Hola! Welcome to Limón, Costa Rica. First documented by Columbus in 1502, the Spanish arrived seeking gold and riches. Limón’s true wealth proved to be pineapples, bananas and cocoa.
Limón is Spanish for lemon and the region is ripe with delicious fruits, produce and coffee beans. Limón is one of the planet’s top banana producers and eighty percent of the country’s banana plantations are located in Limón. Papaya, melon and carambola (star fruit) are also prevalent and benefit from two hundred inches of annual precipitation. The national dish is Gallo Pinto – a tasty blend of rice and beans fried up with onions, peppers and cilantro. The native dessert is the Tres Leche Cake (creamy custard topped with caramel sauce).
Costa Rica was the first Central American country to grow and export coffee. The oldest democracy in Latin America, Costa Rica is less than 20,000 square miles and is smaller than West Virginia. Known as a land of peace, they have had over one hundred years of political stability and are the only country in the western hemisphere without an army or military. Twenty-five percent of the national territory is dedicated to national parks and biological reserves.
Costa Rica is renowned for its beautiful rainforests and exotic wildlife. An expedition into the wilderness offers the opportunity to encounter sloths, howler monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, macaws, tapirs, river otters, anteaters, bats, rare birds and the endangered West Indian Manatee. The Costa Rican mantra is “Pura Vida”. This translates to pure life in English and accentuates living each day to the fullest. Our quest for Pura Vida led us to the Reventazon River for a white water rafting adventure through the jungle. After a scenic hour drive from the Coral Princess cruise ship, we met up with our guides from Rios Tropicales. After a quick equipment check and training session, they suited us up and set us up on our rafts. We had a fun group and manned the front with a Californian couple on their Honeymoon. The river was beautiful, surrounded by rainforests with an occasional herd of cows grazing by the waterfront. The river was fairly smooth but we did hit a few patches of rapids that had their way with us and flooded the boat. It was a great workout and the late December weather was perfect (upper seventies and a little bit overcast with just the right amount of sun sneaking through).
After a brilliant two hour jaunt through the tropical countryside, we disembarked on the edge of a banana plantation. After shedding our gear we hit the river lodge for a few well deserved Imperial Cervezas and a traditional Costa Rican buffet of local produce, plantains and wild game. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at a market and did a little shopping. Cassandra and I found a wonderful raw cocoa stand. The vendor was quite informative and shared his knowledge of the Cocoa bean harvesting process. After sampling some raw product, we brought back some tasty blends to make our own hot chocolate concoctions back in OC.
This was our first tip to Costa Rica and it left us wanting more. The people were extremely friendly and the landscapes and pristine eco-systems are mesmerizing. Limon is a wonderful gateway destination to get a taste of la Pura Vida from a Caribbean Cruise. It’s easy to understand why so many OC locals make this their off season home in January and February. Adios, Costa Rica, we hope to visit again someday soon!
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