Many over-worked Americans escape the frenzy of daily life to head to the beaches of Costa Rica. And for good reason – the sandy expanses are some of the best in the world. But have you ever considered a coffee tour? This Latin American country has some of the best java in the world, and its fascinating to learn how coffee plantation owners are constantly improving their craft while seamlessly folding in preservation of the natural environment. For example, here are five Costa Rica coffee tours that have opened our eyes to the wonders of the bean:
The Vargas family is at the center of this beloved coffee-making operation, less than an hour northwest of San José. Started in 1940, Dakota Estate has long been focused on the ongoing development of the coffee roasting and preservation process, honing new technologies that allow them to roast beans with exceptionally nuanced flavor. They’ve also improved coffee packaging, designing bags with regulator valves to keep coffee fresh as long as possible. When you’re onsite for a tour, soak in some of the Dakota history while learning about how coffee bean plants are grown, harvested, dried, and roasted for the perfect cup of coffee. You’ll be able to get your hands dirty raking beans in the drying process, picking berries from coffee plants, and, of course, tasting the final product. When you’re done with the day-long tour, drop by the onsite café where you can enjoy a buffet-style lunch and live performances from native Costa Rican artists. Tour reservations are required; check the website for cost and available dates/times.
An hour west of San José sits El Toledo Organic Coffee Farm, a 20-year-old plantation that has set itself apart by focusing on the unique synergy between nature and coffee-making. Committed to organic farming, the plantation has been gradually updated to support both the environment and coffee production. Namely, the owners have stopped using chemicals on crops, though they claim the biggest change was their own perspective on coffee bean farming; this, they sum up simply as “going with nature, not against it.” As with most plantations, you’ll need to make a reservation through their website if you want a tour – but it’s very much worth it. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind trek through the property, witnessing firsthand organic farming practices in action as well as some of the unique vegetation that grows onsite. Throughout the tour, you’ll hear details about how El Toledo has been intentional about supporting native life while gently introducing coffee bean plants to the ecosystem. Finish with a cup of coffee or, if you’re hungry, a handmade packed lunch from plantation staff. Check the website for available tour dates/times and cost.
While El Toledo boasts an intentionally “harmonious,” natural approach to coffee growing, Mi Cafecito takes that a step further. Yes, you’ll be able to walk through the plantation and see how coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted, but you’ll also get a full ecological tour through the area – a landscape that borders on mountains and includes two major rivers. The onsite “virgin” forest is one nature lovers will truly appreciate, with its diversity of trees (including cedar and laurel), wild birds, and water life. Once you’re done exploring the forest and plantation, you can grab a small bite at the Mi Cafecito café and pick up a souvenir from their gift shop. Check prices and tour availability on their website.
Don Juan isn’t just a coffee farm – it’s a tour company based in Costa Rica. While they’ve been leading plantation tours since 2006, they recently planted their own coffee crop (in 2015). Now, tourists can visit Don Juan’s own property via the Coffee and Chocolate Tour, which teaches guests how coffee is grown and made, then slides into a brief education on how its delectable accompaniment – chocolate – is also made. Walk the Arenal trails and touch the cacao and coffee plants yourself as you hear their origin stories. Finish, of course, with a sampling of both Don Juan coffee and seductive chocolate. Don’t forget to buy some cocoa and java at their onsite shop before you leave. Check the website for tour information and cost.
For a shadowy coffee experience just north of Monteverde, check out the Coffee’N Jungle Night Tour. Two local experts – Junior Ramirez (the coffee whisperer) and Orlando Morún (the naturist) – lead guests on a nature-cum-coffee exploration after dark. While you’ll get a coffee education that’s very similar to other tours on our list, you’ll also get something truly special: a front seat to nature’s symphony. Hear the croaking of frogs and the buzzing of insects as fireflies paint curlicues of light in the night sky. You might even see a two-toed sloth as you wander the Monteverde paths. The tour itself is comprised of three stages: a coffee plantation tour, a mini cocoa tour, and a nature walk into the murmuring forest. This one might just be our favorite. As with the other tours, be sure to check the website for tour availability and cost.