A mere 2.5 hour drive from Puntarenas, the climate of the mountainous Monteverde is completely different from the coastal town. The best way I can describe the cloud forest is that it is a cross between the temperate forests of the U.S. and the rain forests of Puerto Rico and Brazil.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The first place we visited in Monteverde was La Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde (The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve). We only had an hour and a half there so we unfortunaely rushed to see the suspension bridge and the waterfall.
I love heights, so the suspension bridge was my favorite part of our visit to the reserve. It was covered in fog and spanned a pretty wide ravine in the forest. Only ten people are supposed to be on it at a time in order to avoid putting too much strain on the bridge.
It creaked and swayed while we walked on it, but felt sturdy. Looking out from the middle of the bridge, we could see the cloud forest living up to its name. A cloudy mist shrouded the forest until the sun peaked out from behind the clouds a few minutes later.
After we saw the bridge, we headed on to the waterfall. Thanks to another hiker we were able to catch a glimpse of a green tree viper on a branch near the forest floor, about ten feet from the path. Unfortunately the only other animals we saw in the reserve was a Quetzal through a bird watcher or guide’s telescope, and a monkey further in the forest. We did not have enough time to leisurely watch for animals and see the sights our study abroad program had recommended to us. If you want to see wild life in the forest, plan to spend a lot of time there, and try to make it to the paths deeper in the forest where there are less people to scare away the fauna.
The waterfall we found was pretty small, but it was a pleasantly peaceful and secluded spot in the reserve.
Just outside of the reserve was a spot where you could watch hummingbirds enjoying sugar-water feeders. There were at least a dozen feeders and quite a few hummingbirds at each one (and a couple of finches). It’s amazing how loud and strong the hummingbirds’ wings were when they zipped past us!
Just outside of the hummingbirds’ sanctuary, quite a few coatis (aka coatimundi) were rummaging in the brush. A man offered one a Cheeto, causing it to venture on the path. I was able to entice it over to me by making a squirrel-like sound at it (one of my many hidden talents is being able to talk to squirrels). I was able to take an up-close-and-personal picture of the photogenic critter.
Tree House Restaurant
In the town of Monteverde, there is a restaurant called the Tree House Restaurant. It is literally built around a tree and is definitely worth visiting. The food is reasonably priced and the atmosphere is great. We were also fortunate enough to go when they had a live Latin-jazz band playing. The waiter was even kind enough to give us postcards at the end of our visit as souvenirs! The restaurant gets an A+ for service and atmosphere.
Our second and final day in Monteverde was spent ziplining at Selvatura Park. Those who did not want to zipline went hiking through the forest on a series of suspension bridges. I wish I could have done both because it would have been awesome to stand on a suspension bridge and look straight down. Fun fact: in Costa Rica they don’t have a Spanish word for ziplining (at least not in Puntarenas). Instead they just call it going to the “canopy”.
I was a little nervous ziplining since I had only done it once before in a forest in Missouri. In Missouri, we were close enough to the ground that after we came to a stop, a ladder was brought over to us and we climbed down from the line that way. This was nothing like that experience
We ziplined between 18 different platforms, sometimes hiking uphill to get from one platform to the next. I did not expect ziplining to be such a workout! In addition to the 4 or 5 mini-hikes between platforms, ziplining itself required a lot more muscle work than I was anticipating. I had to keep my arm up and extended behind me in order to keep from twisting. My abs were also engaged the entire time, in order to keep tilted back so I could remain aerodynamic when there was lots of wind.
The coolest part of ziplining, by far, was when we first emerged above the canopy. That was around the third or fourth line when we were paired up with someone else. At the start of the line we were inside the trees, then all of a sudden we emerged into open air with tree tops a few dozen feet below us. We glided above the trees probably for the length of a few football fields. Unfortunately, my partner and I got stuck and had to be rescued by the worker on the next platform. Apparently on warmer days, people often get stuck.
After the first line, I felt extremely confident and any nervousness I had melted away. Of course they took pictures at the end of the first line when I still didn’t really know what I was doing. In most of the pictures I have a look of extreme concentration/ worry as I prepared to land and tried to keep my body straight. Oh well, c’est la vie. At least I have pictures to document my first time ziplining over a canopy!