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Pura Vida Luxury Wellness Retreat: The Shorter Approach Does Costa Rica

Chef gus creates healthy fare for the group

Chef Gustavo creates healthy fare for the group

What is it?

Inspired by the lifestyle in this Central American paradise, Michele Shorter, founder and owner of The Shorter Approach, has partnered with GreenSpot.Travel to offer the Pura Vida Luxury Wellness Retreat: The Shorter Approach Does Costa Rica. The week-long experience will include goal-setting, cardio and strength training, and nutrition planning mixed with activities like coffee plantation tours, cooking classes, hikes up a nearby volcano, and salsa dancing with locals every day.

People of all fitness levels and experience have the chance to join Shorter on the Costa Rica retreat, which includes incredible experiences at two Cayuga Collection properties: Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort and Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort.

When is it?

Oct. 8 to 15, 2016

Where is it?

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort (October 8-10)

Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort (October 11-14)

Extensions both before and after the retreat are possible

Who are the additional partners?

GreenSpot.Travel http://www.greenspot.travel/blog/pura-vida-luxury-wellness-retreat/ The Shorter Approach http://theshorterapproach.com/costarica/

More info below

What type of guests are we expecting?

We anticipate that we will have primarily women aged 45-60, travelling from the western USA, Miami area, and eastern US (New York region), as well as guests from western Canada.

What is included?

  • Accommodation
  • Daily meals
  • Transfers
  • Fitness and goal-setting discussion and guidance
    • Nutrition planning and recommendations
    • Cardio and strength training
    • Sunset yoga
    • Salsa lessons
    • Volcano hike and wildlife viewing
    • Hiking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park
    • A tour of the organic coffee plantation at Finca Rosa Blanca
    • Wildlife viewing
    • Cooking demonstrations
  • Optional add-on activities during ‘free time’ include:
    • Kayaking or stand-up padding excursion
    • Easy Being Green Tour: sustainability at Arenas Del Mar
    • Spa treatment at Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Retreat (separate fee)

 

Organic Coffee Scrub

Organic Coffee Scrub

Who should I contact if I have more questions?

Brian Cant

Tartan Group

brian@tartangroup.ca

 

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El Guarumo Master Suite

We are so proud of our new conversion of the room El Guarumo from a junior to a master suite. We attached the 150 sq. ft sitting room that was next to the El Guarumo junior suite and added it on as the new bedroom making it now the El Guarumo Master Suite. Available now.  more photos to come soon!

Finca Rosa Blanca's photo.
Finca Rosa Blanca's photo.
Finca Rosa Blanca's photo.
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Finca Rosa Blanca Invites the Community to an Environmental Education Breakfast

 

Some of many environmental prizes

Some of many environmental prizes

On July 25, 2015 an “Environmental Education Breakfast” was held at Finca Rosa Blanca in our new Salon Santa Barbara with leaders of the communities of Barrio Jesus and Santa Barbara who are working to protect the environment.  Janina, our sustainability director, welcomed everyone to a breakfast of organic coffee, fresh juices and homemade pastries and then we got down to business!

Barbara and Teri  with prizes for Environment

Karen Bermudez, the environmental manager of the municipality of Sta. Barbara talked about recycling and clean water, Don Rafael de FUPROVIRENA talked about how to share in their reforestation projects and Isabell Guillen, the head of the Eco Patrol, talked to us about the community projects and presented gifts and prizes for all who attended.  Jorge Hidalgo, the representative of the Association of Jesus Developmen, talked about reducing Carbon Emissions at a community level and representatives of the Environmental Blue Flag programs in the two elementary schools spoke about their projects. The representatives from the Senior Center, the Office for Women, and the Children’s Food Bank of Barrios Jesus also attended.

Recycling Presentation

Recycling Presentation

After the presentations, we all toured the organic greenhouse and gardens, the recycling center and our Red Worm Composting Farm.  The new laundry and solar drying area and our silver/copper ionization systems for the swimming pool and jacuzzi were explained to the group as well as the solar systems for heating water for the hotel and restaurant.  It was great to have this enthusiastic and energetic group share our ideals and projects

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Topes and Carreras de Cintas

San-Jose-Tope-1In my last blog I mentioned that our daughters joined the Yegua Roja at the many topes de caballos and the  carreras de cintas. The tope is a gathering of horses at the beginning of a festival when ranchers and equine aficionados bring their finest horses  in from the countryside to parade through the streets of each town and city dressed in their best riding outfits. Many of these horses are highly trained in “dancing” which is a type of gait where the horse lifts its hooves, often in time to music.

