In Costa Rica we had the incredible opportunity to visit Monteverde – the Cloud Forest – also #69 on our list top Top 100 Sights. This was by far my favourite thing that we did in CR!
While in Monteverde, we stayed at a little cottage on a working coffee farm, just outside Santa Elena. It was very cute and rustic and our host was a lovely woman named Hermida who runs the coffee farm – Finca Lluvia de Gloria – with her family. If you follow us on Instagram, you will have seen our not so little visitor to the cottage (a tarantula), but we did not let that get in the way of our thoroughly enjoying this tranquil little farm. The cooler climate was also a much appreciated reprieve from the sometimes oppressive heat of Ocotal/Coco.
Clockwise from top left: rainbow over the coffee farm in the morning; cabin #2 where we stayed; enjoying a dinner prepared by our host Hermida; sunset over the coffee farm; coffee plants!
Getting to Monteverde was a bit of an adventure in itself. We decided to rent a car in Coco and drive ourselves to Monteverde, thus avoiding the public buses and saving several hours of travel time but also allowing us to have our own transportation while in Monteverde, which actually proved to be the greatest benefit of having shelled out for the rental. However, in keeping with our effort to be frugal, we rented a compact sedan for the journey (a Toyota Yaris) and this turned out to be like driving a go-cart up and down a black diamond ski hill. I do all the driving in our family so by the time we reached the coffee farm, my nerves were shot and I was in a less than great mood. Over the next few days navigating around the roads of Monteverde I got used to the terrain and we slowly and carefully made our way around in our eco and budget-friendly little ride. We returned the car in one piece after thankfully avoiding any damaging incidents so I can’t say it was a terrible idea…it would just maybe a little less nerve-racking to be in a higher, possibly 4-wheel drive vehicle.
While in Monteverde, we were able to experience the cloud forest in 3 different ways – a suspension bridge walk above the jungle, a night walk, and a day hike on the jungle floor. They were all incredible and unique in their own ways. We started with the suspension bridge walk. Initially Robin and Caleb were going to do this while Kieran and I went ziplining (again) but when we arrived at Sky Adventures and got a look at the suspension bridges, we quickly changed our minds and decided to go on the suspension bridge walk as well – this is definitely saying something if you’ve been paying attention to how enthusiastic I am about ziplining 😉 This turned out to be my favourite experience in all of Costa Rica. It was breathtaking to see the jungle from up above, marvel at the more than 7000 organisms and over 500 species of plants growing on a single host tree (including several species of orchids), and observe the variety of birds flying around this unique ecosystem. The thrill of being suspended several hundred metres above the jungle floor did not disappoint in the category of adrenaline-producing experiences either.
The same day that we did the suspension bridge walk, we did a night hike in the jungle with Kinkajou Tours. We don’t have many pictures of the night walk, for obvious reasons 🙂 Both Caleb and Kieran said this was their favourite thing to do in Costa Rica and despite our concerns that it might be a little scary to be in the jungle at night, neither were at all nervous and they had a great time searching for wildlife and critters in the dark with their flashlights. We saw tarantulas, a kinkajou, a viper snake, and lots of exotic birds trying to get some shut-eye. Sadly, the sloths eluded us on this particular adventure. You have to be able to keep up on this tour as the guide was pretty aggressive with the pace of the hike. Several people in our group got left behind a couple times and they were not pleased (understandably) about being stranded in the dark without a guide. It’s not as scary as it sounds as there are lots of groups of tours going on at the same time and they were easily pointed in the right direction by another guide before they could freak out too much.
The last way we experienced the cloud forest was hiking through the jungle in the Santa Elena reserve. It was beautiful and breathtaking and WET. The paths were relatively well maintained but there had been a fair bit of rain over the past few days and the deeper we got in the jungle, the wetter and muckier it became. After hiking for a couple hours we stopped to eat some lunch that we’d brought along – grilled cheese sandwiches and whole carrots (a Robin brown-bag special) – and then decided to split up. Robin and Caleb wanted to do a much longer hike that was going to take another 3 hours or so but Kieran wasn’t feeling up to it or just wasn’t in the mood. He and I took a shorter loop but were rewarded with a path that featured a lookout tower that put us literally right up in the clouds. It was pretty spectacular. We got soaked and pretty muddy but it was well worth it and we still had about an hour left to wait for Robin and Caleb while we warmed up and dried out a little inside with some hot beverages.
On our first night in Monteverde we got take-out from a famous taco joint in Santa Elena called Taco Taco. It was a slightly underwhelming experience as the boys both seemed to be too tired to eat much (!!!) and when you get take-out, you don’t have the option of a side of margaritas. Santa Elena is a lovely little town though and I commented to Robin that if we had been there just the 2 of us, I would definitely have opted to stay in one of the little boutique hotels or B&Bs. A different trip for another time I suppose.