Costa Rica Chronicles: Vol. VIII

Filling in the Gaps
As promised, this is the first in a series of posts that will recap the major highlights of the trip, starting from the point, Day 6, where I had to cease posting due to lack of wi-fi and/or general busyness.

Days 6-8: Santa Elena
Ended our stay at the Arenal Volcano Observatory, where we saw lava flow and our first monkeys (Howlers), and traveled to Santa Elena via the common van-boat-van charter. (See, there’s this enormous Lake Arenal, created when a valley was purposefully flooded after a village there was evacuated due to volcano threats. To this day, when the level of the lake is low in the summer, you can reportedly see the abandoned houses and other buildings beneath the surface of the water.) Anyway, a van took us from the observatory to the lake, we boarded a boat that took us across the lake, and then we got in another van that took us on a long, winding dirt road in poor condition through the mountains; mountains spotted with a variety of agriculture: cattle, misc. livestock, banana, coffee.

Santa Elena is a tremendously cute village that serves as the base for exploration of two nearby cloud forest reserves. (A separate post will follow on our trip to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.) Three short streets form a triangle marking the center of the village, streets lined with markets, restaurants, tour operators, souvenir shops, budget hotels and our hostel: Pension Santa Elena. If you changed the foliage and the language on the signs, it seems this village could be in just about any country with rural hillside, and I thought that if the coffee and banana farms were vineyards it would feel just like we were in France or Italy.

Pension Santa Elena is the quintessential hostel. While I our previous hostel boasted that it was the only 5-star hostel in Costa Rica, Pension Santa Elena was wonderfully messy and all about communal living. As you pull up in front of the building, you are greeted by travelers hanging out on benches and in hammocks on the front porch, you walk in and there’s a cafe-esque seating area, where more folks are sitting around reading, writing, and drinking coffee or beer, and then you reach the front desk, where the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly young people answer every question imaginable, over and over and over again, from guests who need help getting where they want to go and doing activities they want to do.

Behind the desk is the communal kitchen, where we prepared our breakfasts and lunches, while chatting with fellow travelers from around the world.

Finally, beyond the kitchen, a hallway leads to a courtyard and across the courtyard are the private rooms. Ours is a very comfy, unusually large, by hostel standards, room with two double beds and a private bath with a great stone shower. Sweet!

Up Next: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Costa Rica Chronicles: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, Vol. IV, Vol. V, Vol. VI, Vol. VII, Vol. VIII, Vol. IX, Vol. X

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