Learn about the banana industry

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Travelers in Costa Rica can go on a banana tour to learn about how the famous yellow fruit has had a strong impact on the country's economy and culture.

How it Began

Bananas were first cultivated in 1878, making Costa Rica the first country in Central America to develop an industry around the fruit. In 1890, the industry began a period of rapid growth thanks to the completion of a new Atlantic railway. Nowadays, the nation is one of the top producers of bananas in the world, with more than 106,000 acres of plantations devoted exclusively to banana production. According to the National Banana Corporation (CORBANA) - a public group that works to develop the banana industry in Costa Rica - the country exported 103 million 40-pound boxes of the fruit in 2010, representing an 18 percent increase over the year before.

Best in the World

Between 2002 and 2006, Costa Rica was responsible for 13 percent of all banana exports around the world, making it the planet's second-largest producer of the fruit. Thirty-eight countries around the world imported Costa Rican bananas in 2009, with 43 percent of all exports shipped to the United States.

Banana Tours

Travelers interested in learning about the banana industry in Costa Rica should head to the province of Limon, located on the country's Caribbean coast. Banana tours take visitors to some of the region's many plantations, where they can see many different aspects of life on a farm.

Banana plantations offer visitors insight into how their product makes it from the tree to the table. These excursions begin in the expansive banana fields, where travelers can then see workers bagging and harvesting the fruit. The bananas are then taken to packing facilities, where they are boxed up and shipped around the world.

Visitors to a banana plantation may also get a chance to see a worker's community. More than 34,000 Costa Ricans work in the banana industry, and a trip to their communities gives visitors a chance to understand local housing, education, commerce and conservation.

Where to Learn More

To find a banana plantation tour head to Sarapiqui, Heredia, there you can visit the Dole banana plantations on organized tours. No banana plantation tour would be complete without a souvenir. In addition to sampling fresh fruit, tourists can buy many products made from bananas, including paper, dolls, liquor and hangers.