The trip was AWESOME! Pictures are up on Flickr. And just in case you're interested or want to follow our lead, here is the first installment of a three-part rundown:
We flew in, exchanged some currency (for the best rate) at SAC de San Jose on the second floor in Departures, and then hopped in a taxi ($4 ride) a few miles to the local bus stop (across from La Radial - a tire store). We waited a couple of hours to catch the bus to Monteverde (comes through twice a day - you can also catch it in San Jose about a half hour earlier). Got on the bus (says "MONTEVERDE" across the top - can't miss it) with the locals ($6/person) for a four-hour ride into the north. You stop mid-way to grab a 15-minute bite to eat and then head up, SLOWLY, on a one-lane winding, harrowing road. Dropped off in town, we got a taxi for the five-minute drive to our hotel — the super pleasantly surprising Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. They upgraded our room, booked our tours and transportation for us, gave us dragon fruit lemonade as a welcome, and helped us anyway they could. There's a fire pit in the restaurant/bar area - a comfortable welcome. Food was incredible. And the hot tub … SO PERFECT.
Sunday morning we woke, ate breakfast, checked email (and fantasy football) in the library, and then headed out in our tour sponsored shuttle to The Original Canopy Tour. Our two guides hooked us each up to a Tarzan Swing, took us through 16 high flying runs, let us rappel (I didn't) and climb up a hollow tree, and took pictures and video along the way with my camera. Great guides, great service, lots o' fun. We had the shuttle drop us off in town at Tico y Pico for lunch (mixed fruit juice - yum!) and we walked back to the Lodge.
After lunch, we prepped for our next tour. The El Trapiche Coffee and Sugar Cane Tour picked us up and took us to their plantation. There, we spent a couple of hours learning about how coffee and sugar cane is grown and harvested. It was a very hands-on tour, one that included, uh, a ride on a cart pulled by oxen? Seriously. At the end of the tour we got to sample bananas and make our own toffee with their sugar cane before heading into the plantation owner's home for a cup of fresh coffee, lemonade and a snack.
Monday was a 3-hour guided tour in the Monteverde Cloud Forest (about a 15 minute drive away). They said the early tour (7:30 start time) would be the best. We saw bugs and birds and felt lots of rain. Our transport dropped us off in town at Common Cup Coffee when we asked. Lunch was about a five minute walk away at a cool fusion restaurant called Trio. Then, after getting more coffee (and quite the awesome Blackberry drink) at The Treehouse Restaurant (there's a gigantic tree in the middle), we hopped the 2:30 p.m. bus back to San Jose. Tickets had to be purchased in advance around the corner from the bus stop (bus schedule is painted on the wall) …