Our Time In Monteverde, Costa Rica – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Hanging bridges in a cloud forest
Hanging bridges in the cloud forest
Where We Stayed

When we originally planned to visit Costa Rica in 2021, we had found a beautiful farm owned by two locals who had a few cabins for rent on the property. Almost exactly one calendar year later, we were fortunate enough to reach back out to those people and they had vacancy for us. We booked quickly with them because of how the pictures looked and plenty of great reviews saying they offered breakfast produced on the farm. We’ll talk more about this in a little bit.

Reina was who we had been messaging with and she prepped us for her arrival. The day we arrived, she had to tend to some personal errands, so we met with her husband, Leo, who didn’t speak a word of English.

After the initial greetings:

“¿Hablas Espanol?” he asked.

“Eh…poquito,” we responded.

We managed to get through the rest of the conversation by speaking in a broken Spanish comprised of stringing words together with gestures and we listened to a lengthy voice recording his wife prepared to be used in her absence. One of the rules of the stay was not to throw the sticks that their larger dog will inevitably bring you because he gets too excited. Don’t worry, we’ll visit this again shortly.

Just kidding, let’s talk about the dogs now because they were among our favorite things in all of Costa Rica. Leo and Reina had two dogs and a cat that wandered the property and apparently loved people. Our first visitor was Kira, a small, soft, fawn colored dog that looked to be a dachshund mix. She was so loving and anytime she saw us, joined in step with our adventures around the property, guiding us along the way. She loved when we took a stroll down to the sunset lookout – an elevated platform built overlooking their cow field – where she could slip between the gate that housed their pregnant pig and lapped up some water from the trough.

Leaf cutter ants and banana tree
A banana stalk and marching leaf cutter ants in the background.

The walk went through a stretch of woods where we were walking when branches started bustling then breaking then crashing louder and louder until this giant, hairy ball of energy came lunging at us. My fight or flight instincts had kicked in and I was fully prepared to take action if this was a bear attacking. I didn’t have to outrun it; I just had to outrun Rachel.

And lo, it was just a very excited puppers who also wanted to join our adventure. We thought this was our property owner’s other dog, but it wasn’t. We’re not actually sure where it came from, just that it enjoyed our company and we didn’t see it past the first day.

No, their second dog was Draco, a larger fluff mix who really enjoyed sticks. After he had joined us for breakfast outside one morning, he starts sniffing around the flowers before poking his head behind a tall bush and proceeds to rip an entire branch off of a tree. He turns towards us with a passionate look in his eyes. He quickly breaks the stick down into a more manageable size but is now able to whip it around faster. In the voice recording from Reina, she asked us not to throw the sticks because it would make him excited and could be unsafe around kids. I’m thinking to myself, forget the kids, I don’t want to loose a leg to this stick-flinging madman.

We loved both Kira and Draco and would 100% come back to give them more pets in the future.

In addition to friendly neighbors and the farm animals, the property also had a beautiful walking path through some impressive flora as well as an aviary with some crazy colored birds. For a very reasonable price, this place seemed like an amazing deal.

They also offered breakfast that could be ordered the night before and brought to your cabin from as early as 6:30am until 10:00am. You could choose between a traditional breakfast, a pancake breakfast, or an American-style breakfast. We opted for the traditional breakfast both mornings along with a pot of coffee. It was essentially a gallo pinto platter of rice, beans, tons of fruit, a quesadilla or toast, and some freshly squeezed juice. There was an additional charge, but it was delicious and kept us satiated well into the day.

Santa Elena

While Monteverde is the more popular name for the area, due in large part because of the nearby reserve, the biggest town in the area is Santa Elena. The downtown is essentially a single, triangle-shaped block that spurts off in several directions and houses the bulk of restaurants and shops.

We tried out some healthy-sounding meals at The Open Kitchen, an open air cafe that provided a little bit of everything with its cuisine-from-around-the-world themed menu. Rachel loved her variety of buddha bowls and I enjoyed a few different sandwiches. On Tuesdays, you can stop by Spectacolar for special pricing on some tasty tacos and great service. Despite being in central America, you’re going to see prices are pretty equivalent to what you’d see in the U.S. Keep in mind that most restaurants will include both a 13% tax and 10% gratuity on top of the posted menu price.

