The steep, serpentine road ascends the Monteverde mountainside, unveiling views of the surrounding emerald mountains that become more impressive as your vantage point improves.
Near the top of the mountain –where it’s difficult to absorb all of the natural beauty surrounding you – a train awaits, anxious to take you on a spectacular 90-minutes ride straight into the beauty that beckons.
The recently inaugurated Monteverde Trainforest, complete with two steam locomotives – lovingly named “Doña Delsa” and “Rolo” – with three passenger cars each, gives passengers an elevated, intimate view of the sweeping majesty of the cloud forest in Monteverde, a Quaker community in the north-central region of Costa Rica.
The Trainforest winds around a four-mile track, crosses four bridges above small streams and passes through a small rustic tunnel. Throughout the ride, the train coasts at a comfortable pace along the track and weaves through dense forest and verdant vegetation. The trip offers passengers up-close views of the expanses of leaves, dangling vines and towering trees of the unique Monteverde ecosystem.
“We wanted to make the Trainforest an experience that would allow our visitors to get close to nature and really understand the intricacies of the cloud forest,” said Alexander Molina, a co-owner of the Trainforest. “We tried to design a track that takes passengers right through the forest but doesn’t affect the environment around it. When we built the track, we made sure to find a route that caused as little impact to the natural ecosystem as possible.”
About midway through the excursion, the train comes to a stop at a mirador (lookout point), which serves as a balcony to the Monteverde and Arenal region. On a clear day, passengers can see Arenal Volcano and LakeArenal. And, guides insist, if the clouds part enough, even Lake Nicaragua in the far north is visible.
On overcast or rainy days, Arenal Volcano and Lake Nicaragua may not be visible, though the varying weather conditions of the Monteverde region do provide unique experiences for visitors. Due to the often-fluctuating weather conditions in the region, the cars on the Trainforest are equipped with retractable plastic curtains so that, in the event of rain, guests remain dry while still enjoying the plush forest landscape and sloping hills.
“There are really four different ways to see and enjoy the Trainforest,” said Molina. “It is a different experience, depending on the weather conditions of that particular day. It is great to see during the rain, during dry spells, when it is cloudy and windy, and at night.”
The Trainforest – truly a relaxing way to appreciate the beauty of Monteverde – allows passengers to kick back in comfortable cars while they absorb the splendid scenery at a slow and easy pace. In other words, relax, get lost in the moment and leave the “driving” to them.
Molina said the Trainforest caters to people of all ages and offers the Monteverde experience at a different speed than some of the other popular tourist activities, such as canopy tours and hiking.
At the conclusion of the ride, the Trainforest station – overlooking the Monteverde hills – offers a full restaurant with a menu that includes soups, salads, chicken, meat, pastas, seafood and beverages. And you can’t beat the view, either.
The Trainforest runs hourly from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can carry up to 72 passengers on each trip. The night tour of the Trainforest is expected to open in January of 2010.
Tour packages can be arranged via Pure Nature
Travel Agency, 2293-1100.
Duration: Around 11 hours
Includes: Breakfast (en route)
Transportation from San José, provided from principal hotels
Cost for nationals: $75 for adults and $65 for children under 12 years-old
Cost for foreigners: $170 per person
* Operates daily with minimum of four passengers
Getting There, Rates and Info.
Take theInter-American Highway north
from San José, turn right just before the LagartoRiver bridge, km 134. Last 35 km to Santa Elena is up a steep, scenic rocky, unpaved road. It takes about four hours. The Monteverde Trainforest is three miles north of the Santa Elena public school in Monteverde.
Adults, foreigners, regular rate: $65
Students, foreigners: $32.50
Adults, nationals, regular rate: ¢5,000 ($9)
Students, nationals, seniors: ¢2,500 ($4.50)
(Children under 12 years old ride for free)
For more information and/or reservations, call 2645-5700, e-mail: [email protected], or visit www.trainforest.com.