Costa Rica’s biggest draw is its colorful and incredibly diverse wildlife, but some of our most memorable experiences involved delving into the local culture. We took a relaxing horseback ride with our eco-concierge at El Silencio Lodge, riding through rolling pastures sweeping up into forest-clad hills. For lunch, we trotted to a pulpería in the small town of Bajos del Toro. In the back, the indomitable owner Olga taught us to make tortillas by hand, and plied us with samples of her homemade chirrite (moonshine). A meal of fresh tortillas, homemade sausage and homemade cheese — all cooked on a wood-burning stove — was not at all fancy, but it was thoroughly delicious.
At Pacuare Lodge, I made an arduous hike up to a tidy farm belonging to an indigenous Cabécar family. It was fascinating to sit in a thatched hut with Don Juan Garcia, the local shaman, learning about medicinal plants and exchanging Cabécar, Spanish and English vocabulary.
Read more about Costa Rica in the August 2013 Hideaway Report.