The Jaguar Rescue Centre covers an area of approximately 22,000 square meters and is capable…
A review of Jaguarundi Lodge in Monteverde, located in Santa Elena and conveniently located near to the bus station, shops and restaurants
The Monteverde region of Costa Rica sits in the central mountains along the country’s continental divide.
Situated at 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level, Monteverde, Costa Rica is a lot like the United States’ Pacific Northwest region — evergreen due to the precipitation and moisture-filled clouds which hover over the horizon on an almost daily basis.
Monteverde’s cloud forests are the byproduct of fog (a thick, low-hanging cloud) tangling amongst the leaves and branches of the forest canopy. When these water-based clouds come into contact with solid plant material, the plant absorbs what it needs and the remaining water condenses and drips down — layer by layer, organism by organism — until it reaches the forest floor.
I had booked us into a small resort called Jaguarundi, which is located outside the main town area of the small town of Santa Elena, the gateway to the cloud forests, but is close to the central bus station and a small shopping mall that has a supermarket, a bank, shops and some cafes and restaurants.
At the entrance to driveway, there was a restaurant that had obviously been closed for a quite a few years and had become extremely run down. Not a good first impression of Jaguarundi. Something else that caught my eye was the sign stating that this was the location of the world’s first commercial zip line course! A Californian graduate called Don Perry developed the use of zip lines to conduct his research in the jungle canopies of Costa Rica back in the 1970s (although the concept of zip lines had been around for centuries in the mountains of Europe and the Himalaya).
Inspired by Perry’s ziplines, Canadian entrepreneur Darren Hreniuk built the world’s first recreational zipline course in Monteverde, Costa Rica in 1995. Although Hreniuk tried to patent the concept and aggressively block rival course from opening, the courts ultimately ruled that zipline technology belongs in the public domain. Moving on several decades zip line courses can be found everywhere around the world.
The resort is set into the jungle. We pulled into the parking lot and headed to the lobby. The main building houses the lobby bar, which is a large room where breakfast is served in the morning. Not much else seems to go on here. They don’t do lunch or dinner but direct people to the Fig Restaurant & Sunset Lounge at the Ficus Hotel.
Rustic was a good description of our cabin. The was a queen-sized bed in the room, with a very firm mattress (I think this is the norm in Costa Rica), and a small counter with a mini fridge underneath it. That was it – no storage space. It was a little tight. We did have an ensuite bathroom that was also small but functional. Our cabin had a narrow set of stairs to a loft space, which had a mattress. The ceiling in the loft was low, so really designed for children. Another thing to note was that there was no air-conditioning. Luckily, we were in the mountains, so things were a little cooler and less humid (relatively compared to the coast!).
Outside our cabin there was a small balcony, which was shared with our neighbouring cabin in the duplex. On the subject of neighbours, the walls of the cabins are not sound-proofed, so we got to hear pretty much everything your neighbours were up to.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant in the lodge. When we visited there were two sittings.
The breakfast options are limited to coffee, plus a juice and cooked breakfast with beans & rice, egg and fried plantains. This is very much the standard breakfast offering in Costa Rica!
The Jaguarundi Lodge is located inside the rainforest, so there is plenty of wildlife to see right on your doorstep. On our first afternoon we went to have an afternoon nap and were rudely awakened by a howler monkey right overhead in the treetops. We also saw plenty of birds and agoutis. During breakfast on our second morning at Jaguarundi the dining room was invaded by a band of coatis. We, along with the other guests were amused by this – the staff less so!
In Summary …
We really enjoyed our stay at Jaguarundi Lodge. Its location in the centre of Santa Elena was perfect. Here are some closing thoughts:
- The setting in the rainforest was lovely, and there was a lot of wildlife to see right from our balcony.
- The cabin was small and as advertised, rustic. There was an ensuite which was fine. If you are thinking of staying here it might be considering spending a little more and get one of the upgraded cabins.
- Also, be aware there is no air-conditioning, that said the temperature and humidity in the mountains are not as bad as at lower elevations.
- There was no storage or much space to getting luggage out of the way.
