The cuisine of Costa Rica is similar to that of other Central American and Caribbean nations, with a heavy reliance on beans, rice, plantains and root vegetables and varies in different parts of the country depending on past influences and history. One distinct aspect of this adventure will be the opportunity to eat truly farm to table for most meals. Meals will vary from place to place but will include a variety of local dishes both vegetarian and meat based. Costa Rican food is not typically spicy (although you will find some spicy influence on the Caribbean Coast) but rather relies on the fresh flavors that are woven together from the multitude of plants, fruits and vegetables available in this tropical land. For those with food allergies or needing a special diet, accommodations are made.
Accommodations will vary from place to place along the journey and will be a mix of small locally run hotels, dorm-style farm housing and family stays if your group chooses this option. If staying with a family, students will be housed in pairs. All accommodations will be a minimum of double occupancy.
Costa Ricans speak Spanish and are largely Catholic as a result of their colonization in the 1500s. However, there were a variety of pre-existing indigenous groups before the arrival of Europeans, and many traditions, recipes, artistic and musical styles have been retained over time to create a blended culture that is a rich and interesting mix of influences.
Costa Rica’s first inhabitants were indigenous tribes who were largely absorbed into the Spanish colonial society in the 1500s. While some indigenous peoples still retain their culture, language and traditions today, the number is relatively small and they continue to fight to retain and regain their rights.
Due to a lack of exploitable mineral or indigenous human resources, and its many mountainous, hard to reach areas, Costa Rica remained one of the poorer, more isolated, and under-populated regions of the Spanish Empire, where settlers had to work their own land. As a result, Costa Rica was largely ignored by the Spanish and left to develop their own rural democracy and was less impacted by the various wars in the region as power shifted throughout the colonial period.
Costa Rica formally declared its independence in 1838. Coffee plantations were established in the early 19th century, and quickly became the first major export industry. Coffee remained the number one source of income for the next century, prompting the development of transportation infrastructure. Immigrants who worked on the railway, completed in 1890, settled in Costa Rica, some with land grants which were used to produce bananas in quantities to rival coffee as the main export. This allowed foreign fruit companies to gain a large role in the nation’s economy. To this day, large scale banana plantations are a main economic driver for Costa Rica, however, with the emergent environmental movement in the country, there have been many efforts toward more ecologically friendly and sustainable farming practices. This goes hand in hand with Costa Rica’s emerging reputation as an eco-tourism destination. We will meet Costa Ricans working at the forefront of this movement to encourage small scale farming and agro-forestry initiatives that support the environment, people and economy of the region.
Finca Dos Madres is the home of Jungle Foods
Jungle Foods is a for-benefit breadfruit corporation aimed at revitalizing the tropics through diverse agroforestry models and delicious value-added goodies. Co-founders Diana Chaves, Gustavo Angulo and Paul Zinc are our hosts as we discover the magic of breadfruit throughout Costa Rica. An agro-ecological food forest of 100+ species of edible perennial vegetables and fruits with a developing nursery focused on everything rare and useful.
Diana Chaves, Jungle Foods Co-Founder holds a breadfruit and a tree right before a test run for our irresistible breadfruit chips. A woman with many hats, she is managing multiple facets of Jungle Foods while working on her thesis in architecture at the University of Costa Rica!
Via International is proud to partner with EARTH University. Since 1990, EARTH University’s innovative educational approach has been preparing young people from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and other tropical regions to contribute to the sustainable development of their home communities while constructing a prosperous and just global society.
Students, staff, professors and their families both live and work on this tropical campus in the Costa Rican rainforest, creating a strong community and support network that is invested in student success.
San José, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2713-0000