Costa Rica Gastronomy Tour: Gourmet to Flavorful Surprises

A 9 day trip to Costa Rica 
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Costa Rica brings an unforgettable gourmet experience to the table with a collection of tasty dishes and mouthwatering flavors alongside a colorful cultural heritage.  Take in your luxurious culinary discovery tour in featured Zicasso hotels as your personalized Costa Rica vacation will highlight the comforting tastes of authentic mountain retreats and coastal getaways. Vibrant markets overflow with historical personality, and the coffee culture is committed to showcasing the distinctive properties of the country’s favored regions. From chocolate to scarlet macaws, tropical produce to resplendent quetzals, celebrate La Pura Vida with an extravagance of Costa Rica’s wildlife and cuisine. 

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General Information

Photos
Dining at Hotel Belmar. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Belmar
The infinity pool at Villa Caletas. Photo: Courtesy Villa Caletas
Dining at Restaurante Celajes. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Belmar
Dining at Cafe del Barista. Photo: Courtesy Cafe del Barista
Traditional Costa Rican Casado
Peace Lodge. Photo: Courtesy Peace Lodge
A guest room at Hotel Belmar. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Belmar
Wine at Hotel Belmar. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Belmar
Costa Rican Beef Stew
Hotel Grano de Oro. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Grano de Oro.
Vista Poas restaurant at the Peace Lodge. Photo: Courtesy Peace Lodge
A guest room at Hotel Grano de Oro. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Grano de Oro.
The amphitheater at Villa Caletas. Photo: Courtesy Villa Caletas
Restaurante Celajes at Hotel Belmar. Photo: Courtesy Hotel Belmar
A cocktail at Restaurante Celajes. Photo: Courtesy Restaurante Celajes
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

San Jose, Vara Blanca, Monteverde, Central Pacific  

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: San Jose – Arrive in Costa Rica and to the Hotel Grano de Oro

If Costa Rica represents the most biologically diverse place on earth, the capital, San Jose embodies the beating cultural heart of the country. The city is a pleasant surprise for visitors as the unique pre-Columbian history and heritage are slowly revealed beyond the concrete structures. Colorful markets brim with bright mangos, ripe bananas, and giant watermelons while contemporary art galleries offer insight into the multidimensional aesthetic of the art world in Central America. Your private transfer will greet you at Juan Santamaria International Airport upon your arrival and escort you to the charming Hotel Grano de Oro as you prepare to explore it all.

Your car will arrive at the grand façade of the Grano de Oro Hotel situated inside a historical Victorian mansion along the shady street of Paseo Colon. The stunning location acts as an oasis away from the bustling streets of the capital city. Period photographs line the halls, and original art decorates the galleries.  The tropical climate accentuates the rooftop terrace that is covered with soothing hot tubs while the 38 guest rooms provide the royal treatment.  With a blend of tropical leisure with Victorian extravagance, the accommodations are stylized with wrought-iron bed frames and soft, welcoming fabrics, with each room offering a unique design.

In the evening, you relax in the charming restaurant located inside the inner courtyard. The perfect ambiance derives from the climate averaging between 63 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit at an altitude of nearly 3,800 feet above sea level. The restaurant boasts an award-winning wine cellar for a tasty and elegant welcome to Costa Rica.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation at Hotel Grano de Oro

Day 2: San Jose – Explore Pre-Columbian Gold and the Flavors of San Jose

The aroma of delicious coffee will fill the dining room at breakfast and bring the subtle, deeper scents of caramel and chocolate. The kitchen offers an international cuisine alongside the traditional Costa Rican breakfast of Gallo Pinto, rice mixed with black beans, served with fried eggs, and tortillas. As you step out to explore it all, the enriching environment of the capital city will showcase the urban lifestyle that is well-accentuated by cultural and artistic highlights. Your private transfer will greet you in your hotel lobby and escort you to the pre-Columbian Gold Museum located in the Plaza de la Cultura.

The complex hosts three museums that display over 1,600 priceless artifacts that are related to Costa Rica’s collections of gold, jade, and historical currencies. A life-sized gold warrior figure, known as El Guerrero, glistens behind a glass case while ornaments adorn the staggering figure and reflect the importance of the mineral as a symbol of authority to the pre-Columbian peoples of the region. After visiting the museum, you will continue to the Café del Barista, a casual café on Carlos Gagini that brews exceptional coffee using beans from around Costa Rica, along with mixing unusual cocktails that place the profiles of the coffee forward in every taste.

