Pineapple and Painted Chickens: the Road to Monteverde

Our first morning in Costa Rica introduced us to the full-blast, no-kidding-around sunrise of Central America. It was beautiful, it was instant, and it was 5:30am.

Being someone who would happily sleep 12 hours a night if given free reign of my schedule (yay traditional work hours), I wasn’t exactly prepared to be waking up with the sun as my alarm clock. That being said, since we went to bed relatively early (the sun also SETS at 5:30pm and tricks you into thinking you’ve stayed up much later than you have) the shock wasn’t as brutal as my brave futile attempts at early-birdery in the States. Plus, my body responds much better to the “light switch” sunrise in Costa Rica than the “it’s almost-kind-of-daytime” sunrise back home in Minnesota.

Although we received an offer to go canyoning with Andrés later in the afternoon near Liberia, we were terrified* looking forward to getting on the road and out of the heat/pollution/chaos of Guanacaste (the desert region) in search of the rainforest terrain we’d read so much about.

With the GPS tucked safely in the glove compartment, we were off! Highway 21 was relatively easy to follow until it turned into a cluster of cones and indistinguishable warning signs. We were saved by a lovely crew of construction workers**.

On the way to Monteverde, we stopped at a roadside soda (mini-restaurant) and had our first “gallo pinto” breakfast. Although”gallo pinto” translates to “painted chicken”, the dish actually contains no paint or chickens, but instead a yummy spread of rice, beans, scrambled eggs, and a fried plantain. The best part of this breakfast? The fresh pineapple juice-shake beverage we ordered with it. Costa Rica’s greatest culinary treasure (in my mind) is their abundance of fresh tropical fruit, and the fruit drinks are by far the best way to sample as many as possible (we counted 10 total on this trip, in various forms).

After our deeply satisfying breakfast break, we continued the trek up to Monteverde. Eventually the nicely paved highway turns into a thrilling combination of gravel, giant boulders, narrow mountainside roads, and oncoming traffic. Despite learning to drive a manual transmission for this trip, I didn’t quite have the confidence to navigate this death trap, and would advise anyone planning to make the journey to be very comfortable in your manual-driving skills long before you arrive in CR.


*I do not know what he meant by canyoning, but being someone who likes living, I was a little wary of amateur versions of this.

**Once we successfully communicated our destination over the jackhammers, some nice construction workers were happy to point us in the right direction. Surprisingly enough, this is not the first time I’ve needing to flex the “polite screaming” muscle. If you’re a timid person, I’d recommend practicing shouting like a crazy person a few times before you land in any foreign country – perhaps in your car on your way to work, at any concert, or in the middle of any public library (just kidding).