Cacao Trails is a cool place to get acquainted with Costa Rica's cacao, from the important role of the fruit in local indigenous communities to the process it goes through from the bean to the bar, complete with a traditional chocolate factory exhibit that produces real chocolate that you can purchase for souvenirs after the tour. The tour includes a walking trail through an active cacao forest and a canoe ride, all of which is kid-friendly. Find Cacao Trails along the main road between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. No reservations are needed, just show up between 8 and 4 pm.
Chocolate lovers, nature enthusiasts, and all those looking to learn more about Costa Rica's rich history of cacao should indulge in the Chocolate Forest Experience, an in-depth exploration of chocolate from the cacao seed to the to the fruit from the tree to the bean, and finally, to the bar. Hike through the varied areas of cacao, from the cacao jungle to the cacao forest and managed cacao restoration zones. After the tour, there's an optional professional chocolate tasting paired with organic wine drinking. The Chocolate Forest Experience is $26 per person and includes all the chocolate you can eat.
Tsirushka, the Bri Bri word for chocolate, was born in 2003 at the incentive of ACOMUITA, Asociación Comisión de Mujeres Indígenas de Talamanca, or the Association Commission of Indigenous Women of Talamanca (Costa Rica), to earn income from their work on cacao farms in order to benefit their families. Tsirushka, through its activities, also helps preserve the indigenous Bri Bri culture. The mission of this female driven socially-minded business is to produce and "commercialize" artisinal chocolates made with 100% organic cacao from their traditional family farms. Allow a half-day to travel from Puerto Viejo de Limon to the small village of Shiroles to visit a cacao farm and take a tour.
The Cacao Lounge is one sweet spot to shop and hang out in Jacó, and have a good old-fashioned time. Downstairs is a cafe with great coffee and a slew of specialty desserts all with a common theme: they are all dipped in chocolate! Jalapeños dipped in chocolate make for a spicy treat that's unexpectedly sweet. Upstairs there's the air-conditioned lounge, which is open to the public but available for private parties and special occasions, for which the Cacao Lounge also creates gorgeous floral displays- flowers and chocolate are expertly combined to appeal to all the senses, something this Italian owned business is happy to share.
Thankfully, Luna de Febrero is open every moon, not just February's, and its selection of souvenirs continues to evolve into Puerto Viejo de Limon's most eclectic selection of locally made, sustainable goods, including original artwork, Caribbean cacao, and Pura Vida emblazoned gear. Local crafters include Monkey Bizness, maker of unique upcycled bags and Garden Botanicals, whose locally made line of lip balms and soaps make favorite souvenirs, stocking stuffers, and gifts to self. They also carry flip flops, hats, and beach gear. Find Luna de Febrero along the main road, across from ATEC and beneath Chili Rojo in the most modern complex, Puerto Viejo Shops.
Set between the main road and the coastal road behind the Casa de Cultura in the center of town, the Puerto Viejo Flea Market is open every day all day, and on Saturdays, the Farmer's Market occupies the same space under the big tent from 6am until 1pm, but it's best to get there on the earlier side if you want first dibs on the freshest produce and samples of the queso fresco. This is the only regular farmer's market in the area, so this is the best opportunity to find local organic goodies under one "roof." The Flea Market carries a good mix of mainly recycled and some new clothing and housewares, plus handmade jewelry and tote-bags.
Bread and Chocolate has become a landmark cafe in Puerto Viejo, and for good(ies) reason. Locals and tourists enjoy gathering to partake in some wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and signature baked goods here, which include handmade truffles, delectable brownies, and scrumptious muffins. There are only a handful of tables on the raised deck just off the main road in the center of town, but even when there's a full house it just seems cozy rather than crowded. Coffee is served in individual French presses, and everything is made fresh right there in the busy kitchen that Tom oversees. Bread and Chocolate is open from 6:30am to 6:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 6:30 to 2:30 on Sundays (closed Mondays). It's also cash only.
After a warm introduction and a brief history of coffee in Costa Rica, the tour begins with a stroll through the plantation of coffee, cacao, and many other tropical trees. A charismatic bi-lingual guide explains the growing cycles from the cranberry red fruit to the brown bean. The roastery is a real working factory where Café Britt is roasted and packaged; large rooms with twenty foot tall machines are filled with the aroma of beans in various stages. Buy coffee, chocolate, and souvenirs from the Cafe Britt shop after the tour. Duration: 1.5 hours Price:$20 Transportation available from most major hotels in San Jose. Coming from San Jose, follow Route 2 through General Canas Highway in Heredia. Available: 9:30am and 11:00am year round.
The Chocorart cacao plantation offers in-depth tours of its operation in the jungly rainforest just south of Puerto Viejo de Limon. You'll learn about the whole process of chocolate production, from the seed to the fruit to the fermentation and roasting process, all the way through to heating and adding of natural flavors and sweeteners to produce logs of semi sweet chocolate that come individually wrapped in bright colored wax paper. Tours take about two hours and cost approximately $25, and can be offered in English, Spanish, French, or German. Reservations for tours are necessary. Now open is the Chocorart Chocolateria along the main road where one can enjoy a tasty concoction made with their organic cacao.
In a thatched bungalow set just back from the main road across from the fray of Rockin' Js Pure Jungle Spa is the original and best spa in Puerto Viejo, a refreshing oasis offering all-natural pampering with lush organic products in an invitingly exotic setting. Pure Jungle Spa is open for walk-ins and by appointment, every day of the week. and it makes the perfect end to a day spent biking and beaching. The spa menu includes an enticing list of facials, massages, and body treatments using all natural, tropical, and locally grown ingredients, like virgin coconut oil, organic cacao, sweet papaya, and fresh lemongrass. The experience is relaxing, therapeutic, and purely luxurious.