Costa Rica

Nicoya Peninsula & Monteverde Cloud Forest

Nicoya Peninsula & Monteverde Cloud Forest

June 2023

A new border crossing. As at other border crossings in Central America, it was one big chaos between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We drove slowly past a kilometre-long queue of trucks waiting and went in search of the right buildings and corresponding stamps. It remains a mystery why it is not possible to manage a border crossing in clear directions.


After three hours of waiting, everything was settled and we drove past the last trucks and “were done” with Nicaragua. At least we thought so and we cheered too soon. Looking for the last checkpoint, we got stuck between a cart on the right and a truck on the left. All of a sudden the truck started moving . Unfortunately, there was no room left for our left wing mirror, which gave way with a sound and, after the driver stopped the truck, was only hanging on by an electric wire.

After we had recovered from the shock we tried to get the mirror back in place with the help of tie-raps and tape. The driver grabbed his drill and made a few holes in the already unrepairable plastic. After some nice Spanish words and again apologies on his part, we all drove on to Costa Rica.

Not far from the border, we stayed two nights at Finca Cañas Castilla. This property that Guido and Aggi from Switzerland bought 30 years ago is one of those gems that we occasionally come across while traveling. The two of them have built their little paradise here where they offer cabanas and full board. A small cooking facility, toilets and showers are available to campers and nature is there for all to enjoy. Shortly before sunset, we were joined by a group of monkeys who with much noise disturbed the peace of the Finca and so this day also came to an end.


It was mostly resting and enjoying nature that we set out to do. Several times we took the small blue boat in search of crocodiles living in the river. From the terrace one could sometimes see them slowly swimming by, but to visit them up close from a small polyester boat obviously sounds a lot more exciting. Of the three times we went up the river by boat, one time we were able to ascertain with certainty that it was a crocodile. We slowly followed the animal until it disappeared underwater and then seemd to hold its breath for a very long time. We did not see it again after that.

Guido and Aggi have two adult shepherd dogs and another little one three months old. The two adult dogs kept a close eye on the guests present and if it even seemed that we were heading for one of the two hiking trails present, they came towards us with wagging tails and were not afraid to act as guides and show us their territory. Thus we hiked the “Weisser Weg” and the “Roter Weg” in company. Unfortunately, outside of some capuchin and howler monkeys, we didn’t get to see many other animals. Whether this was due to the presence of our guides?

Two goats blocked our way during the second walk. Already at a great distance Shiwa had noticed them and was able to warn us in time. The horns that these goats wore on their heads were imposing, for which we showed our respect. 


After we had studied the animals better from a distance, we walked back to the Finca where an animal surprise awaited us. A sloth was, how could it be otherwise, laze around in a palm tree and every now and then it would turn its head for another position. More energy was not wasted. They hardly move during the day and are therefore difficult to spot. Yet today Aggi had managed to find one up in the tree.


After two nights we said goodbye to the Finca and thanked Guido and and Aggi for allowing us to be their guests, while two throat billed toucans flew over and settled briefly in the trees above our car. We couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful farewell.

We spontaneously decided to drive to the Nicoya Peninsula. We set up our navigation system and spent two more wonderful lazy days on the beach among palm trees and the blue Pacific waters as our backyard.

Apart from relaxing, swimming and doing nothing we were also lucky to watch some iguanas in the trees, birds flying around and a cute little monkey, that seemed somehow injured and left behind by its family. He did not move very quickly and was shouting all day long for. When we fed him a banana he seemed to be happy about it.


After four days of doing nothing, we finally wanted to see more of what Costa Rica is known for. Wildlife! We left the Nicoya Peninsula and headed for the highlands just north of the peninsula with our first stop being the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. It wasn’t long before the road slowly began to rise and with each meter we drove up we noticed the temperature began to drop. The village of Santa Elena is a popular tourist destination that is actually on everyone’s to-do list. The idea was to do a night hike through the jungle here with a guide to hopefully go see some animals that are active at night.

We reported to the small campground just outside the village of Santa Elena where we planned to spend the night and where comfortably enough the night hike would also start. The campground was fully equipped with a clean toilet and hot shower and even the car could take shelter under a large roof. We stayed here an extra night and used the time to fix a small leak on the window. The rainy season is really coming and it is a good thing that everything is waterproof.


We also took the opportunity during the day to take a little walk by ourselves. It was made difficult for us to concentrate on anything. Above us hidden in the treetops, so many bird calls sounded, but a frog or snake hiding in lower parts also would be great to spot. On the other side of a coffee plantation, a Coati shot up a tree. A number of Motmots showed themselves and also an Agouti, although it quickly took off to hide.

Indeed, the frogs and snakes kept us waiting until the night hike. In a small group of five people and guide, we set off into the dark forest. We had barely left the reception area and the torches and telescope were already brought out. A sleeping Emerald Toucan enjoyed his evening rest on a branch high in the trees. We walked across the soccer field where the guide admonished us to turn off the flashlights and walk quietly behind him. This is the ideal place for scorpions! And lo and behold there was one in the grass about 20 meters from our car. With a special flashlight the animal turned green so it was easy to spot, but in the dark or with a normal flashlight it was not visible to the naked eye. A reassuring thought for later when we will have to walk back to the car ourselves!


The guide showed us some sleeping birds. Brown Jays (Braunhäher) and a Lesson’s Motmot (Diademmotmot) did not let seven flashlights pointed at them disturb them. The sounds produced by the jungle sounded even more intense in the dark than during the day. It was mainly the crickets that took the lead. We were amazed, though that even a frog, that was not much bigger than the width of our thumb managed to secure a place in the orchestra. The exciting animals showed themselves at the end of the slightly more than two-hour hike. First we came face to face with a tarantula. Although she was lying with its hindquarters facing us and we never saw its eyes, it still felt scary. We had both never seen a spider this large and were very pleased with this encounter!


Another encounter followed not much later. The guide shined his flashlight to the upper left where a green snake curled up in the hollow of a tree trunk and a branch was trying to sleep. The snake was about five feet away from us. Her green venom color was so bright that she had to be poisonous. But according to the guide, it wasn’t. It seems that not many poisonous animals are not found in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. An animal that is certainly not poisonous, but with which you also do not like to come into contact is the porcupine that near the exit of the forest suddenly came crawling down from a tree and then quickly disappeared again into the darkness.


We decided to get up early the next morning and go for another walk through the forest on our own. We did the night walk trail again and enjoyed the chorus of birdsong, even if we didn’t get to see many of them. We crept up to the Tarantula’s cave again, which gave us a bit of a queasy feeling. But it’s not for nothing that most animals are only seen at night, the “beauty” was nowhere to be seen and was probably lying peacefully asleep in her cave. When we had almost reached the end of the hike, we suddenly saw a horde of capuchin monkeys swinging through the trees. Unfortunately, they were a little too shy and soon disappeared into the thicket.


An even better discovery, however, was the coati family. First we spotted 3 little coatis and shortly afterwards the adults also made their presence felt rustling in the thicket of trees. They quickly climbed up and down the trees. They were probably looking for birds’ nests from which they could steal the eggs and/or young birds. We heard some warning calls from various birds. In any case, there was curiosity on both sides, just as we were staring into the trees, the coatis were looking down at us. Just like yesterday’s night hike, the early rise had been worth it. We then said goodbye to Monteverde and made our way to Lago de Arenal.


Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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