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Coffee, Volcanos, Toucans - The Essence of Costa Rica

This past weekend, we had our second excursion with CEA study abroad to a coffee plantation, Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. If you want to experience Costa Rica in a day, this is a great way to do it!

We started off by driving to Café Tres Generaciones, which is a coffee plantation that has been run by the same family for three generations. We got to see the coffee plants and learn about the process of how they make the coffee.  If you are a coffee lover, you will love this part of the trip; you can even try ripened – but not roasted-- coffee, which actually tastes a bit like honeysuckle. Who knew that coffee is actually a fruit?! Later, we had the chance to buy fresh coffee from the shop. I put the coffee beans in my backpack, and it smelled incredible for the rest of the day.

 The four stages of coffee: ripe coffee "cherries",
non-roasted coffee beans,
roasted coffee beans, and coffee grounds.
 Crazy for coffee!

After hopping back on the bus, we drove to Poás Volcano and National Park. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy and really rainy, but it cleared up around the main crater for a few minutes to see the lagoon below. We weren’t able to swim in the lakes because they were too dangerous (they’re located within the crater of an active volcano after all), but the view was incredible. To see the other crater of Poás Volcano, we hiked through the Dark Forest. While it sounds and looks like something out of Harry Potter, it’s because the volcano spews ash from time to time and coats the nearby forest with the ash. By the time we reached the other crater, the rain had mostly stopped, but we weren’t able to see it because of the fog. It’s also said that on a clear day, you can see both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts!
 The main crater of Poás Volcano!

Despite being soaked from the rain at the Volcano, we all were ready for lunch and to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which was my favorite part of the day. Before arriving at the waterfalls, you have the chance to see a lot of the wildlife that Costa Rica has to offer, including toucans, butterflies, monkeys, frogs, pumas and jaguars. We had a lot of fun in the greenhouse with all the butterflies because they would fly up and land on you! The toucans were also really neat, and we had the chance to hold them. Seeing all the “big cats” of Costa Rica was incredibly neat as well, because it’s extremely rare to see any of them in the wild.
 I met Toucan Sam!
 Seeing a jaguar is surreal!

When you’ve finished visiting the animals, you can begin to walk down the steps and see the waterfalls. Wear your walking shoes because there are approximately 700 steps! Luckily, most of them are downhill and the views are worth every step.
 Three of the La Paz Waterfalls!

If you have a free day whenever you’re in Costa Rica, be sure to venture outside the city, have a cup of coffee, and explore all the beauty!

Kathryn Moorhead is a Summer 2013 Seville, Spain alumna, CEA Alumni Ambassador at Iowa State University, and a Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

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