a stop in tilarán, costa rica for a “cafecito”

Thursday, January 12, 2023: After leaving Bijagua and yelling “Pura Vida Mai!” to our favorite roadside vendor one last time, we began our long drive to Monteverde with a stopover in Tilarán, set atop the Cordillera de Tilarán (Tilarán Mountain Range). We were invited for a “cafecito” by Mike’s high school friend Carol, and her Costa Rican husband Carlos, who have a farm up in the mountains. Our meeting time wasn’t until 1:00, so we drove through the town of Tilarán and made a stop at a café mainly so I could use the bathroom. The stop there was way too long because of excruciatingly slow service.

After a snack at the restaurant, we went on to Lake Arenal Brewery because we’d read that the views of Lake Arenal were fantastic from there. We shared a beer and sat outdoors to admire the view and enjoy the cool breezes. La Vista Orgánica is the onsite restaurant and bar where we bought the beer made with spring-fed water. Some beers are infused with the flavors of Costa Rican mangoes, pineapples and chilies.

Built 30 years ago, Lake Arenal Hotel and Brewery was fashioned after the Knossos Palace, of King Midas fame, in Greece. That palace is touted as being part of the oldest European city in what is now Crete. This hotel boasts distinctive features including red columns and sprawling gardens. Ornate paintings and walls of bright inviting colors such as green and yellow create a unique Costa Rican flair. All the paints that illuminate the walls and ceilings are ochre, made of natural pigments native to this area.

Even the bathroom was adorned with a tropical Costa Rican mural.

The Brewery is 100% solar-powered. Spent grain (used in the beer-making process) is fed to local cows to increase their milk and cheese production. The brewery also runs off methane gas from cow manure.

Lake Arenal sits in the northern highlands of Costa Rica. It is currently the largest lake in Costa Rica at 85-square-kilometers (33 square miles). The lake was tripled in size with the construction of the Arenal Dam in 1979. This hydroelectric project sits at the western end of the lake and is strategically important to Costa Rica. It initially generated 70% of the country’s electricity, but it’s now close to 17%. It was the driving force behind Costa Rica’s green energy policy.

We drove up and up into the clouds of the Arenal Highlands to visit Carol and Carlos. Carlos is Costa Rican but had a Nicaraguan grandfather. Carol worked with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Costa Rica for a number of years and Carlos has worked in international development. Now Carol is a life career coach and Carlos still works and in addition runs his family’s cattle ranch. The “cafecito” consisted of coffee, plantains and yogurt and donuts. We got to see their lovely home on top of the world, with views of Lake Arenal, the Gulf of Nicoya and the mountains between Tilarán and the coast, basically all of Guanacaste province.

When we told them about Adam’s Ometepe property on land that is part of a cooperative, they seemed quite worried about the legality and also said the government is known to take people’s property if they need it for any project. That made me worry about Adam’s home, especially if he invests more into it.

It was fun to meet them and see their lovely spot of paradise alongside stark white wind turbines on the mountaintops and pastoral scenes.

Here is a short video of our time around Tilarán.

After leaving Carol and Carlos, we drove well over an hour on Rt. 14S and 606 from Tilarán (33 km) on bumpy potholed and gravelly roads through the mountains to reach Monteverde. It was an astoundingly slow, curvy and rough ride.