I met up with my best friend Iris on Friday at the San Jose airport after flying in from Nosara. We had a long day of transportation ahead of us to get to Monteverde. I had mapped out our route and made all of our reservations for accommodations, which took me about 3 days. One of my least favorite things to do.
Our first mission was to find the bus to go South to downtown San Jose. After asking around at the airport, we finally found it. We almost got onto the wrong bus a few times, but everyone was nice enough to help us get on the one we needed. It was only a $1 each.
We were dropped off at a main terminal, and had about 3 hours to kill until we headed back North for our next bus. We walked around and decided to do some grocery shopping since we would be getting in after dark to Monteverde. We grabbed some tortillas, avocados, limes, apples, pears, bell peppers, rice, beans, hot sauce, all for about $14!
I was carrying two backpacks since I would be traveling for 3 weeks in total, and my shoulders really started hurting, so we decided to find a place to sit and eat…and to kill some time. We went into a flea market and found a little place and ordered a chicken casado. She asked if I wanted something else, it sounded like she said a rellano, but when she handed us two papaya drinks, I just went with it. They were delicious anyway! This only cost us $3.50! We sat a little longer and then decided to go look for our next bus station. We still had two hours, but we were content with sitting and waiting. We found it with no problem, but couldn’t buy our tickets for another hour. We finally bought them and they were $6 each for the 4 hour ride.
The bus was decent, but had no AC and we happened to get the only seats that didn’t recline. But we cracked the window as the drizzled the whole way. This, unfortunately got the floor wet and my backpack was on the ground, soaking my copies of my passport and our map.
After 3 hours, we finally stopped at a little restaurant. They made everyone get off. The ride was very uncomfortable because we couldn’t find a good way to sleep, so we grabbed a beer. I’m glad we did, because the last hour of the ride was pretty stressful. Curvy roads with no guardrails, rain, a downed powerline (again!?!). But we finally made it.
The directions to the hostel were confusing, but there were locals who pointed us in the right direction and after that it was a piece of cake. We technically stayed in Santa Elena, but Monteverde was only a few miles away.
We checked into Sloth Backpackers. It had good reviews, the owner was very helpful, and there were pictures of sloths everywhere! The owner told us we needed to reserve our zip lining tour within the next two hours if we wanted transportation. So we went to the room, saw that she upgraded us, and ended up flipping a coin because we couldn’t decide between our top two choices. We went downstairs and paid for our tour and then proceeded to try and make dinner, just beans and rice. But we didn’t soak the beans before hand, so they didn’t turn out. So we ate some rice and went out and explored the town.
Santa Elena is pretty small, pretty much a triangle makes up “downtown”. But we found a cute bar/restaurant called Tree Top. We each only ordered one glass of red wine, and with tip, this was $16! Yikes!
We went to bed, but it was pretty noisy outside, but there was no AC, so we had to sleep with the windows open. The beds and pillows were really stiff, so I didn’t sleep well.
Saturday morning, we got up early to grab our free breakfast of four different types of fruit, a pancake, eggs, toast, bacon, juice, coffee and tea! Our shuttle came and got us shortly after, and we headed out to go zip lining at 100% Adventure.
Iris was pretty nervous about having to stop herself on the zip lines, even though it wasn’t difficult. So she wanted to be the last person to go, so I lost her for a while. I was convinced that she chickened out all together!
I made friends with an English guy named Sam and we had a great time together. After about 5 zip lines and one rappel (which was actually a little scary!), we had a long hike up to the Superman zip line. For these, you lay flat and fly through the air. I was so out of breath trying to hike up there and talk to Sam at the same time, I felt really out of shape, but I’m sure it was just the altitude, right??
The guides rearranged out harnesses. I waited a little bit, and Iris finally caught up! She actually did the lines… with a guide behind her to do the stopping. But they told her that she had to go alone on the Superman, or she could have someone go behind her if she rode the regular way. We eventually talked her into it and she loved it!
When I was first being suited up, the guides asked me how much I weighed. They told me I would probably get stuck on the Superman because I didn’t weigh enough to get all the way across. I made sure they gave me a good push! This was the first time that our hands were free, so I got some good video of the view. But, sure enough, I got stuck, but only with about 50 feet to go. A guy came out and rescued me, and then we went on one more Superman. It was really beautiful!
