We woke up at a reasonable hour, and made some breakfast at our cabin. Our reservations for zip-lining were not until around 10:30 AM. It was relaxing to not be in a hurry. The weather was slightly chilly overnight. I’d forgotten how crisp the air gets at night when you’re at elevation. There is nothing like sitting on the porch and watching the rain forest come alive while sipping hot coffee.
After a nice breakfast, we geared up for the day and headed to “The Original Canopy Tour.” After researching all of the different zip-lining places in Monteverde, we decided on this one because it had been around the longest, and had excellent reviews. A short drive later and we arrived. The Original Canopy Tour shares a parking lot with the Monteverde Forest Lodge & Mot Mot Restaurant. Their website is here: https://originalcanopy.com/
Travel Tip: Many excursions in Costa Rica can only be reserved if you send the Company your credit card information on a “reservation sheet.” This is very common for the region. Like everything, it does have risks. Use your best judgment. If the company is reputable, you’re probably good!
He doesn’t know whether he should be scared or happy right now!
To get to the Canopy Tour building can be tricky. Like most places in Costa Rica, there is not a big sign or clearly marked path. After getting some direction from the clerk at the lodge, we found the path that lead up the mountain to the canopy tour building. Once there, we checked in and were greeted by our guides Kevin and Pedro. These two guys were awesome!
Our group consisted of us and one other family. We got fitted with all of the gear, and went through a short lesson on how to zip-line. I could tell Billy was a little nervous. He had half-heartedly joked that he wasn’t going to go. No way he was backing out now!
The hike to the first line was a little challenging. I’d definitely recommend being in somewhat decent physical condition before attempting zip-lining, not only for the zip-lining, but for the hiking and climbing. Fifteen minutes of hiking through the rain forest and I was breaking out into a sweat! It was relieving to see the first stop ahead. Oh boy, it was a big one. You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Yeah.
Unfortunately, due to an operator error, I did not get any zip-lining video. Instead of video mode, I put my camera into “take a picture every other second” mode, and have a gazillion pictures of us zip-lining through fifteen different lines. I’m still kicking myself in the butt over it, but live and learn.
I will have a part 2 zip-lining video soon!
Travel Tip: Make sure you are fully aware of your camera/video equipment and all of the functions before attempting to take some rad zip-lining videos.
Billy was scared to death at first, but once we got through the first few lines, he started enjoying himself. Our guides were great, and they were some comedians for sure. On the first swing, just as Amber was dropping from the platform, Kevin said “oh no!” like something was wrong. I’d be lying if my heart didn’t sink into my chest.
At one point while Billy and I were waiting on the rest of our group to zip to the platform we were on, I slipped off of one of the platform edges with one foot. It was totally my fault. I was too busy worrying about Billy falling and I walked right off the edge. Thankfully I was strapped in with safety gear. I don’t think it ever got taught as I grabbed anything and everything I could grab to keep from falling 80+ feet. I have the coordination of a giraffe on roller skates.
In the process of nearly falling off the platform I scraped my shin on the edge. My pants didn’t even rip, but my shin got a good gash in it. I must say, Columbia makes some damn good hiking pants–and you can unzip the legs to have shorts! I’ve been known to wear them around the house because they are so comfortable.
I lifted my pant leg to get a better look at the damage. My shin was bleeding pretty good. I didn’t want to anyone to be alarmed if they saw some blood on my leg, so I let the guides know what had happened, but I was fine. They were adamant about treating the scrape.
Pedro informed me that the mosquitoes in the jungle often carry parasites that they catch from feeding on monkeys, and that it was possible to transmit them to humans. Yeah man, please cover this wound! After busting out a fanny pack first aid kit and putting some bandages on my shin, we were off again to the next platform!
I really can’t say enough good things about Kevin and Pedro. They taught me a new saying too: a cachete! It is Costa Rican slang for con todos that means “with everything.” Often said when everything is great. Thank you guys so much for everything! A cachete!
After zip lining we were all ready for some lunch. Downtown Santa Elena has a variety of places to eat. One of the most recognizable is the centrally located “Tree House.” We decided to give it a shot. It definitely had some very cool atmosphere, with of course, a big tree growing right through the middle. If you’re traveling on a budget, I would only stop here for a snack–that atmosphere is pricey.
Billy got a hamburguesa con queso. I opted for the chicken, and Amber couldn’t resist the tuna. Our food was very good, and Amber liked the wine selection. Billy, on the other hand, did not like his. The beef was very lean and wild tasting. Definitely not what he was used to, but he was a champ and smothered it in ketchup.
Travel Tip: You can’t go wrong with chicken.
After lunch we decided to walk around downtown. Also, we promised Billy that if he ate all his burger that we’d go across the street to Amy’s and get an ice cream cone. Next door to Amy’s was a glass shop. It was filled with all sorts of neat things. The owner had a desk set up near the door where he would create glass sculptures. Especially cute were the glass sloths.
By the time we walked through a few of the gift shops we were beat. It was time to head back to la casa for a nap! Now, I never have been much of a snorer, but Amber said I was sawing down a forest! It was the best two hours of sleep I had experienced in a long time. We got up from our nap feeling refreshed!
At dusk, we followed our bi-lingual guide, and host, Ollman Gonzales for a short drive to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We had scheduled a night walk on the fly the day before. We told Ollman we were interested in a night and day hike, and he said he was taking a group on a night hike tonight, but there would be plenty room for us. Naturally, our nap comas had us running a couple minutes late.
A short drive later we arrived at the Refugio Vida Silvestre, Wildlife Refuge Monteverde. Ollman gathered us for a quick safety briefing with the usual, don’t trip and fall, don’t pet the snakes, etc. He then gave us all small LED flashlights so that we wouldn’t be totally blind and eat it on the trail. There were multiple groups at the entrance gearing up to go into the refuge.
All of the guides were linked with walkie talkies, and would notify each other when they spotted an animal so other nearby groups could come see. We started seeing animals almost immediately. Even though it was brisk in the air, the rain forest comes alive at night!
Travel Tip: It can get chilly in the rain forest at night! Make sure you bring something long sleeved, and waterproof.
The first animal we saw was a tree sloth just waking up. Unfortunately I did not get any good pictures of him. It was difficult taking pictures at night, and I am no professional photographer. If you want to get good night shots, practice ahead of time with your camera.
Arboreal Viper. These guys are extremely venomous and can kill you in seconds. They live in the trees, but can be found on the forest floor, usually when they are escaping predators. Costa Rica is the only country that produces anti-venom.
We saw quite a few more animals (skunks, carpenter ants, praying mantis, toucans, owls and many other sleeping birds) than what I have pictured here, but the photos did not turn out that well.
After our night walk we were pretty hungry. We had heard alot about “Bon Appetit,” an Italian restaurant, and decided to give it a go. Our food was really good, and they had a large wine selection. We dined with a large group from a tour bus. They were speaking many different languages. It was a very cool atmosphere and a great way to end the day. We were ready for bed, and needed to rest for tomorrow morning’s day walk through the Curi Canchi Reserve.