A MISTY STAY IN THE MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST
Following our time on the Osa Peninsula we were back on a flight to San Jose and a 3 hour journey later, we arrived at The Monteverde Lodge and Gardens around mid-afternoon. This is a hotel which is owned by Costa Rica Expeditions and in comparison was a totally different style of lodge to our former abode. This hotel was located down a long driveway set in some very pretty manicured gardens and as you walk through the entrance, you get a real homely feel, especially with a roaring fire burning opposite you in the Le Jardin restaurant.
MONTEVERDE LODGE & GARDENS
The hotel is located in the very small town of Monteverde (meaning green mountain) and has a number of National Parks in the vicinity as well as a number of tours and activities to keep you occupied. The lodge sits proudly 4,500 feet above sea level with lovely views of the surroundings. Take a look at it’s exact location in Costa Rica on my Itenary map.
We quickly checked into our room of 3 nights and decided to explore the grounds of our new abode and the facilities. The lodge has a very relaxed atmosphere comprising of 28 rooms in total. We picked a forest view balcony room which came well-equipped with everything we could ever need for our stay. The balcony proved a good spot to look at the resident monkeys and you could definitely hear the sounds of the forest whilst you were lying in bed at night. If that wasn’t enough within the hotel grounds there were numerous trails you could explore down and spot the hotels resident wildlife!
The hotel has a butterfly garden where you can enjoy a private dinner
We were pleased to learn, the hotel’s restaurant, Le Jardin was named as being the best restaurant in the Monteverde region! I’m not the hugest fan of breakfast buffets and I was glad to see that neither was anywhere we stayed in Costa Rica! As well as serving a la carte breakfast Le Jardin was one of our favourite dining establishments not just because the food was amazing but also because of the much needed open fire that bought life to the restaurant as a centre point. The difference between Monteverde and the Osa Peninsula was quite succinct in the fact that up here it was a lot cooler, with bouts of showers, but then again that’s the cloud forest experience!
Dr C recommends the Octopus
For the Veggies, I recommend the corn pancakes with mozzarella
We both recommend the wine!
A simple but well made breakfast accompanied with fruit, juices and an assortment of baked goods.
SANTA ELENA TOWN & MONTEVERDE
Monteverde is a peaceful community made up of dairy farmers, naturalists and tourism service providers. They seem to have all joined together and created an initiative for sustainability by developing and protecting their surrounding area. Founded in 1954 by a group of Quakers looking for a place to live, it has now become the home of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and an area of outstanding beauty.
A five minute walk from the hotel is the town centre of Monteverde with the local conveniences and a handful of shops, local restaurants, cafes and another 15 minute walk would take you to the centre of St Elena where again there is a little church and more restaurants to sample some local cuisine. A lot of Costa Rican dishes use black beans as a staple including soups and sauces and accompanies meats and fish really well. My personal favourite is the black bean soup.
ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA
During the planning stages of the trip, we picked out a couple of native activities to experience in the area. As we were only there for 3 nights and wanted some time to relax and explore the trails around our lodge, we shortlisted activities to trekking 2 out of 3 reserves with a private naturalist guide from the lodge and a trip to a local family run sugar mill.
The day started at 07:00 when we met our guide, Donald at the lodge reception with a packed lunch which we ordered with the restaurant staff the night before. Ronaldo is a Naturalist guide who is employed by the lodge therefore works with our tour company Costa Rice Expeditions. This was going to be a full day trip with a 4 hour hike in the Curi-cancha Reserve and a further 3.5 hour hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest post lunch. It was, hiking boots on and to the ready……
The Curi-Cancha Reserve protects 96 hectares or 237 acres of forest. Several large open areas make good points to stop and look for birds. Curi-Cancha has a bird list of over 200 species including the Resplendant Quetzal, the Three-Wattled Bellbird, Toucans, Black Guans and many others. It is also possible to see the White-Faced Capuchin, Howler and Spider Monkeys.
