Five minutes into the tour, you will realize that everything you ever knew about chocolate was a lie. Forget about the mass produced candy bars of your youth. Here, in the verdant jungle of Puerto Viejo, chocolate grows on trees.
A trip to Puerto Viejo is not complete without a visit to CariBeans, and a tour through their chocolate forest. Here, staff work alongside the indigenous population of the area to restore a long abandoned cacao farm, in a way that is both ecologically balanced and sustainable.
CariBeans is the area’s original bean to bar chocolate maker, and their goal is to create high quality products from raw ingredients that are locally sourced, organic, and fair trade. They work with small farms committed to sustainable ecological practices, and work hard to help local farmers make a living wage.
On the tour, you will learn about the history of cacao in the area, following the journey from bean to bar. In a Chocolate Creation Lab overlooking the ocean, you will have the opportunity to watch all steps of the chocolate production process – harvesting, fermenting, roasting, tempering, and molding.
The highlight of the tour involves a chocolate tasting. You will be provided with several varieties of chocolate of a single origin from small farms around Costa Rica. Much like a wine tasting, you will learn to identify the different notes and textures in chocolate as you learn to truly appreciate the complexity of the cocao.
You will also have the opportunity to create some of your own special chocolate blends, as you are given free reign to a variety of ingredients to enhance the different types of chocolate. Our kids loved this part, and created a surprisingly tasty creation involving chocolate and garlic.
The tasting ends with a warm Aztec ceremonial drink, rumored to be favored by Montezuma himself. It is quite the experience to sit back and enjoy the drink of the gods, while looking out on one of the most beautiful views in all of Costa Rica, with a vista that stretches from Manzanillo all the way to Panama.
As a family, we have gone on the chocolate tour two separate times – both times were equally enjoyable. It was a great educational experience for the kids, as they learned about the history of the area and the art and science behind chocolate making. The promise of the chocolate tasting at the end of the tour is a sure way to keep engagement high, and the kids loved making their own chocolate blends.
One of the best parts of doing the tour is that you will receive a 10% off discount at CariBeans for the remainder of your trip – we suggest planning your tour for the very start of your trip to Puerto Viejo, so you can take advantage of this discount throughout your stay. They have amazing food at the café, with sandwiches and other healthy options to go along with the chocolate delicacies. Our kids loved the “Sticky Monkey”, which is essentially a big peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich; we made several lunch pit stops here during our adventures in Puerto Viejo to pick these up. Their fruit, granola, and yogurt bowl is also incredible, and perhaps the best I tried while in Costa Rica.
Another highlight of CariBeans is their Chocolate Tasting Lounge. On the side of the café is a refrigerated room, where they sell the different chocolates they make. You are able to sample all of the different flavors, and choose the ones that you like best to bring home with you. The kids were eager to pick up bars to bring home to their teachers, and we picked up some cacao nibs to sprinkle on our fruit salad back at home. If you let them know that you will be transporting the items back home with you, they will package your items up in a way that will survive your journey; we brought home bars on both of our trips to Puerto Viejo, and, thanks to their packaging efforts, all bars made it home without melting.
Monday – 10:00, Tuesday – 10:00 and 2:00, Wednesday – 10:00, Thursday – 10:00 and 2:00, Friday – 2:00, Saturday – 2:00
$26 for adults, half price for kids.
For more information on CariBeans and the Chocolate Forest, or to book a tour, click here.
Like this post? You may be interested in some of our additional posts about the area:
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