Let me begin by saying that Costa Rica is a beautiful country!
Let me continue by saying that we could not have planned such a great vacation without the help of Nikki Solano at Pura Vida, eh? Inc. She was vital in making this trip as successful as it was. (separate review for Nikki and her company will be written and posted soon).
Here are the bullet points of our trip with some further descriptive text:
We spend the first night at the Garden Inn Hilton. The shuttle was there but we had to wait for their second trip because they were taking the flight crew first, ok, fair enough. We spent the few minutes speaking with one of the baggage crew, he was very cool and recommended Playa Langosta for the later portion of our trip. Shuttle to the Hilton is like 5 mins., check in was quick and easy and in no time we were in our clean and very pretty room. After quick showers we headed for the dining room and a quick bite to eat. We shared a salad, had a couple of Bavarias (dark) and ordered a chicken sandwich. Well, the chicken sandwich came back as a beef sandwich but instead of sending it back my DH took care of it. Our waiter Jonatan, brought me another Bavaria on the house to make up for the error. So I had a salad, 2 beers and some of the fries that came with the beef sandwich…totally fine. After we ate we went out to the pool area and just sat for awhile listening to the wind and looking at the stars, it was past 10pm and we had to get to sleep soon in order to be ready for out 9am pick up from Desafio.
Feb. 16. We check out and learn that the driver from Desafio is already there (all of our transports were on the dot or early – excellent!) so we meet Mario and head out towards Monteverde / Santa Elena. Mario tells us that he’s driving us to Juntas where another driver will complete the drive up the rockiest part of the road, ehmmm, ok…I ask if he’s staying with us until the next driver shows up and he assures me that this is the case. We have a great time with Mario, he’s very proud of Costa Rica and gave us some great information concerning what we were looking at, what roads lead to other parts of the country, how the irrigation system works, etc…cool stuff. Soon, we were at La Finca taking pictures of the Lapas (I had never heard of this term before this trip. I knew Macaws as Guacamayas). Anyway, once in Juntas we met up with Randal and he took us in his taxi (the taxi drivers own their taxis in Santa Elena) the rest of the way. Randal is a youngster with a zest for life and a disdain for politics (aren’t we all?). He made that treacherous drive into Monteverde tolerable. At one point he stopped to help this couple that were lost despite their GPS and had them follow us into town and to a tire repair shop as one of their tires was leaking! Yikes! We kept reminding ourselves that it had been a good decision NOT to rent a car! Checked into Monteverde Villa Lodge with Heiner and Anna, and they are sensational. Friendly, accommodating, charming…etc…I’ve already written a review for their place and it should be up soon. Heiner offered up some tours and we decided to take him up on the Night Walk in Hidden Valley later that evening. We decided to clean up a bit and head into town for some grocery shopping and for a basic “look around”; it’s funny because many locals told us to skip the Tree House Café mostly because it’s overpriced, it was a recurring theme. Anyway, we wanted a snack and a chela but didn’t want pizza (lot’s of pizza places here) so what do we do? We go to the Tree House Café for ceviche, bruschetta and 2 chelas…and of course to see the tree, damn it! So yes, the prices aren’t the cheapest but the worst part for me was the practically non-existent service, oh and that the bruschetta wasn’t toasted! Huh? Soggy bread covered in delicious and fresh tomato and mozzarella chunks, it was a weird texture experiment. R liked the ceviche. After the snacks we left for the super to pick up some stuff for the cabin. Taxi back to MVL $2.
Around 5pm we were picked up by the Hidden Valley shuttle and taken out for a walk in the jungle, in the dark! Oh, but before we got there, our driver spotted a sloth sleeping in a tree by the side of the road!! Unfortunately, this would be our only sloth slighting of the trip, wah! Our guide for the night walk was Oscar and he was very knowledgeable and was able to spot critters all around us. I was reluctant to go on this hike after reading some bad reviews, but my hsbnd said we should make up our own minds and I’m glad we did, we had a blast. Some of the critters we saw: fireflies, katydids, coatis, agoutis, the elusive olingo (way, way, way cool), the longtime resident: Morticia the orange kneed tarantula, cutter leaf ants, porcupine, sleeping birdies, etc… great tour, great time – would do it again. After the tour we had the shuttle dude drop us off at Morphos for dinner. Good service and the food is very interesting; they have a robust menu so you are sure to find something you like. We walked back to the center of town and took a cab back to MVL - $2.
The wind had picked up and although the cabins at MVL are sturdy and strong I wondered if any of the dozens of trees on their property would come crashing through the walls, thankfully they never did but I kid you not, those winds are mind blowingly STRONG!
Feb. 17. Heiner and Anna are up early fixing our breakfast as our pick up time is 7am with SkyTrek. Scrambled eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee – perfect! The shuttle from SkyTrek are on time and off we go zip lining. We actually do the bridges tour first with guide Laura, who we find out later was one of the guides on the Night Walk the night prior. Laura was great and we saw dozens of birds, gazillions of plants, flowers and trees, and oh yeah, Howler Monkeys!! After a couple of hours, off to the zip lines; our group was really fun with one man being 76 years young! Yeah! Our guides were Tony and Dan (I think) and they were great, experienced, patient and funny. You MUST listen to their instructions and do what they tell you to do; you don’t want to get stuck out there in the middle of the line. After 9 lines we were ready for some food and a nap – adrenaline crash was on the horizon.
For dinner we went to Don Juan (above Super Compro and the souvenir shop/art gallery) and I had a tomato soup that made my heart sing! R had the chicken soup and it was delicious as well, big chunks of avocado – yummmmmmm! I can’t remember what my entrée was but I know it was chicken and it was hella good, I was surprised that it came with French fries but I didn’t complain as they were very good. R had a glass of red wine and it was v. tasty! I had a non-dairy blackberry smoothie (agua de mora) and it was great too! Service was terrific and the artwork around the restaurant is amazing. We had a table that looked down onto the street which offered great people watching while enjoying a delicious dinner. Afterwards we did some souvenir shopping but decided to leave most of the purchases for our last day – ha – that never happened! Next we headed to the ice cream shop across the street where R enjoyed a lovely scoop of chocolate ice cream, I was too full. Taxi back to MVL for some reading and sleeeeep as our next adventure was with Andres Alvarado (EXCELLENT GUIDE) at 7:30 in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest.
To be continued...