La Fortuna and Monteverde are two of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, but getting between these towns involves a bit of driving. If you’re looking to break up the trip, one good stop is a trapiche demonstration. In this post, we’ll tell you about the sugar cane demonstration at Trapiche Vasquez. This is at a small local restaurant and isn’t a tour per se, but is an interesting, authentic experience.
Our family discovered the trapiche (mill) demonstration at Trapiche Vasquez by chance. We were looking for a place to have lunch, and not much was open since it was a holiday.
A little outside the small city of Tilaran, on our drive to Monteverde, we stumbled upon Restaurante Florida.
Florida Restaurant is a simple soda. Soda is the name for a local restaurant that serves traditional Costa Rican food. Usually they are modest establishments, but often have some of the best food around. This was the case at Florida Restaurant.
Our family of four each ordered a typical casado (traditional lunch plate) from the short menu, along with a fresh-fruit drink.
While we were waiting for our food, Bernabe, the owner, asked if we’d like to see a sugar cane demonstration. Not knowing what to expect, we followed him out to the trapiche.
Grinding the Sugar Cane
We entered the large garage-like building and saw an old-fashioned machine. It had a metal grinder in the center and long arms extending in both directions. This was a trapiche, which is used to grind the juice from sugar cane. Interestingly, this particular machine was made in 1891 in Ohio!
Bernabe invited Jenn, Sam (age 7 at the time), and Evan (age 4) to lend a hand with the grinding, while he fed a giant sugar cane rod into the machine. It was hard work getting the machine going, but they were able to gain some momentum and grinded through several rods in no time. The yellowish sugar cane juice streamed down into a pitcher below.
It only took three rods to fill the pitcher.
Bernabe then invited us to try the juice we had made. We soon realized that this wasn’t going to be a simple sugar cane tasting.
First, he divided the juice into two pitchers. Then he cut an orange and squeezed it into one of the pitchers. He poured some of the yellow-orange mixture into five cups.
The taste was spectacular. We had done many sugar cane demonstrations in the past but didn’t love the flavor of sugar cane juice alone. Adding the orange really gave it some complexity and everyone enjoyed it, even our two kids.
Bernabe then quickly grabbed a chunk of whole ginger and wrapped it in sugar cane husk. He put it through trapiche machine and let the juice drip into the other pitcher. The fresh smell of ginger filled the air.
He let us try the sugar cane juice with ginger now. It was so fresh and delicious. The kids weren’t so sure since the flavor was a little strong, but the adults loved it.
After that, he mixed everything together so that we could try it with both the orange and ginger. This was the best combination yet!
After tasting the raw sugar cane juice, Bernabe explained a little about the process for making tapa de dulce.
Tapa de dulce is similar to molasses and used as a sweetener in many foods in Costa Rica.
Bernabe first showed us the big iron boiler. He said that you pour the sugar cane juice in there, and it slowly thickens as it heats, eventually turning to a thick brown liquid. After, the liquid is put into wooden forms where it turns into a solid. This solid type of tapa de dulce, sort of a dome shape, can be bought in just about every grocery store in Costa Rica.
Tapa de dulce is also available in liquid form (called miel de cana). He showed us a canaster of this as well.
With his wife and daughter in the kitchen waving that lunch was ready, we headed back to the restaurant.
Plates of locally raised tilapia, rice and beans, side salads, and plantains were waiting for us. Each dish cost only about $8 but was one of the best meals we’d had in a long time.
When we finished our lunch, Bernabe brought us a dessert made with some of the tapa de dulce, peanuts, and milk. It was intensely sweet and delicious. Then he brought out a homemade donut drizzled with more tapa de dulce. We enjoyed it alongside a cup of strong coffee.
With full stomachs, we chatted with Bernabe a bit more. We learned that he had been a farmer for many years and saw the farm fields out the back window. Due to a problem with his back, he has had to cut back on farming.
It was great talking to him and learning more about his family. He was so kind and loved sharing his trapiche with us.
Before getting back in our car, Berrnabe asked us to add our names to his agenda book where he tracks his tours. We found out that we were tour number 8,804! He had been doing these sugar cane demonstrations for 17 years.
We felt so lucky to have happened upon the Vasquez family that day. Getting to do a surprise trapiche demonstration was fun for everyone, especially the kids. It was a great stop to break up the drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde.
Trapiche Demonstration Details
Florida Restaurant (Restaurante Florida) is located in the town of Florida de Tilaran. It is about 35 minutes outside Tilaran right on the main road, Route 145. Here’s a link to the location on Google Maps.
You don’t need a reservation for the simple trapiche demonstration that we did. If you have a large group or would like the full demonstration where they make the tapa de dulce/molasses, contact Bernabe in advance. He typically does full sugar cane demonstrations on Saturdays, but not every week so it’s best to reach out beforehand.
Bernabe’s WhatsApp is +506 8303-2948 or you can reach out through their Facebook page, Trapiche Vasquez.
$5 per person for the basic trapiche demonstration
Have a question about the tour at Trapiche Vasquez near Tilaran? Ask us below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Viento Fresco Waterfalls: This is another fun option for a stop between La Fortuna and Monteverde that will show you several waterfalls.
North Fields Cafe: A Delicious Coffee and Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna: If you’re visiting La Fortuna, this is one of our favorite coffee/chocolate tours in Costa Rica.
Selvatura Hanging Bridges: The hanging bridges at Selvatura are great with kids and a nice way to explore the cloud forest.