Caoba Farms: Antigua’s tasty organic oasis

Caoba farms

Caoba Farms is an organic eco farm that produces flowers and culinary plants, but it also has two restaurants, a butterfly sanctuary, a quality tienda, a nursery, a Saturday market, yoga classes and much more. Free activities are held throughout the week. Caoba Farms is located at the south end of Antigua.

Caoba Farms was established in 2004, after owner Alex Kronick bought three acres of land previously used to grow coffee and roses and started an organic farm. Since then, the farm has grown exponentially and its two locations commercially grow fresh organic produce that is sold to top-end restaurants and hotels in Guatemala. Caoba Farms also has its own restaurant, allowing a taste of fresh, high quality produce otherwise too rare to encounter in Antigua.

What makes Caoba Farms special?

Caoba Farms Restaurant often has live performers play music while you eat.
Caoba Farms Restaurant often has live performers play music while you eat.

Antigua in itself is a real beauty. From colonial architecture to the astounding volcanic vistas, the city is quite charming. Most people use it as a transit hub right after landing in Guatemala city: party a little bit in its numerous bars or visit its ruined churches. Yet, it seems like most people don’t realize just how many things can be done around Antigua. And this is precisely how our little adventure to this organic farm started. As we were wondering what to do in Antigua during the weekend, we started asking around. The suggestion came from a colleague who went with her young son. She said Caoba was mostly a restaurant and garden, so it didn’t make the top of our to-do list. Then we did some research, and it actually seemed pretty cool. Not to mention within walking distance from Antigua downtown. Considering we hadn’t eaten many fresh greens since arriving to Guatemala (the produce is often washed in polluted water and will give you a memorable case of food poisoning), we were eager to taste their salads, plus we heard rumors of a great beer selection. Intrigued by the butterfly sanctuary, we decided to set out visit to Caoba Farms on a sunny Sunday in February.

The butterfly sanctuary

While accessing the Caoba farms is free, the butterfly sanctuary (Mariposario Caoba) costs something. Thankfully, Sundays are cheaper. On a weekday, adults cost Q30, children 5-15 years old cost Q20, and children under 5 are free. On Sundays, adults are charged Q20 and children 5-15 years old are Q10. If you want to visit the butterfly sanctuary, you need to buy your ticket at the tienda, by the market. We didn’t know this until we reached the sanctuary and we’re happy we didn’t buy in advance. Through the window of the sanctuary, we were able to see the inside perfectly and quite frankly, at the time we visited there wasn’t much, if any, reason for somebody to pay to go in. In the end, it was just a bunch of white butterflies resting on plants. As this seems to be a relatively new addition, and perhaps one with potential, it’s possible things will be different by the time you get there. For this reason, we advise you go check it out first before deciding if you want to pay or not.

Caoba Farms Restaurant

Caoba Farm's Hawaiian pizza
Caoba Farm’s Hawaiian pizza.

Just beyond the entry to Caoba Farms is a restaurant with a jungle feel. Tables are situated among large tropical plants and the ground is covered in soft bark mulch. A central stage often hosts live music and a small bar sells beer and mixed drinks. As we entered, we saw this as an opportunity to get our fix on fresh food. Around Antigua and in Guatemala in general, fresh produce is actually not that easy to find in restaurants. Thanks to the organic label and farm-to-table concept, we were literally drooling when we reached the Caoba Farms restaurant. Dereck, in particular.

As can be expected, the place was full on Sunday. Not crowded beyond enjoyment, but all tables were being used by people who were likewise attracted to the idea of fresh food. A local musician was playing Beatles covers, giving a wonderful ambiance to the place. After a short wait, we were assigned a table and handed la carte. Surprisingly, the Caoba Farms menu had far fewer veggies than we expected. Oddly, burgers and pizzas seemed to be king of the place. Maybe we misunderstood the concept but to us, farm-to-table seemed to suggest veggies and greens would be the base of every selection. The menu did offer a variety of appetizers, main courses, drinks and a couple salads that looked very good. Prices were on the high side so we shared a pizza, house salad and fries plus a smoothie and lemonade. This way, we figured we would get a good glimpse at the Caoba Farms menu. The fresh food would be a welcome change from the fare we’ve gotten used to in Antigua Guatemala.

