Into the Cloud Forest – Monteverde, Costa Rica

I recently spent some time traveling around Costa Rica and hit up three major destinations within the country. You can read about my first stop in Costa Rica here — this blog picks up as we headed out of La Fortuna towards our second destination of Monteverde.

While Monteverde is well traveled by tourists, it definitely felt like the most remote place we visited.  That largely had to do with the roads — which were unpaved the majority of the way there. Obviously, this is another drive I would not recommend doing at night.

The main "highway" to Monteverde

The main “highway” to Monteverde

That being said, the drive itself is part of the experience so it is a must, even if you choose to hire a driver rather than do it yourself (if you do do it yourself, get a GPS — there are no questions).  On a map, it doesn’t look like it’s very far from Arenal to Monteverde, but it takes at least 3 hours on the twisty-turney roads all the way around Lake Arenal. Give yourself at least half a day though to do the drive, so you can stop at some of the very interesting local spots along the way.

About half way around Lake Arenal is a must-stop destination.  Along the drive, you’ll pass well over 100 signs for a place called Toad Hall.  The signs are cheeky and funny and sort of weird, but when you finally come across Toad Hall, it is adorable.  It’s a hostel in La Union which is about three small buildings of a town, but the restaurant there is great plus they’re doing all this conservation and economic work for Costa Rica that makes you feel good about spending money there.

Toad Hall

Toad Hall

Fresh juices at Toad Hall with an awesome view.

Fresh juices at Toad Hall with an awesome view.

Once J and I had finally bumped our way all the way up to Monteverde on the gravel roads (treacherous), we found our hotel: El Establo Mountain Hotel. This beautiful place is rustic but very clean and well thought out.  It’s meant to really complement the nature that Monteverde is known for, so there’s no wifi in the rooms, no air conditioning (not all that needed up in the mountains), and porches with rocking chairs in every room.  The only downside to being this in touch with nature was the large spider I found on my pillow one evening — such is life in Monteverde I guess.

El Establo, Monteverde

El Establo, Monteverde

Since the rocking chairs were there and we’d been pretty busy in Arenal, we decided to take our time in Monteverde a little slower.  That meant a lot of reading time rocking in the rocking chairs.  However, we did make time for a few pretty cool activities in the area.

First, I have to recommend El Trapiche Coffee Tour. There’s a couple different options of coffee tours in Monteverde, but this one is family owned and operated, so I’m really glad I did it.  We also got to see how coffee, sugar, and chocolate were made on one tour.  The tour guide was awesome and the owner and his son helped out along the tour.  Also, at the end you go for coffee in the family’s home! The tour was professional but also super intimate and personal.

J and I among the sugar cane at El Trapiche

J and I among the sugar cane at El Trapiche

The processing plant at El Trapiche

The processing plant at El Trapiche

J attempting to make sugar out of molasses

J attempting to make sugar out of molasses

Just chewing on some sugar cane

Just chewing on some sugar cane

Our other day in Monteverde was spent at Selvatura Park, the Monteverde National Forest.  There’s loads of different activities to do in the park and companies to do it with, but since we’d already done some cool excursions in Arenal, we decided to do something (slightly) lower key, which was ziplining.  Now, I’ve heard that SkyTrek is the best company to zip line with, but we decided just to do the park’s offering and it was perfectly adequate (and cheaper as well).  They also threw in a reptile tour and a trip to the craziest crack-head hummingbird garden I’ve ever seen (you will only understand this if you visit)

Ziplining through the jungle

Ziplining through the jungle

Into the cloud forest on the zip line

Into the cloud forest on the zip line

My new snake friend...

My new snake friend…

J's new snake friend

J’s new snake friend

The rest of our time in Monteverde was spent exploring the little town, drinking some great coffee, and bouncing along the unpaved roads.  It’s definitely one of the most remote-feeling places I’ve ever been to so a great experience to have had (despite the spider incident).

As we headed out of town, down the other side of the mountain, on an equally unpaved road, we were surprised at how quickly we were back on blacktop and at sea level.  It’s amazing how a little gravel can make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere….

 

Keep Traveling!

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