Walk by yourself in the rainforest of Monteverde, at least once! It may change your life and the way you see solitude forever. You may even become an addict to it. Like I am.
Walking alone in nature is an experience that should be compulsory. It is an encounter with your inner child, a waking up of the senses, a trip into imagination, and an exciting yet peaceful breath of life. It is an experience that will allow you to concentrate on nature and lets you embrace it without limitations.
Being by yourself opens your heart and mind to experiences that you may not care to open if accompanied, However, in a city, there are many distractions and the inner encounter will always depend on how compromised you are with social media and keeping contact with the loved ones and your job.
When you are in solitude in nature the world simply disappears. Vanishes.
You are with you. None else. Nothing else. Just you.
Now, there are some things that anyone who is walking in the rainforest by him/herself should do to play it safe. Please follow me into this experience!
Preparations, my experience
I am currently living in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I hike at least twice every week into some of the most beautiful cloud forests on the planet. I am used to having wildlife poking around my small apartment. Coatimundis and agoutis are usual neighbors, monkeys are regular rascals that sometimes just pass around, and an amazing array of different species of hummingbirds offer me a dramatic daily show where you can always find the good, the bad, and the beautiful (In hummingbirds there are no ugly ones).
I really don\’t have to move to enjoy the fantastic nature of Monteverde.
However getting out of the house to walk around some of the magnificent reserves of the area (Curicancha Reserve, The Ethernal Forest of the Children, the Santa Elena Reserve, or the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve) is a privilege that I am extremely thankful for.
But I never go out on any hike without proper planning. Mainly because when I don\’t have what it takes I enjoy the walk much less.
What to take?
To walk by yourself in the rainforest of Monteverde, my recco is to take fruit, and juice, nuts or granola bars in abundance, and a couple of candies in case your sugar levels come down. Chocolate is not a good idea, neither is lactose products.
Another important thing is to be dressed appropriately, in fresh cotton clothes, forget about jeans and if possible get some good hiking boots. Take a rain poncho or coat. Forget about umbrellas in the rainforest. And take repellent and alcohol in gel if you have it.
Timing is important. The earlier the better of course, as is relaxation feeling is transcending to live the experience fully.
But sometimes it happens that you hike when you can and not when you want. If your time to hike is at noon, for example, find a good hat and allow you to stop more often if it gets too hot. And take extra liquids.
As a last option, take your solo walk in the afternoon. Usually, the reserves close between 3 and 5 p.m. It is never a good idea to stay in the forest past 5 p.m. anyways as sunsets in Costa Rica are never after 6 p.m. and like anywhere else in the tropics they happen fast.
But, this is important: You don\’t want to be on a walk with yourself looking at the watch every five minutes and hasting it throughout the whole experience.
So, if possible, make space on a morning somewhere in your itinerary, it is better and much more enjoyable.
I usually have a small first aid kit with me with all the necessary if bug bites or I fall and suffer a scratch. And a Swiss Army knife. But I am a bit extreme sometimes. You don\’t actually \”need\” any of that to enjoy a good walk through the rainforest.
Walking in Monteverde
Walking around Monteverde is a beautiful experience in itself! Somehow people are happier and more relaxed. In Monteverde, everybody says \”Hi!\” \”Good Morning!\” or whatever! There is a very attractive joyful vibe that is hard to explain but so easy to feel!
And the place is made to be seen!
After so many years of being contemplated Monteverde has placed viewpoints with benches throughout the whole community, there are open areas to see the magnificent sunsets and the Pacific Ocean at the distance. There are few houses right on the road, but all of it is full of mysterious entrances through dark forests telling you a story of a house surrounded by life.
Depending on where you are staying, you can probably walk to at least one of the reserves.
There are a couple of things that are good to know.
There are a few places where there are no sidewalks. Please mind the cars. Usually, people will be careful when driving and there are complete areas in Monteverde that are not paved yet but be careful.
There are other places en route to some of the reserves that have trails parallel to the road. They are not proper sidewalks, but if you look for them they are easy to find, safer, and more comfortable than walking on the side of the road.
All forest reserves have signs and are easy to find in Waze or Google Maps, and in all of them, you can pay by card or cash and in all of them, you can walk by yourself and feel safe and charmed by their beauty.
Never mind where you are going, the first thing to do when you get in a reserve is to let someone in the office know that you are completely by yourself, and which trail set are you taking. (Even if later you may change your mind if something happens this information can save your life).
I am a very outgoing person, so for me is easy to start a conversation, but even if you are shy and not comfortable talking to strangers you must give this info to the person in charge at the entrance.
And take a paper map if they have it. Never mind you have a whole set of maps on your phone. When you are in the wilderness you should rely on paper maps and not a battery-powered device that may die on you.