Caoba Farm's "El Rosa" smoothie
Caoba Farm’s “El Rosa” smoothie.

The fresh greens salad was good and varied, but we wished we had ordered a full main dish salad instead of a side. For a place that markets itself as a farm to table, that sells the freshest organic fine produce, however, we were expecting more, if not a lot more. Don’t get us wrong, the salad was good. Yet, it still came out as underwhelming. The amount of veggies found in it, the limited quantity or quality of dressing, all of this seemed to contradict our initial assumption. As we ate a Hawaiian pizza thinking the local availability of pineapple would likely make it stand out, we were surprised to realize we barely even tasted pineapple throughout the feast. It, too, resulted in a good but bland experience. On the other hand, the french fries were nice and crispy and came with a small amount of homemade ketchup.

Looking at other tables, we noticed other plates seemed to be made from the same mould. Burgers came out on plates, and noticeably they were filled with greens looking like arugula. Did it look good? Yes. Was it what could be expected of a place like this? No. Again, an organic farm-to-table restaurant, with greenhouses less than 100 feet from the tables could be so much more creative. Would it be too much to ask for more than greens? Would it be possible to add other types of veggies to these plates? While we are not chefs, we certainly are foodies and in the end, the issues we had were not so much the quality but the missed opportunity. Caoba is good when it could be great. Because of this, if you are traveling on a Dirt Cheap Travel budget, this may be a place to avoid.

To give you an idea of the Caoba restaurant prices, our shared pizza (about 11″) was Q90, a smoothie was Q30, the house salad was Q20 and fries were Q25. A main course salad costs Q60 and a hamburger is around Q80. Their basic breakfast is Q70. Juices like lemonade are Q20. Once converted to western prices, these aren’t necessarily bad. A single portion pizza for $12USD can be found in many locations so one could think they’re getting a decent price. This part is up to you to decide. Considering you can have a filling portion of tacos for Q12 anywhere in Antigua, it comes as a bit pricey but is also better quality.

Caoba Farms Restaurant and cafe hours are Wednesday through Friday, 8AM-4PM.

Tip: read our cost of travel in Guatemala article for a detailed price list of all things you need for your trip to Antigua, including the farmer’s market!

Caoba Farms nursery

Caoba Farms nursery sells all sorts of plants from cacti to herbs.
Caoba Farms nursery sells all sorts of plants from cacti to herbs.

Caoba Farms has several large cold frames filled with fresh produce, but they also have a small nursery with ornamental, medicinal and edible plants for sale. Here you’ll find herbs, decorative flowers, succulents, vines and more.

Nursery plants are for sale and prices are marked by colored tags on the plant, but most of the tags are so faded they all look similar, so you might have to ask about pricing. Even if you’re not planning on buying, it’s fun to look at all the different varieties of plants they raise.

Tours

Caoba Farm tours are available starting at Q60 and can be arranged at the entrance. If you do the tour, you can get a small discount on food at the restaurant after the tour. We opted for the self guided tour (free). There is a path you can take that goes past the exotic plant nursery, the bees, the farm animals, the activity areas and more, no guide necessary! We don’t feel that we missed out on anything by not buying an official tour, and this way we had time to go at our own pace, saving money at the same time.

Caoba Farms rooster
Caoba Farms hosts a huge (friendly?) rooster.

Caoba Farms tienda

At the entrance to Caoba Farms there is a tiny outdoor market with merchants selling jewelry, jars of food spreads, and trinkets arranged on tables along a walkway. To be honest, we found it quite intimidating as two dozen pairs of eyes immediately targeted us as we walked in. It reminded us of some sites in Egypt where you are forced to walk through a market to enter an attraction. Thankfully, nobody yelled our names or blocked our way to force us to buy anything.

Just beyond the market is a little tienda. When we saw the name, we assumed this was a place where you could buy the standard Guatemalan snacks, dry crackers and colas and didn’t pay much attention to it. On our way out, we paid closer attention and realized that unlike the tiendas you see in town, this one doesn’t have dusty bags of Fritos and candies. Instead you’ll find interesting products made from the produce at the farm, as well as organic meat and homemade health remedies.

