Where to not go in Monteverde

When a discussion comes to hiking in Costa Rica, it’s always the same question : “Have you been to Monteverde?” Finally, the answer is yes! But people have been bragging so much about this place that it was not quite what I had imagined it would be. Don’t take it wrong, it is beautiful. It is also convenient if you’re not planning on spending that much time in Costa Rica, since it is close to the beaches of Guanacaste and not too far from San José either.

costa_rica_karte

So why am I complaining?

Well, first of all, don’t expect to spend time in a remote village and get a chance to practice your Spanish. I mean, of course, if you really want to, you can. But I had the impression that the area is mostly populated by foreigners attracted by “eco-lodges” (I won’t get into details here to try to define what that is, but it is a well-spread concept in Costa Rica and it’d be interesting to see what’s behind it) and tourists who come to visit.

Then, it is even more expensive than the rest of the country. I come from Europe, where I lived in Norway for a long while, and the idea to charge people to have access to nature is rather unthinkable there. I am aware that I am in a different culture now, and even though it bothers me to pay 10$ to spend a few hours in any national park in the rest of the country (the regular entrance fee), I do it because I do enjoy it and because I somehow understand why tourists would be charged that much money (it is usually 1 or 2$ for locals) and do hope this money is used wisely to contribute to the preservation of the area. But the entrance fee for the Monteverde Cloudforest reserve is 17$. 17$! I hesitated, but then thought it must really be special and worth it if so many people do it. I honestly don’t think that it is. Again, it is a beautiful cloud forest,  but nothing unique or with anything justifying that price. Yes, it is big, you can easily spend the whole day hiking there. The trails are well-maintained and easy. They tried to convince us to hire a guide for another 17$, which could be great to learn more about the surrounding nature, but a 34$ day hike? Sorry…

And we did spot some animals though :

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A coati, foraging for food

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Probably the most ugly looking creature I’ve ever seen, an armadillo.

There was not a single shelter to escape the rain, but we really needed a coffee break so it was about time to take the aeropress out :

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Coffee break

Free alternative in Monteverde

The day after, my friend and I decided to hike up the Cerro Amigos trail, which is the highest peak around (not very high though, about 1800m). Besides the Morpho butterflies flying around us on the way up, it is everything but a nice trail. You need to get to hotel Belmar where the beginning of the trail is hidden on the right hand side (not very well hidden though). But! It is definitely worth going up there. After an hour or so of tough climbing, you arrive at the top to discover a weird area with antennas and other not too pretty things. It wasn’t the case when we were there but people say that you can see the Arenal Volcano when the sky is clear enough. When we arrived there, we walked past the house on the left hand side and decided to follow a cool wild-looking trail down. In a minute, we were in the middle of nowhere, hiking through beautiful dense cloud forest. The compass confirmed that we were on the edge of the Monteverde reserve. We didn’t quite know where we would end up, but the trail was obviously leading somewhere. After an hour or two, we met some people who confirmed we would arrive to another reserve if we keep following the trail. And we did eventually. After a couple of hours, we arrived at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, right next to Monteverde so you can easily walk back to wherever you’re staying.

The best part was probably the unexpected presence of a kiosk right before the end of the trail (there is not a single shelter in the Monteverde reserve), where we had what seemed to be the nicest lunch ever…and some locally grown and roasted coffee, por su puesto.

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A hut with a view

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Coffee grown around Monteverde by thr!ve coffee farmers, roasted at the Common Cup, Monteverde.

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Beautiful encounter in the forest

Where else to go to hike through cloud forests in Costa Rica?

Good news, wherever you decide to go in Costa Rica, cloud forests will most likely never be very far. One easy option is the Braulio Carrillo national park, which can be reached from San José in either a 30 minutes bus ride or a slightly longer but more scenic one if you’re going on the other side to the Barva volcano.

More info here: https://audreyslangscape.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/do-you-know-what-braulio-carrillo-is/

My absolute favourite is around Chirripo, but if you don’t feel like climbing the moutain, just stay in San Gerardo de Rivas (1 and a half hour east of San Isidro del General) and there you’ll have options, my favorite one being the Cloudbridge reserve.

