One of our favorite excursions was our early morning visit to Villa Vanilla Spice Farm, located just outside of Quepos. Our tour bus picked us up at Byblos Hotel in Manuel Antonio for the early tour which was great because during the high season it can get pretty warm without ocean breezes. It was a beautiful day and we were both impressed and amazed at the diversity that existed right there on this one farm. Among the crops they produce are Cacao, Ceylon Cinnamon, Peppercorns, Tumeric and my very favorite-Vanilla! The farm is also full of Epiphytes. The paths are full of Bromiliad, fern and other various lush tropical beauty.
We started our tour at the main building where there were drying tables set up for the vanilla beans, cacao beans and peppercorns. Inside the building we were taken through the cinnamon bark stripping process and were able to taste all of these delights in their natural state. Such a treat!
This is one of the drying bins. How excited was I to be that close to all those fresh cacao and vanilla beans.
Our guide was so knowledgeable about all aspects of their produce and farming techniques and offered to share all of this and even tasty treats along the way. Here, she showed us the inside of an actual Cacao pod just after it is removed from the tree at harvest. The inside has a sticky encasing around the beans which the brave among us was more than willing to try. Yes, me included! What a treasure. (Can you tell I have another love affair going-with CHOCOLATE) 😉
Here is one of the many Cacao trees on the farm. I could have stayed there all day under its shade…..
Here we got a lesson in peppercorn crops and drying, but the best part was when we found them on our hike and were able to taste a green peppercorn! Amazing flavor.
It was here that we were given the story of Cinnamon, both “true” cinnamon, Ceylon, and its similar but not identical counterpart, Cassia. All cinnamon has health promoting properties as does Cacoa. In cinnamon one of the most recently touted properties is the thinning of blood thereby reducing blood pressure for many people in a more natural fashion. It must be approached with care, however, for the effects are quite different in Cassia than Ceylon, and too much can be deadly. It is the Ceylon variety that is cultivated and processed at Villa Vanilla. There is nothing quite like a fresh tea made with the bark from these trees.
We saw many different stages of the vanilla bean plant harvest. This plant is actually in the orchid family.
Here we were educated in the history and growth process of the vanilla bean pod and how simple things like too much rain can hinder its process.
Just a few of the beautiful tropical plants that are all along the paths throughout the farm. It was a totally peaceful hike besides being very educational.
Villa Vanilla is an organic farm and we stopped to look at one of their composting areas. Be sure to wear a close toed shoe. I wore sandals and although the grass was manicured in most places, there were some ants near the compost that managed to find their way to one of the guests, but not my naked toes, thankfully. I know to keep my distance from any piles of debris, being from the South, home of the Fire Ant.
Beautiful, tree-lined pathways made it a peaceful experience.
There were many colorful exhibits of the Bromeliads and Orchids on the farm. This was one of our favorite shots.
A little “zen” at the farm.
Here we are heading to the lookout for treats and a nice view. The pond in the background is actually practical for the production of the peppercorn.
It was amazing to learn that the process of making white pepper includes the bleaching of the dried peppercorn by putting the pods in burlap sacks and submerging them in this organic pond where the natural microscopic “inhabitants” eat away the outer hull leaving the inner core which then is dried to later become ground white pepper.
This pond stands just outside of the store where fresh spices and herbs are available for purchase as well as chocolate in several forms.
My husband with one of his favorite tropical flowers.
And finally, the extra goodness that spiced up our day. This is the path to the lookout where the view was magnificent, the goodies delectable and the rest and camaraderie more than welcome.
We entered the area from below where the view was gorgeous but it was only to get better once we made the short climb to the balcony area above.
If photos could do justice to any visual experience there would be no need to get out and get there in person. I wish I could share with you even half of the serenity and peace that filled my soul as we sat in the shade of the deck, enjoying the view as we were served tasty treats from the friendly staff at Villa Vanilla. There were tiny vanilla cookies with Vanilla hot Chocolate, Mango Lime Cheesecake with fresh chilled Cinnamon tea and a variety of coffees. It was wonderfully relaxing and a great way to end our morning tour.
We finished up by visiting their small spice store on our way out and on to our next adventure.
So, if you want to veer from the hectic pace of the beach and town scene, have your hotel call and book you a tour or simply call Villa Vanilla yourself and make the reservation. We felt it was well worth it. And as always, see you again soon. If you’d like to learn more about Villa Vanilla, be sure to visit their website at villavanillaspiceplantation.com or if you are interested in online ordering visit Villa Vanilla/Rainforestspices.com. There is nothing quite like a fresh vanilla bean in your desserts!