Incentive trips to Costa Rica provide quite the picturesque event backdrop, especially if your group chooses to stay at Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort, located in the lush mountains of Perez Zeledon.
While the resort provides 50 hacienda-style casitas and plenty of meeting and event space to boot, it also offers over-the-top team building experiences, including spending the day with the local Boruca tribe and learning about the hand-carved masks they create. We spoke with Marcela Herrendoerfer, the property’s general manager, about what exactly hosting a group here would look like.
Can you explain the history of the Boruca tribe a bit more and give more detail about what that day experience would be for groups?
Boruca is an indigenous tribe located among the Talamanca Mountains, 12 miles from Panama in the southern Pacific. The Boruca tribe is estimated to have around 2,000 members and is located on an indigenous reserve, where about 85 square miles of land are protected for their use. According to Costa Rican law, tribes on the reservation land, like Boruca, have the right to self-governance.
Boruca, also called Brunca, struggle since their hand-carved Boruca masks are so popular that imitations are sold throughout the country. However, this indigenous culture is more than a mask. Boruca is built on faith in the wisdom of elders and the Boruca legends they tell are passed down for centuries. The identity of Boruca reflects a deep respect for the stories told, the nature that surrounds them, and the community they share.
Once arriving into Boruca, lookouts provide us with plenty of panoramic green views of the Talamanca range surrounding the village, drawing its waters into the dark green waters of the Great River of Terraba. As you go into town by walking, the group is given a warm welcome and the Boruca will introduce you and let you into their daily life routines that reflect a self-sustaining agricultural village, supplemented by craft-making and ethnotourism. It is more than a trip, it is experiencing their lifestyles through its food, faith, medicine, school and the people themselves.
What history and traditions would be taught?
After a 10-minute hike with a local guide, the group stop by the Mask Workshop to appreciate the beautiful art of the hand-crafted masks, weaving pieces and their original artisans. Not only rare and exotic arts can be appreciated, but also their meaning and relation towards their culture and nature.
The group continues their path and heads towards the church and the Boruca museum where culture, history, traditions and their self-sustaining lifestyle are expressed through photographs, artifacts, the natural dying techniques for their cloths and the most significant pieces of their history, the precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres perfectly carved which lead us back to their history just before the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century.
How does the mask-carving activity work?
After the visit through the village, the group heads to an outdoor picnic area to taste a delicious and authentic Boruca lunch wrapped in bijagua leaves called “Monitos.” The lunch, which includes rice and beans, steamy vegetables and their delicious and dehydrated smoked pork, absorbs the natural flavor of the bijagua leaves, just perfect for a traditional meal.
After lunch, guests are provided with hand-crafted masks and sand paper that they will use for the final details on the mask. The group is moved into a house where the workshop takes place. After all the ideas and designs of mask they have seen, now the guests are given tools and paint to boost their creativity and design their own art by painting the masks already carved .
What makes this property stand out for groups compared to others in Costa Rica?
AltaGracia is that rare place in the world which has no comparison. Built in one of the last destinations not yet touched by tourism or heavy traffic, groups can truly dive into the most genuine and unique experiences in Costa Rica. A place where natural beauty from the surrounding mountains, authentic cultural experiences throughout the resort’s 800 acres of “pura vida” and the genuine service of our local staff come together to create the ideal spot for all corporate retreats and special events.
In what other ways does it provide a truly authentic experience for groups?
From the moment guests land on our own airstrip, a picturesque surrounding combined with the sounds of birds and horses welcomes them to AltaGracia. Our staff carefully customizes a menu of unique and cultural enriched activities, allowing guests to learn and become part of this amazing location.
Just a month ago, the resort hosted approximately 55 guests from a technology company out of Boston. These guests learned what it feels to be a local by spending an afternoon with a local family who runs a farm (la granja). Their visit, also included a group horse riding activity, customized for all levels followed by lunch at the river, prepared by Chef Ramces using all organic ingredients grown on our very own farm (la huerta).