The aroma of espresso will blend with the sweet scent of Costa Rican flan. The barista can explain the different profiles of the five best coffee regions around the country, from the perfume of honey and flowers of the Tarrazu beans to the satisfying citrus of the Tres Rios region. You may decide to try one of the distinctive cocktails of the café, and the barista can tailor the flavors especially to your tastes.

What’s Included: accommodation at Hotel Grano de Oro, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Vara Blanca – Transfer to the Peace Lodge in Vara Blanca for a Relaxing Day

The Central Market in San Jose illustrates the antique culture of the forward-thinking city. The circular grounds contain narrow alleys under a roof established in the late 19th century along Avenida Central. Over 200 vendors maintain stalls, restaurants known as sodas, and small markets selling meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and coffee. At breakfast, you can indulge in the simple pleasures of your Costa Rican coffee, attempting to find the aromas from the previous day lingering around your cup. Your private transfer will lead you from your hotel to the Central Market to walk along the vibrant ambiance and enchanting aromas of the iconic alleyways.

Flowers, such as Cattleya skinneri orchids, blossom with tropical colors and bring a combination of honey-sweet and herbaceous perfumes to the air. Cowboy saddles shimmer with polished leather while the tiny restaurants draw the residents of Costa Rica that are happy to sit down to a traditional meal of arroz con pollo or platos fuertes, a dish of fish or steak. Crowds wander through the narrow lanes throughout the day, reaching up to 10,000 visitors by the time the market closes as you examine the wide variety of fruits and enjoy a sample of the tart passion fruit and herbaceous tamarind.

Your private transfer will lead you away from San Jose, guiding you out of the fast-paced capital to reach the relaxed countryside of the Heredia region on the northwest slopes of the Poas Volcano. The scenic drive will give you a chance to see the protected landscape found outside of the capital’s congested lanes and crowded malls to reach the primary rainforest and unspoiled agriculture. The mountains shine emerald green and reach the summit of the volcano at nearly 8,900 feet above sea level.

You will soon arrive at the Peace Lodge, which was listed as one of the Travel Channel’s Honeymoon Hotspots International in 2013. The lodge embodies not only romance but also a pure luxury that highlights the diversity of Costa Rica in the secluded mountainous region. Indulge with time spent next to the fireplace that is framed by stone and waterfall showers that keep the room warm in the evening at high-altitude. Your private balcony offers stunning views over the landscape complete with rocking chairs, hammocks, and a hot tub unfettered relaxation.

What’s Included: accommodation at Peace Lodge, transfer, breakfast

Day 4: Vara Blanca – Discover the Splendors of La Paz Waterfall Gardens

The sunlight will spread through the mist that drifts over the rainforest to reveal the verdant landscape that rolls around the Tortillas Restaurant. The herbaceous scent of the wet trees accentuates the pure aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the syrupy sweetness of the starfruit with a panoramic view of the cloud forest. After your meal, you can venture out to explore the trails that wind around the wildlife enclosures and waterfalls that range between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level and span more than two miles. The butterfly house features over 25 species of butterfly with more than 4,000 flying around the glass observatory at any given time.

Approximately 90 percent of Central America’s butterfly species exist in the biodiversity of Costa Rica, along with over 65 percent of the neotropical butterflies and nearly 20 percent of the world’s butterfly species. The sunlight provides a mild warmth to the late morning and gives a comfortable humidity to the glasshouse. On average, butterflies beat their wings between 460 and 630 times per minute, and you will be drawn to the iridescent wings of the Morpho peleides limpida, also known as the blue morpho.

Move on to stroll past the big cats to reach the series of waterfalls, taking time to enjoy the majesty of the five different cascades. Magia Blanca plunges 120 feet into a waiting pool and casts mist across the lower regions of the cliff. Dangling branches frame the rapid whitewater down near lowered viewing platform. Return to the Peace Lodge and indulge in a fabulous dinner at your leisure at Vista Poas Restaurant. The intimate dining restaurant highlights the traditional Costa Rican flavors combined with internationally stylized cuisine that features dishes like Tamarind Chicken and Papaya Barbecue Baby Back Ribs.  

