Cacao (chocolate) growing at a farm in Sarapiqui
Cacao (chocolate) growing at a farm in Sarapiqui

Do you love chocolate? Of course you do what kind of question is that?! In Costa Rica, we have some of the most wonderful chocolate that is made by the country's indigenous Bribri tribe. You just have to try it! You can actually spend the entire day learning how food is grown by the Bribri, go on a hike through a cacao plantation and see a demonstration of the cacao paste process using tools that date back to pre-Columbian times. It's a sight to see can you already smell the chocolate in the air? Yum!

Located in the stunning foothills of the Cordillera de Talamanca Limon, the Bribri Indigenous Reserve is one of the most distinct cultural communities in Costa Rica. It is estimated that there are only about 10,000 to 35,000 Bribri descendants still living today! They were actually able to live off the cocoa plant that they still know so much about. I've recommended visiting the Bribri for many reasons, but this may be the most delicious. Have you ever been to a chocolate factory? It's kind of like that, but here, you'll find it's a much more culturally intense experience to watch the women of the Bribri tribe create organic chocolate. Whether you're in the mood to curb your sweet tooth or you're looking for a deeper connection to the people of Costa Rica, this chocolate tour is a perfect way to experience the true Tico lifestyle.

The Bribri tour is an all-day endeavor, so you'll want to carve out about five to six hours of your time to visit here I know it seems like a long time to tour a chocolate factory, but trust me, the time flies! Plus, it's not all about the chocolate. You'll get to venture on a waterfall hike, go on a medicinal plant tour and dine on a scrumptious organic lunch.

Cacao Pod used for making chocolate
Cacao Pod used for making chocolate

The Chocolate House

The chocolate house, or cacao house, is where the women of the tribe teach you about how they produce chocolate. The owner, Dona Petronela, actually lives in the home that you'll travel through. She is so nice and welcoming, you'll feel right at home here! The moment you walk in you'll smell sweetness in the air, as the open layout structure boasts several fireplaces that are used to roast cocoa beans. You'll actually get to try things like fresh chestnuts and dried cocoa beans, which are much better than you may even imagine.

She'll teach you about the traditional uses of cocoa and cinnamon for natural remedies. Did you know that you can use cocoa to break a fever, use it to prevent stretch marks or use cocoa butter for a comforting lip gloss? Cocoa is also used in several sacred rituals, like the Bribri birth ceremony how'd you like to be entered into the world with chocolate? Two days after the baby is born, a solution with water and cocoa seed is used to wash the mother and newborn baby free of dirt and toxins. Although this isn't very common today, it's still very interesting to learn about or is that just the history buff in me? You'll be able to hear many different stories from Dona and others on the reserve throughout the tour, and it's a great way to learn more about the culture of cocoa for the Bribri people and all of Costa Rica.

Street near BriBri Reserve
Street near BriBri Reserve

After spending time learning about why cocoa is so important, you'll finally get to the portion of the tour that includes eating chocolate this is my favorite part! The Chocolate House has so many different offerings to choose from, including options that are infused with nutmeg, cinnamon, hot pepper, black pepper, mint, coffee, vanilla and many more. You can even bring some back with you so you can treasure the goodness of chocolate well after your visit ends maybe not well after, it's so good, you'll probably eat it up quickly.

Traditionally the Bribri people have used cocoa to heal, drink and purify, but today it is most commonly used for its medicinal purposes and deep, rich flavor. Cocoa is actually really healthy for you, but the sugar commonly added makes it bad? Trust me, you don't need the sugar to enjoy this stuff!

Did you know that cacao holds a sacred and spiritual significance to all the people of Costa Rica? Chocolate tours are a great way to get to know that true culture of Costa Rica and the native cultures that still exist here today. What did you learn while on a chocolate tour in my home country that you didn't expect to learn?


Cacao growing on tree at the Bribri Indigenous Reserve
Cacao growing on tree at the Bribri Indigenous Reserve