This weekend, Christina, Kat and I took off for the beautiful Monteverde. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a stunning natural reserve that is rated one as of the 7 wonders of Costa Rica. We spent Saturday morning on a bus snaking our way up through the mountains on an unpaved road, barely big enough to fit our bus (this was a terrifying 2 hours). The views were amazing though, and provided a welcome distraction from imagining our bus toppling over the side of the mountain. It was sunny and hot, and I took approximately 1 million pictures on my iPhone that all look exactly the same.
Once we got to the town of Santa Elena, which is right outside the forest, we had to hike up and down steep hills until we got to our hostel (we got lost but a nice man from another hostel guided us to ours). Monteverde Backpackers is an adorable little hostel tucked into the side of a hill and covered in painted murals. Two of the cutest dogs in the world live at the hostel, one of whom used to be named Bob Marley when his fur was black, but now he’s turning white, so they call him Michael Jackson. Bob/Michael has a semi-gross, semi-endearing habit of licking any part of your face he can reach, including the inside of your mouth. Beware.
Our helpful hostel man-person helped us book two tours right away. We started off with a tour of the Don Juan coffee plantation, which was super educational and interesting since the three of us all worked at Starbucks together. The plantation was beautiful, and we got to see the stages of the coffee plants and the green coffee beans. We even got to meet Don Juan himself, an ancient and adorable little man who tottered over to us in his cowboy hat and tucked-in plaid shirt and shook each of our hands. We got to try coffee beans, cocoa beans, fresh squeezed cane juice, and other tasty treats. The tour had a few American old ladies who, once they found out we worked at Starbucks, started asking us questions instead of the tour guide. At the end, we got to taste the different types of coffee they produce, which was definitely a step up from what we’ve been buying at the grocery store.
After the coffee tour, we had lunch at the Treehouse Restaurant and Café, which boasted being named ‘one of the top 10 most bizarre restaurants in the world’ by anytrip.com. It was a second-floor restaurant set in a treetop and it was definitely cool. We couldn’t figure out what was bizarre about it though. The food was tasty, if a little expensive, and we had a great view of a girl shaving her boyfriend’s back outside.
Next up was our Night Walk, which started at 5:30 p.m. We bundled up (the mountain is very windy) and got handed flashlights. As the sun started to set, we walked into the forest and immediately came upon a mom and baby sloth eating in the lower branches of a tree. The mom was light grey and huge (though our tour guide told us it was mostly fur and she only weighed a couple of pounds) and her baby had dark fur. They were both happily eating, preparing for their next 20-hour snooze. We were so close you could see their faces and long claws. Cool fact about sloths: they only come down from the tree once a week to do their ‘business’.
After the tour guide dragged us away from the sloths, we got to see a couple more sloths (yay!), frogs, cool insects, a tarantula in its hole, brown jays, a toucan, possums, and a porcupine (which strangely lives in trees in Costa Rica). We also saw a creature with glowing eyes from across the valley, but it ended up just being a regular cat. The night tour lasted about 2 hours and was definitely a different experience.
Sunday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6 a.m. and took off for the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We picked a 3-hour route through the rainforest and started hiking. The reserve only lets in a certain number of people per day to protect the rainforest, and so we barely saw anyone on our hike. We got to see several lookout points, a suspension bridge, a waterfall and lots of cool rainforesty things. It was absolutely gorgeous and from the lookout points, you could actually see that you were standing in a cloud. We hiked for 3 hours, but barely covered half of the trails. The reserve is huge and full of steep climbs up and down. We were all exhausted and covered in mud by the end, but it was definitely worth it.
After we got back to town, we checked out of the hostel (bye Bob Marley!) and headed to Taco Taco, a little food stand where we feasted on tacos and burritos with our two new American friends. Finally, we caught the bus back to San Jose. During this trip, half the passengers got motion sick from the winding dirt roads. Luckily, I avoided this misfortune by passing out and drooling on my unlucky seat mate for 2 hours.
Kat left us in Monteverde and headed to Arenal and Manuel Antonio for a few days while Christina and I went back to work in San Jose. We will meet up with her again this weekend in Puerto Viejo!
And so begins the slow countdown until Friday…