Help! Chickening out on MV!

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Dec 3rd, 2005, 10:12 PM
  #1
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Help! Chickening out on MV!

We leave for CR in 5 days and I'm starting to panic about the whole Monteverde road thing. I'm only 42 (and I skateboard) but hearing about potholes the size of Jacuzzis is starting to freak me out. (That and the fact that I can't seem to get a reply from the hotels up there.) Both my 9 year old and I have some neck issues (nothing super serious, but still) and I keep wondering if I'm going to spend the rest of the year at the chiropractor after this.

I always wanted to go to a Cloud Forest because it sounded so, well, cool and misty, but now I'm wondering if we should just hang in the Central Highlands and try the Los Angeles Cloud Forest or others before heading to Manuel Antonio (which I was also about to chicken out on--due to crowds and talk of it being overrated--but I'm going to stick with my Mango Moon reservation).

Anyone?
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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:34 AM
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I went there with 2 7 yo boys and 2 9 yo girls. It was the highlight of their trip to CR. There were bugs, snakes, butterflies, army ants, frogs etc. They all loved it. So did the adults. We were there 4 days and could have easily stay another of couple of days.

We hired a private shuttle which was very comfortable but I'm sure Interbus would be just as comfortable. It's a long trip and we got a bit of "aren't we there yet" from the kids but it was well worth the effort.

We also all enjoyed MA - lots of sloths, monkeys and waves for boogie boarding. Just take rip tide warnings very seriously. We got swept out to sea which could have been very serious if we hadn't been prepared for it - always swim parrallel to the shore until you get into calm water - not straight into the current.

Sometimes people get cynical about places that attract lots of tourists. Well, it might be better to find an unknown gem but there are reasons that lots of people go to these touristy locations.
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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:48 AM
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Although it's been a few years since we've been, I doubt the roads have changed that much. The drive between Arenal and Monteverde is only awful for the last 20km or so. It's only going to hurt your back (and your car) if you try and go faster than about 10 miles per hour. The big rocks sticking out or the road were actually worse than the potholes. We never got out of second gear. But, it wasn't scary, and it never looked 'too hard', it just took time. The road down the mountain on the other side, back to the Pan-Am highway isn't nearly as rough. It's still 'washboard' gravel all the way, with some significant potholes and rocks, but nothing like the 'back side'. Keep in mind that buses make this trip every day.

I really enjoyed Monteverde, it's a neat place with a good 'vibe'.

We also enjoyed Manual Antonio. Yep, lots of people, but also a great choice of lodging and restaurants. And 'lots of people' is a relative term. It's nothing like going to Disney or some such thing.
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Dec 4th, 2005, 06:23 AM
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ljv
 
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Hi!
Our family went to Costa Rica in August and went to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. WE felt, based on the unavailablity of hotels in MV, that it would be too crowded.
Absolutely LOVED the Los Angeles. We stayed at the gorgeous Villablanca Cloud Forest Resort. The casitas and food were suberb. There is an on-site spa with excellent, reasonably priced treatments. It is an ethereal place that is uncrowded, with great hiking opportunities. Also, we did the most fantastic horseback trip from the Villablanca, with beautiful views.
Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any ?'s.
P.S. Very close to SJ airport(1.25 hours),paved road most of the way. Also good departure point for Arenal area. Took us about 2.5 hours to get there on good roads.
Have fun! Lori
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Dec 4th, 2005, 10:13 AM
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Lori, thank you SO much. I will check that out (4 days till our departure, tick, tick, tick...!)

Jean--re your comment: "The road down the mountain on the other side, back to the Pan-Am highway isn't nearly as rough. It's still 'washboard' gravel all the way, with some significant potholes and rocks, but nothing like the 'back side'. " Does this mean we could take this less rough road up both ways?? We are not going to Arenal at all. Just San Jose to Monteverde. Are we in for an "easier" trip if we avoid Arenal?

Thanks!
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Dec 4th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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skateboardmom2, we visited Monteverde in June 2005. And by the way I had whiplash years ago, in a USA accident, and like you, my neck does bother me now and then. (My whiplash didn't do any lasting bone damage thankfully. Had soft tissue damage and limited motion for a while.) I too was worried about the bad roads to Monteverde. (by the way ALL roads to Monteverde are bad in spots.)

But should you miss Monteverde because of the roads? I didn't, and I plan to go back! Saw Manuel Antonio, once was enough. Saw Arenal, wonderful, but again once was enough for me. Saw Monteverde and fell in love with it...hubby and I will be back.

Monteverde isn't for everyone. But for us, with a biologist and 3 poets in the family, it was magic.

