Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica, Post 1 - Monteverde

We're back from Costa Rica! It was such a WONDERFUL trip. Since we hit about 4 cities, and there's so much to tell about each, I decided to break up the trip into 4 posts. So here's the first...

First a general statement of Costa Rica in June. June is considered the "rainy" season. That means that everything is a beautiful green, but there is a chance of rain each afternoon. Usually beautiful in the mornings then a 2-3 hour shower (but which the sun is still out) and then clear at night. We found the weather BEAUTIFUL. It only rained hard 3 days of the trip and only for 2-3 hours each time. There were 2 or 3 sprinkle days but everytime it rained the sun was always still out and it was nice. Also because it was the "off" season there were many less people, cooler temps (esp by the beach), and much cheaper hotels (they have 'dry' and 'wet' season prices). I would totally recommend going in June, plus, it's much easier to book tours at the last minute because of the fewer crowds. Usually 24 hrs. in advance is perfect, but the day of is often fine too.

We arrived in San Jose (the capital city) on Sunday May 31st. We picked up our rental car (Dollar) and drove straight to Monteverde. It was about a 3 hour drive north, and the roads so far weren't that bad. The last hour of the drive was off the "highway" (a paved road, but without any lines or "rules"), and onto a dirt road. But really, the driving even on these roads was not as bad as I had envisioned it. Monteverde is in the cloud forest and is very close (walkable) to its sister city, Santa Elena. We stayed about half way between these two areas at a place called Cabinas Los Pinos. They were AWESOME little cabins, with plenty of space, a small kitchen, but no A/C. Which in Monteverde is very common and A/C was totally not necessary when we were there. In fact some nights were a little chilly. Los Pinos is also a small family run hotel, so the service was great and it was very well maintained. We stayed 2 1/2 days in Monteverde and did many things. The first, and by far the best, thing we did was a zip line canopy tour through the cloud forest (think rain forest). There were 16 platforms and it was AWESOME! We used a company called Salvetura and we also did a hanging bridges tour, where you walk through the cloud forest on this series of suspension bridges. We also did a coffee plantation tour (Don Juan), a cheese factory tour (Monteverde Cheese Factory), Climbed a hugh hollowed out fig tree (you'll have to see pictures to understand), and did a night walking tour to find lots of night creatures (our first, but not last, sighting of a sloth). A few quick notes about the tours, I would recommend everything we did in the Monteverde region (/santa elena), it was all wonderful. The cheese factory was actually established by quakers who moved to costa rica from alabama after having served 366 days in prison for not registered for the draft. Military service was against their religino, so they moved to costa rica because it was (and still is) a military free country. And the hollowed out fig tree that we climbed was very cool. It's called a strangler tree, and what happens is that after eating the fruits from a fig tree, the squirls deposit the seeds on top of other trees. If there is enough light, the seed will sprout into another ficus tree, and actually start growing on top of the host tree. The roots of the new ficus grow downward toward the ground and the branches upward. Eventually the host tree is strangled and it's food and nutrients are cut off and it dies. About 50-60 years later the host tree completely rots away and you're left with a hollow lattice work structure that you can go in and climb up. But you have to know the super secret place to find this tree, since there are no tours to it (thankfully). As far as the food in Monteverde, almost all of it was wondeful. If you go, I would recommend Restaurante De Lucia, Stella's bakery, Chimera, and the Tree House for dessert, but I would not recommend Morpho's Cafe. After Monteverde, it was off to Arenal Volcano.

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