Known for its beaches, jungles, surfing and wildlife, Costa Rica has always been a popular vacation destination. But it’s not just the monkeys, waves, and zip lining excursions that are drawing visitors each year. Gourmet cheese, coffee and cacao industries, some new, some old, and some revived are becoming main attractions in this small yet vibrant Central American country. And thanks to even more direct international flights, it’s never been easier to visit than it is right now.
One of the countries less visited locations, Monteverde, is home to some of the best artisanal cheese that the Costa Rica has to offer. This region, also famous for its Cloud Forest is a different setting than most think of when picturing Costa Rica. Located outside of the Central Valley, this part of the country, with its cool climate, rolling green hills and crisp air is a far departure from the hot, humid, sandy beach towns that line both coasts. And while the bumpy, unpaved gravel roads make it one of the still more difficult places to reach, the proximity to both international airports is helping Monteverde become a more discovered and beloved destination.
Just a three hour drive from Liberia, with non-stop flights from Gatwick through Thomson Airways, and a three hour drive from Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, with non-stop flights from British Airways, Monteverde is on its way from being off the beaten path to being a must see spot. This largely unsettled region was populated in the 1950’s by Quaker families from Alabama seeking refuge from conscription and since Costa Rica has disbanded its army in 1948, the pieces fell into place. The 11 families took up the cheese industry and the resulting company, Monteverde Cheese Factory, is now the second largest company in the country, making local favorites such as Monte Rico and Montino Semiduro as well as more gourmet items such as manchego, edam, and even a sharp cheddar.
Add coffee plantations, cacao farms, boutiques and galleries and you may stop to wonder if you’re still in Costa Rica or if you’ve somehow traveled to a village in the Alps. While Costa Rica doesn’t have the same coffeehouse culture as Europe, the coffee and cacao industries are growing and a taste for the finer products is becoming more popular. Costa Rica has in the past been a large exporter of cacao beans but a movement to keep the product in country and create artisanal chocolate here at home is gaining movement. Bean to bar operations are popping up throughout Costa Rica and visitors are getting to learn more about the rich past, and present, of cacao.
While Costa Rica will continue to be known for its amazing wildlife and stunning natural beauty it is also gaining momentum as a gourmet destination for those who want to experience the finer products available in Central America. Visiting Monteverde is one way to experience this new industry that this engaging and remarkable country has to offer.