travel

Saturday 3/18: Coffee Tour, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Treehouse Restaurant

Day 8 in Costa Rica, 3/18

Saturday was our second full day in Monteverde. I had reserved a Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane Tour (by Don Juan Tours) for 10 a.m. (booked in advance a few weeks ago, as it seemed popular).

We got up and had breakfast.

(An unrelated photo, but I really liked this little library/sitting area in the reception building! Passed it each morning on the way in and then up the stairs to breakfast.)

A shot of the breakfast spread:

Breakfast was very nice here, with hot egg and meat options, fresh fruit, bread, and more.

Like the last place, we got to eat surrounded by trees out the window. πŸ™‚

After breakfast, we had a bit of time to get ready. I showered. But first, MORE pics of the house! It seemed, I don’t know, sunnier this morning, so I took a bunch of probably repeat pictures. BUT, the horse was grazing super close to the house today. (I love horses! Fun fact, I took English riding lessons for a few years in middle school.)

I loved that I could see it from my bedroom window!! So quaint. There were actually two white horses that roamed around.

Asher called to me after his shower to come quickly, and he was laughing because the horse was literally right outside the bathroom window!! Hahaha.

As I’ve mentioned already, I really enjoyed this unique location and hotel option. I know some people might only seek out “fancy” or “luxury” hotels on vacation, but honestly, that’s not me, and this experience was way better to me than any fancier or swankier place, anyway. I really don’t care at all about staying somewhere with every last spa amenity or chef service or if it’s “5 stars”. I wanted to experience Costa Rica as authentically as possible (while still having very nice, comfortable accommodations, of course).

I really feel like I nailed our lodging on this trip!!! (Not to toot my own horn- sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, because it can be tricky to always tell what a place is really like from internet listings. But all 3 places we stayed felt pretty darn perfect to me, for our family, anyway.)

Always happy with a great porch and a cup of tea. πŸ‘

Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane Tour

We left for our 10 a.m. tour and drove the quick 5-10 minutes from the hotel.

Our guide, Izzy, introduced herself, and we met another family who would be joining us for the tour, a family of four from Ontario with kids just younger than ours.

Getting an overview at the beginning about the origins of coffee and its roots.

This tour was very interesting! However, do not quiz me on what I learned… I thought it was a well done tour overall, but maybe a little bit disorganized/ hard to follow at times.

I didn’t get the feeling that our guide was super experienced as a tour guide yet- she freely admitted that she was newer to it and when she didn’t know the answer to certain questions- and her English could be slightly spotty sometimes (though overall it was no problem! I was so IMPRESSED with how well most of the Costa Ricans in the tourism industry speak English!! Literally almost everyone we encountered spoke very good/ strong English. Tourism is a huge industry there, so it makes sense. We were told that over 80% of the tourists are from the U.S., though we did also meet lots of Canadians and Europeans, and a handful of people from Asia.)

Izzy was very sweet though and I enjoyed her tour, regardless. πŸ™‚

Holding some coffee fruits from a coffee plant (got to try it):

Asher was selected to help with a demo of how the coffee pickers wear a basket around their waist:

learning about the coffee plant
A BEAUTIFUL morning!!!! I even liked just walking around this farm.

In the greenhouse, she described the next steps in the coffee making process…. (again, don’t grill me on the details here…). We all had to scoop up the beans and then take them over to this other machine to be mashed up.

We all took turns holding the very heavy wooden mallet thingy and trying to see what it would be like to do this.

Then she ran some of them through this old machine to be de-shelled, I think?

We saw the coffee roasting process at work, and she taught us how long each bean needs to roast to be light, medium, dark roast, etc., plus she had green coffee beans!

Next we went into a little shed where she talked about cacao plants and their fruit and seeds, which we also got to taste.

She then went through the chocolate making process. It smelled…. kinda gross in this beginning stage, sort of a fermentation stage, I think?

The owner of this whole operation, the man Don Juan himself (of “Don Juan Coffee Tours”, which is a pretty big operation, in both La Fortuna and Monteverde) stopped by! He is 87 years old. Izzy our guide greeted him with great respect in Spanish and asked if anyone wanted a photo with him. My mom did! πŸ™‚ He seemed very sweet.

At the end of the coffee and chocolate part, Izzy actually made us coffee or hot chocolate, and we got to sample various types of chocolate.

It was not the super sweet, probably highly processed chocolate I am used to…. so I actually didn’t really like it!!! 😬 Sorry, give me a Dove bar. But it was interesting and fun to try. πŸ™‚

Finally, she talked about sugar and sugar cane production, and actually chopped off a piece of sugar cane and peeled it for us to try. Now, this was good. I had actually tried sugar cane before in Guatemala years ago. I liked it then, and I liked it now. YUMMY.

giving us a sample

She asked the men to help her run the sugar cane through the machine to make a sugar cane water drink (basically just squeeze the liquid out). We all got to drink some. It was delicious!

