The Reiff welcome wagon arrived soon thereafter and we headed down to the hotel restaurant, which was reported in the travel guides to be the best in the area. In stark contrast to the previous hotel the wait staff did not seem very friendly and were easily ruffled by managing a larger group. The food was not that memorable. The next morning we had breakfast at a place next door to the hotel. It had interesting tables and chairs but the service was very slow. Fortunately after that all the meals were quite good. For the next 2 nights we ate very well at Johnny’s Pizza (a pizza restaurant with candlelight and white tablecloths!) and Moon Shiva (written up as Middle Eastern but it had as many Mexican dishes and all were quite tasty - perhaps the best food of the trip). On the way in to Moon Shiva Aidan spotted a well named Giant Toad that was at least as big as a grapefruit. We found a good place for lunch (Stella’s Bakery) and then returned there for the next 2 breakfasts. We liked the good food and fast service while the kids enjoyed heading out the sliding glass door to play outside. There are not believed to be any more Golden Toads in existence, but we did see a Glass Frog (so called as it is fairly see through) hanging out on the black railing outside our cabin after dinner the first night. It seemed to think itself well camouflaged and didn’t move despite Bev taking a bunch of bright flash shots of it.
After breakfast on our first morning (Tuesday) we went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve for a hike. There were no guides on staff that were available but at the entrance they called a private guide for us who arrived on his ATV in 10 minutes. The man at the entrance told us we’d like Oscar and he was right. He struck me a little tentative at first but he ended up doing a great job. The couple we had met at breakfast recommended a guide because they said they hadn’t seen anything in the park and I’m sure the same would have been true for us. Besides knowing where to look (since they go to the preserve most days and know where the nests are and they compare notes with the other guides that they meet), the guides also bring large telescopes on tripods. This alleviates the maddening exercise of trying to find what a guide is pointing to. Instead he finds it in his telescope and then everyone can take a look (if the target stays put long enough). Not only do the guides find wildlife but they tell all about and flora as well. The highlight for the kids was when Oscar showed them the Impatiens buds that were tightly coiled like a spring just waiting to be explode inside out by their touch. Near the entrance to start the tour Oscar shined his flashlight into a hole where we saw a tarantula resting.