I just returned on Sunday from yet another fantastic weekend trip to yet another gorgeous place in Costa Rica. I feel continually privileged to be here and to experience all of the natural beauty in this country.
But first, a word about living in a host family. For anyone who may be trying to decide between doing a home-stay abroad or living in a dorm room, I cannot emphasize enough how much I recommend doing a home-stay. At times, it is more nerve-wracking, stressful, tiring, and challenging than living in a dorm room. However, the rewards more than make up for any struggles. For example, Anjali and I returned home on Sunday evening feeling exhausted and in need of some warm food and couches. And there was our host mom, ready with the world’s best comfort food – chicken stew – a smile, and questions about our weekend. I have done some pretty amazing and exciting things in this country, but I can honestly say that one of my favorite things to do is sit and chat with my host parents over breakfast or dinner. And when my host mom laughs at me and tells me how much my Spanish is improving? Well, that feeling can’t be topped. I can only hope that I truly make the most of living with these generous and wonderful people.
So, a group of eight of us traveled to Monteverde this weekend for three fabulous days in the mountains. Monteverde is a small town situated in the mountains of Monteverde cloud forest, which is well-known for being one of the most beautiful cloud forests in Costa Rica. A cloud forest is a tropical or sub-tropical evergreen forest that is under frequent or nearly constant cloud and fog cover. These forests generally occur at a higher altitude than rain forests, although there are similarities in appearance between rainforests and cloud forests. The Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve is a very well-protected and well-preserved ecological sanctuary. Our weekend activities included walking around an ecological sanctuary, where we saw an abundance of monkeys, coatis, agoutis, and even a toucan. Don’t worry, I had never heard of coatis and agoutis either! The ecological diversity here is just overwhelming. It is definitely one of the best places in the world to study biology, ecology, zoology, and just about anything related to nature and biodiversity.
In the afternoon, we did the Adventura Canopy Tour, which included zip-lining, the Superman zip-line (in which you are harnessed to the zip-line from your back and sent off over the treetops in a Superman position), and the terrifyingly awesome Tarzan swing. As a lover of adventure and thrills, the canopy tour seemed to be designed for me, with just the right amounts of excitement and fear. Although some other members of my group did not enjoy the more extreme activities (especially the Tarzan swing), we were all excited to have taken part in such a cool experience at least oncee. I admit, as soon as I finished the Tarzan swing, I wanted to run back up the mountain and do it again. I do not have the words to do justice to the feeling of flying in a superman position, hundreds of feet over a canopy of trees. That minute and a half of my life was pure trees, mountains, sky, and adrenaline. I can only say that if you ever get a chance to try zip-lining in Costa Rica, please do it. And age is no factor – there were three older men from Israel in our zip-lining tour who looked as if they were at least in their seventies, and they quite possibly had even more fun than we did!
As a side note – three of my friends decided to take the plunge and go bungee jumping this weekend at the highest bungee jumping site in Latin America. Crazy, I know, but all three of them had an amazing time and were glad to have experienced the craziness.
As expected, I enjoyed staying in a hostel or bed and breakfast much more than staying in a hotel. Hostels are low-key, relaxed, and reasonably priced. The people who run them are often friendly and helpful. Our hostel owner helped us book all of our activities and find transportation! My group and I pitched in to do grocery shopping and cook big delicious dinners on both Friday and Saturday evening, which was both delicious and fun. So, tip number two from Costa Rica is – when possible – stay in hostels. You will have more fun and, in all probability, you will be just as comfortable as you would have been in a hotel. And you might even meet some other travelers along the way!
That is all for now. I could go on for pages about my experiences here. I should probably stop overusing the words “fun,” “exciting,” and “wonderful,” but, 95% of the time, those are the most appropriate words to describe our trips!
So, until next time!