractions. Discover the natural history of this ancient food and the entire chocolate-making process. The three-hour experience includes a tour of a former cacao farm and a taste of hot cocoa and organic chocolate.
Located in the quaint village of Mastatal de Puriscal, the family-run La Iguana Chocolate Farm has produced organic chocolate for more than 25 years. Take a tour and learn how cacao is harvested, dried and fermented to produce cocoa powder, chocolate and other delicious goodies. The sustainable farm offers daily tours and welcomes volunteers to assist in cocoa production and local community service projects.
Learn how cacao is harvested and processed into delicious organic chocolate on an interactive tour of Finca Kobo. About a half an hour west of Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula, the farm is completely sustainable – and home to a number of wild animals, including sloths and monkeys. A highlight of the tour is at the very end, when the farm owners serve white pineapple, banana bread, chocolate cake and four types of bananas to dip into freshly made chocolate sauce.