Are the roads bad? They sure are. But I didn't see any potholes the size of jacuzzis! The road to Monteverde is full of pebbles, some rocks, and some potholes, and I felt comforted by the fact that hubby, being a biologist, has taken many similar roads, including driving off-road. We rented a 4-wheel drive automatic vehicle. You want a vehicle with good clearance off the ground, good brakes, good tires.

Definitely take the drive in the day-time, in the morning. (It's more likely to rain in the afternoon.)

Do your research and make sure it's the kind of place for you. Monteverde cloud forest is the kind of place for people who want to get away from it all, who are looking for a cloud forest which is relatively unspoiled by man, which has some old trees and vines which give it a primordial look...where you can stand on the path, and listen, and hear birds, insects, frogs, and maybe not see very much wildlife, because the flora is so dense the wildlife is hidden. You cannot leave the path. But the flora is fantastic! It's a place to go slowly, bring binoculars, a camera, and a paper and pen if you like to journal or write poetry! Go early in the morning, try to get there 10 minutes before it even opens. That was our goal, I think we came pretty close.

If you skateboard, then you can handle the road. Is someone in your party experienced with driving on rough roads, country roads, unpaved roads, or mountain roads? The people who get most freaked out by roads like this are people from flat states who have only drive on flat, straight, paved roads. (Can't believe all the people complaining about the Road to Hana on Maui, which is quite modern compared to the roads in Costa Rica!)

No guard rails on the mountain curves in Costa Rica!

I have a long trip report which has a lot on Monteverde. If you click on my name you might be able to find it...it's called "We're Alive! Costa Rica Trip Report: June 2005: Monkeys, insects, and rain...(Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Monteverde, San Pablo) Ask me anything!", posted 6/30/3005

On the worst part of the road to Monteverde, I felt like I wouldn't be needing a chiropractor for my neck, because it was loosening up my stiff neck, seriously, I thought it might actually be good it! However, I felt like my insides were being jostled so much, I remember thinking my uterus was going to detach from my body...and my daughter, in the very back by herself, with luggage, bumped her head on the window...(the person in the back might want to tuck a pillow between their head and the window!)

Other than that, which actually made us laugh, when we arrived in Monteverde, I had no ill effects, no aches or pains. (I'm nearly 50 and I don't skate-board!)

Have you ever been to disneyland and tried the Indiana Jones ride? It's sort of like that, only not so much rocking motion.

Hope this helps. I think people need to research Monteverde. You need to figure out if it's really your kind of place, or if you would be just as happy someplace easer to drive to. I honestly chose it for hubby the biologist, but I ended up falling in love with it myself, and my young adult daughters were also entranced with it, although they may have had more fun in Arenal, because we chose to do all our action adventures in Arenal, and in Monteverde we focused more on nature hikes.

In our experience, the best thing at Manual Antonio is the beaches within the Manuel Antonio national park, which are quite nice, warm water, not crowded like our southern california beaches get in the summer. However, we did Manuel Antonio last, and the rainforest there just can't compare with the Monteverde cloud forest or the Hanging Bridges in Arenal, in my personal experience. Want to know what my favorite experience was in Manuel Antonio? The Hotel Si Como No! Want to knw my favorite experience at Monteverde? It was the Monteverde Cloud forest preserve.

If you are the type of family who loves big fancy swimming pools, and likes being pampered at your hotel, then probably Manuel Antonio might suit you better. If you enjoy a simple cabin and your idea of activities is hiking in the forest, and you like learning about a lot of different types of plants, Monteverde would be special for you.

As for crowds, we went to Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, and Arenal. We tried to do all our activites in the morning after breakfast. I didn't see any crowds in all of Costa Rica!!! (Compared to the type of crowds you see in southern california or Maui for example.) Yes, you will see other hikers, you won't have the place to yourself. Yes, it's a good idea to find out the tour bus schedule and get on a different schedule. Other than that, we didn't see any "crowds"!
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Dec 4th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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skateboardmom2, forgot to recommend that you need a minimum of 3 nights in Monteverde. Although I love it, I wouldn't consider going back for less than 2 nights, because you want to make the drive worthwhile, and you want time to relax and enjoy it. Also when we were there it rained every afternoon afte lunch for a bit. therefore with 3 nights that gave us 2 long sunny mornings (we got up early ). If we had stayed for only 1 night, we would basically have only had 1/2 a day to hike! The rain tended to stop before dinner, giving us some more time for the outdoors in the afternoon before dinner.
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Dec 4th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Ahhhhh! Typo! I meant, I wouldn't consider going back to MOnteverde for less than 3 nights! 2 nights isn't enough for MOnteverde, in my opinion. sorry about the typo.
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Dec 4th, 2005, 12:12 PM
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Thank you!