Very focused on squeezing every last bit of juice out of my sugar cane. lol.

And that was the end! Took a few pics with the sugar cane plants, because why not:

Heading back to the main building. Very pretty place, and lots of birds around, too!

All in all, I would rate this tour as “very good”, though I probably wouldn’t say it’s exactly a “must do”, either, if super short on time. In my opinion, it was a nice change of pace and helped to diversify our trip.

I like to really try to cover various angles of places that we go (e.g. seeing the rainforest from land (hiking) and water (rafting trip), to see different landscapes (e.g. the underground cave tour, and the top of the canopy while ziplining!) or learn about things unique to that area. This fit the bill on the last one and was both interesting and informative. I am glad we did it! We also try to squeeze in a little “education” for the boys wherever possible on trips. πŸ™‚

Back at the cafe/ restaurant/ gift shop, they had more big pots of coffee and hot chocolate for us to drink.

Again, I don’t drink coffee!! But this hot chocolate was really good (once I added a bit more sugar).

Swapped group photo ops with our new Canadian friends:

Looked around the gift shop a bit and bought the kids each a Christmas ornament that says “Costa Rica” on it (family tradition to always get ornaments from wherever we travel to each year). I also bought a postcard, and got a cute little sloth stuffed animal/snap bracelet style that I am planning to clip on a pole lamp in my office! It’s so cute. I’ll share a pic later.

I also loved this t-shirt, though we didn’t buy it. So funny!! The Costa Ricans really do say “pura vida” for everything!! Hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome…. it’s all just “pura vida”. I love it. It literally means “pure life”, and I just love that chill vibe. Life is good, man.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Next up was the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the “main” cloud forest in the region. Since time was going to be tight (the coffee tour ran from 10-12:30 or so, and the cloud forest would close by 4 pm), we basically planned to skip lunch. There just wasn’t going to be a lot of time to stop anywhere, and we didn’t have a cooler along or anything to pack lunches. We just ate a bigger breakfast and then the boys just got some bananas and snacks at the coffee tour cafe. This worked out fine.

Again, the early sunsets in Costa Rica and early closing times at most places was probably the only “complicated” thing about planning this trip! I feel like in other places where it stays light later a nature reserve might be open until 5 or 6 at least, allowing a little more wiggle room and time to do things.

Anyway, we drove directly to the cloud forest, photographed the map, and set out to hike.

Our legs were a little bit fried from all the hills in Santa Elena the day before, so I attempted to find a route here that would be a little easier. For the most part it worked out, though once again- nothing is truly flat in Costa Rica!! We still had some more hills. Oh well! πŸ™‚

I had read that this particular cloud forest can get SUPER crowded and busy with tourists, to the point that some people complain and almost don’t recommend it. Yet, I had read it was very beautiful and had great trails, so I did want to see it.

I therefore planned it for the afternoon, hoping to avoid all the tourists rushing there in the morning (many people aim to hike first thing in the morning to see the animals and birds more active), and again it worked! We had mostly empty trails, and it was indeed beautiful.

The trails were overall similar to Santa Elena, but I’d say less dense and not as rugged. Hard to explain, but the two parks were different looking, so I would recommend seeing more than one cloud forest in Monteverde, if able.

This neat red suspension bridge was fun to see:

I like this picture, how the bridge is almost being enveloped by the vegetation:

A nice one of me and Ivan:

And a good one of my parents!

I’d say in total we hiked from about 1:15 p.m. to 4:00 when they closed.

huge fern-type plant!
Amazing trees

Another interesting stopping point was the “Continental Divide”, or the boundary between the two different watersheds. It says that from this point, water that falls on one side will travel down toward the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other side, down to the Pacific.

Not shown: the boys both vehemently opposing a photograph here just moments before, because the sun was bright and there were some little flying biting bugs around up here, for some reason! (despite no other mosquitoes in the rest of the cloud forest.)
My mom gladly obliged in having her photo taken. haha!

This was a very beautiful view. I keep saying this, but the pictures just do not do it justice. Something about the brilliant and varying shades of rainforest green just does not show up right in photographs!

Love this one!!! Frame worthy, I think.
I liked this natural frame made out of leaves. πŸ™‚

More hiking…..

Cute one of Asher and my Dad. ❀️
This tree was super cool! Looks like a bunch of scrolls from my old cello.

