Although the beaches are beautiful, the main highlight of our time in Puerto Viejo had nothing to do with the sand or the sea, but it was a deeper look into the local culture.
This region of Costa Rica is home to the indigenous group Bri Bri and we were interested in learning more, so we booked a tour with Anywhere.com. Honestly, we had no idea what to expect, but it eventually became one of our favorite experiences in Costa Rica.
Talk to a shaman
The first stop was to visit a local shaman, also known as one Awa, who invited us into the traditional thatched roof hut that is typical of the Bribri people. In the conical hut, we were sitting near a fire and listening to the shaman who explained his role in the community.
He learned the work of shamanism at a young age. As tradition is in the Bribri culture, young people take on the profession of their mother’s family, so he learned from a relative. And in the same way, he now teaches his nephew the work of a shaman.
Sitting on a shelf in the hut were herbs, forests, rocks, shells and bones, all with specific healing goals, which the shaman all knows. He showed us the distinctive pieces he carries with him, giving him the mark of a shaman – a bag woven from natural fibers to carry important stones and a large and beautifully carved walking stick given to him at a young age.
We could ask him questions and then the really cool part came: He gave us both a blessing and read our energies. He was even able to determine certain personal things about us from this ritual, which was rather crazy. None of us have ever told us our fortune, so it was kind of scoop!
Visit a village
After we said goodbye to the shaman, we drove a bit further and stopped with a small group of structures that seemed to belong to a few families.
Traditional works of art could be seen in the first hut, the most unique of them was a huge assortment of beautifully cut dried gourds for which the Bribri are known. We could not help but buy one!
We are both a huge fan of chocolate, so it was really interesting to see the whole process. We opened a ripe cocoa bean and watched one of the women in the family burn the beans over an open fire and grind in a press until the chocolate flowed out like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
We have a portion of this fresh, chocolate (without sugar!) Baked on a banana, that was oh my god, delicious! And we also drank some of it, mixed with hot water and sugar in cups made from dried gourds.
One of the things that most impresses indigenous cultures is their dependence on the earth and their deep understanding of their natural resources.
We walked with one of the men in the family through the tropical forest and he showed us plants after plants that all had different applications.
He squeezed a small berry between his fingers and made me lipstick, blush and hair dye. When we chewed on one seed, he told us that all the food would be sweet the next hour, and when we tasted a piece of starfruit (that he had, of course, picked from a tree on the path!) We were surprised to discover that it was was not acidic as they usually are.
It started to rain a little, and when I turned around, the man had cut a piece of a plant into pieces and handed it to me with the announcement that it was a natural umbrella!
We walked on the path like this, he pointed to a plant that I had never noticed, and suddenly he shows us an ingenious use of it.
They even had an enclosed garden full of poison frogs hanging around in their habitat. I was a little nervous to walk in with all these poisonous creatures, but the guide said she was not, or # 39; toxic. That convinced me to go inside, but I was still careful with what I touched.
He even made us a chain of vegetable fibers and seeds within minutes.
For lunch, we got a curry of sorts with chicken, potato, and yucca, which was pretty tasty. And as tradition is, it was served in a makeshift bowl made from a banana leaf. And forget about kitchen utensils … We dug our hands. Apparently, the Bribri are at the top of the zero waste lifestyle!
The tour ended with a stop at the Bribri waterfall. Although there is nothing spectacular, especially compared to some of the other waterfalls in Costa Rica, we can never complain about stopping for a swim!
Plus, we were the only foreigners at these waterfalls in our time there, which was refreshing in a country where everything seems to be sold to Westerners.
How to do it yourself
If this experience sounds like something you are interested in, we recommend booking this tour. You can not really do this alone, and it was different from anything we experienced in Costa Rica. We booked through Anywhere.com and they picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel in Puerto Viejo.