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Friday, February 23, 2024

Parrita: How green was the valley

Most travelers don’t spend much time in Parrita. Except for an annual Mule Festival, the town doesn’t have much going for it. But Parrita is a great place to stop for gas, grab a casado, and admire the scenery. Oh, it doesn’t have the folded mountains or epic oceanfront of other Costa Rican communities. But as you pass through, take a moment to admire the agriculture.

For miles in either directions, the cantón is full of cornfields, cattle ranches, and – most eye-catching of all – palm oil plantations. Unlike wild palms, which grow all along both coasts, palm oil trees are planted in rigid grids, precisely spaced for easier cultivation. The jagged leaves form dense canopies, so that the rows between palms are darkly shaded. The people of Parrita have harvested and processed palm oil for decades, and the rich liquid is used for everything from cooking to disinfectants. You could say that palm oil is rather handy.

Each region in Costa Rica has its own brand of agriculture, such as Turrialba’s dairy farms and Guapiles’ bananas. In the case of Parrita, the town is like an island floating in a sea of bounty. As you gun down the road toward Manuel Antonio, remember to stop and smell the palms.

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