Despite harbouring some of the largest remaining tracts of primary rainforest in the country, the Sarapiquí region is also home to a frightening number of banana and pineapple farms, while south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, the land around the small town of Las Horquetas is the sight of the biggest palmito (heart-of-palm) plantations in the world. As in the rest of Costa Rica, it’s a difficult balance between preserving the rainforest (land rendered useless by monobiotic methods employed in the cultivation of pineapples, for example, can take up to fifty years to recover), and appeasing the needs of the local workers – palmitos, along with bananas and pineapples, form the core of the regional economy.

For a closer look into the everyday lives of these workers (ironically, many of them Nicaraguan migrants), you can take a tour of the organic pineapple plantation at Finca Corsicana (tours daily at 8am, 10am & 2pm; $24; 2hr; reserve in advance on t2761-1700, wwww.fincacorsicana.com), 8km northeast of La Virgen, or the Dole banana plantation at Finca Zurqui (phone for tour times; $15; 1hr 30min; t2768-8683, wwww.bananatourcostarica.com), 5km southeast of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

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