The carrera is a sport on horseback where the rider seeks to grab hanging ribbons or with a pointed stick topple tiny hoops hanging from a wire above head level all the while traveling at full speed.  Our daughters Lily and Olivia still treasure the hand-whittled sticks made by Yegua Roja for the carreras they ran.  And the colorful ribbons which he taught them to weave into the manes and tails of the horses when riding in the Grand Tope during Christmas week in San Jose.  Thousands of horses and their riders took part in the Grand Tope with mariachis and cervezas flowing alongside the parade.

Yegua Roja prepare to ride up the mountain

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The Red Mare! Who would believe his Nickname?

Yegua Roja

Yegua Roja

Yegua Roja (The Red Mare) has worked for us for over 20 years!  He was named after the first horse that he trained as a young man and he  began his long career with us as our horse wrangler when we ran horse trips into the mountains.  Yegua Roja, whose real name is Gerardo Perez, is the local ferrier and is known in the community as the Expert in all things Equine.  He loves children and taught our daughters Lily and Olivia to ride with the best of the Costa Rican cowboys and proudly took them to all of the rodeos and horse parades throughout the year.  His horses had beautiful gaits and danced their way to the top of many competitions.  We rode up the slopes of Barva volcano with Gerardo, sometimes for entire days and shared his knowledge and horsemanship with our guests, friends and family.

Yegua Roja prepare to ride up the mountain

Yegua Roja prepares to ride up the mountain

After we discontinued the horse tours, Yegua Roja became one of our gardeners at the hotel using his green thumb to keep the 9 acres of gardens bountiful and always has a ready smile for guests and fellow employees alike.  He now works with our crew on the coffee farms sharing his expertise in all things coffee.  Gerardo grew up working in coffee with his own family and neighbors and now is helping us maintain the plantations while advising us on weather patterns, organic coffee and methods of planting and pruning coffee trees.

horseback tour with coffee (1)20101203_costa_rica_0717 (1)

 

 

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Celebrating World Environment Day

planting trees with our guests

Last week we celebrated the World Environment Day on June 5, 2015 by planting over a thousand native trees in our coffee plantation.  We invited out guests to participate and we chose a lovely cool site next to one of the rivers which flow through the farm.  Over the past two months our crew, a group of factory workers from a large corporation and our partners at Finca Rosa Blanca, have planted 3000 baby coffee trees and 2000 native trees which will grow to shade these fledgling plants.

planting trees in the finca

All of these trees are carbon sequestering and have helped us to become 100% carbon neutral at the hotel, restaurant and farms.Charly preparing to plant a tree

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Ulises is our Super Coffee Tour Guide and Cupper

Ulises, our Expert Coffee Guide

Ulises, Coffee Guide

Ulises Valdez Zuñiga was born on November 21, 1990 and has 7 brothers and sisters.  He  lives just down the road from Finca Rosa Blanca in Barrio Jesus  of Sta. Barbara de Heredia.  Ulises has become an expert in all things coffee; he knows the plants, trees and wildlife of our tree-shaded coffee plantation better than he knows his seven siblings!   He guides our guests from the coffee roasting house, through the plantation to the processing and drying areas and back to the hotel to participate in a coffee cupping nearly every day, rain or shine.

Ulises shared his experiences with the wildlife of the farm, from paraqueets and parrots, oropendulas and humming birds of all sizes to porcupines, racoons, armadillos, opossums and even deer.  The effort we have put into creating a shade grown, organic coffee farm has attracted animals, birds and reptiles to the farm in the hundreds.

