The History and Growth of Costa Rica Banana Industry
(Editor’s Note – This original post from October 2011 has been updated to reflect current Costa Rica vacation details. Please note that current Costa Rica tours include a Costa Rica coffee plantation tour in place of a banana plantation tour.)
Bananas have been one of the most popular and versatile fruits in history. The banana is actually a native species of Asia that has been transported to other tropical locations around the globe, including Costa Rica.
Costa Rica and indeed, the Central American economy, include an important sector focusing on this fruit, with Costa Rica banana plantations providing a significant part of the export business.
Costa Rica Banana History
For much of Costa Rica’s early history coffee was the leading export. The formation of such massive corporations as United Fruit Company changed that.
Bananas have been a staple of Costa Rica’s economy for well over 100 years. In fact, millions of bananas were being exported from Costa Rica before the turn of the last century (1900). Today, there are approximately 130 banana producing countries and out of the top 20, Costa Rica banana production ranks eighth.
In the early years of the 1900s, banana trees began to appear all over the landscape, with some plantations visible for miles from the few roads that crossed the countryside.
The Growth of the Banana Industry
Early Costa Rica banana plantations were first established in the area near the Sixaola River. Large companies such as Dole and Del Monte soon became established in this region as the demand for fresh bananas grew. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, labor unrest shut the banana industry down for a time, until wages rose to a satisfactory level. The Costa Rica banana industry expanded to other sections of the country through the middle of the 20th century.
Banana Growing Regions
One area that began to attract attention as a banana-growing region was near Golfito, in the southern part of the country. Long viewed as a secluded section of Costa Rica, wild and remote, bananas and other products have changed the characteristics of the area somewhat.
Quepos, on the Pacific coast in the central part of the country, also began life as a banana plantation. In the past 70 or 80 years it has grown into a lively, small city, enjoying its proximity to the ocean.
Labor strikes and plant diseases reduced Costa Rica banana production at various times through the second half of the 20th century. New efforts and growing techniques brought production back to a healthy level of nearly 500 million boxes shipped throughout the world in the mid-1990s. At one point, revenue from the Costa Rica banana industry was larger than all tourism combined.
Costa Rica banana plantations can still be found in the Sixaola River area, as well as around Santa Clara and in the Estrella valley. The Matina valley region is also a prime banana growing location. A significant portion of Costa Rica’s banana growth occurs on the Caribbean side of the country.
Today, production and export of Costa Rica bananas are dominated by three huge, well-known companies – Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte, which harvest, package, and export bananas directly to world markets.
Costa Rica All Inclusive Tours – Eat Local Bananas!
A Costa Rica coffee plantation tour is featured as part of the tour package, as well as driving past several other popular Costa Rica plantations including sugar cane, coffee, pineapple, and oranges.
Eat fresh Costa Rica bananas while on your all inclusive Costa Rica package tour with Caravan Tours! To book, call Caravan Tours at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) or visit the reviews page to read what others have said about these escorted tours of Costa Rica.