“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Mother Nature is a force of beauty and power, a swirling palette of color and texture, her breath both a safe haven and a trail of destruction. On earth there are places that whisper to the heart, places that cause one to pause and to reflect, and in this magical mix of mountains and sky, of lush greens and mystical whites, lie the cloud forests of Costa Rica.
Coming from Manuel Antonio, where we had experienced volunteering at Kids Saving the Rainforest, we made the 5 hour drive of nearly 300 km. Along the way we wrote our names in the black sands of Playa Hermosa, celebrating our 16th anniversary by creating notes in nature. We met a friendly surf instructor and his pup, Lola, in the beachfront town of Jaco, and we crossed the Crocodile Bridge over the River Tarcoles, known for its massive, sharp toothed residents.
The drive up the ‘606’ to Monteverde, Costa Rica is one of narrow, curving dirt roads as you travel along the spine of the Continental Divide. The mountains drop away on both sides, hugging the twists, the mist lingering in the canopies below. The temperature begins to drop, the air crisp and cool, a refreshing break from the heat of the lower lying areas. We had a 4×4 SUV rental, and were prepared for the horrible road conditions we’d so often read about, that were in fact, not so horrible. Unparalleled panorama winding around blind corners alongside tour buses, worthy of inducing car sickness that required frequent stops? Yes. Horrible? Not even close. This is a drive that invokes a strong realization and appreciation for where you are, and one you will never forget.
At an altitude of 1440 meters (4600 feet) above sea level, this narrow corridor is a world of it’s own, a location renowned for a nearly constant coverage in fog. A literal cloud forest that receives an average of 118 inches (3000 mm) of rain per year and maintains a humidity range between 74% and 97%, to provide one of the world’s most unique and complex ecosystems. This coveted slice of the earth is home to over 130 species of mammals, 700 species of butterflies, 440 species of birds, 3000 species of plants (450 are orchids), tens of thousands of types of insects and of course, the elusive, resplendent, Quetzal.
The coveted, privately protected 25,000 acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve was founded in 1950 by nine American Quaker families who were attracted to Costa Rica by the recently-disbanded army. Known for incredible flora and fauna as well as its delicious cheeses, Monteverde now has over 40 private reserves and sees 230,000 tourists per year. The Tico village of Santa Elana, located six kilometers northwest of Monteverde, is home to the “Santa Elana Cloud Forest Reserve”. This lesser known, but equally enchanting area was created in 1989, the first community run reserve in Costa Rica. This quaint town is one of artisan boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, and some of the friendliest locals you can possibly meet. It is also home to a private home that redefines serenity.
CASA MIA, MONTEVERDE
Located just five minutes from Santa Elana, Casa Mia envelopes each magical aspect of the area and is one of the most beautiful accommodations we have ever had the privilege of calling “home” while traveling. The interior of this private, 2 storey property is visually stunning, a mix of professional high end design and cozy serenity. Light pours in from each of the massive windows, providing astonishing views of the surrounding forest and mountains. Guests are enveloped in complete privacy, the only sounds those of a howler monkey in the distance, the stream below and a gentle wind blowing thru the trees.
Colorful hummingbirds hover outside the window as you enjoy eggs, fruit and a lemon loaf, a special welcome treat courtesy of the thoughtful owners, Oscar and Juana. A load of laundry is ready to be folded as the smell of fresh brewed coffee fills the air. The evening has a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge as fireflies dance to the rhythm of dinner and dishes. These are the perks of staying in a home that provides guests the amenities and necessities which make travel that much easier.
Casa Mia has two luxurious bedrooms, each with private, stand up shower ensuites. The master suite has a deliciously comfortable queen bed, and the second bedroom across the hall, has two smaller beds. Each bedroom enjoys floor to ceiling windows as well as a balcony with sweeping mountain views.
One simply cannot get enough of the relaxing panorama of Casa Mia. To sit and enjoy a lazy morning with a book and a cozy blanket, or to watch the changing light of the setting sun, curled up as a family and discussing the days adventures, are moments as authentic and rich as any memory can possibly be. We found ourselves wishing we had more time to just sit and reflect, to stare into the eyes of the forest, more time to linger and lounge as the heart of nature beat around us.
Monteverde is a place of mystery and intrigue, a haven of nature in a world set on destruction. This wondrous corner, a gem of lingering mists and cool air is not only refreshing for the soul, it is the education about and attention to nature that we all need in our lives. A stay at Casa Mia is a recharge for the mind and body, a reminder of what it is to experience privacy, serenity and utter contentment in a world of noise, chaos and busy schedules. It is the ultimate stay in the ultimate location.