Today as Ulises was guiding a group of students through the farm they encountered a Costa Rican white-tailed deer grazing happily among the coffee trees.  Because the coffee is organic, the grasses and weeds grow between the rows of plants and provide sustenance for wild animals.  We have two small rivers which flow through the farm and are protected by  more than 30 meters of native trees and shrubs offering shelter and water to deer and other mammals as well as the myriad of bird life.  We are anxious to hear more tales of wildlife encountered in the lush and bountiful coffee plantation!

white-tailed-deer-showing-tail-flag

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A May Wedding under the Giant Ficus

Congratulations to Sean and Cristina who tied the knot this weekend at Finca Rosa Blanca!2015-05-24 16.43.08Our first wedding of the season was held under a clear tent placed strategically under the spreading boughs of the Higueron Tree.  It had rained all day until the late afternoon and the bridal party was worried, but the day cleared and the wedding was a sucess!    With a romantic harpist and violinist to accompany the vows and the sound of birds celebrating the first rains of May, the bridal couple embraced and sealed their vows.2015-05-24 16.42.302015-05-24 16.43.32

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Wedding Season Has Arrived

wedding_vows3Costa Rica is a wedding destination with something to please everyone. Centrally located in the continent, you can combine a holiday with friends and family; your wedding ceremony; and your honeymoon, all in one delicious package.

Juan Santamaría International Airport is located in the Central Valley just minutes from Finca Rosa Blanca, making it the perfect wedding destination. Some of the benefits of choosing a Central Valley venue are: you won’t have to arrange long transfers for your family and friends and it is a destination replete with volcanoes, cloud forests, waterfalls, , museums and theaters, coffee plantations and handicraft shops.  Finca Rosa Blanca is the scenic country venue which offers landscapes of exceptional beauty with its forests, volcanoes, fields of coffee, rivers and waterfalls. If you are looking for the perfect romantic location for your wedding, look no further…The Central Highlands of Costa Rica is the place where dream weddings come true and Finca Rosa Blanca is the destination you are searching for in your dreams.

Finca Rosa Blanca is renowned for its romance and artistry. When you think of your wedding set in a memorable place, Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort can offer you an extraordinary event encircled by steaming volcanoes, coffee farms and cloud forests. Surrounded by lush coffee plantations and lulled by the mountain breezes, you will enjoy all of our luxurious facilities, plus the opportunity to hold your ceremony under our giant Ficus tree with spectacular views of the Central Valley below.

Experience the excellent cuisine of our creative chef, stay in a fabulous Master Suite with breathtaking views, let us pamper you at our El Targua Spa or simply enjoy a glass of champagne on your private deck. Whatever it is you imagine for your perfect wedding, Finca Rosa Blanca will make it possible for you!

For wedding guests who truly want to relax during their time at Finca Rosa Blanca, the elegant and intimate El Targua Spa gives them an opportunity to enjoy a refreshing massage, exotic volcanic mud wrap, or organic coffee body scrub. If you would like to indulge your entire wedding party we can offer you a group rate. We can arrange for a stylist to come and create the most romantic looks for your wedding, including a range of hair styles and make up for the event of your lifetime.

We can create a tropical fantasy wedding from two to ninety people. Escape to paradise and let the experienced staff at Rosa Blanca prepare your wedding feast replete with sumptuous Costa Rican fusion cuisine, Latin rhythms or classical serenades following a romantic ceremony overlooking the verdant central valley. We look forward to hosting such a special event.

Next week I will have photos of our first wedding of the season!

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Give Yourself the Gift of Wellness at Finca Rosa Blanca

We now offer a menu of healthy activities and sustenance at Finca Rosa Blanca, including introductory Tai Chi classes, Yoga for all ages, Spa treatments, Farm to Table healthy cuisiine and Organic Coffee to wake your senses.

Organic Coffee at any hour

Fresh Organic Coffee

Join us to get your Chi flowing and your body cleansed and toned in our newly renovated El Targua Spa and yoga/tai chi studio, Salon Santa Barbara.  Andrea Garzon, recently joined us after many years running the spa at our sister hotel, Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort.  She and her staff of massage therapists and yoga teachers will share their techniques and skills to grant you the relaxation and tranquility that you deserve.

We now offer a menu of healthy activities and sustenance at Finca Rosa Blanca, including introductory Tai Chi classes, Yoga for all ages, Spa treatments, Farm to Table healthy cuisine and Organic Coffee to wake your senses.

 

Organic Coffee Scrub

Organic Coffee Scrub

Teri Jampol, a Taoist Tai Chi instructor for many years and the owner of Finca Rosa Blanca, will teach the the tai chi classes. Discover the Taoist Tai Chi® arts. Finca Rosa Blanca is hosting a class every week, which is open to both the public and the guests of the hotel.

