Home Page Link


Day Four - Monteverde or Bust . . . or Crash

The Hotel Near the Volcano
(Click to Enlarge)

Another early morning, quite naturally. A quick visit to the lobby for an Internet check on the Tigers and Wings and to say hello to a few folks back home and I headed over for some breakfast and then walked around outside for a very clear view of the volcano in the morning light.

The drive to Monteverde was a harrowing experience. It began when the driver arrived and introduced himself. I soon discovered he spoke almost no English, but that was OK. He explained to me in Spanish that it would take four hours to get there. That was a little surprising, considering the distance, but it wouldn't be a mystery for too long.

A good many of the drivers in Costa Rica are a little crazy, but this is one trip I'll never forget. We zipped around very tight corners at 100 km/h (~60 mph) and weaved in and out of traffic, letting nothing impede our progress. Often, it was clear that we'd need to stop or slow down for something, but the driver instead would accelerate, breaking only at the last possible second, if at all. After about ten minutes, I decided it was best if I didn't look where we were going so much and instead watch the incredible scenery.

Lake Arenal
(Click to Enlarge)
Hills of Monteverde
(Click to Enlarge)

A large part of the landscape consisted of LaGuana de Arenal, an 88 square km man-made lake. Though several small towns were submerged in the process, the hydroelectric project provides 70% of the electricity for the country and also valuable water for the Guanacaste province.

Driving around the enormous lake greatly extends the distance traveled and explains to some extent the lengthy travel time. Then, of course, we hit the long, bumpy, dirt roads and that concluded the equation.

The view itself the whole way is nothing short of spectacular. From the lake and the volcano to the bright green hills and valleys of Monteverde, the drive, though death defying, was indeed enjoyable, particularly once we slowed down a bit.

Monteverde, which sits on the continental divide of Costa Rica, was founded by Quakers from the USA who sought a war-free home as the States prepared for the Korean War. Costa Rica itself does not have a military. Monteverde and nearby Santa Elena still have a very heavy Quaker influence among the relatively small populations in this area.

Eventually we arrived at Hotel Heliconia, where I was greeted at reception with some sort of red tropical drink (muy bien!). It was very nice hotel and a great location, as it would turn out, with some quality food and entertainment just around the corner. The rooms were very large and colorful and the bathroom was quite nice. I would definitely recommend Heliconia for a stay in Monteverde.

Tree Top Walkway
(Click to Enlarge)
Howler Monkey
(Click to Enlarge)

Right across the street from Heliconia was a restaurant/Internet cafe/art gallery/coffee house hybrid called Atmosphera. The food was just fantastic and the staff quite friendly and helpful. Add a couple bottles of Imperial and it was the perfect lunch.

With a free afternoon ahead, I decided a walk through the cloud forest would be in order. I reserved a place in the next tree top bridge tour. Over roughly two miles of suspended bridges and trails, you walk deep into the cloud forest and observe the impressive plant and animal life. The rain and cloud forests have a lot of symbiotic life growing near the tops of the trees, seeking better access to sunlight in the dense forest, while in turn providing moisture to the trees during the drier seasons. A lot of colorful plants and flowers grow near the tops of the trees.

Back in town, I found another interesting place just around the corner from the hotel for dinner. It's called Moon Shiva and features Mediterranean dishes, often prepared with a homemade salsa. The food was outstanding and they also had live music at night. I had found two great places within yards of my hotel.

I stopped by the hotel bar to grab an Imperial and also see if I could learn a bit more about the area. The servers and bartender were very friendly and entertaining. I stayed for a bit and chatted and learned of a few spots I may visit later. They insisted I could walk to any of them and it would be perfectly safe. I decided to give it a go and walked down the road for about 15 minutes or so until I ran into some people and asked if they could point the way to Amigos. They obliged and I found myself at a pretty festive dance bar with live salsa music. The band was very good and a good majority of the people on the floor could move quite well to the music. I enjoyed the show for a while before heading back.



Day Five

Untitled Document

Day123456789      Costa Rica