Coffee plays a large role in the history of Costa Rica. It is the country’s third-largest agricultural export behind bananas and tropical fruit.
The soil quality and climate in Costa Rica’s Central Valley is ideal for growing coffee beans. There are eight distinct coffee-growing zones in the country, with various degrees of volcanic ash in the soil, unique microclimates, and degrees of altitude.
In 1989, the Costa Rican government outlawed the production of the inferior robusta style coffee bean. Although that measure was amended in February of 2018 to allow marginal coffee growing areas to grow robusta, the overwhelming majority of coffee grown in the country is the high quality, arabica variety.
While Costa Rica boasts some of the highest quality coffee in the world, don’t expect to get off of your plane, go directly to a random grocery store, and walk out with a bag of gourmet coffee. Much of the inexpensive coffee for sale domestically isn’t high quality.
TIP: Although Costa Rica produces great coffee, most of it for sale domestically, inside of Costa Rica is not great quality.
While most of the coffee tours listed here are of large coffee plantations, 70% of the country’s coffee-farming population works on small farms (25 acres or smaller). While large businesses have made some in-roads into the industry, there are still many small, family-run coffee farms.
The coffee tours listed here are offered by coffee plantations in and around the Central Valley. And one, Finca Rosa Blanca, includes a luxury resort hotel. There are good coffee tours outside of the Central Valley, such as Don Juan in Monteverde and North Fields Coffee Tour near La Fortuna. However, we will save those for a future post.
Doka Estates Coffee Tour
Doka Estates is our favorite Costa Rican coffee tour. This coffee plantation is located in Sabanilla, in the Alajuela Province on the northwest edge of the Central Valley. With little traffic, it is only about 30 minutes from SJO airport and an hour from downtown San Jose.
The farm measures 450 acres and has been in operation since 1908. It is a family-owned and operated farm, in the hands of the Vargas family, since 1940.
Coffee from this plantation is marketed under the brand name Tres Generaciones, a reference to the three generations of Vargases that have operated Doka Estates.
This coffee tour will take you step-by-step through the cultivation process. The first stop is the seedling station, where you will learn how germination happens. Then, you will move to the plantation portion of the farm, where the crops are planted, protected, and finally reaped. During this part of the tour, you will get to see an element that is unique to Doka Estates, a water-powered wet mill. The roasting room is next, where you will learn how the expert coffee makers apply the perfect roast for the most delicious final product.
In the end, as you might imagine, you will have the opportunity to sample the farm’s various coffee varieties. While all of the Tres Generaciones-branded coffees are delicious, we recommend the peaberry version for its unique taste.
Your tour will most likely include lunch at the restaurant located on the grounds. The restaurant serves quality comida tipica, or food that is common to Costa Rica.
The owners of Doka Estates also own a B&B called Siempreverde. While the B&B is close to the coffee farm, it is not on the farm grounds.
TIP: Be aware that the B&B advertised on Doka’s website is not on the grounds of the coffee plantation.
This coffee tour is often packaged with a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poas Volcano (when it is open to visitors) for a nice full day trip from San Jose.
Café Britt Coffee Tour
No conversation about the best Costa Rica coffee tours is complete without a mention of Café Britt.
You can’t miss the Café Britt brand if you arrive via Juan Santamaría International Airport, in the Central Valley. The coffee maker has a large store at the airport.
Café Britt coffee plantation and roastery is located between downtown Heredia and Barva de Heredia, on the northwest side of the Central Valley. It is about a 30-minute drive from the center of San Jose and about 20 minutes from the airport, with little traffic.
This company was founded in 1985 to deliver high-quality gourmet coffee to the domestic market in Costa Rica. Previously, almost all of the best coffee beans were exported, leaving only an inferior product for the local population.
TIP: Britt is one of the few coffee plantations in Costa Rica that produces both fair trade and organic coffee.
Since 1991, when it began offering coffee tours, Café Britt has welcomed more than half-of-a-million visitors to their plantation in Heredia.
On the grounds, you will find:
a restaurant that serves a delicious buffet lunch of typical Costa Rican dishes.
an amphitheater that hosts events and a special skit explaining the history and culture of coffee in Costa Rica
a factory store that sells coffee, chocolate, gifts, and other novelties
Britt offers two coffee tours:
Classic Coffee Tour, which is a 90-minute basic tour of the plantation and coffee production facility. These happen four time per day from 9am to 4:45pm.
Coffee Lover’s Tour, which is a more in-depth tour, that starts at 1:15pm. This tour is appropriate for those who are looking to learn about preparing gourmet coffee.
You can also purchase combo tours directly from Britt’s tourism company. These include visits to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a cloud forest, and Jaguar Rescue Center.
Finca Rosa Blanca
Finca Rosa Blanca is northeast of Santa Barbara, in the province of Heredia, not too far from Britt. It was founded by the Jampol family, which still owns and operates it. There are 30 acres of coffee growing land on the property.
Finca Rosa Blanca is more than just a coffee plantation that offers tours. In fact, it is a premium hotel and eco-lodge, recognized as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and Fodor’s Best 100 Hotels in the World.
TIP: If you want to stay in an amazing eco-lodge attached to a coffee farm, Finca Rosa Blaca is your place.
The organic coffee tour and cupping is 2.5 hours long and covers the entire coffee production process.
Espíritu Santo is located in Naranjo de Alajuela, on the northwest edge of the Central Valley. There are more than 600 acres of coffee-growing land on this plantation.
This coffee tour takes you step-by-step through seven phases of coffee production. The tour lasts approximately two hours but can go longer if the situation warrants.
This coffee tour is often combined with a visit to Sarchi and Grecia, two places known for local artisanry, the traditional Costa Rican oxcart, and beautiful churches.
Doka Estates: CostaRicaTravel.tips
Britt Shop: Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Finca Rosa Blanca: Arturo Sotillo [Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)]