Saturday, September 26, 2015

Costa Rica Day 4: Santa Elena Reserve

My biggest fear of the trip was going to the cloud forest, and not seeing clouds. When we arrived in Santa Elena, skies were completely blue and it was scorching hot, so it looked like my fear was going to become a reality.

Our host told us not to worry, because the weather in the town didn't reflect weather in the forest, which are in a special microclimate. (However, we did find out that it had been a sunny day in Monteverde, the first one in months. Very glad we ended up going the next day.)

Cloud forests happen when clouds from the Caribbean are blown over to the mountains of the Continental divide, and rest on top. It's perpetually foggy, and everything is covered with layers of mosses, bromeliads, and ferns.

While we came for Monteverde, we decided to go to Santa Elena Reserve. Our host recommended it as the less touristy and "more jungly" option. I will always go for the more jungly option.

Glasswing butterfly

Santa Elena reserve was opened in the 1990s to the public, in response to the crowds at Monteverde. (Our guide jokingly referred to it as "Monteverde Crowd Forest.") It was one of the first community-opened reserves in Costa Rica. 

We went early in the morning (made it to the 7:30am guided hike).

It was a breathtakingly beautiful, spectacular place. It was the first day of the trip that I finally felt like I was in a different world. I don't have the words to describe it. It felt ancient, like a temple, a lost world. Everything was covered in green, and you could almost hear the mist moving through the forest slowly.

We spotted dozens of butterflies, a tarantula, capuchin monkeys (who tried to break branches on top of us), and a tropical king snake.

I highly recommend this reserve. We spent perhaps six hours here, though we could have easily spent an entire day instead.

Roads aren't paved (outside of one of the main short trail), so that's something to keep in mind if you're deciding between Santa Elena Reserve and Monteverde.

Other Costa Rica posts:

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