Curi-Cancha’s policy is to never have more than 40 guests in the reserve at the same time. The reasons for this are twofold, first to protect the forest and second to insure a high quality experience for guests. Donald, our guide made a good call and decided we should head to Curi-cancha first thing to ensure we were one of the first to get particular sightings incase it became harder to spot wildlife during a warmer time of the day.
Now, I think I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy hiking but never before have I been seen so interested in birds until I arrived in Costa Rica! I think I finally get what all the excitement is about and trust me there is a lot of excitement around Monteverde. I think this was more particularly because it was the season to gain a rare sighting of the majestic Inca bird, Quetzal.
The resplendent Quetzal is the majestic national bird of Guatemala. The ancient Mayans, viewed the bird as ‘the god of the air’. They also viewed it as symbolising freedom and wealth as certain ranks of nobility at the time wore headdresses made of the Quetzal feathers. Since it was a crime to kill a Quetzal (still observed) the bird was captured, the long tail feathers removed and it was released back to the wild.
At the time of our visit, Ronaldo told us we were very lucky as we managed to see 7 Quetzals throughout our hike, both male and female. He confirmed there had been no sightings of the birds except for that day. We really were lucky to get these rare moments watching the males try and get the females attention.
Additionally as we were guests of Monterverde Lodge, we had special entry to walk through the Private Curi-Cancha reserve which literally had no visitors except us!
Curi-Cancha also houses an exclusive hummingbird feeding garden which is just really mesmerising
MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve offers a variety of hikes through varying rainforest and is made up of a number of hikes and comprises, primary, secondary and untouched rainforest.
Again we had the opportunity to see the Quetzal, coatis and 9 different species of hummingbirds.
Looking for bats…
Following a full days hike, our last day entailed some less vigorous activity.
SKY WALK AND SKY TRAM
If you love heights then this will be your thing. The Skytram is a gondola which soars through the cloud forest offering endless views during the assent. You finally stop at 6000 feet, where the continental divide can be seen, where you can see the Gulf of Nicoya, the mountain range and the cloud forest. Unfortunately being a cloud forest, we were told that there would be no view as its’ very rare for the clouds to lift up there. However we got a double whammy, it rained too – so no spectacular views!
Due to the bad weather we didn’t fancy the zip line experience again but if you want to complete a Zip line course for its speed then Sky Trek is for you.
We continued to join a naturalist guide and walked the 4 suspension bridges (Sky Walk) high up in the canopy of the cloud forest, where we also spotted a tarantula!
MONTEVERDE TRAPICHE SUGAR MILL TOUR
The clouds blew away and the sun came out during the afternoon of our last day so we decided to head back out and do one last trip to a Trapiche. A ‘trapiche’ is a small mill. It is run by local family and visiting the farm and looking how the turn of the century process was once used to process sugar. The real draw to this place was the amazing views of the Nicoya Gulf, the 100% Arabica Costa Rican coffee plantation, sampling local sugar cane juice and picadillo de arracache (Costa Rican Hash made from a root vegetable) and getting very hands on and making some candy from sugar cane. There was also copious amounts of chocolate tasting on offer as the mill had a selection of cocoa beans. This actually was a really interesting experience for me as it showcased the life of locals, a few decades ago and how they farmed.
Views of the estate…
Add some sugar to the ground cocoa…
Working oxes are used at the estate to demonstrate the process from the past…
And finally some tasting…
And with that final experience complete it was time to return to the lodge and sit beside the fire and think about our next destination…
Monterverde Lodge and Gardens
400 metros al este del Ranario
Santa Elena 25216
Tel. +506 2257 0766
For more information, please visit the Monteverde Lodge website
Tell me what did you think of the Resplendent Quetzal? Have you ever had the opportunity to see such a bird? Please feel free to leave me comments below about my whistle-stop stay in Monteverde.
Read the next part in The Pura Vida Series…