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Monteverde Guide: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots

Despite not being the most well-known desitnation, Monteverde, Costa Rica, still lands on many traveler’s itineraries. As a budget traveler, I’ve culminated a list of all the free (or cheap) activities I did while in Monteverde. Also, since we’re living in the digital nomad era, I’ve included some places I think have good potential for photographers. 

**Please note a lot of my photos are really grainy, and I’m not entirely sure why (may have been the lighting). I’m really not a photographer (not yet, anyway), so my apologies!

Transportation: It may sound crazy, but we walked everywhere (except to activities which included transportation). We stayed in downtown Santa Elena. It is doable, but keep in mind the area is tons of steep hills, so it’s not for those who need accessibility. 

Accommodations: We stayed at Hostel Sloth. I’ll link you to their Tripadvisor page (which also happens to have my review on it). 

Climate: We visited in mid-August, and much to our surprise (more like, we didn’t research), Monteverde was chilly and windy! To quote some other backpackers at our hostel: “I packed for Hawaii, not Anarctica!” It’s true, you will need a pair of long pants and a windbreaker/rain jacket while here. It’s not objectively cold, but it’s much cooler than you’d expect. 

Note: Location links will be in Google Maps. 

Hiking/Cloud Forrest Access

Cerro Amigos: Cerro Amigos (location link) is the most recommended free thing to do in Monteverde. It’s advertised as a free hike, and it is free, but I’ll warn you that this hike is no joke. There are two small parts of the hike that are relatively flat, but other than that, it’s an hour and a half of steep uphill death.

 The *REAL* reason to hike up here is the trails off the peak that give you free access to the cloud forest. Everywhere else you have to pay. Also note, the view is best on clear days. 

It’s an hour and a half of this. Steep. 

We saw a Coati. 
And it’s not all ugly…
The top. It’s better on a clear day.

Directions: Go to Hotel Belmar. Follow the signs for “Cerro Amigos” 

Take a right, then you’ll be taking a left here…
And suffer. 

Free Cloud Forest Access: As I mentioned, there are trails off the back of Cerro Amigos. You can ask the tower watchman (pretty sure his name is Carlos but don’t quote me) about the trails, though some Spanish may be needed. Or check out this blog

If you want amazing one-of-a-kind jewelry, then you’ll have to hike Cerro Amigos! The watchtower man (again, I think his name is Carlos) makes really unique pieces and he sells them for insanely REASONABLE prices. These were 8 USD and 15 USD. I didn’t see anything else like this the whole trip. 

Edit: I swear there was a Google Listing for this little shop, but I cannot find it! So I assume he’s still there and maybe it’s because I’m no longer in CR that I can’t find it. 

Climb the Fiscus Tree

At the top…

Everyone has talked about this place so I won’t go into too much detail, instead I’ll link you here to That Wanderlust. It’s a type of vine (strangler fig) that kills the tree and hollows out the inside. We climbed to the top! It’s marked on google maps as Fiscus Tree Climbing.

The Fiscus Tree bridge…maybe: I am conflicted about sharing this – it’s a beautiful attraction, but it’s on private property, according to That Wanderlust (same link as before). You can get some ideas on how to find it on the linked blog. 

If you do happen to find the one little trail leading to the bridge, follow the “Espacio Natural Protegido” sign, don’t go the other way. You can get on to the bridge from a hill on the side, don’t try to climb it vertically. Don’t litter. Don’t break anything. Don’t give people a reason to close this place off. Don’t be THAT tourist. PLEASSEEE.

 I have no idea why all of these images came out blurry. Sucks to suck. 

Free Views LINK 

Free viewpoint: If you can’t hike Cerro Amigos (also, the view is different up there) just stop at this road side vista if you’re on foot. It’s across the street from the Cloud Forest Santuary. Also, it has a hand painted map of what you can see! There’s also two benches, so you could eat lunch here. There’s also one just down the road… 

Second free viewpoint: It’s not far from the other one, it’s just further down the road. It’s got a bigger bench. Cute place to sit and eat? NEEDS LINK

Picture Spots 

We live in an Instagram digital nomad era, so I’m sure many people are interested in places to take some cool photos. Here are a few that I ran into. I’m sure a better photographer could get some really awesome shots from these places. 

Off the steep dirt road of Cerro Amigos: an abandoned structure. May or may not belong to somebody? It’s super trashed though, so it doesn’t look like anybody particularly cares about this structure. I like the path to this place, it’s got a cool atmosphere. It’s near the bottom of the hill, if you’re paying attention you’ll spot the stone steps off the side of the trail. 

Spot the Knurly.
Even the little path made for a cool photo, or would of, if it had turned out better.

Abandoned kitchen/venue: Diagonally across the street from the Art House. I mean this is awesome, no? 

Can I take your order?


Graffiti corner: There wasn’t a “No Tresspassing” sign, but use good judgement. Also, watch out for broken glass. It’s around here. Maybe don’t be a destructive tourist? Thanks. 

