The distance from La Fortuna to Monteverde is only about 130km... or about 80 miles. But you can't get straight there unless you fly in a small airplane, which would take about 30 minutes. But we were driving, and because of the mountainous terrain and having to circumvent Lake Arenal, it takes about 3-4 hours. The road from La Fortuna to Tilaran is paved and in good condition, offering awesome views of the Lake and surrounding countryside. We stopped in Nuevo Arenal at a German Bakery for lunch and a rest and then hit the road again. After Tilaran, the road started to get pretty gnarly. We were certainly glad that 1) we had a 4x4 and 2) it wasn't raining. I wouldn't want to try some of the steeper dirt roads in the wet season. We had to navigate around potholes, streams, and at one point an entire herd of cows that had broken through their fence and were wandering down the road. Oh right... and the suicidal dogs that seem to be all over the place in Costa Rica. Be careful, they don't seem to understand that cars are dangerous. They will run directly at you. We had to swerve out of the way of more than a few exuberant canines throughout the trip.
After an hour or two of offroading we made it into the town of Santa Elena, home of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We checked out a couple of hotels that seemed pretty nice, but for some reason we decided to go backpacker style for this stop and checked into the "La Colina", a very dusty and creaky log cabin style place run by an American ex-pat from Los Angeles. There were beds and running water...and we decided that was all we needed. We still had time before dinner to do a "night tour" of some of the forest area nearby. We saw some Kinkajous, Tarantulas, Raccoons, ground nesting birds, tree nesting birds, and some unique trees. The majority of the animals we saw were right outside the office of the tour, no doubt attracted by the food that had certainly been placed out there for them. After the tour we got cleaned up and had dinner at the Treehouse Cafe in Santa Elena. We ordered a similar meal to the one that we had in La Fortuna, and again...it was excellent. It looked like a local girl was having her Quinceañera there while we were having dinner. Cool. After dinner we headed off to have a few drinks at a local bar. It seemed to be populated mostly by gringos...including the owner/operator. We met and chatted up a few students that were traveling abroad. We also looked on amusedly as the local Samba expert, dressed in what appeared to be a spandex bicyclist uniform, made it a point to rub his crotch on every woman in the bar whilst educating them in the ways of the local dance. His slicked back pony-tail completed the ensemble. It was great. We headed back to our hotel/hostel/log cabin/dustbowl accomodations. The slotted glass windows turned out to not do a great job keeping the insects out of the rooms. I decided to sleep with a towel over my head in hopes that I wouldn't get bitten by some Dengue infected mosquito or any of his buddies. I couldn't really complain at $10 a night.
The towel seemed to work fine. I woke up relatively well rested and bite-free. We packed up our stuff, got permission to leave our gear in the front lobby...and headed of to Selvatura Adventure Park for the much anticipated canopy tour. What an awesome experience. For those not familiar, these "ziplines" are thick braided metal wires strung out over and through the treetops, anchored on either end by a tree and its accompanying metal platform. Each guest is fitted with a harness not unlike one you would wear for mountain climbing. The guides took care of attaching a large pulley on the front of the harness to the wire. After a quick "Listo?" to make sure you're ready...away you go. Your back hand acts as a stabilizer and a brake in the event you get going to fast. The guides use hand signals to let you know if you're going to fast or too slow. They were constantly signaling and yelling for me to not brake.(I wasn't braking) All told, there were 15 cables, the last of which was nearly a kilometer long and required guests to go tandem to ensure there was enough mass to get across the entire wire. After the canopy tour we were treated to their "Tarzan swing". It's basically a foot-first bungee jump from a platform about 60 feet up. Watch out for your junk on this one. The first jolt after the free-fall can pinch you pretty tight.
The whole experience out there lasted about 4 hours. It was well worth the $45 plus the tip we gave to the guides. I definitely recommend it if you go to Monteverde. We finished up around noon and headed back to La Colina to pick up our bags. On the way out of town, we stopped for another delicious meal at a place called Trio. Next destination: the Nicoya Peninsula.