Monteverde is a major tourist destination in Costa Rica. Several national parks and reserves protect the cloud forests in the area. Monteverde itself is a very small village, most of the hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and shops are actually in the town of Santa Elena.
Going to Monteverde
Monteverde’s bus terminal too is in Santa Elena. The bus ride from San José takes about 4 hours. The last 20 km on a dusty gravel road winding up the mountain are very uncomfortable but, if you take the afternoon bus, you’re rewarded with spectacular views over the Nicoya gulf and a fantastic sunset (if there are no clouds, obviously).
Once at the hostel, the owner, Monkey, asked us what we wanted to do the following day(s) and started selling us all imaginable tours in and around town (haggle, it’s worth it!). We didn’t plan on staying too long in Monteverde so we packed everything in one day, starting at 6.30 am the next morning with a 4 hour birdwatching tour. Birds are everywhere, there’s no need to go to the reserves, so our guide just drove us to several locations in town and we (ok, he) spotted all kinds of birds.
In the afternoon we went to do what I wanted to do for a long time already: a canopy tour. There are several operators in Monteverde who offer canopy tours, we went with Extremo tours. They have 14 cables with at total length of 2.8 km; the tour lasts almost 3.5 hours. After a brief introduction you’re ready to zip through the jungle and it is truly awesome! Most cables you do alone but there are two where you go in pairs, then there’s a rappel, and a Tarzan swing, and two cables where you fly like Superman and can watch the forest below you from a bird’s perspective.
Extremo also offers bungee jumps and the so-called “extremo swing”, which is basically a Tarzan swing but on a larger scale: The rope is 50 meters long and you’re suspended from a platform more than 100 meters above ground. I treated myself to this super Tarzan swing because a) I love Monteverde and its forests and b) because even after 3.5 hours I still hadn’t had enough of canopy (sure, the tour really is exhausting but it’s not something you do every day).
It was really worth it! I screamed louder than Tarzan but to hang on this rope, see the forest around you and all the way to the Nicoya peninsula, enjoy the silence and hear the occasional cry of a bird or a monkey, that’s just incomparable and absolutely priceless (for everything else, there’s Mastercard. Or your husband. Thank you, Hossam!).
Though we were absolutely exhausted, our day still wasn’t over. At 8.20 pm a driver picked us up for the night walk. At first it seemed like a tourist trap and we thought we wouldn’t see any animals. At least three or four groups of around seven people with flashlights walked around a small area of forest but – we really did see animals. And quite a lot of them: An opossum, an armadillo, sloths, sleeping toucans and motmots, a snake, a huge tarantula, and an owl. Not bad for a two hour walk.
Monteverde: Worth a journey!
Monteverde is a very touristy place and you could spend weeks (and a fortune) there if you wanted to, and still couldn’t do all the tours on offer. But above all it’s a great place and you’ll definitely have fun there and will see lots of animals and enjoy the wonderful cloud forest. I just hope it will last a long time for many people to enjoy – the town is growing very fast and tourism and nature can only coexist to a certain degree.