Costa Rica Adventure: Exploring Monteverde & The Cloud Forest
January is right in the heart of the high season in Costa Rica, which is a good time to visit because it’s not so wet. During our two-week tour of the country, we visited four different provinces—Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde (The Cloud Forest) and Manuel Antonio. In this article, I will be focusing on Monteverde and the Cloud Forest, the third location on our big adventure.
We stayed in the small village of Santa Elena at the Hotel Poco a Poco during our time in Monteverde. The hotel had a modern feel with plenty of amenities, however, it did not have an elevator and our room was on the fourth floor. We looked at it as an opportunity for more exercise to offset all of the eating we were doing!
The first thing that struck us as we were approaching Santa Elena was the wind. It’s nothing to have 30 to 40 mph gusts, and the wind never stops. The wind blew all day and all night. The locals dismissed it out of hand when we mentioned how windy it was just as they had done in Tortuguero when we asked about all the rain. It’s just part of the experience. Other than the constant wind, the town was a picturesque, hilly little village with the usual assortment of shops, markets, restaurants and cafés. We enjoyed wandering through the streets and up and down the hills, taking in the sights and tastes of the area.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
We did not go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve; instead, we chose a guided hanging-bridges hike at Selvatura Adventure Park adjacent to the reserve. In addition to the hanging bridges, Selvatura also offers zipline canopy tours and is home to an impressive butterfly pavilion and an amazing hummingbird garden. I wasn’t sure I’d feel comfortable with the hanging bridges as I’m afraid of heights, but I was pleasantly surprised.
First, I have to say that once we got up into the trees of the cloud forest, the wind died down considerably. I was so grateful for this because I felt uneasy about being up so high above the trees. I imagined that we would find rickety old hanging bridges made of wood and rope that would sway wildly in the gusty winds. I was relieved to find that the bridges were very secure metal structures, and although we were quite high (approximately 130 feet on the highest bridge), the sway was minimal and there were sturdy handrails to steady yourself.
It was an incredible feeling looking down on the treetops! We were very lucky the day we went that the clouds were not so dense as to limit our views. Much of the time, the area is engulfed in thick clouds obscuring the views—hence the name “cloud forest”. On our hike through the dense green vegetation, we crossed a series of eight bridges that increased in height as we progressed. Along the way, we saw a family of Howler monkeys (including a mama carrying her baby), tiny orchids so small we needed a magnifying glass to see them well (our guide just happened to have one) and even a tarantula that our guide “persuaded” out of her den.
In addition to the hanging bridges hike, we also enjoyed a trip through the butterfly pavilion where we learned some interesting facts about butterflies in Costa Rica, and the hummingbird garden was beyond incredible! We saw at least eight different species of hummingbirds all buzzing around a group of feeders. Some were very tiny, and one, in particular, was quite large at about six inches. It was amazing to stand and watch all that activity whirling around us, hummingbirds diving and swooping, zooming in and out of feeders. Some of the males, known for being quite territorial, were engaged in aerial battles trying to claim a feeder for themselves. We stayed watching them for almost 30 minutes. My husband got so excited when a coati mundi came ambling nonchalantly through the garden. This was one of his favorite animals from the Amazon that he’d read about as a child.
We enjoyed our time in the cloud forest and Santa Elena was a sweet little village with hills to offer some additional exercise. But our stay there was short and it was time to move on to our final stop on our Costa Rican tour—Manuel Antonio.
© 2019 Traci Wilson