After a nice, calm navigation of around 90 nautical miles, National Geographic Quest dropped anchor in front of a little fishing town known as Playa Blanca, or the white beach. Locals spend their weekends here enjoying the calm, warm ocean with their families.

Today was a great day for everyone. We call it our cultural day, and we visit various family projects, all supported by a local NGO known as Caminos de Osa. The Osa Peninsula comprises one of Costa Rica’s largest national parks, Corcovado National Park, and there is a great deal of conservation. Some families struggle to make a living while keeping the rainforest protected for future generations. We toured different places that turned former plantations or hotels into more ecofriendly businesses.

It was a “hard decision day” because there were so many nice families to meet and so many places to see and experience. It did not matter which tour we picked, though, because they all stole our hearts.

Some of us visited family businesses to learn about a sugar mill or gold panning. Both enterprises allow the families to support themselves. The sugar mill sells raw sugar to local hotels and grocery stores, and Don Juan still sells pieces of gold to support the wellbeing of his family.

Other guests toured an undercover botanical garden. Why “undercover”? Well…the tour is advertised as a chocolate tour, but it is so much more. The owner told us about the work of finding more plants, better vanilla crops, and sweeter pineapples while still protecting the forest. On her hearts of palm plantation, Dona Eida and her sister-in-law cut palmito every day and sell it to local restaurants. They greeted us and showed us how they care for the land. We had a great picnic lunch on the beach and enjoyed observing as children from the community performed beautiful traditional dances. Today was definitely a great day. We met lovely local families and learned why Costa Ricans are known to be Pura Vida! This problem free philosophy was clear in our interactions.