Friday 3/17: Santa Elena Reserve, Monteverde Brewery and a Night Tour!

Friday, 3/17: Day 7 in Costa Rica

Friday morning I was excited to get up and actually see what our place looked like. It was pretty dark by the time we got there the night before.

I again woke up early, before the rest of my family. It was nice at this place to have the two bedroom house, so the boys were in their own room with the door closed.

Stepped out on our large patio:

It was beautiful! Trees and land everywhere- you’d never really guess we were just on the edge of town, close to all the conveniences.

The inside was “cabin-like”- simple but cute, with lots of great windows.

Our room by day
We had a kitchen (though we never cooked), and an additional sleeper sofa in the kitchen (also didn’t use).

I did make a pot of tea, though!

Ivan and the boys woke up shortly after I did. Ivan and I sat out on the patio for a while. The temperatures are cooler in Monteverde, but not by that much- it was probably in the low 70s or upper 60s that morning.

Even horses on the property!

I walked down our little path backwards to take a pic of our house from farther away. Isn’t it so cute??!! I could have just stayed there a week by myself with that tea kettle and a book.

Nice flowers and landscaping

Our house was the last one up the hill on the property, so the most private. The next closest house/cabin was down this path, but with the bushes/plants, it was pretty blocked off from us.

Even though we had the kitchen, this hotel/lodge still offered a buffet breakfast (included) each morning- perfect!

Walking down the path to the main building:

Very, very pretty grounds.

Breakfast was from 6-9 am, and we didn’t go down until maybe 8:15, so the breakfast room was pretty quiet, just another family or two.

It had wooden ceilings and a very cute, Costa Rican vibe!

Asher mixing some sugar in his coffee… I am still Team No Coffee, but I guess he takes after his dad (in more ways than one 🙂 )

Then, after breakfast, back up the hill to gather our stuff and get ready to leave for the day. (The only negative of this place was this very steep hill we had to walk up!! My parents’ cabin was closer to the parking area/much flatter land.)

The boys waiting outside my parents’ cabin on these cute lounge swings:

Hiking shoes on, ready to go:

Santa Elena Reserve:

The big plan for the day was to go to the Santa Elena Reserve, one of Monteverde’s cloud forest reserves.

There are quite a few different options for seeing the cloud forests, which is Monteverde’s main claim to fame. Did you know only 1% of the world is made up of cloud forest?? This makes it a very unique, rare and distinct ecosystem- and is one reason I really wanted to visit these!!

We drove about ~20 minutes or so, up some steepish roads, but not too bad.

The main/most popular reserve (Monteverde Cloud Forest) we would visit the next day, but of the various other options, I chose Santa Elena because it is one of the most dense, lush and apparently not nearly as crowded as the main one.

(I always prefer less fellow tourists around me when on vacation, which can be tricky when you want to see highly popular places. But I think I’m pretty good at figuring out ways to get away from the crowds….).

Upon arrival, we paid the entrance fee and took a picture of the map of the various trails (no paper maps are provided anywhere in Costa Rica).

Heading out into the cloud forest

This place was serenely beautiful!! It is basically a regular rainforest, but due to the frequent cooler temperatures (at elevation) and the humidity, the whole area is enveloped in “clouds” much of the time. This affects the whole ecosystem and the plants and trees and animals and everything. This rainforest looks similar to the area near La Fortuna from a distance, but up close, it has very clear differences.

I especially loved all of these “weepy” trees.

The vegetation was so lush! Like the color green just exploded everywhere. The trunks of the trees were all covered in growth, too.

The trails in Santa Elena I would classify as at least moderate. There were many steep sections- lots of uphill. And then downhill, but oddly seemed like a lot more uphill than down. 😅

My mom the trooper… if my 39 year old legs were tired, I am sure her 72 year old legs were extra tired, but she never complained!

We saw some other hikers at the beginning, but overall, what I had researched held true: this reserve was most definitely not “crowded” at all. I’d say for 90% of the time we had no other people around us.

We went up to the top of an observatory tower, which in clear weather allows you to see all the way to the Arenal Volcano (a 3 hour drive away).

It was sunny, but low clouds prevented volcano views. Oh well. We had just seen it UP CLOSE and personal anyway in La Fortuna.

