Costa Rica Cooking School Retreat: Culinary Experience with Chef Maya

Montezuma, Costa Rica

Duration: 9 days
Group size: 10 - 20
Costa Rica Cooking School Retreat: Culinary Experience with Chef Maya
Montezuma, Costa Rica

Duration: 9 days
Group size: 10 - 20

About this trip

This 9-day course, set in the beautiful backdrop of our Costa Rican jungles and beaches, is designed to guide and inspire future food professionals and committed at-home cooks. 

With Chef Maya, the owner and creator of Puggo’s Chef Restaurant in Montezuma as your guide, you will learn foundational techniques of the kitchen and develop a deeper understanding of culinary approaches such as grilling, frying, baking, pastry making, and so much more. You will expand your knowledge (and palate) by exploring local and international foods and building a diverse repertoire of recipes.  In addition, when you are not in the kitchen, you will be able to immerse yourself in the Pura Vida lifestyle by enjoying our local beaches and activities such as ziplining, yoga, surfing, and snorkeling. 

All your food, drinks, activities, and accommodations are included in the price of tuition making this a truly all-inclusive experience. 

If you are an open-minded, food-loving individual that is ready to put in the work necessary to develop your culinary skills while experiencing local wildlife, activities, and culture this experience is for you!  Come and join us for our next retreat and graduate with a sense of confidence in the kitchen and the tools necessary to continue your culinary journey back home. 

Chef Maya

During her 12 years of living in the Montezuma area of Costa Rica, Maya has established herself as a gifted chef, admired for her creativity and understanding of flavours. Her chef restaurant, Puggo’s, has achieved international success and a large following of loyal patrons. 

Before settling on the beaches of Costa Rica, Maya spent over a decade working alongside international chefs in her home country of Israel. Maya was initially trained in classical French cuisine before her culinary journey led her to national cooking competitions, large convention center kitchens, and guest appearances on television. Her strong passion for food, knowledge of ingredients, and advanced techniques are always the components of her incredible menus. She is inspired to share her expertise and diverse insight into the art of cooking with other food-lovers. 

Join Maya as she begins the next culinary chapter of her life! 

Puggo's Restaurant

From its beginnings in the downtown center 12 years ago to its current home nestled in the hills of Montezuma, Puggo’s has become an iconic restaurant for tourists and locals alike. Chef Maya’s creativity shines in her menus and her ingenuity sparkles throughout the whimsical garden space. Puggo’s is an open-air restaurant with a full cocktail menu and a center stage perfect for live music.  

AVES Hotel and Resort

 Aves Hotel and Resort is a luxurious, sprawling, consciously designed resort, recently built on the hills of Montezuma with views of the Pacific Ocean. Their spacious facilities and accommodations are built to nurture your heart and mind. On the grounds, you can choose to relax in their lounge pool, burn some energy in their 17-meter lap pool, or reflect in one of Costa Rica’s largest ocean-view yoga studio. The area is surrounded by luscious jungles, pristine beaches, and the iconic Montezuma waterfalls. 

Montezuma, Costa Rica

Montezuma is a charming beachside town found on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Its endless beaches, rich jungle wildlife, and picturesque waterfalls have made Montezuma a must-stop destination for tourists from around the world. Thrill-seekers can experience the rush of surfing a wave, ziplining through the canopies, or exploring the terrain on ATVs. For those who are wishing to relax and unwind, there are kilometres of secluded beaches, calming saltwater tidepools, and hammocks swaying in the breeze around every corner. 


Knowing the Kitchen 

Learn about the fundamentals of cooking and familiarize yourself with our fully equipped kitchen as Chef Maya guides you through the process of making our first lunch together. She will share some of her own kitchen secrets and give you time to practice introductory skills from how to properly hold a knife to constructing an effective mise en place. Together we will prepare papaya salad, tuna tartar, beef carpaccio, Puggo’s famous focaccia bread and broken potatoes, and a fresh tartar sauce. 

The Latin Experience

Embrace the Latin lifestyle with this class focused on traditional Latin cuisine from a local guest cook. Master the art of tortilla making and refine your recipes for guacamole, Salsa Verde, black bean dip and of course ice-cold Margaritas. Develop your skills as we make the perfect fried chicken, yuca chips, Patacónes, and Brazilian Pão de Queijo. And finally, experience the splendour of our local fresh fish as we create a classic ceviche dish that you will never forget.

Healthy Eating 

Explore the benefits of healthy eating while learning recipes for vegan burgers, cashew cheese, falafel and hummus, tahini sauce, tzatziki, fresh lettuce wraps, homemade crackers, crunchy apple salad, quinoa salad, eggplant carpaccio, cabbage steak, broccoli tapas, and roasted cauliflower.