In the back is a small room for chocolate-making demonstrations, although this was closed on the day we visited. The tienda also sells microbrews, micro hot sauces and Guatemalan top-quality coffee. Here is where you’ll find specialty products like tahini, seaweed and chia seeds. It’s worth a look just to see the interesting products available and the prices were not too high. You can also buy veggies and produce grown at Caoba Farms. In a way, the tienda had much more of the vibe and feeling we expected from the place than the restaurant.

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Volunteer opportunities at Caoba

It is possible to volunteer at the farm on weekdays, and signing up is as simple as talking with the people in charge. Volunteering at Caoba is available Tuesday-Friday from 9AM-12PM. You work a few hours in exchange for a bag of fresh veggies. Not a bad deal in our opinion!

How to get to Caoba Farms

  Caoba Farms is within walking distance of Antigua's center. A free shuttle is available on weekends from Iglesia Hermano Pedro.
Caoba Farms is within walking distance of Antigua’s center or a short bus ride from the Antigua bus station. A free shuttle is available on Saturday’s from Iglesia Hermano Pedro.

Caoba Farms is so close to Antigua you can walk. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk, depending on how many stray dogs you stop to pet. Tuk tuks and Uber are quick options, though not worth the price in our opinion. An Uber from Antigua’s parque central to Caoba Farms Restaurant will cost about Q15. A tuk tuk should be Q10. We opted for the cheapest transport: we walked. The roads aren’t busy and although signs to Caoba aren’t very obvious, there are occasional arrows pointing to Caoba Farms on telephone poles. Mostly we just used our offline maps.

To take a chicken bus to Caoba Farms will only cost Q2, but we don’t recommend it in this case just because during the time it takes for the bus to leave the station you could practically walk to the farm. But if you insist, go to the Antigua bus station and find the bus labeled “San Juan Del Obispo”. Attendants walking around the bus station will be able to point you to the correct bus if you ask. Get off when they yell ”El Calvario” and walk according to your GPS. Doing this will make you walk 950 meters from the bus stop while walking from central park is 1.26 kilometers. The gain in distance is minimal and time wise, both options are very similar.

The is also a free shuttle service between central Antigua and Caoba while the Saturday market is running. It departs from La Iglesia Hermano Pedro (3a Avenida Sur) at :10 and :40 after the hour.

Hint: When you have WiFi download the offline map of the area to your phone on either Google Maps or Maps.me app. That way you can track your progress and avoid unnecessary hassle.

Read also: Are chicken buses in Guatemala safe? (Spoiler: They are generally safe).

Takeaway

Caoba Farms grows a plethora of organic fresh veggies.
Caoba Farms grows a plethora of organic veggies.

If you’re someone who likes going off the beaten path, this isn’t it. Caoba Farms is in a lovely farm setting but it has become quite successful and touristy, partly because of its close proximity to Antigua. One review on Trip Advisor mentioned how this was “the place” for European and western tourists to meet for breakfast on weekends.

Typical of touristy places, the prices are higher than we would like to pay, but that’s just us; many people are happy to pay more for the fresh and quality ingredients. Overall we are glad we went, and the abundance of tourists didn’t surprise us. We don’t feel we got cheated in any way. We’re happy the farm is doing so well. But for the type of travel we prefer, it’s not somewhere we would visit more than once. It is, however, a thing to do in Antigua and an occasion to breathe some fresh air. On that matter, we would also suggest visiting Valhalla Macadamia Farm. Out of town, it offers a similar experience but proved much more quiet when we went and the food was delicious.

Caoba farms opening hours and contact information

Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday: 8AM-4PM
Wednesday: 8AM–4PM
Thursday: 8AM–4PM
Friday: 8AM–4PM
Saturday: 8AM–4PM + Saturday market, activities and yoga class (9AM)
Sunday: 8AM–4PM + activities and yoga class (10AM)

*Note: the restaurant and cafe are closed on Monday and Tuesday

Address: 5a. Ave. Final sur Sobre Puente Pensativo, Antigua 03001, Guatemala
Phone: +502 7832 9201
Website: https://caobafarms.weebly.com/

Questions? Comments? How was your experience at Caoba Farms? Let us know in the comments below! We like to keep our articles as accurate as possible, and readers like you are vital for this! Plus we just like hearing from you 🙂


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