We left Arenal for Monteverde using one of the quickest option possible – a shuttle bus, a boat and another shuttle bus.
The boat would take us across Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake. It was expanded by the Government in 1979 and the dam that runs off it provides around 12% of the country’s electricity. Anything manmade in the midst of beautiful country sounds unappealing but it was all forgotten once we were out on the water.
We waved goodbye to Arenal, excited to explore somewhere completely new.
The hills rolled beside us and it felt like the lake could go on and on. But just as I had got into our journey we were pulling up on the shore and heading back into the shuttle bus.
I could hardly complain when the views were like this within a few minutes.
Monteverde is 1,440m above sea level (the highest parts of London are only 100m!) and known best for its cloud forests, diverse wildlife and outdoor activities. We climbed up and down so many hills on bumpy gravel roads before finally reaching Santa Elena.
I’d booked a last minute tour around a coffee farm for the afternoon so we pretty much dropped our bags at the hotel and hopped into another tour bus. There is so much to tell you about the coffee farm, I’m saving that for future post!
We only had one full day planned in Monteverde but our lingering jet lag came in handy again as we woke up at 7am the next morning and went out to explore Santa Elena.
One of the best things about being in the mountains is all the fresh coffee so of course we started at Beso Espresso.
Before we were picked up for our trip to Selvatura Park to zip line our way through the cloud forest. It was such a fun way to explore!
We ended on a high with the world’s longest zip line, 1km long! I got such a rush from the speed, the height and views above the forest.
With our feet back on the ground we took to the bridges.
Before long all we could hear was the wildlife. It was so so peaceful.
With no one around I got a little silly with the photos.
But after recovering from a few fits of giggles I was back to enjoying the beauty of the forest.
(Has anyone seen FernGully? I had totally random 90s flashbacks with this view.)
Surprisingly, when we got back to Santa Elena we still weren’t done with our exploring so we went on a hunt for a ficus tree I’d read about during a random Google search about things to do in the area.
A ficus wraps itself around a tree, strangles it, and eventually becomes a tree itself. It sounds pretty evil but it’s pretty spectacular in person.
We’d read that you can climb right up to the top to find an amazing view but as the sun was beginning to drop I chickened out after I climbed up a few feet. I can be a total klutz sometimes and I just pictured getting myself stuck up there!
That night we were fast asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow, lulled into a deep sleep with the sounds of the forest flowing through the room.
After five jam-packed days I was starting to feel totally ready for a week by the beach.
_ _ _ _
How we got there: Taxi-Boat-Taxi.
Where we stayed: Hotel Ficus – Huge rooms with a great view over Santa Elena. It was so nice to be somewhere closer to town, even if it did involve trekking up some big hills before and after dinner (all the more reason to order dessert!)
Where we ate: Treehouse Restaurant – The whole restaurant is wrapped around a huge tree and it’s quite fun ducking your head to get to your table. The food was an average American menu but we enjoyed the simplicity for a night. Toro Tinto – A pretty good steakhouse where I had the best burger! One tip I learnt at this point is to check if the 13% sales tax is included in the menu, it can seem pretty cheap until you get a bill with an extra 13% tax and 12.5% service charge.
Activities: Selvatura Park – There are two zip line parks, we chose this one because I’d read that the zip lines go through the forest rather than over it and because it had the longest zipline too. We paid $30 for the photos, which felt a little steep when we only got a picture at the beginning and one section of the zip lines. Ficus tree – We asked for directions from a local tourist information office.