During our one single week of traveling in Costa Rica we didn’t cover much ground, but that was a conscious decision. We knew that trying to do to much in seven days would be frustrating, especially given the road conditions in the country. With that in mind, one of the places we decided to focus on was Monteverde, where we spent the better part of three days.
Located on the southeastern side of Lake Arenal, Monteverde tends to be a place that travelers pass through on their way to and from La Fortuna, a more touristy town to the east. Though we visited both Monteverde and La Fortuna, we much preferred Monteverde for a few reasons:
> We’re outdoorsy people, and there were many more opportunities to hike in Monteverde.
> People didn’t seem nearly as pushy in Monteverde. In La Fortuna, it felt like everyone was trying to push their tours.
> People were much more genuine and interested in chatting with us about themselves and their lives.
> The pace of life in Monteverde felt slower. We were encouraged to explore and ask questions.
> The quality of our experiences were much better, and it felt like the money we spent on activities was a much better investment.
When we arrived in Monteverde, one of the first things we did was stop at the Monteverde Welcome Information Center (the website and the blog), which is located on the dirt road going into Monteverde coming from San Jose. It’s not actually in the city proper, where you’ll find lots of other people hawking tours and cheap rooms. Instead, the Monteverde Welcome Info Center is run by Carlos, a local entrepreneur who speaks exceptional English.
We are eternally grateful that we happened upon Carlos on our first day in the area as he was an exceptional resource and extremely knowledgeable about everything in Monteverde. He asked us about our interests and helped us plan an itinerary that best fit our needs. Carlos is clearly excited about promoting the Monteverde area, and though he was able to answer most of our questions, he openly admitted when he didn’t know the answer to one of our questions.
My very first suggestion to anyone heading into Monteverde would be to stop by the Monteverde Welcome Information Center and find Carlos. He was absolutely instrumental in our awesome visit to this part of Costa Rica. In addition to helping us choose activities, he took care of all of the payment details in one transaction, and all we had to do was turn in vouchers for the rest of our Monteverde stay.
While in Monteverde, we visited a variety of places and participated in a slew of activities. We packed our days and had a blast. Here are the highlights …
The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Park is privately held and belongs to the local high school. The kids there learn about its value and many, like Carlos and our Santa Elena guide, Jose, go on to educate others in order to preserve the park. Though you can walk around the park on your own, I highly recommend you go with a guide. (Here are a few more tips for visiting a Costa Rica rainforest.) Jose pointed out things we never would have seen and explained the biology of the rainforest. The guided hike through Santa Elena Cloud Forest was about two-and-a-half hours, and we spent some time strolling around on our own, though we weren’t nearly as successful as Jose in finding tiny frogs and itty-bitty flowers.