People from all walks of life and across the world tell how the practice of Taoist Tai Chi® arts has relieved stress, provided deep relaxation, given their bodies balance and strength, helped with pain, lifted spirits, and even changed their outlook on life. More background can be found at the international web site of Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi. www.taoist.org

The class is one of many offered by the Asociación de Tai Chi TaoístaMR. For more information on other locations and class times in Costa Rica please visit www.costarica.taoist.org

tai chi logo jul11

We are happy to organize private Yoga classes and special healthy menus for you and your family.  Finca Rosa Blanca has become Costa Rica’s new luxurious wellness destination.

 

 

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How to eat like a local when traveling abroad

Visiting the local Fresh Market

Visiting the local Fresh Market

How to eat like a local when traveling abroad:

1) Before you travel, start with Google and look up articles about your destination. I tend to trust the publications that cannot be swayed by tempting free trips to destinations. I then start to look at their links to restaurants, culinary blogs or tours that are mentioned in the articles which often then lead to more links to other information about eating in your destination.

2) Try Urban Adventures for information and great inner-city tours, many of which feature meals with a family and tours of markets and restaurants. They have not branched out to all cities, but this may be a great option if they are in your destination.

3) Tripadvisor (uses crowdsourcing and is very subjective and often based upon price instead of quality) and guide books or travel websites unfortunately can be woefully out of date but they can be good to cross reference the information you get from local papers (digital or not) and blogs.

4) These are just some of the different sources for information that I looked at when recently traveling to Bogotá, Colombia last month. We knew we were going to be in the city for several weeks and my plan was to try the best and most interesting restaurants and experiences that I could (some in Spanish). Because we were there for a period of time we did not limit ourselves to local cuisine, but did branch out and found remarkable restaurants which featured the fresh tropical ingredients that can be had in Bogota in a variety of different cuisines from many countries.
www.bogotabiketours.com
www.everytrail.com
www.theculturetrip.com
www.bogota.vive.in
www.revistadiners.com.co
www.thecitypaperbogota.com
BLOGS:
www.bogotaeatsanddrinks.com
www.onechineseincolombia.com
www.bogotawesome.wordpress.com
www.mycolombiancocina.com
www.elorigendelacomida.co

5) Go to Facebook for pages on restaurants in your destination. Look for organizations or groups that weigh in on restaurants and food destinations, but again this is subjective and not always to be trusted. Restaurants always have Facebook pages and will often not bother with a website. You can find all the contact information you will need to see hours and make reservations as well as maps that link to Google Maps.

6) Buy a phone chip with data (usually very reasonable and you can download maps and guidebooks as well as use the GPS for Google Maps and use WAZE app if driving. Very uselful when trying to track down culinary destinations.

7) Buzzfeed is often a good source of local information, but again the information is subjective and unless you trust the source, it is probably better to look for professional reviews or blogs by food obsessed writers, chefs, cooks and hedonists.

8) If you loved one restaurant try to ask the chef where they would eat and if you can’t talk to the chef ask your waiter.

9) If at all possible, look for restaurants that use fresh local ingredients, feature traditional recipes or contemporary twists on the traditional and try to avoid the restaurants offering Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French or Mexican among many cuisines, unless you are eating in those countries.

10) Do go to the fresh food markets in each town or city which are often whole city blocks under one roof and/or just on the weekends to see what fresh produce and local products can be found. Ask the purveyors/farmers/producers where they go to eat. What should you try and what is the local favorite meal/food. Be prepared to taste your way along…but do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables that have not been washed or cut with your own clean knife.

Next week I will share Costa Rica Taste Tips!

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Nativity Scenes at Christmas in Costa Rica

The traditional Christmas Season  in Costa Rica, offers customs that came from Spain with the early settlers. These include the portal or pasito, the nativity scene, which is still the most important part of Christmas in Costa Rica. The scene must feature the three figures of the Holy Family, one cow and one donkey and the figure of baby Jesus is added at midnight on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. In most homes, a variety of other figures have been added to the scene including shepherds, sheep and angels, farm animals, cats and dogs, but also toy trains, super heroes and Disney characters have been known to make an appearance.