I’m soooo tough. 
This is what drew me in initially. 

These steps: Travelers seem to be obsessed with sets of stairs. Here’s some for you. It’s near the “grafitti corner.” I didn’t pose on these, but I’m sure you could get a nice shot. Also be respectful, this is a residential area not a tourist area. We were trying to get to the Ropa Americana (listed later in this post). 

CASEM or Cooperative of Artisans Santa Elena Monteverde: I didn’t go inside, but there’s cute animal statues here. Fun place for families to take pictures.

Art 

Art House, but not for art: If you’ve been looking at things to do in Monteverde, you’ve probably seen the Art House. I’d go to linger around the cute little footpaths and mosaic footbridges. This could be another cute place to take pictures! I wasn’t particularly impressed with the stuff they were selling, it was very expensive and I found a lot of similar stuff in La Fortuna (for cheaper).

Foresta Art LocalI recommend this place. I bought adorable cat earrings made from recycled tire for 14 USD. And the woman at the counter was beyond friendly. I think the prices here were more reasonable. PICC

Bat Jungle LINK 

Not free, but I have a tip for you! The guided tours are 11 USD each, but an unguided tour was about 5 USD (or something) each. I’d take that option! The guy who was there was beyond friendly, and he was up to answer any questions we had, so there’s no reason to get the tour unless you really need it (or if you want to contribute more money to the place). 

Bonus points because the grounds are beautiful. You can see many hummingbirds here. Also, there’s a place to eat upstairs that sells chocolate. Mmmm! 

Orchid Gardens LINK 

Again, another cute place to take pictures.
“Monkey’s face”

This isn’t free (maybe not even cheap?) It’s 12 per person, so it’s better for small groups. My mind was blown about what REAL orchids are like, which is why it’s on the list. Plus you can roam around as long as you want after the tour. 


Also, we saw armadillos here. 

Thrifting, CR style: Ropa Americana. LINK

Whenever I travel I have to see what the “thrift” stores are like. In Costa Rica, they have Ropas/Ropa Americana. FYI The women that was there didn’t speak much English. (Side note: I don’t expect people to speak English). If you need an article of clothing fast (like if it’s much chillier than you expected) and don’t want to spend lots of money – check out Ropas. I think there’s a few others but they don’t locations on Google Maps. 

And that’s a wrap! Anything to add? Comments? Questions? Clarifications? Please let me know down below. Stay tuned because next post I’ll be discussing free/cheap places in La Fortuna! Also, I’m in the process of creating a Costa Rica page, but don’t anticipate that until the end of the month. Finals are kicking my butt right now!

-Knurly 

My shoes died on me in NYC…

Before I get into this glorious story I’d like to mention I’m working on a Costa Rica page for my blog with some useful resources/information and I’ll be posting more content related to that trip so I can link it on that page. Sorry, I know you’re probably sick of it by now: “We get it, you went to Costa Rica!” Ahhhh. 

A picture of some random NYC buildings. 

Anyway, I went to New York City for my friend’s birthday weekend (shoutout to her lovely mother for taking me along). Not everything went according to plan. The hotel we were supposed to stay at didn’t have our reservation, so we had to carry our stuff with us the rest of the day. Also, we had to get ready to see a Broadway show in the lobby bathroom – which was two stalls and a small mirror. I had chosen a cute velvet a-line dress, stockings, my favorite necklace, a black cropped denim jacket, and these amazing (or so I thought) studded wedges. 

Black velvet dress, black necklace, black tights. I have no outfit photos of me wearing these shoes.

I had picked up these “bad boys” at a thrift shop a few years prior, but I had never worn them. That’s right, I never wore these. Not once. As you can tell from the title, that wouldn’t make much of a difference. Immediately after we exited the lobby I started hearing “click, flap, click, flap” when I walked. I looked down and noticed the sole of the shoe was coming apart! But I was able to tuck it underneath the heel protector, and I figured I could manage the rest of the night. I was wrong. 

Accessible caption: My studded wedges. They had circular, triangle, and pyramid shaped studs on eight different straps. These straps were coming undone. 

We took an Uber to the broadway show and as soon as we exited the car I felt this strange sensation. Apparently, the straps were glued underneath the sole, and when the sole starting coming off, the toe straps came undone. I couldn’t walk in them, they were *LITERALLY* falling apart on my feet, but I had no time to slow down because we were late for the show. 

At this point I was pissed that these shoes fell apart on me. When intermission came into the garbage they went! These shoes erected extremely petty hatred that filled every fiber of my being. Hence the following photo. 

Accessible caption: My friend’s mother holding up the shoes while I hold up a middle finger to them. How dare you fall apart on me, ungrateful foot-holders! 

Now, remember how we had to carry around our stuff? THANK GOD. I was able to change into a pair of boots I had brought. I guess the moral of the story is that if your hotel doesn’t have your reservation, it’s fine because your shoes are about to fall apart. And that concludes today’s installment of life lessons with Knurly.

