I’m back with part 2 of my recap of our trip to Costa Rica!
So after leaving our hotel in La Fortuna/Arenal, we got in our transfer bus for a short ride to a water taxi. I didn’t really look too closely at the itinerary previously, so this was a bit of surprise. I’m not a huge fan of water taxis. This stems from when I was a kid and an enclosed one flipped due to bad weather in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and people died. It’s amazing how a sad news story like that will stick with you. Thankfully, these water taxis were all open air and the weather wasn’t bad at all :)
While waiting for the water taxi to fill up, a member of the egret bird family stopped by. I don’t have a photo of it (they’re on Gabe’s camera), but it was a beautiful white bird who planted himself on the boat next to us. He seemed to enjoy being the subject of a bunch of photos.
Once we departed we had a nice journey across Lake Arenal. It’s a huge manmade lake created by the electric company to support a hydroelectric dam. The dam provides 30% of Costa Rica’s energy. Another interesting thing we learned was that much of the land around the lake is owned by the electric company and protected as a preserve. Fascinating, right? I think it’s safe to say our electric companies (and our country in general) could learn a lot about natural resource preservation from Costa Rica.
Enjoying our water taxi ride across Lake Arenal.
A little island in the lake. We were riding out of those rain clouds and arrived at our next stop with sunshine.
After reaching our next stop, we once again boarded transfer vans to continue our trek to Monteverde. It was, at times, a pretty harrowing ride. The roads were rutted, rocky, steep and curvy. It was also very bumpy. The AC didn’t work in the van, but thankfully we were in the mountains and the air was cool with a nice breeze.
I tried several times to take photos of the roads we were on, but you just couldn’t effectively capture it in a way that truly portrayed the steepness and rockiness. As I think I mentioned in my previous post, I was once again impressed by the skill of our drivers, especially since they were driving manual transmissions.
We stopped at a rest stop in a small mountain town. We grabbed some snacks and enjoyed the sunshine before reboarding the van to continue the rest of the four hour ride. It was a pretty clear day coming into Monteverde and one of the first things we saw were some of the lines for the Selvature Canopy Tour, the zipline adventure Gabe and I would do the next day. It looked absolutely insane so we got a little nervous but excited at the same time.
We got a nice tour of town while dropping off guests of other hotels before we made it to Cala Lodge. It was about a 15-20 minute walk from downtown. It had amazing views of the mountains, a lot of wildlife and an incredible breeze making AC unnecessary.
After checking out the hotel’s property, we made the short walk to town…down a bunch of steep hills. Unlike in the U.S. where we just blow up or bulldoze land to make roads and bridges, in Costa Rica it’s like they embrace the challenges the land presents. The steepness of some of the hills we descended on foot and in vehicles we incredible, and as I said before, the skill the of the drivers was always impressive. I’d probably be off a cliff somewhere!
Our first stop was a smoothie shop. It was truly delicious. I can almost still taste how fresh it was! We also checked out some souvenir shops before going to a taco place for something to eat. They were honestly some of the best, if not the best, tacos I’d ever had. Gabe even ventured trying their hot sauce and thoroughly enjoyed it. We stopped by a coffee shop before heading back and booked a tour at the Don Juan Coffee Plantation for the next afternoon.
The next day we woke up to what you could call a rainstorm, except it was really just a cloud sitting on top of Monteverde. The wind would blow and you’d get wet, but it wasn’t really raining consistently. We had a delicious breakfast at our hotel. They cooked everything to order. I indulged my sweet tooth, of course, with some pancakes, while Gabe enjoyed eggs with veggies and meat. We also had fresh fruit and freshly baked bread.
Soon after we were picked up for our zipline adventure at Selvatura. We were excited, but as mentioned earlier, a bit nervous. After checking in at the park, we got fitted in our gear and headed off for some instruction before hitting the lines. We had a pretty mixed group with a set of great grandparents, a few young couples like Gabe and I, and a family with a little boy. The tour was constantly moving so you didn’t have too much time to dwell on being nervous. I don’t have any pictures from the adventure as my camera was sealed in my pocket by my gear. Gabe snapped a bunch though so hopefully I can share those at a later time. In between some of the lines, we actually had to hike which was really neat. It was muddy, but it was so cool to be walking around a rainforest in weather that’s very typical of a rainforest. We even saw some monkeys!