The nativity scene begins with lana or moss, found in the trees of the high Cloud forests and a rustic manger made of cypress wood.  Each portal is unique to the individual family and often includes potted plants, and creativity  producing wondrous displays with blinking christmas lights, flowing water and recorded hymns. Families sometimes add photographs of family members and some neighborhoods host live portales with humans portraying the Holy Family complete with friends and neighbors who share in saying the rosary and singing villancicos, or carols and share seasonal tamales and eggnog with all. Figures of the three kings are added to the portales on January 6, and again the day is celebrated with a rosary to the baby Jesus.

In the surrounding towns, many houses will place their portales on their porch so that passerbys can look in and enjoy the scene.  The local churches feature large portales in front of the churches and often in the naves.  At Finca Rosa Blanca we take our guests to our local towns and pueblos  to share in the traditions of Costa Rica at Christmas time.

A mix of the old and the new

A mix of the old and the new

 

 

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So Proud to have been named among the ten Best Small Hotels in the World

  • We are so happy to share with you our incredible pleasure at being named by the Readers Choice Award for Condé Nast Traveler Magazine, August, 2014 as:

 

One of the Ten Best Small Hotels in the World

Link to the article in CondeNast Traveller

 

We are named #1 Hotel in Central America and #1 Gold List for Costa Rica  for the second year in a row and continue to improve our hotel and restaurant with a new Master Suite and Events Center.

 

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World Cup Fever

Costa Rica and its inhabitants have been consumed with World Cup Fever and pride in their amazing team who despite all odds made it to the Quarter finals.  They played the Netherlands yesterday and kept them from scoring in a 0 to 0 game which went to penalty kicks.  Sadly, they lost in these last stressful moments, but they have left the world with such an impression of good sportsmanship and pride of country.  Glenn and I as Costa Ricans could not be prouder of our adopted country and I congratulate everyone in this tiny country, where there is no army or military at all, cradle to grave health care and guaranteed education for all and where the president of the country was in the streets celebrating with his people both the wins and the losses of a superb group of young men.  Proud to be a Costa Rican!

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The Birdsongs of Rosa Blanca

 

Walking in the Coffee Farm this beautiful sunny morning with Glenn and the dogs, we heard the clay-colored thrush, the gray-necked wood-rail and the melodious blackbird singing, squacking and trilling in the canopy above us.  It is the season when the almost daily rain showers are causing everything to burst forth in green and in song in our coffee farm and at the hotel.  We are surrounded by towering Higueron Trees, Porro and Senna trees and the tropical exuberance of the gardens and farm where more than 125 species of birds have been spotted.  We sit on the deck of the restaurant terrace and are privy to the flights of fancy of swallows, hawks, parakeets and motmots.  This morning I heard Glenn actually complain that the melodious songs of the national bird of Costa Rica, a nondescript thrush, had pulled him out of a vivid dream to awaken with the dawn.  But what a way to be awakened!

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Experience Amazing Volcano Craters Minutes From Rosa Blanca

Poas volcano

Viewing Platform above crater at Poas Volcano

 

Tour Three Active Volcanoes from Finca Rosa Blanca

Irazu , Turrialba, and Poás are the 3 active volcanoes within miles of Finca Rosa Blanca and Barva Volcano directly above the resort is the largest in land mass of all the 292 documented volcanoes in Costa Rica. Join us in exploring these beautiful mountains and cloud forests on foot, zip line, mountain bike and horses. Discover wild rivers and cascading waterfalls, big cats, quetzals, tapirs and eagles.

Choose from three different volcanic cloud forest experiences: Poás Volcano at 8,900 feet is a still active, but tranquil volcano with the largest crater in the world, bubbling active fumaroles and a simmering lake. Our closest neighbor is Barva Volcano at 9,534 ft. on the western extreme of Braulio Carrillo National Park offers excellent hiking through Cloud Forest to the Crater Lake where resplendent quetzals have been sighted. At 11,256 feet, Irazú Volcano is Costa Rica’s highest volcano and on a clear day you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Poas volcano

The Poas Volcano has the largest crater in the world

 

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Chiverre, The Semana Santa Favorite

