The Quetzal

Trip Start Jun 26, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day cafeuesday, June 30, 2009 - We started the drive around Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal early in the morning. Our last views of the volcano were beautiful.  The mornings were always so clear and the sky so blue.

The drive around the lake to Monteverde was very long.  The views were great.  We stopped at a bank and restroom stop at the cross roads between Arenal and Monteverde.  After the stop we headed up the mountain to Monteverde.  Oscar told us that Monteverde would be the highest elevation on our trip, and based on how much we went up hill during the trip, I am sure he was right. 

We had decided that on th way to Monteverde we would go zip lining.  Oscar had a place that he thought was the best zip lining.  So, before we went to our hotel, we stopped to go zip lining.  I think we went to Supulvada's, but can't remember for sure.

Parker, Shaeleigh, Malesa, grandma, and I all went zip lining.  Grandpa and Necia had no interest in zip lining.  They waited for us at the main building.

We all got our equipment on and headed out to the zip lines.  Malesa and grandma had not been on a zip line before.  The guides gave us some instruction and we headed to the first zip line.  The guides said that Malesa would be taken on the zip lines by a guide.  Anyone else that wanted to could go with a guide as well.  Grandma decided that since this was her first time, she would go with a guide.  (By going with a guide, you didn't have to worry about breaking or when to stop).

Compared to the zip lining in Thailand, this felt very safe.  They gave you special gloves to use while breaking instead of the bamboo sticks we used in Thailand.  They also showed you how to guide yourself so you would not turn backwards (turning backwards was a problem in Thailand that resulted in me really hurting my leg when I hit a platform).

There was a pretty big group, but we were at the front of the group.  We saw some amazing scenery as we went over the canopy on the zip line.  Everyone had a great time.  Towards the end of the tour, they had something called the Tarzan Swing.  It was a tower with a rope attached that you walked off and then swung out into the trees until you stopped (this part of the tour was optional and only about half of the group went on it).  I was the first one to go and while it was very fun, that step off the platform really scared me.  Parker, Shaeleigh, Malesa and I all did the Tarzan Swing and loved it.  Grandma thought it looked too scary, and decided to pass.

The very last zip line was 1,000 meters and you had to go with a Buddy in order to have enough weight to make it to the end.  I went with Parker, and Shaeleigh, Malesa, and grandma all went with a guide.  The last zip line was worth the price of the activity.  You were on the line long enough to get a real good view of the canopy and the beauty of the rain forest.

Once we finished with the zip line, we did a few other activities at the Supulvada park which included the hanging bridges, humming bird garden, butterfly garden, and serpetarium.  Having done all of them, I would have skipped all of them except the zip line.  They just are not that great and they are not worth the extra money.

We started with the hanging bridges.  This was a 2 1/2 mile walk through the rain forest.  It was a beautiful wall.  Everyone went on the walk, including Necia and grandpa.  We knew how long the hike was, but we didn't have a map.  This was a mistake as we didn't know how much further it was when grandpa got tired.

The hike along the hanging bridges is nice, and you see a lot of nice rain forest.  The walk takes between an hour and 2 1/2 hours depending on how fast you walk.  We went at a slow pace and it took us about 2 1/2 hours.  Towards the end of the walk, we were starting to worry that we would never make it back to the parking lot.  Just as we made it back to the parking lot, it started to rain and we still had 3 other tours to take.

To sum up the remaining 3 tours (Butterfly Garden, Humming Bird Garden, and Reptile House).  They were all bad.  We saw a few humming birds, but since it was raining, we did not see very many.  The butterfly garden and reptile house were guided tours.  The tour guide was in a hurry as it was near the end of the day.  Even though the butterfly garden was large, there were very few butterflies and most of what we saw were dead butterflies.  You are better to go to a butterfly garden at home (we went to one in Denver this spring and it was about 1000 times better and you could go at your own tour guide rushing you through).  The reptile house was okay.  We did see several local species of reptiles, but none of the cages were labeled, we couldn't take pictures and most of the lights were off.  My recommendation would be to do the zip line, maybe do the hanging bridges and skip the other stuff.  It costs too much and it is awful.

After we left, we went to our hotel, Fonda Vela.  Check-in was fast and the rooms were huge with a king bed and a queen bed.  We had a nice view of the grounds.  Our cell phones did not work at the hotel, which was a little bit of a problem.  The rooms had a strong smell of wood, but it added to the atmosphere.  We had dinner at the restaurant at the Fonda Vela.  We were very hungry as we had not eaten all day so we went right at opening.  The room we were seated in had a fireplace and since it was raining pretty hard at the time and was cold outside, they lit the fire.  It was a very nice dinner.  Most of us had pasta, and all of us enjoyed it.  Since this place is known for its milk shakes we all ordered milk shakes and I have to admit it was one of the best milk shakes I have ever had in my life.  We did have a little dessert of banana split and chocolate cake.  Both were excellent.