After our loop, we had about 30 minutes left. There was a little waterfall down this one other trail we hadn’t seen, so Ivan, my Dad and I set off to check that out. The boys said they were “good” on the hiking at this point, so they stayed on a bench near the entrance with my mom. Ha.

In fairness, this little waterfall was just that: LITTLE. (Okay, it looked better in real life because there was an upper portion too that you can’t really see in the photo.) But it was not particularly impressive. Oh well! Got some extra steps in and the hike itself was very pretty.

Then we drove back to the house/cabins.

The plan was to go to this Treehouse Restaurant for dinner later on, around 6 p.m. (it’s a restaurant literally built in an actual, big tree, like a treehouse). It is a tourist hot spot, so I actually called ahead to make a reservation since I thought it might get really busy. (This was the only dinner reservation I made on the entire trip. We never make dinner reservations on vacation, or really, ever… just usually always wing our meals and see what looks good.)

I debated if I should shower again (had been hiking, and was wearing a hat all day…). But we only had just ~1 1/2 hours before dinner, so I decided to just sit and enjoy the afternoon on the porch instead. Costa Rica is VERY CASUAL. There is no need to “dress up” basically ever. I figured I’d just clean up/freshen up some, change my clothes and wear my hat to dinner. Pura vida. πŸ˜‰

I texted my parents to hike up the hill to our porch for a bit and I made a pot of tea.

We walked into town for dinner. The street parking situation wasn’t great in the little town, and the restaurant was really just a couple minutes down this street, around the corner. Very close.

Dinner at the Tree House Restaurant

This was really fun, and I think a great way to close out our time in Monteverde! The atmosphere was super cool with rotating multi colored lights illuminating the tree branches, and heaters on either side of our table (it gets a little chilly at night in Monteverde!).

Me rocking my Adidas hat at dinner, lol! I’m so classy.
I get my class from my fellow hat wearing Dad. πŸ˜‰ HAHA.
Great shot of Mom and Dad!
courtesy of Ethan
My favorite 14 year old!!

Shortly after we arrived, live music started! This was the icing on the cake, because they were really good! They played all the old Costa Rican classics, like Queen, the Beatles, and hits from Grease. πŸ˜†πŸ˜† (Okay, clearly the music choices were geared toward North American tourists, but hey, it was great music.) The guy on the saxophone was amazing!!!

A couple more restaurant shots:

Got some kind of creamy chicken dish which I really liked. The only negative of this place was that it was drastically overpriced, but such is life I guess if you want to eat dinner inside a treehouse. Also, my Dad didn’t care for his meal. But I liked my food a lot! And my mom LOVED the atmosphere in this place. Very fun and festive.

After dinner, we stopped in a souvenir shop and Ivan wanted to run into a little convenience store/ market for something.

Asher inside a little Costa Rican store.

We all said goodnight and turned in to our respective cabins. It was another long, active, great day! We just hung out and relaxed in our house for a while before going to bed. How I loved sleeping with the windows open there.

It was our last night in Monteverde before moving on to Manuel Antonio for 5 nights. Hard to believe that by this point, we were over halfway through the trip already! This day, Saturday, marked a full week since we had arrived in Costa Rica.

9 thoughts on “Saturday 3/18: Coffee Tour, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Treehouse Restaurant”

  1. Those horses!!! So beautiful.

    I 100% relate to the fact that greenery just never, ever gets captured properly in pictures (same with sunsets and the ocean). It’s so much more beautiful in person. That said, these pictures are so gorgeous, so I can’t even imagine in person.

    My husband had a lot of sugar cane when he worked in Africa and was a big fan.

    You definitely did an incredible job researching all the potential activities + booking fabulous places to stay!

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  2. Asher called to me after his shower to come quickly, and he was laughing because the horse was literally right outside the bathroom window!! – What a sweet kid! He could have just kept that information to himself, you know? But he was eager to share and that’s just so sweet!

    I think it looks gorgeous in photos and if it’s even better in person, I can’t even imagine!

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  3. you nailed it on the hotels! your new cabin looks so rustic and cool. I feel relaxed just by looking at it.
    tree house dinner? that sounds fun, I guess that justifies the high price! πŸ™‚

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  4. I’ve loved reading about your trip! Everything just seems so beautiful and fascinating.
    Sugar cane is big in Taiwan too. I remember being there and you can buy sticks of it at the grocery store just to gnaw on as a sweet treat.
    I’d love to hear how you plan your trips, and how you find all the adventures and activities and places to stay! I find trip planning overwhelming- soooo many decisions to make, and not being sure if an activity will be worthwhile or not … I get decision paralysis.

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  5. What a fantastic day. The horse outside my window would have made me so happy, too πŸ™‚ And the coffee tour sounds amazing..

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