Fish Foundations 

Learn the ins and outs of this healthy protein in this foundational class. Chef Maya will take you on the journey from ocean to plate by demonstrating how to choose, clean, cut and cook the fish of your dreams. Together we will get creative with a menu of fresh fish carpaccio, several types of ceviche, grilled fish filet with a spinach cream sauce, baked whole fish in white wine, butter and sage sauce, healthy steamed fish filet, Moroccan-style fish stew, fried stuffed fish, green tempura fish and chips, pickled salmon and beets, roasted sweet potatoes with baked garlic, carrot garlic celery salad and homemade burger buns. 

Grilling Perfection 

In this hands-on tutorial, we take our skills to the beach to learn the secrets of creating the perfect BBQ party. We will experiment with different cuts of beef, chicken and pork and develop recipes for a variety of marinades and sauces. We will use naturally sourced ingredients for our banana leaf-wrapped fish and create an exotic menu that includes Arabic salad, grilled veggies and delicious fresh fruit. To keep the party going, we will share recipes for both classic and creative Gin and Tonics and enjoy locally-brewed craft beer.

Sweet and Savory Pastries 

A renowned guest pastry chef will guide us through the process of creating deliciously delicate sweet and savoury pastries. Discover the steps to the perfect pastry crust, experiment with flavourful fillings and, ultimately, expand your understanding of the word “pie”.    

Playing with Pasta 

Get your hands messy as we play with fresh pasta dough to create a plethora of dishes. Add different flavours and experiment with surprising ingredients to make fish ravioli, folded pasta, gnocchi, and seafood risotto. Learn how to compose delicious sauces such as rose, pesto, classic cream and mushrooms, Bolognese, and spicy Arrabiata. Finally, add a touch of freshness with a clean mixed greens salad and light lemon vinaigrette. 

Sushi Party 

Under the guidance of locally celebrated sushi chef, Martin Grisi, learn the skills and steps necessary to roll the perfect sushi. He will instruct you on sourcing ingredients, expert knife techniques, and creative flavour pairings to transport you from the jungles of Costa Rica to the kitchens of Japan. And of course, you must not forget to toast your hard work with a glass of Sake - Kanpai!

Asian Street Food

Experience the flavours and aromas of the streets of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam right here in Costa Rica. Learn how to make traditional dishes such as Bau Ban, crispy shrimp, spring rolls, rice paper rolls, Vietnamese rolls, fresh lettuce wraps, seared tuna, fried fish, Pad Thai, ramen soup, fried chicken, and sticky rice. Top off your creations with fresh sauces such as curry coconut, classic peanut, Asiatic oyster, and coconut spinach cilantro ginger. 


Welcome Reception  

Upon arrival at the cooking school, you will be greeted with refreshing cocktails and delicious tapas as you are given the chance to explore your home for the next 9 days and meet your culinary teachers and peers. We will also present you with your own recipe journal and apron to start you on the road to culinary success. 

ATV Adventure Tour  

You will drive along jungle trails, transverse freshwater rivers, and marvel at the beauty of the Costa Rican beaches as an experienced guide takes you on an ATV tour around the Montezuma, Cabuya, and Mal País areas. The ATVs are all up-to-date and come with the necessary safety equipment, making this a thrilling yet safe experience for all.

Surf Lesson and Beach Day

Experience the rush of catching a wave while enjoying the warm ocean water and cool coastal breeze. The almost private beaches with their sandy bottoms and gentle waves offer a perfect spot for beginners to try out the experience or for intermediates to improve their skills without pressure. Between sets, or for those not wishing to surf, enjoy a variety of other beach activities such as volleyball, frisbee, and of course, BBQ grilling!  

Yoga Classes

Enjoy the beauty and peace of the surrounding jungle while reflecting inwards during one of our yoga and meditation classes. The classes are held on the resort property in one of Costa Rica’s largest ocean-view yoga studio.  Whether it is your first time on a yoga mat, or you are an experienced yogi, our teachers will guide and challenge you to find what feels good and expand your potential.  

Zipline Tour

This zipline tour allows you to experience the diversity of our rich jungles while soaring through the canopy. It consists of 9 cables with 13 platforms suspended high above the jungle floor. It’s recommended you keep your eyes open as you will likely see monkeys, parrots, iguanas and so much more. The tour also stops at the iconic Montezuma waterfalls where you can dive into the refreshing waters and swim in the natural pools. 

Tortuga Island Day Trip

Tortuga Island is an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Nicoya. It is famous for its white-sand beaches, calm waters and paradisical views. It is a 45-minute boat ride along the Montezuma coast to arrive at the island. During the trip, you should keep your eyes peeled as it is common to see dolphins and/or whales swimming alongside the boat. Before arriving at the island, we will stop for the chance to get up close and personal with the underwater wildlife for those who wish to snorkel.  Once we arrive at the island, we will spend the afternoon enjoying fresh food and sipping delicious cocktails. For those looking to relax, there are lounge chairs and shady spots for a nap. There are also several hiking trails with amazing look-out points for those wishing to explore. And finally, for those wanting a little more excitement, there are a variety of different water activities such as jet skis and banana boat rides. Everything is included for a full day of adventure, relaxation, and fun.