We are not the type of family who needs big fancy (ok, once in awhile I do!). My husband and I did the backpack around the world thing in 1994, on $30 day total. My original idea was actually to spend a WEEK in Monteverde, at least, because it sounded so great. Then I remembered (duh) my husband had said wherever we go on vacation, he needed to have SUN. Which is why we're splitting it half in cloud forest, half at beach. (We live in Laguna Beach, CA and never go to the beach.)

I just called Villa Blanca resort in the Los Angeles Cloud Forest and they have rooms but wow, you pay for it. Recently remodeled they say, but well into the $200/night range. I actually feel like I will regret not doing Monteverde--the adventure of it all. But we travel a lot and I'm sure we'll be back to CR multiple times, too.

Um, lame question but I have to ask on my son's benefit: on that bone-jarring portion of the trip, are there any places to stop and use a restroom? For some reason, he has always refused to "bush it" no matter how hard we try!

Thanks all!
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Dec 4th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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I wouldn't trust myself to drive this road, but I hired a driver and laughed the whole way up. It's bumpy for sure -- don't drink too much coffee before you go -- but it's not so bad that I wouldn't do it. Think of it as a fun adventure! You'll love it once you get there.

Sandy
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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:09 PM
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skateboardmom2, I am the perfect person to relate to your son's question about is there any real bathroom stop on the bone-jarring portion of the Monteverde drive! I had the same worry! I am the person who often leaves the movie twice in the same movie to use the bathroom. But I found it was fine to use the bathroom at the last store/bar/restaurant we passed on the
"highway" just before heading up into the "wilderness", and then I don't recall actually if we passed another bathroom before reaching Monteverde, but I am pretty sure I didn't have to wait longer than about 2 hours maximum without a real bathroom! Tell him, no caffeine or diet sodas the morning he is travelling on the bone-jarring road. Believe me I'm the expert this will help a lot!
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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:12 PM
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About the weather: We had sun every morning at Monteverde, which is when we liked to hike. By lunch-time the mist began descending and brought some rain. It always stopped raining a couple hours before dinner.

Have you considered Arenal area as well?

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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:21 PM
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skateboardmom, that's so funny you live in laguna, I grew up there. I'm actually going to be down there the 22nd-27th for Christmas. Are you going to be back by then? If so, I'd love to maybe get together with you at a coffee shop and go over CR stuff. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip for my college graduation in June/July of '06. Let me know if you are interested
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Dec 4th, 2005, 04:21 PM
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skateboardmom, that's so funny you live in laguna, I grew up there. I'm actually going to be down there the 22nd-27th for Christmas. Are you going to be back by then? If so, I'd love to maybe get together with you at a coffee shop and go over CR stuff. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip for my college graduation in June/July of '06. Let me know if you are interested [email protected]
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Dec 4th, 2005, 06:02 PM
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Skateboardmom, Yes, the road up to Monteverde from the Panam highway was much better than the road from Arenal. But, this was a couple years ago. Things might change. And we live in Iowa, which has more than its fair share of crummy gravel roads.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 04:01 PM
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Skateboardmom2,
We're headed to CR on the 11th and MV is our first stop. It's a family trip and we're taking our 79 yr old Mom.
I was in CR (but not MV) in Oct and some of the roads were pretty bad but nothing that can't be navigated with suv clearance. Just have to go very slow at times.
We're staying at Mirador to start. Maybe we'll see you there?

John
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Dec 5th, 2005, 07:48 PM
  #17
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Thanks everyone. We scored a room in MV (it was looking iffy) so no turning back now!

I did swoon a bit at the Villa Blanca, I'll admit.

Melissa5, thanks for the potty pep talk!

Time to pack!

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Dec 6th, 2005, 05:15 AM
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When we were in Monteverde in Jan 2004, there were potholes the size of jacuzzis--and bigger. In one spot the road was down to less then one full lane in width because of the huge potholes on one side. But people managed by crawling along slowly and carefully.

It all depends on when the roads were last regraded and graveled, and what the rain conditions have been. You could get lucky and have a nice, newly graded road to travel on.

Either way, Monteverde is definitely worth it. We were also a bit concerned about the possiblity of crowds as we were there in the high season, but there area is so large and there's so much to do that we encountered no crowds at all.
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Apr 25th, 2006, 12:20 PM
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Just wanted to report that we were VERY pleasantly surprised--the road was not that bad! It was more like a country fair parking lot--dirt covered in big gravel. Of course, we lucked out: our driver said that it had just been re-covered about three weeks before. So those who are heading there in the future realize you might not have it as smooth as we did. As for restrooms, no biggie. We loved Monteverde. Stayed at Fonda Vela and it was fantastic!
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Apr 26th, 2006, 09:44 PM
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skateboardmom2, I'm glad you loved Monteverde...I did too! I have to know, did your son, who refuses to "bush it", survive the drive into the wilderness? Did he enjoy Monteverde? (I'm the author of the "potty pep talk" above!)

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