The weather made things interesting. At times the zip lines would literally disappear into fog. Sometimes the wind gusted as you were going across. But ultimately that just added more to the experience. I never felt unsafe and I thought our guides were all very nice.
After the adventure, we hopped a bus back but decided to get off downtown to grab some food. I have to say I definitely enjoyed the food. We didn’t have a bad meal anywhere regardless of the price. It was as we were beginning our walk back to the hotel that I realized my camera was missing. After having survived an entire zipline tour zipped in my pocket, it was now gone. I ran back to the restaurant with no luck and then just started thinking about when I last had it. It was on the bus back from the zipline. I had taken it out, but distinctly recalled putting it back but didn’t remember zipping my pocket back up.
Part of me was resigned to the fact that I had lost it, but then I remembered the tour office for the park was just up the street. The young man working called the bus driver and he said he’d check and call back. With amazing luck, he found my camera and would be by in about 30 minutes. I guess when I didn’t zip my pocket back up, the bumpy roads bounced it out and I never noticed. I was so very thankful!
On our walk back we stopped at this cute cafe and grabbed some dessert. I so felt like I needed a treat after the camera fiasco! I had some sort of chocolate cheesecake, while Gabe got a pastry. They were both quite yummy. After relaxing for a bit, our bus to the Don Juan Coffee Plantation came to pick us up.
Despite how chilly it was, I opted for shorts and a long sleeve shirt. Even with the tour being almost entirely outside in the wind, I was never really cold. Take that, old couple who was talking about my choice in clothing behind my back!
We learned a lot on the tour, and not only about coffee, but also chocolate and sugar cane.
Our guide, who was very knowledgeable and entertaining.
A roaster…did you know the light roast is the most complex in flavor and the least bitter?
Gabe got to help with the sugarcane press…we got to taste it with a bit of lemon juice after and it was quite yummy and oh so fresh!
Gabe ended up buying some coffee to bring home, while I picked up some chocolate covered almonds and cocoa butter.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel while waiting for our transfer bus to Manuel Antonio. While at breakfast, we were visited by a few animals, including a beautiful bird and a coati.
His colors were so vibrant!
And then this fella came and ate all the fruit.
At some point during breakfast, the grandfather of a little girl came running in to the recepcion (hotel lobby) to ask the attendant to call the hospital. Meanwhile outside her dad was carrying her while she was screaming her head off. They ended up getting in the car to head to a medical clinic. There was one right up the road thankfully. When her mom, grandmother and little brother came in, Gabe asked if everything was ok. We had been on a tour with them back in Arenal and they also did the zipline adventure, so we had seen quite a bit of them. Turns out they had left their shoes outside overnight because of the mud and despite shaking them out this morning, a scorpion had managed to stay in the little girl’s shoe. She was walking and suddenly started screaming after getting stung.
To satisfy my curiosity, Gabe googled information about scorpions in Costa Rica. Apparently their venom isn’t very strong and usually just causes swelling and numbness for a few hours. Hopefully the little girl was on the mend soon after.
Around 8 a.m. we were picked up to begin our 4.5-5 hour journey to Monteverde. The first part of the journey was slow and very bumpy. The roads were rough, narrow and often steep and curvy. At some point we crossed into a more arid climate in the mountains. Things became very dry and the vegetation changed pretty dramatically. It also provided for some amazing views of where we had just spent the last couple days.
The cloud forest where Monteverde is. I took this from the moving van.
As you can see, in the foreground the land is very dry, but where the cloud is sitting on the mountains it’s very lush and green. It was an incredible view and this photo doesn’t do it justice at all.
Well that’s all for our visit to Monteverde. I’ll be back next week with the third and final recap of our trip to Costa Rica, which will cover Manuel Antonio and San Jose.