Our little white car, expertly navigating the narrow mountainous roads, comes to a sudden halt. “These are the new cowboys of Costa Rica,” Alex tells me. Two men on bicycles herd a large group of cattle across the road. We had left the small and lively town of Coco Beach to head into the mountains in search of coffee. On this side of Costa Rica — the Pacific side — the air is dry and hot. The terrain seems burnt by the sun, unlike the Caribbean coast of the country, which is full of lush green rain forests and precipitation nearly year round.
Alex, an expert in all things Costa Rica and our guide for the day, accelerated up the mountain furiously. Two hours and a little motion sickness later, we arrive at Matambu coffee plantation in the town of Hojancha. Costa Rican coffee is produced in smaller co-ops like this, rather than by large companies, ensuring fairer conditions for farmers.
We sat at a cafe carved into the mountain, a table with an espresso machine and fresh ground coffee from the plantation set to the side. The region of Guanacaste — a sparsely populated region along the Pacific coast — produces unique coffee unlike most other Costa Rican beans. Costa Rican coffee is renowned as some of the best in the world; so much so, that Starbucks imports most of their coffee from the country. But Guanacaste, with its distinct dry and rainy seasons, grows coffee less acidic. The Diriá Coffee roasted at this facility was served with scenic views — mountains full of ripe coffee cherries.
We drove to another town to have lunch at a small restaurant. A plate of plantains, beans, steak, and rice was washed down with fresh juice: a typical Costa Rican meal. We watched the cattle as they grazed, reflecting on the fact that we most likely just ate one of their family members while admiring their view.
Coffee helped to end a meal and a perfect day, as we drove back to Coco Beach to lay in the sun. The mountains cocooned the beach like a blanket.
Other suggested adventures: Hiking up the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, a wonderland for spotting exotic flora and flauna. After your hike (watch out for streams — which I clumsily tumbled into — and lurking Pumas), visit the tiny ceviche stand in Coco Beach. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in citrus juices and spices.