Getting Local in Costa Rica with JC’s Journeys
When our family spent a month in Costa Rica I knew that I wanted to find some unique activities to experience. I found JC’s Journeys via TripAdvisor and after exploring their website I knew I had found the perfect tour company. JC’s Journeys is a local one-man tour company run by (you guessed it!) JC. He offers a variety of activities ranging from bird watching to nature reserves to town tours. Since our family was staying for a month I chose to book two tours, a bird watching tour and a town tour.
The first tour I went on was bird watching with my mom. It was an early morning for us that started at daybreak but we were rewarded with plenty of bird sightings. First JC took us to Rio Lajas, a great spot for finding the roseate spoonbill and multiple species of herons.
Good to Know: Bring your smartphone along on your tour. JC can use the camera to take excellent photos through his binoculars and the quality is just as good as a photo taken from a traditional camera!
If you take a birdwatching tour with JC you’re just as likely to find other animals as well. He pointed out a camouflage Jesus Christ lizard, a large iguana sunning itself in a tree and a troop of woolly monkeys passing overhead.
On the second half of the tour we tried another spot, trekking through a rather buggy wooded area to spot the long-tailed manakin. We located a few trogons before our search paid off in a brief but rewarding sight of the beautiful bird. After our tour JC treated us to a delicious breakfast at a local restaurant in Cabuya.
“Let’s Get Local” Town Tour
Our second tour was actually a custom tour that JC tailored to our family. While I wanted to do both of his “Let’s Get Local” town tours of Cabuya and Rio Negro I knew there were some things on the itinerary that Stink wouldn’t enjoy. So JC decided to merge the two tours and only do the activities we wanted to do. That included visiting a local jam maker in Cabuya and a sugar cane farmer in Rio Negro.
Our first stop was to visit Nena, an excellent jam producer in Cabuya. JC’s tour says she is a “marmalade producer” which can cause a little translation confusion. “Mermelada” in Spanish really means jam, not just marmalade, and Nena makes the most wonderful jams. Passion fruit, strawberry, mango, and many more. We sat in the outside kitchen as her husband demonstrated how he shaves coconut pulp with a simple machete to make a variety of coconut oils.
Then Nena demonstrated her own skills by showing us how she makes her jams. At the end we received a free jar of jam (courtesy of JC!) and had the opportunity to purchase additional jams and coconut oils to take back home. We picked a strawberry jam and a passion fruit jam and both were fresh and delicious!
Good to Know: Nena is right off of the main road between Montezuma and Cabuya, about 50 yards from Rio Lajas. You can visit her on your own and she always has a large variety of jams and coconut oils for purchase. However, she doesn’t speak English so some basic Spanish knowledge is required. It was nice to have JC translate for us and see demonstrations of how they make their products.
Our next stop was Rio Negro, a small town about 45 minutes from Montezuma. There we visited a local sugar cane and pig farm.
Stink was simply entralled by the worms on this farm! Trays and trays of worms that she could play with, worms that the farmer uses to make fertilizer. It was truly the highlight of her day…until we told her that she wasn’t playing in dirt but pig poop.
While Stink played with the worms Brandon and I learned about how the farm is run. The farmer raises pigs and uses the manure and worms to make fertilizer. A methane tank also captures gas from the manure to produce electricity for the farm. Costa Ricans are incredibly efficient and friendly to the environment.
After learning about the fertilizer we went to the sugar cane crop to chop down a few fresh stalks. Stink helped to wash the stalks and JC pounded them to soften them up. Then it was time to roll the stalks through a vintage cane juicer and have a tasty beverage! Sugar cane juice is so incredibly sweet, though, that I could only take a few sips.
Later that day I got to try my hand at making homemade empanadas while Brandon and Stink went back outside to play with the puppies and the worms. We enjoyed a delicious lunch with JC and our host before heading back to our house.
The Verdict: I highly recommend taking one of JC’s tours if you’re visiting Montezuma or the surrounding area. The bird watching tour involves a little bit of walking but the town tours are a little more relaxing. JC can pick you up anywhere along the southern Nicoya Peninsula too!
Good to Know: JC is really flexible with his tour schedule but sometimes the farmers and locals you’ll be meeting are only available on certain days of the week.
Child Friendly? Yes! Whether they’re older or younger JC can customize your tour to keep your children entertained. And as I’ve written in previous posts, there’s PLENTY of kid-friendly activities in the southern Nicoya Peninsula if you’re considering a long stay in Costa Rica.
Pet Friendly? No