Villa Vanilla Spice Plantation
Last Updated: Apr 05, 2013
Villa Vanilla, a sustainable organic spice farm, is located in the fertile hills above Manuel Antonio. The farm is best known for its namesake crop, but also cultivates other flavorful plants including black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, cocoa, turmeric, and allspice. Plantation owner, Henry Karczynski, has worked in agricultural development since 1975 and is experienced in organic farming, permaculture and companion planting – the use of mutually beneficial plants and microorganisms to promote crop health.
Location : Villanueva, 11 miles northeast of Manuel Antonio
Altitude : 640 feet
Area : 152 acres
Hours : By Reservation
Telephone : 2779-1155 or 8839-2721
Entrance Fee : $45-$50
Vanilla is the world's most popular flavoring and second-most expensive spice – trailing only saffron – thanks to the painstaking fertilization process, which must be done by hand. During Villa Vanilla's plantation tour, guests are taught the basics of vanilla orchid fertilization.
Tours through the farm focus on vanilla production, but also touch on the cultivation of other spices, especially Ceylon cinnamon, cocoa and black pepper. Tours visit the Epiphyte Trail, a picturesque path lined with air plants, such as the orchid. Guests learn about various fruit and spice trees and may sample delicacies created from the farm's crops, including cocoa nib cookies, cinnamon ice cream, chili-infused hot chocolate, and mandarin lime cheesecake. Finally, the tour winds down at the Spice Shoppe, where organic vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and other edible souvenirs can be purchased.
Spice tours are offered at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 pm. Monday-Saturday, and at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday; reservations are recommended.
Villa Vanilla is a working farm, and is home to functional facilities including a composting area and spice drying station. The Epiphyte Trail winds through the property, past a small pond and ends at the Spice Shoppe. The Spice Shoppe offers an excellent alternative to traditional souvenirs; choose from the farm's signature vanilla beans and extract, or consider some hot chocolate mix, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, black and white peppercorns, dried herbs, and other products.
Temperatures at Villa Vanilla average 75º-90º F. During the green season (May-November), afternoon rains are common. Take an umbrella or other rain gear, and wear comfortable walking shoes.
Villa Vanilla offers pickup in Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Arriving from Quepos, take the paved road that passes the hospital and airport. At the gas station (La Managua), head east on the gravel road into the mountains. Drive through the small town of Naranjito and continue another half mile to the Y-intersection and veer left. Continue three miles to the town of Villanueva, and follows signs to Villa Vanilla.