My favorite part of my two-week trip to Costa Rica, besides the zip-lining, was the first night’s stay at La Carolina Lodge and our trip to Finca El Portal. La Carolina Lodge is a family-owned lodge centered around sustainable living. As guests here, we had opportunities to participate in farm life, relax in the wood-fired hot tub, swim in the chilly river, and much more. I really enjoyed how hospitable the staff of the lodge was. They were happy to make us lunches for our travels and bring out hot chocolate after dinner each night. Staying here reminded me a lot of my travels to the Hike Inn in Amicalola Falls State Park in Dahlonega, GA. The lodge was surrounded by gardens and the tropical forests of Costa Rica’s Alajuela province. We woke up each morning to the calls of frogs and cicadas (and one very loud rooster). Each night we listened to the waterfall as we relaxed in the hot tub and got to practice our Spanish with some of the locals staying there. While staying at the lodge we traveled to Finca El Portal (a local farm) where we met Edwin, the owner of the farm. Edwin was overjoyed to have us tour his farm and energetic in the way he showed off his variety of plants. It was very encouraging to see the pride he took in his farm and he told us how much he has been able to grow and expand in the last few years. He also told us about the hardships of small organic farming; like facing pests and labor shortages and market fluctuations in supply and demand. Edwin’s farm is a cacao farm firstly, but he also grows a huge variety of other crops. Our group got to try raw peppercorns, passionfruit, bananas & plantains, as well as fresh raw cacao. While on his farm we learned all about the “bean to bar” process that cacao undergoes to become the sweet chocolate that everyone loves. Edwin taught us about his ability to grow different varieties of cacao through grafting and budding. This way, he is able to create a large variety of cacao pods – some are grown for their high yield, others for their high-quality cacao. We got to taste different kinds of cacao and you could taste the differences! It was very cool. Having these two adventures as our first few days truly started the trip off on a high note.