We arrived in Liberia around 6:30 pm. After clearing customs, we were greeted by our driver whom we had hired to take us straight to Monteverde. Since we were on a limited schedule, we did not want to waste our time commuting during the day. Although the ride was not cost-effective at $180, it was worth the time saving. I was warned on Thorntree, Lonely Planet’s forum, that it was a bad idea to go at night and I can understand why. Half of the route to Monteverde is on unpaved, rocky roads on the side of a mountain. Luckily the roads are fairly wide but there were a few times where I feared falling over the edge, especially since our driver seemed more concentrated on making phone calls but I guess he knew what he was doing since we arrived unscathed.
Monteverde is considered the best place to zipline in Costa Rica, the country responsible for popularizing the activity. We had a few choices for ziplining so we opted for the hostel-recommended Extremo Canopy, one of the area’s best and newest tour operators. We chose the complete canopy tour with ziplining, tarzan swing and superman.
Ziplining is amazing! It’s such an exhilarating feeling to “zip” from one tree to another. There were a few moments where I felt scared, mostly when we were ziplining the very long cables high above a valley of trees. When I realized that I was literally hanging on by a harness, I told myself that if I fall and die, it’s a good way to do it. The tarzan swing was probably the scariest thing of the day. It was a swing hanging from a tree, but you had to jump off a platform, maybe 10-15 metres, before you started to swing. The superman was just a style of ziplining where they harness the cable to your back and your legs so you could fly through the air like you are superman. I much preferred the sitting position since I hate the feeling of my weight on something but others on my tour really loved it.
We did a night walk but it was pretty horrible. We saw a sloth (quite an active one, too) at the beginning. But after that, nada. There were only a few bugs. I think there were too many people on each tour and the forest was actually right by the side of a road so I think most of the animals have been scared off.
There are two protected reserves near where we were: Santa Elena and Monteverde, the latter which is more popular and famous. We headed to Santa Elena by accident without realizing that there were two reserves. But I think we lucked out since Santa Elena is cheaper, less busy and since we met a nice girl, Patty, who also happened to be from Toronto and funny enough, friends with some good friends of ours. The cloud forest was quite beautiful. While it was sparse on wildlife, it was a nice feeling walking through the lush and mossy trees. Whenever I walk through a forest, I get a different feeling. When I walked through Wilson’s Promontory in Australia, I felt like I was walking in a forest inhabited by pixies. In Abel Tasman park, I felt like I was walking in a beehive . Walking through Santa Elena, I felt like I was in the book, Where the Wild Things Are. I imagined gigantic but friendly monsters living in that forest.
In the evening, we went to the Frog Pond which is a collection of terraria housing frogs found in Costa Rica. It was pretty neat although there were too many people in a tour and everyone wanted to take photos so it would take a very long time to go from one terrarium to another. We saw glass frogs, poisonous dart frogs and the red-eyed tree frog which is the one often found on postcards of Costa Rica.
Monteverde was a fun experience. Outside of the outdoor activities, however, there isn’t very much to do. There is one bar where karaoke seems to be the choice of entertainment. Two days was sufficient to do everything we wanted. Off to Arenal next!
* Costa Rica looks like a Settlers of Catan board from above…
* Costa Ricans are extremely friendly. I’m not sure if it was because we were in a small town but everyone was chatty and nice.