Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please click here for more info.
This week, I’ve been chatting to Michaela Garretson, the blogger behind The Bohemian Mermaid blog. A journalism college student and blogger from Florida, Michaela enjoys embracing her wanderlust and exploring places around the world – from big cities to off-the-beaten-path towns. Passionate about embracing and experiencing cultures, she finds joy in connecting with others and learning other ways of living. When she’s not off exploring on land, she can be found snorkeling and taking in the underwater views found in the warm ocean waters of Florida.
Hi Michaela! How was Monteverde?
I travelled to Monteverde after finishing up volunteering at a one-month summer camp in Nosara, Costa Rica. I had four days before my plane left Costa Rica, and I wanted to fulfill them in the best way possible. Nosara is close to the beach and very, very hot in the summer. Being a Florida girl, I love the beach so I enjoyed Nosara immensely. But one thing about living in Florida is that the state is flat. Very flat. So anytime I travel somewhere with mountains, or even hills, I’m super excited. Thus, I knew I had to travel to the mountainous, rainforest region of Monteverde. I had just heard too many positive remarks about Monteverde to pass it by. As a solo female 20-year-old traveler (turned 20 my first week in Costa Rica), I grabbed my backpack and traveled to various bus stops in order to reach Monteverde. My minimal Spanish speaking skills (I only took a fast-track course in Spanish 1 and 2 the semester before my travels) got me through missing buses by 15 minutes and having to wait 5 hours for another bus.
What was the weather like?
I was in Monteverde the last few days in January and the beginning of February (Jan. 31-Feb. 3) which is the summer season in Costa Rica. Monteverde was actually pretty cool because it’s a mountainous region. In the morning (esp. on the hiking trails), there would be mist and slight rainfall, which is a good reason this place is called The Cloud Forest. At nights it also cooled down, but in the daytime it was comfortable weather. Mostly wore short sleeves or sweatshirts and jeans/running tights.
Sounds like perfect weather to me! Did you stay anywhere nice?
I stayed in a local hostel called Sleeper’s Sleep Cheaper. This was my first hostel stay and it was fantastic! Monteverde is definitely a tourist spot, especially with young people. Staying in a hostel allowed me to get to meet more people (ex. at breakfast one morning I ran into a group of girls I had met the day before in the middle of the cloud forest). There are tons of hostels to choose from in Santa Elena, the main part of town where most tourists stay, and all of the hostels are in close proximity to each other. They all appeared very nice and had lots of people staying there, so I’m sure any hostel is great here.
Wow, your first ever hostel! I’m glad you enjoyed the experience. What did you get up to in Monteverde?
Monteverde is all about outdoors exploring! I made sure to fill my days with outdoors activities…I ziplined, rode horses down hills with coffee farms, crossed suspended bridges through the cloud forest, learned about butterflies in a conservatory, had hummingbirds perch on my hands in a hummingbird garden, explored the shops in Santa Elena, and embarked on a night tour of the rainforest, where I saw tarantulas, sloths, toucans, and kinkajous!
What was your highlight?
Afternoon horseback riding alongside hillsides filled with pastures, coffee plants, cows, and horses. The BEST horsebacking riding I have ever done. Gorgeous views and the afternoon sunshine made everything aglow. I also really enjoyed walking on the hanging suspension bridges in the cloud forest: amazing views from far above the ground.
How was the food?
Since this place is quite touristy, I found the food here to be tailored to international foods. Tasty foods from around the world are great, but I think it’s so fun (and even important) to sample the local cuisine. Local sodas, which are family-run restaurants, offer my favorite Costa Rican dish called ‘casado’ (which means married man) and it had rice and beans, chicken, and salad. This dish was different than casado dishes I had eaten in Nosara (which usually had plantains and cheese slices) so it was interesting to taste the differences in their typical dish throughout the country.
Can you recommend any unusual things to do in Monteverde?
The night tours here are awesome! These tours are guided and involve walking around in the forest at night with a flashlight in order to find animals like kinkajous, sloths, toucans, snakes, and tarantulas! I haven’t really seen tours like these before, so I highly recommend it.
Great tip! Do you have any other advice for anyone planning a trip?
Be aware that Monteverde is very different from coastal towns in Costa Rica. So if you are heading to multiple places in Costa Rica, pack accordingly. Sweatshirts and exercise pants were my staples.
Learn some Spanish! Though you will often find bilingual locals, it’s important to learn even just a few words/phrases to get around. It allows you to get a deeper connection to the locals and culture. And it’s fun to try to speak another language, even if you mess up, practice is important!
Time for some questions about you now! What’s your favourite travel read?
A travel book that really helped me (and that I wish I had been able to finish before I left on my trip) was “The Big Trip: Your Ultimate Guide to Gap Years and Overseas Adventures” by Lonely Planet. Perfect for students taking gap years, or young people still new to international travel. Plus, it features suggestions for international internships and volunteering opportunities.
Finally, what do you love most about travelling?
I love meeting new people, learning about other cultures, and seeing the beauty of this world. I find traveling helps me open up to others as well as help me to understand more about myself and the world around me. And it’s fascinating that traveling doesn’t have to take place 3,000 miles away from your home – it could simply involve going to a new restaurant or park or even tourist attraction in your local surroundings.
NB – All images are owned by Michaela.