“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
COSTA RICA :: MONTEVERDE
One week before I left for Costa Rica I was let go from my position (see my About Me for more details). While a blessing in disguise (as some of you know), I was faced with the ebb and flow of emotions that are common to follow. Even though I was not going to let that bring me down, I never could have foreseen that Costa Rica meant being nestled in the perfect culture and mindset. Costa Rica is beautiful inside and out. It is a place where the life motto is to live freely, slowly, in the moment, and to never take anything for granted. Pura Vida is said among the locals but it is more than just a saying; it is an attitude and a wonderful way of life.
We were excursioning day and night so I had little time to ponder and process but I did have fleeting moments of feeling unsettled. I would come to realize that the small pit in my chest was the feeling of missing my kids at work. The smallest accomplishments that they made were the biggest of celebrations and I was fortunate to have been a part of their journey for a short period of time.
With that being said, my trip to Costa Rica allowed me to embrace what was going on in my life much faster than I probably would have at home. I was immersed into the positive and refreshing Costa Rican attitude.
“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing in pursuit of something else.” – Lawrence Block
On with the good details! I’m going to be spacing my posts out by location; Monteverde, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio so that you get a detailed look at all three hot spots. I hope you enjoy!
If you are looking for an adventure a.k.a getting lost; rent a car. Drivers in Costa Rica are much like drivers in Massachusetts but instead of an interstate, imagine you are on a windy dirt road on the side of a steep mountain. If you are NOT looking to risk your life, there are several modes that are available that will leave the daredevil driving to the locals. We opted for a public/private shuttle service. Before booking, we checked out Anywhere Costa Rica, Desafio Adventure Company, and our hotels. With public/private shuttle service, it is going to cost you anywhere from $160-$210 in total depending on location so we just went with the best offer. We booked Anywhere Costa Rica from San Jose Airport (SJO) to Monteverde and while our driver didn’t have the most grande of personalities, he got us there safely. He did so kindly introduce us to what is called a “Costa Rican massage,” a.k.a driving on a rocky, dirt road. How do you say ouch in Spanish?
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel El Establo. In the midst of the Cloud Forest, you are welcomed with incredible views, a heated pool, a mild abundance of wanted and unwanted nature (story to come), and affordable transportation ($3 dollar taxi ride) to the small town below; Santa Elena. Hotel staff speaks English. So, if your spanish is anything like mine where it only covers hola, adios, gracias, and un poquito, then need not fret. You will do just fine. TRAVEL TIP: Do zip all of your bags after use OR you will find yourself coming back from dinner and going into your cosmetic bag to wash your face and finding a large beetle making a home next to your face toner. EEK! While it was a 45 minute ordeal before the beetle was set free, he would become our guardian angel. You will find out why in my post about Manuel Antonio.
*the view from our balcony*
*sunsets, pools, and brews*
*the peacock farm at our hotel, no big deal*
Only con for the hotel was that the service was sub par; everyone went home at 10 p.m. so if we had a real emergency (like say a snake was in our room or our toilet was clogged or whatever the case may be), we would have to wait until the morning. No bueno. Other than that, the hotel was very good and comes highly recommended!
We booked excursions and town-to-town transportation through Desafio Adventure Company. Staff was helpful, professional, friendly and somewhat funny (the running jokes were “do you want to see something scary?” “please sign your life away here,” etc.). The adventures in Monteverde are deep in the Cloud Forest and they are worth every penny. We opted for the Canopy/Suspension Bridges/Hummingbird Garden and it was amazing. We had 13 lines of ziplining and 7 bridges through the rich rainforest.
The hummingbird garden was a little on the pricey side for what was offered but still a very cool experience. Imagine our hummingbirds on steroids and you get a clear picture of the size of these fluttering beauties.
We spent the rest of our free time exploring the small town of Santa Elena and enjoying our pool.
Free breakfast was given at our hotel (does it put American free breakfast bars to shame? OH YES). We were greeted with the most amazing coffee that we’ve ever had, piles of fruit (watermelon, guava, and pineapple), fried plantains for days, rice and beans for years, and pastries for life. SO yum! Since we were only there for two nights, we didn’t explore much of the town cuisine but it was delicious! Details below.
Tree House Restaurant & Café – Our table was settled nicely next to a large tree branch while the live music strummed in the background. Would I go there again? YES! DO get the Nachos Tree House a.k.a the best nachos in all the land. DO NOT get the Sangria a.k.a. sweet juice.
Sabor Tico Restaurant – A traditional restaurant nearby our hotel; the menu is filled with grandma’s recipes. DO ask for Diego; the nicest waiter in all the land. DO get the Olla de Carne (yummy soup), gallo (meat and cheese with a corn tortilla), and the tacos (mouthwatering chicken, cheese and avocado tucked in a fried tortilla), and a mango milkshake. Ta DIE. DO ask for a pitcher of beer, joke about the idea that you will get a 40oz, and then laugh when you get a 40oz.
While every night we had the greatest of intentions to rage after dinner, we would take a few bites of food and a few sips of beer and qualify THAT as more than enough rage for the evening. We did stop by the annual festival (which was called a rodeo – so much confusion) on our last night. Costa Rican people know how to party because the festival was most likely heard all the way from San José. It involved live music, dancing, and churros/grilled corn for days. We danced a little and then we went home and had our friendship building experience with the beetle. DO expect to see all your waiters and tour guides at the festival and consider yourself a local. BUENO.
~THE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS~
~WHAT I LEARNED~
1. At the SJO airport, they offer you a tasting of Ron Centenario (Costa Rican Rum). DO NOT say no. It’s delicious! I hate rum and it was SO yum.
2. DO pack a few more light sweaters because the Cloud Forest climate is cool and dry in the morning, a little humid and very hot in the afternoon, and cool and dry in the evening.
3. DO NOT pass up the opportunity to take a Coffee/Chocolate tour. That was our one regret and we heard it was amazing.
NEXT STOP: ARENAL.