I didn't expect it when I arrived, but by the time I was leaving Monteverde, I realized that a part of my heart will always cherish and remember the memories I made here. I hope to go back someday and relive these memories again.
Let's get the first thing out of the way, you do NOT need a 4WD or AWD or 4x4 to get here or drive within here. There is some amount of driving on gravel road on hills and mountains. But, if you're an experienced, skilled driver and if you have driven in a developing country before, you should be fine in a 2WD. We rented a 2WD Toyota Yaris, and it worked well for us. My driving tip would be to drive slowly enjoying the scenery. There's no rush to get somewhere because you're on a vacation when you're in Costa Rica. :)
The first thing we did in Monteverde is hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. As the name suggests, this forest is located high on the mountains where the clouds are passing through. This was my first time hiking in a Cloud Forest. There are two things I loved in this experience, first was the dense greenery. This was THE MOST green forest I've ever hiked in. There were many times where I couldn't see the sky because of the dense green tree cover. The second thing was the serenity. Despite it being a popular tourist location, it felt like we had the hiking trails all for us a lot of times. We rarely saw other folks, especially on less popular trails. Listening to our own footsteps in the midst of bird songs, mating calls and rustling leaves made me feel like we got transported to an ancient era where man lived in the midst of nature. In today's world, we rarely get to see nature so undisturbed. The joy that comes from experiencing this is unrivaled. There's also a long hanging bridge and a pretty little waterfall on these trails, which were a nice bonus to enjoy!
Coming to the logistics, Monteverde Cloud Forest cost us 16$ per-person. There are a couple of other cloud forests located here - Santa Elena Cloud Forest and Children's Cloud Forest. If you're interested in bird-watching or wildlife, one of these is likely a better option. We saw a single sleeping sloth in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, but we were also not looking since we saw a lot of wildlife in Arenal. We also chose to not take a tour with a tour guide in Monteverde Cloud Forest for the same reason.
The next thing we did in Monteverde was climb a tree. Yes, you read it right. There are a couple of ficus trees right across Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, and we climbed one of them. There's interesting history behind these trees. A strangler fig aka a ficus tree, grows around the bark of a host tree. It manages to reach the canopy of the cloud forest, receiving enough sunlight for it to grow and thrive. The host tree dies, leaving the fig with a hollow interior. Because the fig tree has already grown, it manages to survive. The hollow interior provides enough width for a average sized human being to climb to the top, providing a view of the cloud forest from the top of a tree. These trees are about 20 metres in height, so it's a pretty good vertical climb to the top. I was able to go three-fourth of my way up before feeling claustrophobic, so I got down. Even though I didn't finish, it was a very fun and adrenaline pumping experience. Chakri went all the way up, and said that it's a good view from out there. Do try it out, it's one of the more unique experiences you'll have in Costa Rica for free.
On our second day in Monteverde, I went to the El Trapiche Coffee, Sugar and Chocolate Tour and Chakri chose to do Canyoning. My tour was a learning experience where the tour guide walked us through the local coffee and sugar-cane plantations and a few cocoa trees. He showed us the process of creating these products from the trees and it was very enlightening. The process from a Cocoa tree to Chocolate was especially interesting to me because I learnt how one of my favorite sweet is made. Some things I learned here - The people of Finland drink the most amount of coffee (6-7 cups) per day. Cocoa was first found in Americas, but it is mostly grown in Africa today. Most folks who work on Cocoa plantations in Africa have never tasted chocolate. Costa Rica cannot compete with the world on Coffee Production, so they compete on quality. All Costa Rican coffee comes from coffee plant Arabica, which is harder to grow but produces better tasting coffee, so it is more expensive.
While we were walking amidst the plantations during the tour, we saw a moving sloth on one of the trees! Having seen atleast four sleeping sloths in Costa Rica thus far, I was delighted to see a sloth actually moving. Here's the thing, sloths sleep 18-20 hours a day, so it's almost impossible to see them awake, let alone move. And yet, here we were - watching this creature slowly ambling along from one branch to another. What they say about sloths is true - they're super slow and such a huge contrast to monkeys which keep moving endlessly. I loved this little fella and was super happy. Not only did I see it unexpectedly, but I saw it move! The tour did turn out be a double bonanza :) :D
Coming to the logistics, both the El Trapiche tour and Canyoning tours were for 2 hours, and cost 25$ and 65$ respectively. We got picked up and dropped off from our Airbnb, so that helped.
No blog about Monteverde can be complete without mentioning the sunsets. There are a couple of sunset watching spots here, and every single day we went there and watched the magic of the earth, sun and clouds. I'd rate the sunsets at Monteverde as stunning, filled with drama and color. Don't forget to spend some time here with your loved ones. You'll make a memory worth remembering!
Coming to food, I loved the dinner we had at a place called Taco Taco. Since it was popular for Tacos, we had a few of them and they were great. I especially loved the Avocado Taco. It was flavorful, unique and yum :)
We saw a couple of toucans at the top of trees on our drive to Monteverde, and a dozen or so green parrots on our drive out from Monteverde. So make sure you're looking around the surroundings whether you're driving yourself or taking local transportation.
All in all, our time in Monteverde was superb! I know it's a little hard to get to, but take a few days and explore this little gem. I promise it won't disappoint you.