After dinner, everyone got ready for bed.  We had an early tour of the cloud forest in the morning.

Day 5 – Wednesday, July 1, 2009 – The Monteverde Cloud Forest

We had an early reservation for a tour of the Cloud Forest with our guide Francisco.  Grandpa did not come with us this morning as the hike at the hanging bridges was just too much.  We met Francisco at the national park at 8:00 am.  We bought our tickets, which were $17 for adults, $10 for kids and students, and free for 5 and under.  We started by going to the Hummingbird gallery, which is not in the park.  It was fascinating to see all of the hummingbirds at this place.  We were told there are 7 species in the park and we saw all 7.  Some of the hummingbirds were very large and looked more like a normal bird that could fly backwards.  Since it was so early in the morning, we were the only ones there and we really enjoyed seeing all the humming birds.

We went into the park, but just as we entered a quetzal was spotted in the parking lot.  The quetzal lives at Monteverde part of the year, but our guide told us only about 1 in 8 visitors get to see them.  We got a really good view of the bird and we got some okay pictures.  We followed the quetzal around for about 15 minutes and then it flew off so we couldn't see it any more.  We spent the rest of our 2 tour looking for various animals in the park.  We saw some large chickens in the trees, some caterpillars, walking sticks, some baby birds, butterflies, and lots of different types of vegetation.  We would not have seen as much as we did without our guide.  It is definitely worth it to have a guide.  While I would say we all enjoyed the tour, once we hit the main path back to the parking lot (the main path used to be a road for cars until 1992) our guide nearly sprinted back to the car.  He did stop once because there was a porcupine up in a tree, but no one in our group got to see it (He spent a long time talking to a person that was not in our group and she was the only person that saw the porcupine).  Based on my experience with Francisco, I would not recommend him to others. 

When we got back from the park, we did a little shopping and went to lunch at a place called Johnny’s Pizza.  This is a great place to eat.  The service was great, the food was great, and it is an indoor restaurant (Johnny’s and Fonda Vela were the only two indoor restaurants we ate at during our trip).  We loved their focaccia appetizer, and they had so many types of pizza.

We spent the afternoon looking around Santa Elena.  I had to do some work so we checked out a couple of internet cafes.  The best one we found was at the bat jungle.  The kids went to see the bats and I did my work in a little café that sells very good homemade chocolates.  Grandpa fell asleep on one of the benches while waiting for us to finish.   After we were done at the bat place, we went to the dairy, as we had heard so much about it.  The ice cream was good at the dairy, but not as good as the ice cream at Fonda Vela.  While we were at the dairy, the dairy was giving our free samples of chocolate cheese.  It sounded good (we were thinking cheese cake), but it was not good.  Think white cheese with cocoa in it.  It was terrible.  We could not get the taste out of our mouth for a long time.

We went back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.  Parker and I were thinking about going on a night tour at Monteverde and we wanted to get a little rest.  When we left for dinner, it was raining pretty hard.  Parker and I had decided that we wanted to go on the night walk whether or not it was raining.  We went back to Johnny’s for dinner and then we were off to the national park for a 7:00 pm night tour.

 Parker and I were the only ones on the night tour.  The weather was pretty bad.  We were wearing our rain coats.  We were glad we had them as it was raining and it was a little cool.  The first stop on the night walk was the hummingbird garden.  At night there about as many bats at the hummingbird garden as there are hummingbirds during the day.  The bats are nectar eating bats and they were coming in to eat at the hummingbird feeders.  It was neat to see all the bats (maybe not so great if you are afraid of bats).  As we were walking towards the park we saw a tarantula!!  It was pretty large, but our guide said it was a medium sized tarantula.  We saw a couple of small frogs in the pond in front of the gift shop at the national park, but they were just plain frogs (not the colorful tree frogs we were hoping to see).  We had a great walk in Monteverde.  We same more walking sticks, but they were much larger than the ones we saw during the day.  We saw fireflies, some beetles, spiders, moths, caterpillars, and one very large mouse in a tree.  We saw some glowing fungus as well.  It was a really good tour.  I would recommend it to anyone.  It would likely be better if it was not raining, but I can’t complain.  I think it was better than the one during the day.  I cannot remember our guide’s name, but he was very good.  The tour took about 2 ˝ hours, and cost $17 per person.  Well worth it.

Oscar was waiting for us when we got done, and he took us back to the hotel.  We spent the rest of the night packing up for our departure to Mal Pais in the morning.
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gahtax on

A quetzal
I can't believe you saw a quetzal. That is very lucky. It sounds like you had a great time in Monteverde. I think I would like to go there.

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