After our stay in Arenal (see post below) we were picked up by a shuttle and driven a half hour away to Lake Arenal to cross it by boat. (Taking a boat over the lake saves about 2 hours of driving time to Monteverde.) After a calming, beautiful lake passing with great views of the volcano, we docked and carried our bags up a steep hill to load them in the vans that would take us the rest of the way to Monteverde.
While we saw some of the most beautiful countryside, we also bounced on the worst roads ever. Costa Rican officials like to say that they keep the roads that way to keep too many tourists from trampling all over the preserves in Monteverde. I call BS. Everything about Costa Rica is about tourism. They just don't want to pay for it. At one point, our driver asked for volunteers to get out and walk up a hill because the van couldn't make it. I was not one of them.
When we got to Monteverde, we checked into the Fonda Vela hotel - a very eco-friendly hotel situated just outside the cloud forest. It's a family-run hotel, and the rooms blended in with the environment, and they were HUGE. We enjoyed our one-day stay at this hotel very much.
Our one activity in Monteverde was to visit the cloud forest preserve and take a guided tour on the hanging bridges. These bridges are built across the top of the forest, so it gives you a bird's eye view of the forest. It's not for the height-impared. :) The guided tour, which included pick up from our hotel, was $35 each. We booked through the hotel, instead of booking through one of the most popular companies, SkyTrek, which also combines the hanging bridges with a zip line tour. We really debated doing a zip line, because the BF doesn't like heights, and you fly past everything so fast, would we really SEE anything. So we decided to forgo that adrenaline rush. However, booking with a less popular company gave us less crowds and more personal attention. There were only 4 of us on our tour.
The guide first took us to a hummingbird garden, where the little critters zoom by your head with a buzz and hover over all the feeders.
Then, we started our walk. It was sunny when we started, and as we ascended, it got cloudy. (Thus, the cloud forest.) We didn't see a whole lot of wildlife, which was disappointing after all the luck we'd had previously on the trip, but our guide was clearly excited about his job (at one point even stopping to test bird droppings to see how recent they were. I don't want to see a bird that bad.) He told us about all the plants, used his telescope to show us orchids growing in the trees, and risked limbs to climb into the canopy to find a limocella (sp?) berry, which smells like lemon and naturally keeps the mosquitos out of the forest.
The bridges took some getting used to. There were 8 of them on this tour, and got increasingly longer and higher. They also swayed under you as you walked, kinda weird.
I've got to admit that we only stayed in Monteverde because of the way the trip was structured, and we chose only one day and night here because we wanted to get to the beach, which is tomorrow's entry. I think we made a smart choice, as we would've been bored the next day unless we did the zipline.
And for those of you who have asked, the BF is featured in one of the photos below. Finally! :)