We read that going to sodas was the best way to save money by eating like locals with a traditional plate. A nearby spot was recommended to us – Soda La Cocinita de Lety – and we pass this recommendation on 100%. We both ordered a casado tipico which consisted primarily of rice and beans with some diced, starchy veggies, a protein, small salad, and freshly squeezed juice. ¡Muy delicioso!

Outside of restaurants, you’ll find plenty of tour shops to get your adventures set up as well as some souvenir shops and a grocery store if you’re stocking up for a longer stay.

Probably our favorite spot, however, was an easy to find coffee shop in the downtown area called Café Monteverde. We stopped by here a few times to grab some delicious and inexpensive lattes and cortados.

What To Do In Monteverde

As you read in Part 1 of this post, there’s plenty of adventure to get into during your stay in Monteverde. So where should you start? How about in the tree tops with a birds eye view of the beautiful landscape?

We did a full-day trek with Sky Adventures that started at 8:00am with a guided walk through the cloud forest. Our guide took us over six hanging bridges and explained, in-depth, the different plants and animals located in this incredible biome. The way the local flora evolved over thousands of years to survive and out-compete the other plants is remarkable and we got to see a myriad of hummingbirds and a few tarantula butts.

After the hike, we joined up with another group to begin our canopy zipline trek. After getting fit into our harnesses and watching a safety demonstration, we watched person after person ahead of us latch onto a training line and take off for the bottom of the hill, each letting out their version of a yelp. We were at the back of the line, inching forward until it was our turn. Without a chance to reevaluate the situation, our safety tech told us to lean back, hold on, and let us go. The immediate rush of adrenaline burst out of us with loud Wooooos! The air provided no resistance as we cut through the sky. This was just the practice line too. Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill, we boarded a hanging gondola that took us up to the very top of the mountain.

From here, we flew back-and-forth between two peaks, hearts pumping because the pace was almost perfect between each line that you were able to settle down from the previous line before latching onto the next one.

This was a super exciting adventure and a must-do if you come to Monteverde.

One of the things we learned about the biodiversity during our cloud forest hike was that despite there being so many species of animals in the area, 80% of them were nocturnal. That means that the best time to see most animals is at night. After doing some intense research into the plethora of night tours, we chose one based on some reviews within two days saying they spotted a bunch of animals.

We were partnered with a guide and a group of women from Boston and let loose with flashlights into the jungle. At first, we were in a jumbled mess with a bunch of other groups, but quickly separated as we each chose different paths. The guides used walkie-talkies to communicate findings to one another allowing us to see bats, glass frog eggs, an adolescent viper, and tons of bugs. The snake and a sleeping toucan were probably the highlights of our hike. We went in with very open minds, understanding that your experience is 100% dictated by the animals and if they happen to be around. This isn’t a zoo, this is just people familiar with the area taking you to spots that the animals frequent. No guarantees.

While animals are among the most popular attractions in the area, there are several plant-based exports that put Costa Rica on the global stage – among them is coffee.

The café I mentioned above hosts a tour of their nearby farm. We met early in their main conference building as an older gentlemen explained the history of the company and organizations they’ve worked with. After the brief introduction, we wandered the farm over to an area where a few workers from Nicaragua were transplanting young coffee bean trees into spaces more adept for their increasing size. Contrary to what I had believed, coffee trees were never very tall, as they were picked by hand and the workers needed to be able to reach all of the branches.

We continued along, learning about why part of the farm remained a forest to curb disease and erosion and why banana trees and legumes were planted nearby to provide nutrients for the soil. The entire 20-30 year lifespan of a coffee tree is so well thought out and incredible that I now appreciate my cup of dark, life-giving elixir just a little bit more each morning.

We talked about the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict and how since that part of the world produces most of the world’s fertilizer, there is obviously a shortage and increase in price. The farm’s response was to produce fertilization through compost, both soil and turned into a liquid spray.

Despite being kept at bay for most of the morning, once we visited the local goats and chickens, the rain started to pour as we huddled under some umbrellas brought out to us.

We eventually made our way back to the initial meeting building and got to see the different roasting processes and finished off our tour with a tasting to see if we could guess the samples provided as to what type of roast and what type of processing was done.

Monteverde is a beautiful area that is very easy to slow down and enjoy. If you like being outdoors and taking in the smaller things in life, then this green mountaintop town is for you. Have you been or would you like to go? Let me know in the comments.

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