Hello world – our latest adventure (just yesterday) was a blast – we went up to Monteverde (via CR1 towards Guanacaste from San Ramon) and were there in about 2 hours from Vista Valverde. The last bit was unpaved, and our car almost did not make it (another story?!) but 3 kids, 2 parents and 2 grandparents later we were hooked! Views out to the Nicoya Gulf, the day was gorgeous. NOT exactly what you want from a visit to the Cloud Forest, but it is the dry season, and we live in the clouds anyway! We stayed at Hotel Fonda Vela – I HIGHLY recommend this place. And call them directly to get the best rates. The rooms are huge, the place is bigger than you realize. Seriously, I thought there were only 10 rooms, until we started walking around and it is so well developed, you don’t know all these other hotel buildings with up to 10 rooms/each are there! A big pool, 2 hot tubs, a pool table and pingpong, plus lots of ground for the kids to run around. Try and get room 8 – it has 2 queen sized beds, and the door opens to the grounds where the kids can just go out and run around, play at the fountain, while you chill inside or sit at the tables on the lawn. Other parts of the hotel are newer, but do not have this nice feel with the entrance onto the lawn. Views straight to the Nicoya and Guanacaste. What was great about this hotel is it is just a few minutes from the parking area for Monteverde Cloud Forest.
Monteverde Cloud Forest – Lets talk about the park – lots of different trails to take and you DO NOT need a guide if you are budget conscious, but if you really want to see all the wildlife, I recommend it. And if you are residents of Costa Rica, you pay a highly discounted rate to get into the forest (another great reason to live here!). That being said, the hike to the waterfall is perfect for smaller kids, and take a left on your way back from the falls to take the loop back along the next path over. Stop at the giant tree and try to climb it! I will post pictures from hubby’s phone when I find him 🙂 There is a little cafeteria there if you want to take a hike, grab a bite, then take another hike – but its pretty light on what they offer though prices are not like US parks – folks can actually afford the grub. And be careful if you sit down for your own lunch (which we recommend taking if you want to do all day there and tis NOT raining) – there is an animal that shall remain unnamed (no one agreed) that tried to steal some guys coat when he would not let it take his food!!!!! And I would imagine it gets pretty cold during the rainy season so take advantage of the coffee shop. We just sat in the benches of the ‘reception’ area for the upstairs lodge (which i admittedly know nothing about)
Butterfly Garden – we took the road to the older one, 1.7 kms out of Santa Elena, or if coming from Monteverde – it is the first left after El Establo and Heliconia hotels. Just follow the signs. AWESOME!!! They are on trip advisor for more info. Our guide was so funny, and nice, and knowledgeable – don’t remember his hame, but he has dreads and a seashell though his ear post hole. Don’t judge! This is the guide you want!!! I am sure the others are great too but we are biased and we liked ours. Oh, did I mention there is a resident discount? ya, more perks for folks who take the plunge 🙂
What we found out what to do next time – stay IN the Children;s Eternal Forest and stay AT the lodge with a guide for a few days. There are 2 lodges that you can use with prior arrangements – one bare bones, no wifi no hot water -the other has both these things (I admittedly require hot water and much to my dismay, wi-fi). I would recommend this for when the kids are older or young enough to put in a backpack (and YOU are fit enough to carry them and you!) – I am going to look more into it, but if you really want a unique experience and have a few days, this looks like its the way to go. If anyone knows more, let me know!
Santa Elena Reserve – on the other side of Santa Elena, has most of the touristy things like zip lines, tram tours, etc. It ALSO is the one with the view to La Fortuna on a clear day. We found this out AFTER we went to Monteverde! We still had fun 🙂
TRAIN IS CLOSED! YES, THE MONTEVERDE TRAIN, WHICH WAS THE WHOLE RESON FOR CHOOSING MONTEVERDE WITH 2 SMALL KDIS AND 2 GRANDPaRENTS – IS CLOSED! Don’t know why. Hotel told me. If you look it up there is no indication it is closed but believe you me, its CLOSED. Argh.
Lastly, where to eat? Tico Rico in Santa Elena of course! And you can order a pizza from the place on the corner and they bring it to the table and put it on your bill! You can park anywhere, its pretty small, and walk around until you find the places. Check out the cool tree restaurant too, but not worth the price tag AT ALL. And because you ordered pizza, you can play at their playground while you wait for your food at either place!
Be back with more ideas later! Pura vida!