To soar through the misty skies, squawking with the birds above an endless sea of ever-changing greens. To slowdown and watch the beautifully efficient march of a colony of ants instinctively cutting, cleaning, and carrying leaves back to their home. To enjoy some really, really good coffee.
This is why you would go to Monteverde.
Getting To Monteverde
We flew into Daniel Oduber Quirós airport, a small six gate international terminal located in the north-west Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. We did this for a couple reasons: 1) It was significantly cheaper, allowing us to redeem AAdvantage miles with American Airlines for free flights and 2) it was much closer to the areas we wanted to explore meaning we didn’t have to spend as much time in the car commuting between places.
Most flights from the Washington, D.C. area landed in the early afternoon. Our first stop was going to be Monteverde, which according to a few GPS maps, is about two and a half hours away. Accounting for getting through immigration, picking up our rental car, the drive itself, and the fact that Costa Rica is on a year-round 6am-6pm, sun-up/sun-down cycle, we didn’t want to risk arriving in the mountain town after dark with no sense of how the unpaved roads and lack of guard rails around vertical cliffs would be.
Taking a leisurely slide into our agenda, we took a much quicker, 20-minute drive to nearby Playa Hermosa where we stayed in a bungalow owned by an American expat from Washington state. Only needing the place for one night, he bumped us up to his pool-side, larger room that just happened to be vacant the day that we arrived. The good ol’ perks of circumstance.
The beach was within a half-hour walk and even closer by car, so we drove down to catch the beginning of the sunset and grabbed a drink at a beach-side resort, settling down into a pair of Adirondack chairs, seeming to slip further and further back after each sip of our drinks.
Wanting to get up early for our commute to the inland mountains, we called it an early night and headed back to the Airbnb to take advantage of the pool before tucking into bed. Only the clouds decided to open up as soon as we got back, sending water pounding down. Not to be entirely deterred, we set our alarms even earlier and got an early morning swim in before hitting the road.
Our GPS took us back through Liberia and onto Highway 1. The road was well-paved and traffic was virtually non-existent. What was annoying, however, was the constant changing of speed limits. We read plenty of articles before the trip about the terrors of getting stopped by police – they targeted foreigners, they threatened punishment to secure bribes, intimidation was common – a number of things we didn’t want to experience, so I hovered my foot right at the speed limit, my desire for nothing bad to happen acting as cruise control.
The speed would fluctuate between 60 kph to 80 to 40 to 90 to 25 and each of these changes could be within 100meters of one another. If there was a building nearby, the speed slowed down until the building ended, then you sped back up. If a school was nearby, you were going to brake and slug past the zone.
Perhaps I’m living off the hindsight of nothing happening, but I believe my over caution was probably unwarranted. We saw one traffic stop but the basic attitude toward speed was “faster is better.” People would pass you no matter how fast you were already going and they’d do it in front of an oncoming Policía truck.
This continued until Waze finally told us to make a left turn onto a bumpy road. Without oncoming traffic, it wasn’t terribly hard to avoid the larger potholes, but the overall unevenness of the road made us bounce along for what seemed like forever. There were a few instances where the unpaved gravel turned into severe inclines made up of more rock than road. I highly recommend against trying this route with anything but a 4×4 capable vehicle. (If you 100% must get a smaller sedan, the road from San Jose all the way to Monteverde is fully paved.)
As we climbed higher and higher and neared the mountain peak, the views become plentiful. The sky was a bright azul and melted into an even deeper blue of what I could only assume was a body of water (Lake Arenal and the Gulf of Nicoya would be the two largest bodies of water in the area, but I’m not positive.) Along the drive are lots of dogs hanging out in the middle of the road, allowing you to pass only after you roll down the window and give a quick “Hola, señor!”
The other main animal you’ll see are cows. Lots and lots of skinny cows. As we passed fields of beautiful brahmin, getting closer and closer, I kept asking Rachel if she’d take a picture of me with the cows. I got every rejection in the book: “no, what if a car comes?” “no, they’re too far away.” “no, it’s weird.” Well, guess who got to let out an exclamatory “YES!” when a horde of bumbling bovine came bouncing around the corner… Yours truly.
The delightful high of the moment kept a grin on my face for the rest of the drive as we turned down the face of the mountain and entered Santa Elena, the slightly larger town that was situated beside Monteverde.