Although Costa Rica’s main crops are bananas, pineapples and coffee, chocolate is making a strong comeback in the last several years even though cacao has always played an extremely important part in the Costa Rican indigenous communities’ culture. The beans were used as currency and festivals were held every year to celebrate cacao. It was and still is known as the “drink of Gods” to the indigenous groups.
Cacao trees grow especially well in certain places in Costa Rica and you can take a cacao farm tour to learn about this incredible tree, how they process and create the cherished sweet treat the entire world loves.
One such tour is the Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna, a little farm in the rainforest near Arenal Volcano. We did this tour and highly enjoyed their interactive, fun and educational presentation. When it comes to things to do in La Fortuna, this is one of the best for families, the kids will have a blast learning about chocolate (what kid doesn’t like chocolate right?).
Rainforest Chocolate Tour La Fortuna
The tour starts off with a little history lesson. You’ll find out where cacao trees are originally from and how the indigenous people used cacao back in pre-Colombian Mesoamerican times. If you didn’t know, cacao trees grow in tropical climates and need lots of sunlight and moisture which is why they grow so well in tropical climates. Chocolate itself is made from the cacao beans which are found inside the pods that grow on the trees.
After a little history, you’ll move onto the farm where you will see cacao trees and their fruits. If you don’t know anything about chocolate or cacao trees, you will be surprised as to what they look like!
Our guide showed us what ripe cacao pods look like, how they grow the trees and how to tell when they’re ready. Then we moved onto the presentation area where she gave us a ripe cacao pod so we could see the beans and the flesh.
Then came the fun part where we got to try our hand at making chocolate from the cacao beans. The cacao beans were toasted over a fire and then we got to crush them in a giant mortar and pestle.
After crushing the beans, they went through something that looked like a pasta maker and out came a thick, chocolatey paste. What’s surprising is that it’s not sweet! You have to add sugar to make it the sweet chocolate we know, otherwise it’s quite bitter. And this is why dark chocolate is not as sweet as milk or white chocolate. White chocolate apparently isn’t “really” chocolate since it has so much sugar and other flavors added to it so that in the end, there’s more other stuff than chocolate.
The dark chocolate percentage is is how much of the original cacao is kept so the higher the number, the more bitter it is. That is also why they say dark chocolate is better for you since it doesn’t contain as much sugar and it retains more of the original antioxidants cacao has.
It was interesting to learn about this since I didn’t know that before. I have a big sweet tooth so I never really liked dark chocolate and now I know why it tastes the way it tastes.
From that paste, the chocolate makers turn it into what we know as chocolate. The beans can also be made into lotions and creams (like cocoa butter, which is good for stretch marks because of its high fat precentage).
Now came the best part of the tour. We got to sample the chocolate and try different flavor combinations. Our guide had different seasonings and toppings and we were allowed to have as many as we wanted which was amazing. We had a blast trying chocolate with honey, powdered sugar, peanuts, cayenne pepper and other flavors. I think I tried at least 10 different samples of chocolate!
Rainforest Chocolate Tour Location
Rainforest Chocolate Tour La Fortuna is on the way to the La Fortuna waterfall. It’s 4 kilometers from La Fortuna downtown.
La Fortuna Chocolate Tour Prices
If you have a car, you can drive yourself and pay for the tour which is $25 per adult, $17 for children. If you don’t have a car and require transportation, you will need to book the tour with a tour company. We have a partnership with Jacamar Naturalist Tours to give 10% off this tour which is $70 with transportation, guide and water. Please contact us if you would like to book the tour.
I highly recommend this for families or anyone looking for a food/culture tour. Our guide was super funny, energetic and very informative which made the tour really fun. Everyone in our group loved it!
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