Buenos dias from Costa Rica! My best friend Chelsea has been traveling with us for a few days now and we have been finding a new groove and routine, since there are three of us now and we are in a far more established tourist country. There are so many fun and amazing things to do everywhere in Costa Rica, which is why there are so many people here and also part of why it is so much more expensive. Since Chelsea only gets to enjoy two weeks of Central America, we are making an effort to cram in as much adventure, fun and relaxation as possible. However, she is just as much on a budget as we are so we have to be careful not to get sucked into ALL the awesome (and expensive) activities that this country has to offer.
Getting to San Jose by bus was pretty painless but once we arrived in the city we faced with the decision to pay for a cab or walk the two miles to our hostel (Hostel Urbano). Our previous experiences in Central American capitals has been sketchy as best, but as we drove through the city on the bus, we really felt like it would be safe for us to walk, especially in broad daylight. So, we saved six dollars and made the two mile trek through the city, backpacks and all. The first bit was pleasant as we walked through a pedestrian shopping mall. It became clear very quickly that Costa Rica is FAR wealthier and more urban as a country as we passed by countless clothing stores, restaurants (not geared towards tourism), as well as families, young couples, old couples, and teenagers out and about for an afternoon of shopping. We got to the hostel a little before Chelsea, but before long we were chatting away and off to a mall (with a food court!) for dinner. None of us could get over how strange it was to be in a food court in Costa Rica, but that shows how “western” this country is.
We caught a 6 am bus to the town of Santa Elena, whose purpose as a town has become centered around tourism, specifically tourism of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a short bus ride away. We stayed at Pension Santa Elena in a private room. The room had a really cool lofted bed where Chelsea slept and the hostel was one of the nicest we have stayed in so far. The people at the front desk were so friendly and gave us so much information. From them we heard about a tree that you could climb inside, so after a quick lunch we walked (straight uphill) to the “ficus tree”. It was not what we call a “ficus”, but it was really strange and amazing and we all three climbed inside the tree. The inside had really strong vine-type branches where you could bear your whole weight and shimmy up to the top. We found another tree a little farther down the trail that you could climb up as well. This one was cylindrical, so climbing up on the inside required strategically twisting and turning our bodies to find foot-holds and hand-holds.
The next day we went zip-lining in the cloud forest. Costa Rica, and Monteverde specifically, is where zip-lining originated from, so no trip to this area would feel complete without a day spent zipping through the trees. We chose to do our tour with 100% Aventura because of their “Superman” lines, having the longest line in Costa Rica, and the “Tarzan” swing at the end. We got really lucky weather-wise and our day in the forest was beautiful and sunny. We got shuttled up to 100% Aventura, got geared up, learned how to brake and stay safe, and we were on our way. The first few lines were pretty short and slow, probably to gear everybody up for the middle lines which were faster and longer. We zipped across the valley a few times, and on those longer lines you could really look around at the scenery below. The “Superman” lines required that you be clipped to the line by both your shoulders and your hips, so that you could be in a face down, “Superman” position. On these lines you really got to look around and take in the forest.
At the end of the tour there was an optional “Tarzan” swing, where you walked to the end of a bridge (which appeared to be held up by zip lines…) got hooked onto a long bungy-type rope, and then pushed off the end, for a few seconds of free-fall before swinging back and forth on the long rope. Pretty crazy, but pretty exhilarating. The whole tour was amazing! I have been zip-lining a couple times before and this was definitely intended to be more of an adrenaline type of zip-lining course, versus a sight-seeing course. It was fast, the Superman was really different and fun, and the Tarzan swing really got your blood pumping, and was the highlight of the whole experience. Did we see many animals in the canopy? No. Did we get many pictures of the forest? Nope. Did we have fun: Hell yes! Worth $45? For sure!