Playa Blanca, Golfo Dulce Costa Rica

Dec 24, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

After navigating 64 nautical miles from the Osa Peninsula, National Geographic Quest dropped anchor in front of a small and picturesque town known as Playa Blanca, within the magnificent and unique ecosystem of Golfo Dulce, or sweet water gulf. Today was the perfect combination of nature and culture, a little different from our typical rainforest expeditions. All guests were able to choose among four different amazing Costa Rican families that opened not just their businesses, but also their homes.

After arriving at Playa Blanca, a convoy of minivans was waiting to take us to our different destinations. One of them is a small family farm known as Kobo, or chocolate farm, where owner Alex has created not just a sustainable production of cacao, vanilla, bananas, and pineapples, but also a beautiful garden. After learning all there is to know about cacao, we experienced the flavor of melting chocolate over tropical fruits.

Other guests were taken to Eida’s Heart of Palm Plantation, where this amazing woman and the mother of three kids have been working very hard to keep alive the tradition of her family. She cooks wonderful recipes with the heart of palm, but she is as well the medicine women of the town, with a garden full of medicinal plants. The heart of palm is a very tough crop covered in fine spines, which you must get rid of by machete to access the center stem where the palm is obtained.

The third option took place in the little town of Rancho Quemado. The first family we visited was Don Johnny’s, a man that raised his kids on gold pawning from a small creek in his property. Now he shares his knowledge with us so the tradition of his parents doesn’t fade. Right after we had freshly brewed coffee and sweet cornbread at Johnny’s house, we headed to the Sugar Mill from Don Eladio, were his son-in-law, daughter, and their children turned the family sugar mill into a tour where they show the process of obtaining sugar from sugar cane juice. After boiling sugar water for 24 hours, a thick syrup is poured into wooden molds to harden into raw brown sugar. Candy is made from the foam that builds on top of the boiling water, with an almost saltwater toffee texture.

After all the guests were back from their tours, the galley set up a picnic barbeque lunch right on the shore with pork ribs, refried beans, coleslaw, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Toward the end of our lunch, a group of elementary children performed traditional folklore dances.

Today was one of those days where you experience how humble and simple life could be. It’s amazing to see families fighting to keep their traditions alive and, the same time protecting the natural environment that surrounds them.

  • Send

About the Author

Margrit Ulrich


Affectionately called "Machita" ("Blondie"), Margrit is one of our most cosmopolitan guides with a family that hailed from Switzerland, France, and Germany before settling in Costa Rica's capital city San José where she was born and raised. Hence she blends the well-organized, perfectionist, and detailed personality of a Swiss watch with the easiness and effervescent enthusiasm of a simple tropical girl.

About the Videographer

Matthew Ritenour

Video Chronicler

Matthew grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, where a love of geography, culture and history were instilled at a young age. He studied anthropology at California State University, Chico, and soon began working at the Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA), a documentary production studio that focuses on sharing the results of anthropological research with the public. As a cinematographer and editor at ALVA, he documented research on everything from the effects of drought in California, to looted petroglyphs in the Sierra Nevada high desert, and the global trade in emeralds.

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy