Puntarenas, Costa Rica (November 4, 2021)

Today was a tie for favorite day so far, for me anyway. Perfect weather, great guides, beautiful scenery, and two interesting sites.

Sidebar: Dan and I visited Costa Rica over Thanksgiving in the early 1990s with Matt and Murphy.
We centered our trip in and around San Jose and had a fabulous time white water rafting,
hiking a volcano, and exploring the capital.

With high altitudes, fertile volcanic soil, warm temperatures, steady rainfall, and a tropical climate, Costa Rica is uniquely positioned to produce superior coffee beans. In fact, it is the only country in the world where it is illegal to produce anything less than 100% Arabica beans – the highest quality. We decided to tour a coffee plantation to see what all the fuss is about. Five minutes out of the small town of Sarchi is Espiritu Santo, a 610 acre coffee cooperative.

We thoroughly enjoyed a very informative visit in a beautiful setting with rolling green hills that are carpeted in flowering coffee plants each spring. What a spectacular sight that must be! We learned that coffee is actually …wait for it… a fruit. The ripe fruit is called a cherry and is bright red when hand picked. Our guide volunteered Cyd to strap on a harvester’s basket for our viewing pleasure and the whole group was then welcomed to help Cyd pick ripe, red cherries. We bit into them (no chewing or swallowing) for a taste test and found them sweet and appealing. Nicaraguans come to help pick since there is always more to harvest than the local labor market can manage.

Before sampling coffee that had been freshly brewed and dripped through a cotton sock, we got to see how the outer husk is removed (hulled) from the dry beans and then, hairnets in place, we toured the processing plant where coffee is roasted and bagged. Interestingly beans that are exported, which most of them are, are dried but not roasted, ground, or packaged before shipping. News to us!

Our other fun stop today was to an oxcart factory which has been in business since 1923. Say what? Once the main form of transportation across this mountainous, agricultural country, oxcarts in Costa Rica today are mostly used for celebrations. The colorfully-painted wooden carts with teams of matched oxen and smartly dressed drivers are known around the world. The oxcart has been the National Labor Symbol for Costa Rica since 1988, and in 2005 UNESCO proclaimed Costa Rica’s vibrantly painted, traditional oxcarts to be an Intangible World Cultural Heritage.

A custom cart made today costs between $3,000 and $4,000 unpainted. They are still made with spoke-less, solid wood wheels bound by a metal ring that cuts through mud without getting stuck. No two oxcarts in Costa Rica are painted exactly the same. The fine art of oxcart painting has been passed down in families from generation to generation, especially in Sarchi. Another of the town’s claims to fame is what Guinness World Records has deemed the World’s Largest Oxcart, built in 2006, which is on full view in the center of town.

We had an uneventful ride back to the port after our lovely day. We drove on nicely paved roads, some without shoulders or painted center lines admittedly, but in great shape. We passed roadside watermelon and ceviche stands; mango, palm, and almond trees; banana plants heavy with fruit; and laundry hanging on the line. All the small dwellings and business we passed had corrugated metal roofs and were colorfully painted. The small communities were spotlessly clean and tidy with rolling green mountains in the background. We drove back down 5,000 feet through the cloud forest to the salty air that coffee plants do not like and were welcomed by palm lined black sandy beaches.

Two fun facts:
1) Coast Rica is the second oldest democracy in Central and South America.
2) Just like old American school buses go to Guatemala to be repurposed, old American cars are shipped to Costa Rica to be repaired and sold or dismantled for parts.

Tonight’s entertainment: James Stephens III, a comedian

For what it’s worth…..

The currency is the Costa Rican Colon or CRC.
$1.00 = 614 CRC
1 CRC = $0.0016

Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949.

The national flower of Costa Rica is the orchid.

Costa Rica generates more than 99% of its electricity using renewable energy.

Laborers earn more in Costa Rica than anywhere else in Central America with a daily wage of $10 USD. 

Costa Rica is slightly smaller than West Virginia with over 25% of its land protected as either a national park or wildlife reserve. This is the largest percentage of any country in the world!

Costa Rica has around 200 volcanoes; five (or seven) are active. Poas Volcano has the second-largest volcanic crater in the world.

Nicoya, on the western coast, is a Blue Zone where the inhabitants commonly live active lives past the age of 100.

Costa Rica is the second-largest exporter of bananas in the world.
(For the insatiably curious, Ecuador is first.)

Costa Rican women don’t take their husband’s last name; they keep their maiden name
which, by the way, they receive from their mothers.


2 thoughts on “Puntarenas, Costa Rica (November 4, 2021)

  1. What a fascinating day! Thank you for every detail!

    We watched Bryce for a while today. When Matt came in, B scooted over to him, turned to us and blew us big kisses. We were clearly and sweetly dismissed, thank you very much! 😂


  2. Wow mom, what a great day!!

    Matt Mongeon, PMP, Technical Project Manager II
    Engineering Management Office
    PMP,ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | • matt.mongeon@cox.com


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