In Monteverde though, all reserves have extremely well-signed trails. But if you are seriously into walking by yourself be responsible for your well-being at all times.
Once you\’ve told the person in charge where are you going, promise that you will report at the exit. And do it!
And go to the bathroom before you enter any trail.
Pass the gate, pick a trail from the map and start walking.
Sometimes if there are groups of people waiting to enter I would either wait for them to chose a pathway (For me to pick the contrary of course) but sometimes I ask the guides where are they going and pass them.
My goal is to remain by myself as much as possible. In a way, for me, the forest is like a cathedral. A sacred space. A silent and intimate encounter with beauty and mystery.
My pace changes at times. Sometimes I may stop every fifteen steps to watch a bird or a passing-by rodent. Sometimes I would hike in a rush not to lose the impulse. Especially up-hill.
Silence or music?
Put down your headphones. Never mind if your music is Indian flute and as peaceful as can be. Put them off. Seriously!
Most importantly, you are in the wilderness. You want to hear if something is coming or if someone is warning you about something
Second, because walking through the forest is also an auditory experience! Amazing creatures flying by, the squeaking sounds of giant trees, the fascinating call of the bellbird, the small but recognizable hoot of the Resplendent Quetzal, and over everything the sea-like sounds of the permanent winds blowing Monteverde.
Take time to focus on the sounds and to notice shapes and forms. Some of the trees of Monteverde seem to be taken from a fantastic film. There are even leaves whose shape seems to be designed by Gaudi.
Live this experience fully, keep your mind focused on breathing, sounds, and sights. Keep everything else out of your walk. And take breaks, find places for that. Enjoy your fruit while sitting in front of a waterfall. Live the textures, the aromas, and the colors.
If you feel pain in your body, from aching feet to an old back cramp, feel it, and let it be (As long as it is not serious and deserving of coming back to the office and calling for help).
The more attention you pay to it, the more it will prevent you from enjoying the forest at its best.
However, if the pain is not allowing you to go on walking or may present a more serious situation, please don\’t linger and go back to the main office and ask for help.
Feel the challenge
One of the things that I love about walking solo is the inner challenge it creates within. Like there is this particle within that is not letting me stop and will always challenge me to continue through the longest and more strenuous walks.
The Buddha used to say that pain is unavoidable but suffering is optional.
Don\’t let the challenge and the physical and momentary pain make a victim out of you. Don\’t tell yourself stories, or focus on how long more would it be. Actually, try to stop the inner self pitty dialog completely. It is against you and absolutely useless.
Selfies or not?
How important is it for you to share this experience on social media?
I find that if I have to take a selfie somewhere it takes me out of what I call \”the flow\”, the easiness disappears and the walk somehow becomes a self-conscious show. Hence I never talk selfies unless I want to share the moment with someone purposefully.
How important is it for you?
I rather remove any time device. I even avoid watching my phone\’s timer. Time is pressure. It gets you to the end from the very beginning. From where I see it, walking alone is an opportunity to completely relax and have an encounter with nature and yourself. As unlimited as possible.
The only possibility where I find time to be important is when your walk happens in the afternoon and you have the risk of being locked in the gates of the reserve or worse, causing the reserve to send a group to look for you.
Other than that I never count the hours.
However, mostly all reserves have a usual trail that is about two hours long. And an optional more strenuous one that may take four hours.
A word on being alone
For some of us, solitude is a lover. We feel remarkably comfortable in it. And if we don\’t have some every day we start feeling asphyxiated by life. But there are a lot of people that need people to feel comfortable and safe. And that is really good!
Hiking alone in nature is not about checking out an experience from the list. If you don\’t care about it and feel that is boring and want to go everywhere accompanied, do it! Share and enjoy it!
But if you want to try the experience at least once, embrace it fully! Walk slow, take it easy, talk intentionally to yourself if you like, but stop the inner useless chattering as much as possible. Don\’t haste through nature. Observe it. Drink it and let it take you.
Places to walk by yourself in the rainforest of Monteverde
All throughout Costa Rica you can find amazing rainforests. Depending on where are you going on your trip, some of them are hot and humid, some of them will be actually quite chilly.
Monteverde has a very unique location and receives wind and humidity from both oceans at once creating a very particular set of different climates within a small region. This is to say that never mind how close they are, all these reserves are quite different from one to the next.
These reserves below are the ones I am used to going hiking, their fees are reasonable and they are quite close to where I live. There are many more and you just have to dig in a little to find some closer to the place where you are staying.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- Curicancha Reserve
- Eternal Forest of the Children
- Valle Escondido
- Santa Elena Reserve
And I will write about them in my next post.