Our next journey was from Arenal to Monteverde. This involved minibus / boat / minibus transportation as it is the easiest route between the 2 regions. It is a well- advertised route and can be shared or private. Due to timings, ours was a private trip. It takes about 3 hours and is a distance of about 120km.
We were picked up on time at the hotel and no sooner leaving than the driver spotted a large iguana languishing on a branch in the distance. Several bird types were pointed out on our 20 minute drive to the jetty on lake Arenal. We boarded the boat we set off across the lake.
Lake Arenal is man-made; flooded 40 years ago for hydroelectricity. It’s the largest body of water in Costa Rica and currently is extremely full due to recent incessant rainfall. Our guide pointed out howler monkeys in the trees, egrets, cormorants, and a sea eagle. The boat trip took about half an hour, where we were met by a new driver and minibus. The next 75 minutes were rough! We ascended very steep hills, could barely see through the fog, avoided recent landslips, saw devastation on the riverbanks as a result of tropical storm Nate some months ago, avoided deep potholes and travelled on a dirt track almost the entire journey to our hotel in Monteverde.
We arrived at Hotel Belmar, a Swiss Cottage style building set on a hill looking towards the Pacific Ocean. Lots of highly varnished teak, comfortable seating and a pleasant balcony for coffee. Our standard room was perfectly adequate for one night with all usual amenities, balcony and excellent wifi!
The Belmar is a very comfortable and friendly hotel, and probably more our style than the Nayara Springs, in terms of informality. I would certainly stay here again.
Following a fairly leisurely breakfast, we had requested an earlier start to our Cloud Forest Nature tour in order to have a relaxed transfer to the ship – we were required to be aboard by 3.30 pm.
Our guide arrived and we drove to the reserve about 20 minutes away. He was excellent: armed with binoculars and telescope and able to take photos on my iPhone through the telescope getting some really fabulous pictures.
It was a fascinating walk – goodness knows how the guides can spot that a blob high up in the trees is a sloth!
Our transfer to Puerto Calderas was a 2h30 trip down the mountainside, through beautiful scenery, but an absolutely dreadful road – a hard-core dirt track for an hour, and it’s the only road!
Embarkation was painless and we settled in to our Stateroom, our home for the next fortnight.