Cloudforest and on to the Beach

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Monday, February 26, 2007

Travelling from La Fortuna to Monteverde Cloud Forest in central Costa Rica, our independent travel spirit was further wounded. Doing the trip by public transport would have taken over two days which we didnīt really have, so we let ourselves be herded through a special (and pricey) tourist package catchily-named īJeep-Boat-Jeepī. We really werenīt impressed at being shuffled around with only tourists in crowded mini-buses with our knees up to our chins - that is not why we travel.

The tourists we met in general in Costa Rica werenīt really our cup of tea either (heard a few too many īOw my God, look at that!ī for our liking). One exception to the low calibre of tourists (yes, we are travel snobs!) in our opinion was a lovely French guy called Xavier. A young student, he clearly knew more about the area we were about to visit than we did and he gave us some golden advice on how to maximise our time there, in his charming but heavily-accented English.

The three of us dumped our backpacks at a hotel and declined their multiple offers for package tours in the region, opting solely for a bus transfer to Monteverde Cloud Forest that afternoon. They happily lied to us about the closing time of the park to attempt to:

a) sell us another bus transfer
b) try to get us back to another park for a night walk!

This, unfortunately is the type of tourism you will enounter in Costa Rica unless you have your own vehicle to get off the beaten track and/or a lot more time than we did.

We chose the less well-known park to hike in and had the park pretty much to ourselves. The cloud forest was wonderful and well worth the effort to get there. Mostly it consisted of green damp vegetation such as strangler figs, epiphytes, spongy moss, lichen and Tarzan-type vines just begging to be swung on.

We hiked along the well-maintained trails continually surprised by the variety and colour of the birds along the way. We spotted a bush turkey high in the trees, loads of hummingbirds and once when I was on my own I spotted the elusive Quetzal bird, favourite bird of the Mayas for itīs emerald green feathers and 60cm long tail feathers. Still, this bird-watching equivalent of hitting a home run wasnīt enough to turn me into an obsessive twitcher (bird-watcher). On the animal front we saw (and heard loudly) howler monkeys, squirrels and a little rodent-thing called an agouti.

We climbed up a rickety metal platform to catch a birds-eye view of the forest while the sun set. Walking out of the forest in the warm night air, we were surrounded by fireflies while the moon lit our path. A 6km hike later to our accomodation and we felt we had really earned our hot shower and dinner.

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Our brief but worthwhile foray into the rainforest completed, we had a hot date with Thomas, (our German friend we'd met in El Salvador) at his favourite beach in all of Costa Rica, UVITA.

Started our journey at dawn with the intention of getting to Uvita ASAP. We changed buses in Punta Arenas a very grim seaside place where all the houses (rich and poor) were wrapped in barbed-wire and fences with broken glass set into the concrete. A truly nasty place, we had a laugh later when we found out that package tourists from Germany (and other places too I'm sure) often end up there on īpackage dealsī and are then informed by the hotel staff that it is not safe to leave the hotel site! Another good reason to avoid heavily-organised tourism.

Relieved to leave Punta Arenas (it is tempting to misspell that), we keep on the beach track to Quepo. The road is lined with huge billboards in English advertising the latest high-rise beach developments or the must-live gated community. Fast food outlets abound in the developed towns along the coast.

Due to lack of buses, we get stuck in Quepo for the night and it is hot, hot, hot there. Cooling down at the beach isnīt an option due to rubbish and drunken, dodgy men. On a brighter note, we had a fantastic and cheap fresh fish dinner at Cafe Sanchez completed with a mora (blackberry) milkshake - a flavour I have a current addiction to.

The drive next morning takes us through African palm plantations. Villages formed to service this industry consist of wooden houses on stilts grouped around a football pitch in the gaps between the numerous palms. Real Estate signs still abound...

Arrive in Uvita and we are relieved to see it isnīt the kind of beach town we have seen so far. It is quiet, low-key and the beach itself is part of a National Park where two beaches join in a whale-tail shape and the vegetation grows down to the shore. (think NZ-style beach but with water several degrees warmer). Thomas was a perfect host, having organised our cheap, clean hotel and guiding us to the beach after 4pm so that we could avoid the $10USD park fee. We had no issues with paying this once or twice during our time there, but daily is a bit steep!

The next few days passed uneventfully with plenty of time to...

* eat, sleep and sway in hammocks
* meet the ex-presidentīs son who bemoaned excess foreign investment in Costa Rica
* nurse a few weeks old puppy whose mother had disappeared and was likely taken by a nearby crocodile
* watch incredible pacific coast sunsets
* swim and take some wave training with Ed
* watch Thomasīs cool come undone when other people stole his spot under his favourite palm tree!

We canīt imagine that there is a more beautiful beach in all of Costa Rica!
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