Chiverre, called the fig-leaf gourd in English is a squash which is native to the Americas and a member of the cucurbit family (Cucurbita ficifolia) The shell is very hard and inside the texture is similar to that of a pumpkin but colored white.The season for collecting the chiverre coincides with Holy Week and Easter, and hundreds of roadside stands have them available. It is a Semana Santa staple. In Costa Rica,  it is traditional to make empanadas stuffed with sweet “chiverre” filling Semana Santa or Holy Week. Costa Ricans use the chiverre in many ways, mostly sweet and based on cane sugar, in convervas or conserves and jams called miel de chiverre or chiverre honey. If you can find a Chiverre Squash in your neighborhood, I share with the very simple, but time consuming, recipes to make Chiverre Jam.

Miel de chiverre

Ingredients: A lot of patience and a big chiverre  (often weighing 10 lbs.)

Dulce de caña in (2) tapas or 1 kilo of granular brown sugar
ground cinnamon and cloves to taste
250 grams tamarind seeds removed afterwards

If desired, you can add coconut pieces or flakes, zest from limes or oranges and nutmeg. Tapa dulce is made in circular blocks from molds which hold the boiled cane sugar juice extracted from the crushed sugar cane and has a distinct flavor of molasses and is ubiquitous in every Costa Rican household.Tamarind comes in blocks of the dried fruit and seeds and is made into a delicious popular drink and used in making sweets in Costa Rica.

Preparation

Make a fire or use a kitchen burner to char as much as possible of the shell of the chiverre. When done, hit the shell with a hammer to expose the contents that looks like Chinese spaghetti or fine hairs. Now the contents must be dried. When the chiverre contents are drier, cook it in a big pot on low heat. In the pot put your preferred sugar, white or brown. Cover the entire flesh of the chiverre with sugar, tamarindo seeds, cinnamon, cloves, lime or orange peel and, if desired, coconut. The chiverre will produce enough liquid for this process.Cover the pot and let it cook slowly and reduce for 90 minutes. Don’t forget to stir often.

Chiverre (cucurbita ficifolia)

_chiverre_58d06c0e

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Easter Week

The flower of the Itabo plant is consumed during Semana Santa

The flower of the Itabo plant is consumed during Semana Santa

It is already April and Easter Week starts soon.  This marks the end of the summer season here in Costa Rica and it continues to be warm, breezy and dry.  The Chiverre squash can be found on every roadside as it is the ubiquitous sign of Easter.  Here we eat it as a sweet conserve, a filling for pastries and cakes or just consumed on crackers with a bit of cream cheese. Fish and seafood will also be found in every household, a traditional staple for everyone who has grown up learning the stories around the week.

My family and I always enjoyed staying home and savoring the complete peace and quiet of the Central Valley as nearly everyone makes the exodus to the beach during this week, no matter what date it falls upon. There are no Easter Egg Hunts or baskets with chocolate bunnies and Easter Sunday is the least important day of the holiday. The sounds of drums and church bells are the only disturbances and those add to the charm of Easter Week.  Thursday and Friday are days of quiet contemplation, church services and religious processions through the streets where the reenactment of the stations of the cross is being played out.

I invite you to join us in the majesty of the ceremonies and processions, the traditional foods and the lovely quiet of authentic Costa Rica during Easter Week.  Semana Santa in Spanish, literally translated as Holy Week, is the most iconic of all celebrations during the year in every Latin country in the world. And each country celebrates the week with different rituals, foods and customs.  Come and experience it at Finca Rosa Blanca!

The flower of the Itabo plant is consumed during Semana Santa
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Volcano and Cloud Forest Adventures

volcano, mountains, cloud forest, hiking, birdwatching

A “Poor Man’s Umbrella” plant on the trail to Barva Volcano

We understand that after a long hard winter and months of no down time, your fantasy vacation usually involves a BEACH.  Got it!  BUT, you would be missing out on the amazing adventures in the Highlands of Costa Rica where cloud forests beckon and volcanoes bubble.  Rather than spend half your short vacation and go far afield to experience these mountains at places such as Monteverde and Arenal, we will help you plan your stay at Finca Rosa Blanca. In the space of 3 short days you can stand at the lip of the second largest crater in the world, hike through misty cloud forest on your way to a roaring waterfall, fly through the canopy on a zip line, raft wild white water rivers and quietly spot a resplendent quetzal in the boughs of an ancient oak tree.