- Breakfast is served onsite but it you want lunch and dinner you’ll have to find somewhere else to go. Luckily, it is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants.
Planning your trip to Monteverde
Santa Elena is about 140km (about 90 miles) from the capital San Jose and about 115km (70 miles) from Liberia. A shared ride will cost around $65 from San Jose & Liberia and will take about 4 hours. If you rent a car it will take about 3 hours. The roads approaching Monteverde are paved and good from the west of the town.
We travelled from east, coming from La Fortuna / Arenal. As the crows flies they are close, but due to the mountains and the lake the journey by road is about 115km (70 miles) and takes 3 hours. One way of doing this is to take a ride to Arenal Lake from La Fortuna take a ferry across the lake and take a ride to Monteverde. The ferry is foot passengers only. This shared ride service starts at about $35.
We had a rental car so drove ourselves from La Fortuna. This route takes you north along highway 142 which follows the shoreline, offering tantalising views of the lake from time to time. After about and hour or so after leaving La Fortuna, you will arrive at the small town of Nuevo Arenal, which is a good pitstop if you are looking for somewhere to eat.
Continuing on from Nuevo Arenal you’ll eventually reach the northern reach of Arenal Lake and start heading west. At the town of Tilarán we left the 142 and joined the 145. Up to this point I had thought the stories of the huge potholes and unpaved roads were tales from a time past, but over the next hour or so we realised that they are still very much a hazard. When I could take the time to not pay attention to the road, the countryside was amazing. We had climbed into the mountains. The road was extremely rough, but not something we hadn’t seen before.
A lot of people recommend renting a 4×4 vehicle when travelling this part of the country. This is good advice, especially in the rainy season. We went in December so the main rains had stopped and did the whole journey in a little Kia sedan and made it through without incidence! Just think about your personal comfort on driving on unpaved roads with deep potholes.
Best time to visit Monteverde
Just like the rest of Costa Rica, Monteverde has a dry season (December to May, when prices tend to be higher and crowds bigger) and a wet season (May to December). Here, though, the terms are relative. Because the park is in a cloud forest, the mountaintop reserves and the twin towns below them are often enveloped in a hybrid of wind, rain, and fog, which forms when warm air blows in from the ocean and rises up to the summits of the Tilaráns. The months between August and November are particularly rainy,
Ideas of things to do in Monteverde
1. HANGING BRIDGES & ZIPLINING
Monteverde owes a large part of its popularity to the hanging bridges in the cloud forest. Get up high in the forest canopy by way of these bridges which range up to 800 feet long and 2400 feet in altitude (240 meters to 730 metres). The two adventure parks in Monteverde; Skyadventures and Selvatura have trails through the jungle with a series of hanging bridges. We chose to do the trails at Selvatura, which has 8 bridges ranging from 170 to 560 feet offering absolutely incredible views of the cloud forest because that park is very high in elevation (higher than all other parks).
If you are looking for something to get the adrenalin pumping then ziplining is a great option. After all, Monteverde was the birthplace of commercial ziplining. Both the adventure parks mentioned above have excellent ziplining courses and additional adventure activities.
2. HIKING IN THE CLOUD FORESTS
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established in 1972 and initially covered some 810 acres (328 ha) of forested land. Nowadays, its protective reach extends over 35,089 acres (14,200 ha) and encompasses eight life zones atop the Continental Divide. There are over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles living within its bounds. It’s one of the few remaining habitats that support all six species of the cat family — jaguars, ocelots, pumas, oncillas, margays, and jaguarundis — as well as the endangered three-wattled bellbird and resplendent quetzal. Over 8 miles (13 km) of trails are available for visitors to explore on their own or with a guide.
3. VISIT A COFFEE PLANTATION
The climate in the central mountains of Costa Rica is ideal for growing coffee, so there are numerous coffee plantations scattered around the area, many of them small holdings. We love coffee and had enjoyed a cup or two every morning during our time in Costa Rica, so we decided to visit a coffee plantation to join a tour to see how coffee is grown, harvested and produced.