What’s Included: accommodation at Peace Lodge, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Monteverde – Venture to Luxurious Hotel Belmar in Monteverde

The aroma of Gallo Pinto and fried sweet plantains will fill the dining room at breakfast. You can sip a rich cup of coffee and now notice the citrus notes and caramel flavor as they coat your palate. Your private transfer will be ready to escort you away from the Peace Lodge and lead you to cloud forest at Monteverde. The scenic drive will bring you along the mountainside, and your driver can point to the treetops so that you can catch the wild toucans as they perch on the open branches. The keel-billed toucan and its iconic arching multi-colored beak is resplendent with green and orange, capped with a red tip. The toucans grow up to 22 inches tall with a beak reaching approximately one-third of its length.

The region of Monteverde encompasses the farms and nature reserves along the slopes of the Cordillera de Tilaran. You will easily settle into the comforts of Hotel Belmar as located in the lushness of the famous cloud forest of Monteverde Nature Reserve. The gorgeous hotel provides an elegant atmosphere with attentive service that has been designed with luxury and sustainability in mind. The rooms range from casual opulence with beautiful views to accommodations with a private terrace or lavish, detached chalets with private views of the enchanting landscape. After check-in, you can engage in an exhilarating expedition across the cloud forest skyline with a canopy zip-line tour. Nine cables travel across 2,525 feet at a height of over 456 feet above the forest floor, and your guide will clip you to the cable and let you slide away from the platform and through the skyline.

The wind will rush against your cheeks as you lean back to gain speed as your eyes focus on the panoramic view seen over the cloud forest in search of howler monkeys, white-headed capuchins, and Turquoise-browed motmots. Return to the hotel eager to bask in a sumptuous meal at their Restaurante Celajes. The cuisine highlights the sustainability and flavor of the farm-to-table movement with the majority of all produce used in the kitchen deriving from the Belmar family farm. Ingredients include avocado, guava, rose apples, yucca flowers, and plantains, along with artisan cheeses and free-rang eggs.

What’s Included: accommodation at Hotel Belmar, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Monteverde – Traverse the Majesty of the Cloud Forest Ecological Reserve

Breakfast easily becomes a highlight of your time in Costa Rica thanks to the vibrant colors of the tropical fruits and their natural sweetness. The bacon is hardy and crispy, sourced from the family farm, along with the sharp cheese and fresh organic coffee. After savoring it all, the day is yours to discover the majesty of Monteverde Nature Reserve as you desire, whether you explore the hanging bridges or opt to hike across the protected landscape. Whatever your choice, your guide will greet you at your hotel and lead you along the network of trails that illuminate the remarkable diversity of the flora and fauna of the cloud forest.

The persistent low-level cloud cover feeds the trees across the landscape, increasing the mosses covering the vegetation to help absorb and retain the moisture. You will traverse the trails in search of the captivating birdlife that populates the diverse terrain and gives rise to the rebirth of the resplendent quetzal in the region. Your guide will listen for the sharp whistle of the rufous-tailed jacamar and the shrill, two-noted shriek of the fiery-billed aracari as you step over the fallen leaves and venture around roots that protrude from the soft soil.

You may hear the slight high-pitched whimper echo through the trees, and your guide will look to the tree branches and point to a dangling emerald tail reminiscent of a jungle vine flush with leaves. You can trace the tail to the iridescent blue, gold, and red plumage of the rare quetzal. Their tail feathers grow to a length of 26 inches and resemble a streamer. The bright colors of the male help to attract females during mating season, which varies between February to July, depending upon the regional location of the bird. You will continue to Old Monteverde, a town founded 50 years ago by Quakers emigrating from the United States.

You will stop to visit a small café known for its assorted chocolates before stepping into farmland on which the café grows cacao beans. Your guide will introduce you to the large pod that more resembles a papaya than a chocolate bean. The rugged exterior grows to over an inch thick and protects the cacao bean from the elements. Harvesters pull the pod from the trees, open it, and let the beans dry naturally in the heat, constantly blending the mixture. Your guide will invite you to blend the beans by hand to learn the process the Maya and Olmec civilizations used before brewing the ground cacao to produce a rich, thick and slightly bitter hot chocolate.