Movie Night

Snuggle up with some delicious drinks, sweet candies and ice cream, and, of course, buttery popcorn for a movie night under the stars. You are also welcome to cool off with a dip in the pool while you enjoy the show.

Bonfire Night

Enjoy a cozy evening around a beautiful bonfire complete with great music and snacks. Try your skills at roasting hot dogs over the flames or building the perfect S’more. 

Painting Class

Explore your creative side and learn some fun techniques as a local guest artist assists you in making your own masterpiece. As well, to spark those creative juices, we will be serving a delicious array of fresh fruit and champagne.

Graduation Ceremony and Fire Show

During our final dinner together, we will celebrate the achievements of the week and present certificates of completion. Participants will also receive a beautiful knife set to commemorate their experience and inspire them to continue their culinary journeys back home. 

What’s included

  • 9 Cooking Classes
    Check out all of the classes and descriptions listed above.
  • 9 Activities
    Includes 4 excursions and transportation.
  • 8 Nights Accommodation
    You love the luxurious cabins and peaceful gardens at AVES Hotel and Resort.
  • Meals
    Fresh food and drinks, including ingredients for all cooking classes and activities.
  • Air Travel
  • Airport Transfers

Available Packages

Bali King Deluxe
Available until 15 days before departure

Rooms are equipped with a king sized bed and a loft with two twin beds. The rooms also include a kitchenette, WiFi, TV, a/c, and large deck.  

Private Bali King Deluxe
Available until 30 days before departure

See Bali King Deluxe description

Serenity Suite
Available until 30 days before departure

All are equipped with one king sized bed, one queen sofa sleeper, kitchenette, WiFi, TV, a/c, large deck and a large outdoor sky shower.

Private Serenity Suite
Available until 30 days before departure

See Serenity Suite description

Chez Mu Luxury Villa
Available until 15 days before departure

Chez Mu is a large, luxurious ocean view villa with 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. The house has a large outdoor living area with a private pool, bbq, and lounge chairs.



9 Days of Cooking and Costa Rica Excitement!

 Day 1:

4:00 pm - Arrival and Welcome Reception

7:30 pm - Dinner

Enjoy time with fellow participants and staff while discussing program expectations and upcoming experiences.

• At each night’s dinner, you will be given a chance to sign up to cook breakfast for the following morning. There will be a standard

menu to follow; however, participants are encouraged to add in their favorite breakfast dishes.

Day 2:

8:30 am - Breakfast

10:00 am - Knowing the Kitchen Class

At the beginning of each class, there will be a demonstration period where you will receive recipes and practice skills. We will share the food prepared during each class at the meal to follow.  

1:30 pm - Lunch

2:30 pm - ATV Adventure Tour

5:00 pm - Arrive back from the tour to a cocktail hour with fruit and nuts

6:30 pm - The Latin Experience Class

9:00 pm - Dinner

Day 3:

8:00 am - Breakfast

9:00 am - Yoga Class

10:30 am - Healthy Eating Class

1:30 pm - Lunch

2:30 pm - Free time

5:30 pm - Fish Foundations Class

8:30 pm - Dinner

9:30 pm - Movie night

Day 4:

7:00 am - Breakfast

8:00 am - Grilling Perfection Class on the beach and Surf Lessons

3:00 pm - Arrive back to the resort for some relaxation time

6:00 pm - Sweet and Savory Pastries Class

8:30 pm - Dinner

Day 5:

8:00 am - Breakfast

9:00 am - Yoga Class

10:30 am - Playing with Pasta Class

1:30 pm - Lunch

3:00 pm - Zipline Tour

6:00 pm - Sushi Party Class and Dinner

8:00 pm - Bonfire Night

Day 6:

7:30 am - Breakfast

9:00 am - Tortuga Island Day Trip

4:30 pm - Arrive home for some free time with cocktails and snacks

7:00 pm - Dinner and Show at Puggo’s Restaurant

Day 7:

9:00 am - Breakfast

10:30 am - Asian Street Food Class

1:30 pm - Lunch

• During this lunch we will discuss and finalize the dinner menu.

5:00 pm - Cook dinner

• Utilizing skills gained throughout the week, participants will prepare a creative dinner for the retreat’s staff.

8:00 pm - Dinner with the staff

Day 8:

8:30 am - Breakfast

9:30 am - Free day

1:30 pm - Lunch

3:00 pm - Painting Class

7:00 pm - Dinner, Graduation Ceremony and Fire Show

Day 9:

7:00 am - Breakfast

11:00 am - Check out

Your Organizer

Puggo's Cooking School
During her 12 years of living in the Montezuma area of Costa Rica, Maya has established herself as a gifted chef, admired for her creativity and understanding of flavors. Her chef restaurant, Puggo’s, has achieved international success and a large following of loyal patrons. Before settling on the beaches of Costa Rica, Maya spent over a decade working alongside international chefs in her home country of Israel.