See you soon,

Knurly 

Travel Diaries | Costa Rica: Encounters of the awkward kind

This storytime is accompanied by a drinking game: take a shot every time I said awkward. Disclaimer: don’t do that. Unless you want to…at your own risk. 

Every traveler knows that hostels are a great place to meet other people. Even if you’re a nervous a-social being hiding away in a private room (like myself), you can’t escape the social nature of the hostel. However, what happens when you combine two socially inept introverts (cough…like myself and my boyfriend) with a couple of clearly social stoners? A really awkward story, that’s what.

All it needs is a couple hammocks…

My boyfriend had cooked us dinner (thanks babe) and I was cleaning up the shared kitchen. Out of nowhere, this young lady asks me “did you cook in here?” – or something of the sort. That’s not important. I tell her yes, my boyfriend made us dinner…blah blah blah, not important. We’re just going to call her…Jane. Jane is from the states, like I am, so naturally we start talking. I tell her we were in Monteverde, and as it turns out, that’s where her and her boyfriend are heading to next. She wants recommendations on cheap things to do. Turns out our private rooms were right next to each other. I went into my room to get my Monteverde map.

We’re sitting on the bench in front of her room and her boyfriend comes out. We’re going to call him…Nolan. Still no problem, super nice seeming people, very chill, kind of stoners, but to each their own. Anyway, Jane says shes gotta go take a shower and returns to her room My boyfriend and I decide to sit outside on our bench. About fifteen to thirty minutes later, Nolan comes outside the room and sees us sitting on our bench. He says “Oh…You guys totally heard us didn’t you?” Hahaha. We said no, and to be honest, we didn’t hear them having sex. But it was still awkward.

He asks if we’d be up to go out to eat. My boyfriend, being the great conversationalist that he is says something like: “We already ate, but we’re totally up to watch you eat.” Eep. Awkward. 

GREAT choice of words, babe. What he MEANT to say was “we’re down for anything.” Needless to say, thing’s did progress very well afterwards. We continue to sit on our bench until the two came out, showered and changed, and made a b-line past us towards the courtyard exist…and didn’t say annnyyythhhinnggg to us.

Ouch, owwie. Awkward. To make things even worse, they kept coming and going in and out of the courtyard, which, mind you, is fairly small (I think they were trying to acquire weed from someone outside). It was weird, because there was no communication from them if they wanted to hang out, or not. I don’t exactly know when they left, because my boyfriend and I were so tired we passed out around 8-9. Anyway, the next day at breakfast we completely avoided them but they also avoided us. It was awkward. There were some…glances. My boyfriend and I decided to get out of there and when we came back later, they had left. Phewww.

The moral of the story is I’m 21 and still socially inept. But that’s ok, because the internet has taught me to post these stories online.

What the most awkward encounter you’ve had while traveling? I’m positive this is not the most awkward thing that will happen to me.

-Knurly 

I wasn’t ready…

Today is another non-post. I hate making these filler-type posts, but when you’re barely functioning it becomes difficult to get anything done. Schoolwork? Barely. Hygiene? By necessity only. Blog posts? Wait…I have a blog? Oh yeah!

Having ideas is a curse and a blessing. Coming up with good ideas is hard for many people. One fear for content creators is running out of content. The reader or audience can tell when content lacks the substance they’re used to receiving from a particular creator. However, running out of ideas isn’t as terrible as having ideas that will never be executed. That’s the category I find myself falling into. For example, Halloween is my favorite holiday by a longshot. But I am struggling to create content. I have ideas but I don’t have time or motivation to execute these ideas. Also, my last post didn’t do so well, and most of my posts were going to be easy Halloween-related headband crafts.

Why? Because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t prep my ideas in September, in fact, my blog was abandoned for most of that month. Here we are, almost half way through the month and I don’t have time (or I’m not making time) to execute my content. I’m sure many, many bloggers can relate. How many of us have posted tags (which, let’s be real, are really filler) in order to get a post up? How many of us have ideas that will never see the light of day? I didn’t want to fall into that category, but here I am, less than a year of making my blog and I’m going nowhere fast.

Once that realization comes about, I have to ask myself a question: Do I continue? Or is blogger not meant for me? Will this become another project in my life that I walked away from too soon? Or am I supposed to walk away? There’s no way to know the answer. But before you say anything, I have no intention of giving up this blog. I did, in fact, pay for a premium plan, so I do owe it to myself to blog for at least another year. I had to post this in order to communicate my feelings.

I don’t have a conclusion for this post. I don’t have a lesson to share. I haven’t learned anything. I’m a person struggling to keep myself together, and by extension, the blog is failing. I wonder if I will pull all this off. I wonder if it will be worth it in the long run. All I know is that having this blog makes me happy, and aside from the money I spent, that’s about all that keeps me going. I hope it’s enough.

-Knurly 


PS: Do you like the new theme/layout/etc? Let me know!

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