What’s Included: accommodation at Hotel Belmar, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Central Pacific – Travel to Villa Caletas and Enjoy a Gorgeous Sunset

At daybreak, the broad-billed motmot calls out with a rapid burst of short calls that sound like a woodpecker’s tapping against a tree. Fledglings twitter with gentle notes in contrast to the harsher call of their parents. Breakfast provides the familiar aromas of Pinto Gallo and fried eggs, along with the mesmerizing flavor of fresh-squeezed mango juice. You will travel along the winding mountainous roads with your private transfer that leads to the gorgeous coastline of the Pacific Ocean towards Puntarenas Province.

You will soon reach the gorgeous grounds of Villa Caletas Hotel, a luxury boutique property with indulgent views of the Central Pacific coast and of the lush tropical rainforest from an elevated location at 1,150 feet above sea level. The unique panorama overlooks the Nicoya Gulf, crescent beaches, and the emerald green ocean all brushing against the foothills of the rolling mountains. The comforts of the hotel all point to the spectacular views, from the infinity pool to the soothing spa. The remainder of the day is yours to bask in the marvelous scenery at your preferred pace.

Plunge into the refreshing waters of the opulent pool or travel on the hotel’s hourly shuttle to reach the private pebbled beach that is equipped with sunbeds, restrooms, showers, and a cocktail bar that serves delicious drinks. Relish a dinner on the property at the Mirador Restaurant located on a wide terrace with an ocean view. The menu combines the prominent flavors and colors of Costa Rica blended with the inspired and refined tastes of French cuisine. As the sun sets over the horizon, the sky will glow with layers of orange, red, and pink hues over the turquoise water for a lavish garnish to your gourmet meal.

What’s Included: accommodation at Villa Caletas, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Central Pacific – Delight in the Central Pacific with a Day at Leisure

Over breakfast, you will likely bask in the view from the Anfiteatro Bar Restaurant. The impressive panoramic view over the Pacific accentuates the international flair with amphitheater seating designed to capture the remarkable scenery. An early yoga class takes place in the open gallery surrounded trees rustling in the breeze and the deep shades of jungle green. The scent of fresh coffee blends with the hints of the ocean air as it sweeps upwards from the coastline.

The day is at your leisure to relish the distinctive features of the Central Pacific. Take a surfing class and learn to ride the welcoming waves Costa Rica’s western beaches or ride on the Tarcoles River in search of herons, egrets, and a large population of crocodiles. The wildlife lover in you may opt to follow a private guide through Carara National Park where the protected lands cover an area of 20 square miles around the basin of the Tarcoles River.

The vast primary forest gives life to hummingbirds, parakeets, trogons, and also provides sustenance to the largest remaining population of wild scarlet macaws in the whole of Costa Rica. You can take one of the two main hiking trails that circle the wildlands, the longer of which reaches nearly three miles with branches that lead to Laguna Meandrica and several marshes. Your guide might quickly point into the trees at a two-toed sloth clinging close to the bark. Their shaggy fur and slow, deliberate movements allow them to blend into the foliage.

The loud, deep guttural call of a howler monkey echoes up to three miles across the park defining their territory or guarding their mate. The sound fades as the tropical heat of late morning settles over the park. Your guide can lead you to a known nesting area for scarlet macaws, who tend to perch on royal palms and fight over the ripe fruit. Above the canopy of the gnarled branches from strangler figs, you can notice the bright red, yellow, and blue foliage of the iconic exotic bird. They prefer the lowlands but can live up to 3,200 feet above sea level and can grow over 30 inches long and live more than 40 years.     

What’s Included: accommodation at Villa Caletas, breakfast, tour

Day 9: Central Pacific – Depart for Home

Over breakfast, you can listen to the flock of parakeets twittering in the trees alongside your hotel. The waves roll along the beach below to carry surfers towards the sand and past the calm movements of paddle boarders. You will enjoy a final cup of Costa Rican coffee, lingering in the scent of hazelnut. The stunning scenery and tranquil location offer a perfect end to your gourmet exploration of Costa Rica. After your leisurely meal and last quiet morning, your private transfer will escort you from your hotel lobby back to San Jose to reach Juan Santamaria International Airport for with plenty of time to check in for your flight home.  

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.