More info here : http://www.cloudbridge.org/

and here: https://audreyslangscape.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/getting-high-in-costa-rica/

Enjoy!

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Viva Café

Viva café is a brand new café in barrio La California in San José and it will blow your mind in many ways.

“We’re brewing your cup of good energy”

Viva la vida!

It is a tiny cosy café, very nicely designed, where you will want to hang out for hours. The sweet Leda runs the place and makes you feel welcome straight away, together with talented barista Adrian.

Leda’s family has been working with coffee for a long time. If she has decided to open her own coffee shop today, it is to keep on with the family tradition, but also to have a direct contact with the customers. The idea is to offer the people of San José a different feel for coffee in a different café.  And it works.

Adrian wanted to be a barista in Viva café to share with people his excitement for new brewing methods (here brewing a chemex) and serve customers the best coffees available in the country.

Choosing the coffee to offer to customers is not an easy task and is a team work. First, Leda tastes many different coffees to select the few ones she loves. Then, she works tightly with her father, who also is the roaster, to find the appropriate roast profiles for each coffee. Once she has made up her mind, she is free to go directly to the farms with her dad and her barista Adrian to visit the cafetales (coffee plantations) and the micro beneficios (micromills). A journey from the seed to the cup, the dream of any roaster/barista.

“People are used to drinking washed coffee. We want to offer them the chance to taste a honey-processed or a natural coffee so they can discover something new”

In her café, Leda wants to emphasise on educating customers about the different ways of processing coffee and give them the chance to taste different types of washed, honey-processed and natural coffees. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go ask her!

A delicious honey-processed coffee from Finca La Plaza, Tarazzu, 1900m, processed at the Santa Rosa 1900 micromill.

Your hungry stomach will be happy to have lunch or dessert, but what I very warmly recommend is the coffee. I have not been to any other café where the coffee tastes so great, and that is why this is already a popular café. Leda chooses the coffee she wants to serve in her café, it is then roasted with skills by her dad. You can enjoy it as any espresso-based drinks or brewed with a French Press or a chemex. What more would you want?

Lovely espresso

Best cappuccinos I have had in Costa Rica so far

Adresse: Barrio la California, 24-2300, San José, Costa Rica.

http://goo.gl/maps/B5rOr

Internet: yes

When: Monday-Friday, 10am-7pm (opening soon on saturdays as well)

Viva Café’s menu

Café Mundo

The entrance yard

A couple in their 30s having lunch, 3 tourists from southern Europe, probably the parents and their son, 2 men in what looked like a business meeting/lunch. It was a quiet afternoon at café Mundo.

Café Mundo is a fairly well-known fancy café/restaurant in San José. Fancy because located in barrio Otoya, a district close to the city centre but quiet, where you can still admire old colonial houses while walking around. One of them was turned into a café some 15 years ago.

Ideally located in the corner of avenida 9 and calle 15, the main reason why you should visit café Mundo is its location. Not only it is in a big beautiful house built in 1910, but there are many seats outside on the front terrace, or even more quiet, back terrace. This is actually a well kept secret in San José since it isn’t very common to find places to sit outside.

There is also a lounge bar in the basement if you want more privacy.

Adresse : Av 9 C15 200m al este del parqueo des INS, 10000 San José, Costa Rica

http://goo.gl/maps/gWa0j

When
Monday-Thrusday: 11am – 10.30pm
Friday: 11am – 12am
Saturday: 5pm – 12am

Terrace : yes

Internet : yes

El café frío

Menu selection:

Plato del dia ₡4000

Pizza ₡5500-7900

Refresco natural ₡950

Copa de vino ₡3000

Café ₡900

Capuccino ₡1200

Irish coffee ₡4200

Manhattan ₡3600

Imperial ₡1450

In the front, a large terrace, shaded to protect you from the sun and the rain. Unfortunately the wifi hardly works over there.

Possibility to spy on people passing by in the street if that’s what you fancy

Beautiful tiles on the terrace

Inside the house