We hiked for several hours, making a couple nice loops that I thought would give us a good overview of the trails without spending like, 8 hours hiking.

Eventually we got to an intersection of sorts. I wanted to continue on another loop, but it was quite a ways and looked to have some STEEP sections. My mom opted to head back to the cafe and wait while the rest of us finished out the longer loop. My legs were burning by the end!! I guess I need to increase my leg days at the gym. 🤨

It was so gorgeous though!! I literally felt like I was in Jurassic Park or something.

Huge leaves and trees
Enormous, interesting trunks

Finally made it back! I was starving, so a couple of us got brownies from the cafe (even though I knew we would be going to get lunch soon…).

Lunch at Monteverde Brewery

It was mid-early afternoon by this point. We had plans for a night tour at 5:30, so we had time to get lunch and then planned to go back to the cabins for a bit to change into warmer clothes for the evening.

I had heard the Monteverde Brewery was good, so we headed there. It was located just a little out of town, in a sort of rural and pretty area. We like to visit microbreweries on vacation!

Local made beer
Thirsty after all the hiking 😉
View from brewery window
It was cute!

Several tables were full when we entered, but people cleared out shortly after we arrived- so my mom snapped this picture. (We opted for high tops in the bar area.)

The boys playing chess… on a chess website
Ethan did not try the sampler beer flight, don’t worry

After a very nice, relaxing lunch, we drove back to our hotel.

(Note- sometimes people ask me how we don’t get tired on our trips, doing a lot for so many days. My answer is that we build in leisurely moments like this- just sitting and chilling in a restaurant, talking, etc.!)

Drive back to Santa Elena

A little rest time

In this case, we actually took a little official “rest time” at the house, too, which was good because I wanted some time to just enjoy our cute house and the pretty area.

Asher took the opportunity to do a little homework he had brought along. The boys had to miss a full week of school for this trip. (Do not be too impressed by the homework on vacation- I think this was the only time on the whole trip that I saw his folder come out…).

I made some tea and just relaxed for a while on the patio. I think Ivan stretched out on the bed.

Night Tour at Bosque Eterno de los Niños

By a little after 5 we left to go to our night tour. I wore my longer pants (cropped joggers), and my fleece for this. It was a nice temperature but just a touch chilly at night. (I am always cold…).

It wasn’t dark yet (but would be soon). We looked out at this different reserve from a little platform. Very pretty.

Our private guide met up with us and we got going! He handed us all flashlights and gave us a little overview of the protected lands in this area.

Then, we hit the trails as it got dark.

It was neat to be in the rainforest at night! So many sounds. Only slightly creepy. Lol. (Snakes, anyone?? 😬)

He started searching for “night creatures”. Obviously, this is the wild and not a zoo, so there is no guarantee what you’ll see.

We saw this big grasshopper guy:

A sleeping bird! In a little hole in a tree branch. Awww.

A snail on a leaf:

Searching for frogs (making a sound to see if they respond):

A couple TARANTULAS!! Eek. (Apparently they don’t bite people??):

!!!! This was pretty cool.

Some kind of walking stick bug:

More walking and searching… we heard some rumbles of thunder in the distance that made me nervous we would get washed out, but it stayed away- not even any rain!

A little froggy!

A big snake up in a tree! (Sleeping, apparently? Or… waiting for a passing victim? Haha. He didn’t move, fortunately.)

Check out this self-protecting tree! It grows spikes to ward off danger. Impressive self preservation.

The end!! This hike (slow, at least) had lots of steep parts, too. I wasn’t really expecting that (after our other fairly strenuous hike during the day). For some reason I thought the night tour would be flat. Note: nothing in Costa Rica is flat.

We stopped in town for dinner on the way back at an Italian type place. The boys were big fans.

We all kind of collapsed into bed early!! It was probably one of our most physically draining days of the trip so far, just with all the walking and inclines. But, also a wonderful day full of some very cool stuff!!

2 thoughts on “Friday 3/17: Santa Elena Reserve, Monteverde Brewery and a Night Tour!”

  1. This all looks so cool and I’m a huge fan of doing things in the evenings on a trip – a completely different vibe and often, I find, extra exciting and memorable!


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