At the end of 2019, I boarded a plane and flew to Laos in Asia. Little did I know it would take me two years before I got on another long-haul flight, which was to Costa Rica. Getting on that plane was a fantastic feeling, as long-haul flights have always been an exciting part of my journey.
Once I landed in one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world, I knew I was in for one of the best times. And it turned out to be just that. In particular, my stay in Monteverde, which is northwest of Costa Rica, was one I will cherish. A friend I met up with in San José, Alex, was the one that told me about the place. He said, “Monteverde is a great place for forest and birds, and there are so many activities for you to do. You will have a great time there.” So I took his advice.
Tourism is a significant economic driver in Costa Rica, accounting for roughly 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to Costa Rica’s Tourism Board. In places like Monteverde, it’s the only engine that keeps the economy floating. The vast majority of tourists visit from the U.S.A. Alex told me, “The population of Costa Rica is about 5 million, and about 70,000 Americans are living here. More Americans visit us than any other nation.” That sounds about right, as Costa Rica is a brief journey from the U.S.A., and I met many Americans during my stay.
Canyoning in Monteverde - Costa Rica
Monteverde - Costa Rica
Monteverde is a small town, and I stayed in a beautiful lodge five minutes away from the centre. One piece of advice I can give anyone staying over in Monteverde is that you should consider staying in one of the well-known lodges. Everything is immaculate, and it’s a great way to get away from everything. Incredibly lavish to go back to after a long day. The centre is where you can head over and enjoy the bars, restaurants and coffee shops. The real fun for me happened away from the centre. And this involved some extreme activities.
One piece of advice I can give anyone staying over in Monteverde is that you should stay in one of the well-known lodges. Everything is immaculate, and it’s a great way to get away from everything. Incredibly lavish to go back to after a long day. The centre is where you can head over and enjoy the bars, restaurants and coffee shops. The real fun for me happened away from the centre. And this involved some extreme activities.
Tina at my lodge showed me some activities on offer, and the one big thing that stood out for me was the bungee jump. I asked whether she had ever done it, and she quickly shook her head, saying, “No, gracias, estoy demasiado asustada,” meaning she was too scared. I told her I would think about it as I was staying for a few days.
The green lung of Monteverde
Extreme activity in Monteverde - canyoning
In the meantime, I booked to go on a night tour to see some animals. I also booked my first extreme activity, which was canyoning. The definition in the dictionary about canyoning states, “the sport of travelling down a river situated in a canyon by a variety of means including scrambling, floating, swimming, and abseiling.” Scrambling would be the correct terminology when it came to me, as you will find out shortly.
There are never any guarantees that you will see any animals during the night tour. After all, it’s not a zoo. This means you could pay all that money and not see a single animal. But the thrill of seeing something that your eyes have never seen before is worth it.
It turned out to be what I expected. I got to see an armadillo which I had never seen before, a tarantula and some frogs. But the one bird I wanted to see was a toucan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky. The guide told me to listen out to a particular sound they make, as I may catch one before leaving Costa Rica. However, I didn’t get that lucky. The only bird I saw of any significance was Scarlet Macaw.
“Do not be a one in a million people; be a once in a lifetime individual,”
After pondering whether or not to do it, I decided to book my bungee jump. “Do not be a one in a million people; be a once in a lifetime individual,” a quote I found from Jeffrey Fry when I was looking up once in a lifetime experience. That source of inspiration was just what I needed. Although I was nervous, but I knew it would be worth it.
Before that, I had my canyoning to do. And I was just as nervous about that as I was about the bungee jump. I always find it funny when the staff gets you to sign a waiver form to say it will not be their fault in case of my accidental death. Nevertheless, I always have no problem signing it. For me, this was another significant part of my adventure, as it was taking a risk, putting myself in the zone. Be it pushing the perimeters of fear or just enjoying something new and different.
There weren’t many people doing the activity.. One guy was from Switzerland, and the other two were a couple from Germany. They all looked like pros compared to me. My first time going down, I scrambled down and hit my arm so hard that I still have the scarring from the cut today. But I did the big climb down, 40 metres deep. Something I was proud of myself for doing. The overall experience was exhilarating, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a rush.
The famous coffee of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is renowned for its coffee, and the one thing you can do that doesn’t involve anything extreme is go into town and have a fresh cup of coffee. I’m not usually a coffee drinker, but even I loved it. You can tell from the taste it wasn’t any of those jar stuff. I think if I had stayed long enough, I would have been fully converted into a coffee junkie. You can also take a coffee tour if you go into one of the shops, where they will show you how the different beans get grounded out and served up for the customers.
There are some excellent restaurants to enjoy local food once your day is done. Some restaurants/bars have live music, depending on the night. Where ever you go, you will have a great time.
I have to mention Monteverde’s nearby neighbour, La Fortuna, before I tell you about my jump. I can write an entire article about La Fortuna, which is why I am not going into any detail right now. But, if you want to enjoy a couple of more landmarks, then the Arenal Volcano and the La Fortuna Waterfall are definitely worth a visit. Only a three-hour ride from Monteverde.
Costa Rican coffee
On to my last hurdle, and that’s the bungee jump. When I woke up on the morning of the jump, I had the temptation of cancelling as I got the jitters. However, after breakfast and showering, I decided not to. I had come this far; there was no turning back.
The remarkable thing was that when my ride had arrived to take me to my jump, the nerves had eased as I saw a few people in the van—all looking to do the jump like me. One of them told me, “I have done bungee jumps before; just relax, and it will be over before you know it.” That was reassuring.
You can sometimes over-analyse and overthink things. With bungee jumping, the longer the wait, the more you can psych yourself out. Sometimes in life, trust the process and take that leap of faith. When it came to the moment of me jumping off, I trusted the process, and I just jumped. It was the most liberating feeling I had had in years.
The jump left me feeling euphoric and a feeling of accomplishment followed by calmness. I couldn’t quite believe I had jumped nearly 130m. Every bit of what I mentioned above is so fresh in my mind that it might as well have happened yesterday.
As I sit here writing this, the one thing that is an overused cliché in travel these days is that the experience makes the travel. But it is true; experiences make a trip memorable. Amongst the things I did in the rainforest, I look at my bungee jump as the moment that topped an extraordinary time in Monteverde.