Author: Eileen K.
Date of Trip: January 2001
The Monteverde Cloud Forest (Costa Rica) is reached by the greatest pain in your backside. I mean that. We were traveling from Arenal for an hour boat ride across the man-made Arenal Lake (my goodness, they’re calling this huge area of water a lake?) where we got off to lug our luggage up the slope to a taxi van that would take us on a ride on an unpaved road. I had read about this road on the travel pages on the internet, but little did it prepare me for the actual ride. I had also read about how the people in this mountain region do not want their oasis to be overgrown with development, so they refuse to do anything that would make it easier to help development come into their area.
Well, let me make sure that you are aware that you will need a trip to the spa or a chiropractor when you arrive to the top, or at the very least when you arrive back home. If you are prone to migraines, take your pills before your start the drive up the (ahem) hill.
It took us about an hour to get to our hotel.
We stayed at the El Establo Hotel. This was an unusual looking hotel to find way up in the mountains of a third world country. I thought I was in Boulder, Colorado and looked around for the snow. Really. The architect was a little out of place, but it is beautiful. Lots of wood and glass. We arrived shortly before sundown, after a grueling drive up the mountain. If you have any problem sitting in a car, while your tail and back bone get totally misaligned, go someplace else. Okay, I’ll stick to the hotel.
Since we were traveling with our teenage kids, we had a two-floor room. And since I mentioned that I had a touch of arthritis, we got a room close to reception.We still had to walk up 2 flight of stairs. And that was a close room. If you weren’t close and you don’t have patience, be prepared to walk up the steepest hill you have ever encountered. Or wait for the van. Which stops running around 10PM.
We got to the room, which was LARGE. Took one look out the huge window at the gorgeous view and sat down in the rocking chairs to watch the sun set and it was heaven.
There was a double and a twin bed up in the loft, but only one bathroom on the main floor. So if you have to use the bathroom at night, you have to navigate down the stairs carefully. The bathroom was large, with a separate glassed-in shower and a large tub next to it.
We are not that picky about where we stay and the room was clean. We do wish hotels would use brighter light bulbs.
The highlight of my stay here was finding that one of the staff knew sign language. I am very hard of hearing so we got to communicate that way. I found the staff to be very pleasant, but we only stayed one night.
We needed to extend our room past the check out time as we were going to be late getting back from our tour, and they were very accommodating about this and let us keep our bags in the room so we could come back and shower. No penalty or charge for this.
The hotel has a huge restaurant, serving a huge buffet, though I have to say that none of it looked really that appetizing.
We went to Las Palmeras for dinner one night. It is an Italian restaurant within walking distance of El Establo. The food was very good, the atmosphere was pleasant, and the service was attentive, but very laid back. If you like garlic, they use the real thing and lots of it.
The next day we went to Pizzeria Johnny. You can really skip this as it was a waste of money. Instead, go to Moon Shiva where the people were very welcoming and the food much more appetizing.
I wanted to come see this area to compare it to the volcano regions of Costa Rica and I had postponed doing our zip line tour until we reached the mountains. And my patience really paid off. We took the Selvatura zip line tour and, my goodness, what a blast.
You do need some patience as the group they take out is rather large, but if you go with a good attitude you’ll have a good time. And you do need patience as you need to be careful. Make sure you pick a good pair of gloves with relatively new leather on them, these are YOUR BRAKES!!!!! Then always make sure you are attached to the wire. Take your time on the stairs. If it starts to rain, walk slowly and calmly. Keep your brake arm back. They will explain it to you.
At one point you get to drop from a platform into a ravine, somewhat like a bungee jump, but it is from a rope. I, of course, chickened out, but the rest of my family did it. My family was amazed that I actually did this tour. Duh, I planned the trip, didn’t I?
We only stayed in Monteverde for one day and that was a mistake. If you are going there, stay at least 2 days. We didn’t have the time to explore the hanging bridges, which I heard were fabulous (you’ve already paid for it if you do the zip line). And get yourself a guide, because you won’t see half the things that are there hiding in the jungle. The guides have lived there all their lives and know what to look for, and you’ll just have to tip them a few dollars. We didn’t get to see the cheese factory, which started this whole community in the first place by the Amish, nor any of the other things this area had to offer.