After all the zip lines, there was an optional Tarzan Swing that was included in our $45 entry fee. I wanted to do it, but my gut did not. I heard several guys screaming as they did it, so it must be terrifying! I walked along a narrow bridge out to the platform, and I tried not to look down. They quickly hooked me up and pushed me off. I couldn’t even scream for the first 5 seconds because it happened so fast!! You free fall for about 3 seconds until your line runs out of slack, and then you swing back and forth a few times.
Once I got to the bottom, my legs were shaking when they unhooked me!
The next guy that went was much bigger than me. He jumped off and then went upside down! We all held our breath, thinking the worst outcome… But he finally was able to get upright and then we all cheered!
The girl after him had already chickened out once, so I’m glad she didn’t see what happened!
This is our group shot of a few of us that were brave enough to do the Tarzan Swing!
We got back to town and went to the grocery store and grabbed a few bottles of wine, sausage, an onion and a pepper and headed back to the hostel to make some lunch. We tried making our black beans again, but they still weren’t ready. So we had sausage, peppers and onions.
Iris was a little sleepy, so we got her a cup of espresso at Besos. Then we met back up with Sam and a few of his friends and had a few drinks before heading to a bar called Amigos to watch a Soccer game.
Sam, Iris and I decided to do a night tour, so we went and bought tickets for a tour company called Kinkajou.
We went back to our hostels and took a nap and then got picked up for our tour. We were split up into several smaller groups and headed off in different directions.
Our guide was really good. We saw a sloth within the first few minutes! We also saw an opossum, a kinkajou, an olingo,
stick bugs getting it on,
a hercules beetle,
and a few others!
After our tour, I gave our guide a big kiss!
We went back to town and Sam wanted to meet up at Amigos an hour later because it was supposed to be a good place to dance. We tried to make our beans for the third time, and they still sucked! We ended up just eating guacamole and chips.
Then I headed to Amigos, paid the $4 cover charge, and didn’t see Sam. I ordered a drink, and next to me was an American who was about 16 who ordered a beer. Several other awkward Americans were trying to dance, so I had a good laugh. Sam didn’t show up, so I left and went to bed.
Sunday morning we had to check out of our hostel because we would be back after the check out time. We had our awesome breakfast and then caught a school bus to Monteverde Cloud Forest. The first half of the ride wasn’t bad, but the second half was pretty bumpy. Then the entry fee was $20. The guy who took our money asked how much time we had, and he showed us which trails to take.
We had just enough time to go see the hanging bridge, which we probably stopped and took pictures for a good half hour there.
Then we walked to ‘La Ventana’ which translates the ‘the window’. Most of our walk was covered with trees and you couldn’t see any sky, but at la ventana, it opened up, and you could see that you were literally in a cloud. It was really cool! And cold!
We walked back down to the entrance, but we stopped when we heard the tree tops moving. I spotted a monkey! And then another, and another! I think there was about 5 in total!
We had about 20 minutes to kill before our bus came back to pick us up, so we grabbed a sandwich.
When we got back to Santa Elena, we had 3 hours to kill before our next bus to La Fortuna. So we walked around to look for a place to get a massage. We didn’t have much luck, so we wandered around and found a cute hotel off a side road. They didn’t have any spa services, but they pointed us to one that did. On our way out, we saw was a coati.
He was very friendly and came right up to me, but these guys are in the raccoon family, so I didn’t let him get too close!
We walked over to a hotel called Poco A Poco, and sure enough, they had a spa! They had a special going on for $40 for a 25 minute neck and back massage. They only had one masseuse, so we had to take turns. I went to the Jacuzzi while Iris got rubbed down. Then it was my turn. I didn’t realize how many knots I had! Between all the activities and bumpy bus rides, and heavy backpacks, I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
After we were nice and relaxed, we went back to the hostel and tried cooking our beans for the fourth and final time, but this time in the microwave. They were finally kind of soft enough, so we tried to choke them down with lots of hot sauce.
Then, it was off to La Fortuna! We chose to take the ‘jeep-boat-jeep’ route which cut off about 4 hours of travel time compared to the bus, but for a lot more money. $25 vs $3, but it was worth it! The ride was very bumpy though, with no chance of sleeping, but the views were spectacular!
Oh, I didn’t mention, there was no jeep involved. It was actually a shuttle bus! We sat next to a group of Italians on the boat, who we are pretty sure we saw on our first day on our bus from San Jose to Santa Elena! Small world!
Transportation (not including airfare)*: $70
Activities/entrance fees*: $256
Other (tips, souvenirs, misc.)*: $80
(*For 2 people)
Average price per person: $313
Average price per person/per day: $104