Land of sloths
Although Costa Rica is a popular destination for North Americans, it is not a prime Holiday destination for Europeans. We were visiting my husband’s family in Florida, so Costa Rica was the perfect side trip. I had the image of a lush green country which was well preserved, but did not know much else about it. Now when I think of Costa Rica, it evokes memories of cloud forests hiding sloths, howling monkeys, Tarantulas discovered during a night jungle trek, the jaguar we never saw, seeing the cloud forest from a totally different angle and my husband playing Tarzan.
From San Jose airport, a long winding dirt road off the Pan American Highway took us to the lush mountain-top paradise of Monteverde, which is nestled between two primary cloud forest reserves. The town of Santa Elena has a very unusual history as it was founded in the 1950’s by a few Quaker families who were looking to leave the U.S. and its war behind. They settled in the area now called Monteverde and established dairy farms which supply the Monteverde Cheese Factory. Shortly after their arrival they established the wildlife sanctuary of Monteverde.
Strangler Fig in Monteverde Cloud Forest
We were very lucky with our choice of hotel. The Belmar hotel is located high up with spectacular views, consisting of two Austrian Chalet style buildings with wood paneling and French doors. There is a very rustic atmosphere with the beauty of the surrounding landscape. A Jacuzzi with a panoramic view of the forest and Nicoya Gulf, was a great way to relax after and exciting day in the forest. The dinner we had there was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had with fresh and local ingredients. The icing on the cake was we had our own jungle trek we could do anytime we wanted from the hotel grounds.
The first day we arrived we were booked on a night jungle trek. It sounds scarier than it is ! We had an excellent guide, who spotted our first sloth and of course it was sleeping and had no intention of moving to reveal itself totally. We saw several very old strangler fig trees and near one of them there was a giant tarantula.
Ready for zip lining
Selvatura’s outstanding canopy tour has some of the longest cables in Costa Rica and is the only one truly immersed in virgin forest. The tour is made up of 15 cables and 18 viewing platforms, traversing over two miles of forest and combining the thrill of the zip line with a unique perspective of the tree top canopy.
After an initial introduction to the safety equipment, visitors are fitted with the highest quality harnesses by professional guides. Soon after, riders begin their flight through the forest. My favourite was the last section which was one kilometre long and my husband and I were attached to the cable and we took 60 seconds to finish (so a speed of 60 km/hour).
For the real adrenaline junkies, the Selvatura Canopy Tour includes an optional Tarzan Swing, a high security rope swing that launches you right into the forest for the ultimate Costa Rican adventure.
Selvatura’s stunning butterfly garden is one of the largest on the continent. At 300ft long and 90ft wide, with a huge 50ft dome ceiling, the giant garden is host to 50 species of butterflies. Accurate and sensitive temperature controlling enables the survival of species from a range of altitudes and climatic conditions throughout Costa Rica. We took a guided tour through this fascinating live exhibit and it was lovely although it was the tamest activity in the area !
Costa Rica Hummingbird Garden
Finally, a visit to the Selvatura Hummingbird Garden provided a lot of entertainment observing up to 14 species of the tiny, lively colored humming birds as they amaze you with their spectacularly acrobatic aerial manoeuvres.
Flights From Europe to San Jose : either via USA or other Central of South American hubs
When to go : Dry Season, which was still pretty wet (hence the lush countryside)
Where to stay : Hotel Belmar, but there is no lack of good hotels for different budgets.
Where to eat : The restaurant in hotel Belmar was the best but we tried The Morphos which was also a very good and chilled out restaurant with interesting decor.
Recommended tour company : Anywhere Costa Rica
Tours can be booked prior to getting there, but all these tours can be booked from the hotels as well.