Our two daughters grew up at Finca Rosa Blanca and on their off times, our favorite family time was spent hiking the mountains and volcanoes just above the resort.  Setting off early in the morning to take advantage of the clear skies, we would take cameras, water and snacks to sustain and contain the memories of these days.  Barva Volcano is part of Braulio Carrillo National Park and is one of the least visited parks in Costa Rica where you seldom encounter other hikers.  We became adept, with the help of the knowledgeable park guides, in identifying the prints of such illusive animals as the tapir, a giant hippo like mammal with hooves, the tropical mountain lion and the paca, a small long-legged rodent.  The trails to the Laguna, a once active crater, now filled with crystal clear water, are  bordered and surrounded by trees covered in long flowing moss, bromeliads and orchids and the exotic birds flit amongst the branches.  Stopping often to catch our breath as the trail leads to a lookout above the lake at more than 9,000 feet, we revel in the quantity of the poor man’s umbrella plant, one leaf of which would keep you dry in a down pour.  Eating our well deserved snacks and enjoying the clouds pouring over the mountains to sustain the high altitude forests, was probably one of the highlights of our lives in the Highlands of Costa Rica.

All of these sensations can be had while staying at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort, only 20 minutes from the International Airport.  The airport and the resort are located in the Central Valley at over 4000 feet and you will need 2 to 3 nights to enjoy our mountain paradise, feel the high altitude breezes and our perennially spring like temperatures where the volcanoes steam and the gigantic trees of the cloud forests breathe.  We are neighbors to several volcanoes and the Braulio Carrillo National Park, the largest national park in the country.  Poas Volcano can be experienced from a stunning viewing platform where the crater below is bubbling with active fumaroles and contains a simmering lake that is almost a mile wide and 1000 feet deep. Barva volcano, our favorite weekend destination, is dormant, but the wildlife attracted by the myriad tropical hardwood trees and the lagoon includes tapirs, big cats, sloth and trogons. No need to travel further afield than Finca Rosa Blanca for hiking in the cloud forest and on the slopes of live and sleeping volcanoes, zip lining or horseback riding all within a short drive into the mountains.

 

 

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Organic Coffee is Good for YOU!

 

Green Organic Coffee Beans Prepared for Roasting

Green Organic Coffee Beans Prepared for Roasting

Coffee has been emerging as not only as a delicious beverage, but also as a medicinal” wonderfood”  with studies recently showing that coffee may reduce maladies such as  dementia and Alzheimer’s, type two diabetes, some kinds of liver damage, endometriosis as well as having apparently some beneficial attributes for human skin.  It would seem logical then, that by understanding the potential beneficial effects on the human body, we would consider that with the four or more cups daily that coffee lovers like myself imbibe without hesitation, that this magical dark and aromatic elixir is being religiously absorbed into our bodies over 100 times a month, and thus would hopefully be free of carcinogenic or dangerous chemicals. What a dilemma if we discovered that all of these medicinal attributes would be offset by the seemingly perilous circadian habit of drinking coffee that may have been contaminated through the addition and absorption of herbicides, pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals found in a conventional coffee plantation.  Whether or not this has been scientifically proven, it seems to me, is rather irrelevant; by using common sense one would have to infer that if a chemical can chemically denude the ground of all its undergrowth and the defenseless plants and microbes that exist close by, that the berries would consequently have a pretty good chance of drawing those same chemicals into its beans. And we, the unwitting coffee lushes would thus be, day-to-day, drinking down these same substances.

An organic shade grown coffee plantation is a natural agar dish for a robust ecology where are the factors for sustainability are taken into consideration as much as the quality of the product that would result from this kind of farming.  Counter-erosion, water protection, reforestation and green technology are all factors that are used but also are considered in some degree in almost all the organic and sustainable coffee farms around the world.  The symbiosis that is created between the nitrogen rich trees, the coffee, with its long-standing and friendly allies, Poró, Banana, Plantains, and other native and nitrogen rich trees found in Costa Rica allows for a chain of life that surely supplements not only the ecological footprint of the farm but also enriches the aesthetic beauty for the visitor, the laborer and for that matter the owner.

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