Updated: May 6, 2021
When deciding to travel to Costa Rica, we knew that it was not going to be the most budget friendly country. However, we were surprised to find out just how expensive it actually was. Which is why when we got to our third location, Monteverde, we decided to look for some free fun. Tucked away deep in the mountains of Costa Rica’s Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range, Monteverde is deemed one of Costa Rica’s Seven Natural Wonders. High in altitude, and a great location for ecotourism, it is a special place for its Cloud Forest Reserve and some say the birthplace of Ziplining.
Being that it is very difficult to get to, there aren’t as many tour companies like in La Fortuna. So we were able to find two really exciting and free options for our short time there. Our recommendations for an adventurous free day in Monteverde are climbing up a Ficus tree and a challenging hike up Cerro Amigo. So put on your hiking boots and bring your childlike tendencies on this journey with us.
The best way to find the ficus tree, is to ask a local for directions, as people can’t really monetize it, it is somewhat of a hidden gem. Which makes it a bit confusing to write directions for.
But we will try to anyway.
We’ve geotagged where it approximately would be on google maps (which we don’t recommend you use for driving directions while in Costa Rica). Most likely, if you’re staying in a hostel, you’ll be in a lower area of the town. We recommend that you hike up to Eddy’s Place, once you see this B & B make the first right. At this point it gets very steep and the hike up becomes even more strenuous. After a 5 to 10 minute hike (depending on your physical fitness) you’ll see a small sign tucked away, almost as if hidden, on the right hand side of your hike.
The difficult hike is soon forgotten once you reach the Ficus tree and see its beauty and fun. Climbing it makes you feel like a kid again, like a little monkey. Except this time, there are no adults telling you to get down. Instead they are right there beside you, waiting to climb up and feel young again. As fun as it is to climb the tree, bear in mind that when you reach near the top, the inside of the tree becomes quite narrow, this means you can’t climb up with anything on your body (like a book bag) and if you’re claustrophobic like me, you may not enjoy it as much. There also isn’t much of a view at the top of the tree. So there’s no need to go all the way to the top through the narrow part if you do have any fears. The best part is just climbing the tree!
After we got back from climbing the ficus tree, we decided to pack a snack and head out to climb Cerro Amigo. It was an hour walk from our hostel, Hammock House (which we can’t recommend enough) with a few uphill roads. As we were approaching the foot of the mountain, hunger began to creep in. We knew it made sense to have a proper lunch as reaching the top was not going to be easy. We stopped at a cafe on the way, which had a lunch special - chicken fajitas, a drink, and a chocolatey dessert. The drink and dessert were of the restaurants choice but extremely delicious. We received pineapple juice and a slice of chocolate cake with lemon infused ice cream on top. After the spectacular lunch, all for about $10 (for two), we were ready to climb the mountain!
When we began climbing the mountain, we were full of energy and excitement. That quickly changed as we kept hiking the extremely steep, uphill mountain in the hot, burning sun. Every time we turned a corner we thought we were getting closer, only to be disappointed with another turn and more uphill sights. We knew it would take about an hour to reach the top, but the extreme steepness of the route was becoming unbearable and we were starting to run out of water. We took plenty of breaks as we are not the most in shape individuals out there (that’s changing quickly though). This climb would be challenging to even the most avid hikers, and as painful as the hike was, neither one of us had any plans to quit. We were determined to reach the top and be in the clouds. Eventually that determination came to fruition when the sun was gone and the mist of the clouds began to engulf us. It was a very welcomed change of atmosphere as the heat of the sun was no longer a factor and it started to become windy and a bit cold. As we were nearing the top, we came across an older woman on a jog, (totally putting us to shame) who hinted to us that we were kind of near the top. This raised our spirits and helped us to go the rest of the way up without making anymore stops.
The Perfect Representation of Our Climb Up
We finally reached the top. There was not much to see except for a little house, a service tower, and of course a gift shop. Just like the rest of Costa Rica where people are trying to sell things to tourists, how can there not have been a shop all the way on top of a mountain? As we walked near the gift shop to see if there was anything else to see around there, we saw an incredible lookout point. When we looked straight from it, all we could see was clouds with a hint of grass and bushes. It was extremely windy here so we had to be very careful the closer we got to the edge. We were so excited though, to think we were actually on top of a mountain, inside of a cloud. Feeling the winds on our faces. In that moment the rigorous trek two hours past was all but forgotten. We were so happy. We were on cloud nine! and ten… and eleven…
After basking in the glory of completion for a bit, it was time to make our way down. This again, was not an easy task. Now we had to go down the same steep mountain, all downhill. Now our battle was against momentum, with gravity pushing us down at an unrelenting pace. It became an effort not to tumble down. But thanks to this, we reached foot of the mountain in less than 40 minutes! Making it back to our hostel was also much easier with the downhills giving us a much deserved break and in less than 50 minutes we were back to our hostel. All in all, we had a great day, only spent $10 on one of the best meals we had in Costa Rica, and didn’t have to deal with any guides or merchants trying to sell us a tour or their merchandise.
The next day, naturally we were exhausted. So like Garfield with a bad case of Monday's we made the decision to do as little as humanly possible. Therefore, we rested for the entirety of the day and got up only for Johana's awesome pancakes. We were exhausted but so glad as it was one of the best days we had in Costa Rica.