Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Costa Rica: Monteverde- Love at First Sight

Leaving Fortuna was bittersweet, but we were certainly ready for some rainforest. First off, I have to talk about the drive. Fortuna and Monteverde are actually pretty close to each other, it just so happens there's a giant lake in between them you have to drive around. And wow, what a drive, with the most awful roads I have ever driven on. Thankfully (or not) it was pouring, and the rain helped us identify all of the pot holes
We found a great place on the way called Mystica, a local hotel that also offered homemade pizzas with garden-fresh ingredients. It was delicious! Beautiful views and a very friendly cat were also found. Highly recommended.
When we finally reached Monteverde, we knew it was special. The town is focused on both tourism and farming, and felt much more like a town than a large resort. Everyone was super friendly and helped us find great places to eat and things to see. I highly recommend stopping in at the Frog Museum, which allows you to see many of the natural species found in the surrounding rainforests all at the same time.

Monteverde is full of great places to hike, bird watch, and really experience all of the Costa Rican beauty.  If you came looking for big and flashy, look elsewhere.  We took night hikes, toured coffee and sugar plantations, and learned about wonderful rare birds.
Likewise, the food we found was both simple and pure.  We had dinner one night at Chimera, an amazing tapas restaurant where every dish was wonderful.  I highly recommend the cassoulet and the patacones (fried plantains).  Also, make sure and get one of their fresh cocktails.  Really good.

We also tried out an Italian place (in case you didn't notice, there is a large international presence in the country).  They grow a lot of their ingredients (just like Mystica), and the fresh eggplant ravioli I had was wonderful.  The best thing you can do is trust the locals, our resource was Sylvia who worked at the hotel Montana (where we stayed and highly recommended).  She sent us to some great places, and it was easily the best part of our trip
Our last night we stayed in San Jose, and we both needed something a bit different, so we headed down south a few blocks to Tin Jo, a delightful Chinese restaurant that serves authentic Chinese and other Pan-Asian specialties.  We dined on tempura spring rolls and tasty hot and sour soup, followed by Pad Thai (for my wife) and kung-pao prawns (for me).  The Pad Thai was some of the best either of us had tasted, with a good amount of heat, perfectly cooked noodles, and a zing of fresh cilantro on the end.  The kung-pao prawns was served in a cassava edible bowl and had nicely cooked squash and peppers along with a spicy sauce to coat the prawns.  All in all it was one of the best meals we had while in Costa Rica.