Hot chocolate hits the spot — Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest
Some say the journey is the destination, and getting to the Chocolateria and Cafe Chocorart in Playa Chiquita, Costa Rica, is indeed a trip in itself. At the end of a wild rainbow of natural attractions along the way, a delicious cup of hot chocolate awaits.
Between the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo de Limon and the little Chocolateria bungalow beside the rainforest, there is lots of activity in the dense green foliage that surrounds the road past Cocles Beach. Howler monkeys bellow from the towering trees and butterflies alight on heliconias and bromeliads that practically glow against the greenery.
Beyond the Chocolateria lies the spectacular Punta Uva beach, followed by Manzanillo and the Manzanillo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge at the end of the road - a vast national park and home to a multitude of species that thrive in the preserve's mangrove swamps and year-long tropical climate.
The world's best hot chocolate at the Chocolateria may be attributed mostly to the unique qualities of its main ingredient: organic cacao that grows a few meters from the cafe on the family farm. With organic soil free from pesticides and fertilized with compost rich in nutrients, it makes sense that the taste of the hot chocolate would ignite the senses.
The hot chocolate at the Chocolateria is a beverage made the old-fashioned way, the way the Mayans in Mexico made it and the way the indigenous Bri Bri still make it today: it is made in a pan over a flame, whisked by hand into a creamy frothy brew that seems to contain the slightest hints of vanilla, cinnamon, almond and an exotic medley of tropical fruits.
The Chocolateria's roadside sign — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica
A tour of the Chocorart farm may be arranged daily by calling (506) 2750-0075, and it costs about $23 per person. The tour includes an easy hike into the cacao forest (Remember to wear comfortable shoes.) and a two-hour, in-depth exploration of cacao and the making of chocolate the old-fashioned way. Enjoy a hands-on dive into cacao from the fruit off the tree to the bean to the chocolate baton - Chocorart's signature stick of delicious chocolate flavored with vanilla, orange, coconut and mint, also from the family farm.
To get to the Chocolateria and Cafe Chocorart from Puerto Viejo de Limon, ride a bike or go by golf cart or car. Take the road heading south towards Manzanilo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge; the beach will be on your left side, the jungle on your right. Once you pass Cocles and head into Playa Chiquita, the rainforest grows on both sides and you can't see the water from the road. Look for the hand-painted sign on the right side.