Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- Location : Monteverde; 110 miles north of San Jose
- Altitude : 4,662 feet above sea level
- Area : 26,000 acres
- Hours : 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
- Telephone : 2645-5122
- Entrance Fee : $17.00
Clouds curl over the continental divide drifting through the forest creating one of the most unique habitats on the face of the earth. Inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, three-hundred-year-old trees twist toward the skies, weighed down with layers of bromeliads and moss in a spectacular scene at the heart of every childhood fantasy; one where at every moment you expect a fairy to pop out from a hollowed log. It's not far from the truth either. More than 400 bird species dwell inside the forest including the resplendent quetzal; a majestic bird known for its brilliant ruby breast, turquoise mohawk and regal tail feathers. Walking the trails, you'll hear the metallic, wind-chime call of the black face solitaire bird among the wind blowing through the trees, the cicadas and the bellbird's alarm like call piercing through from high above the canopy.read more close
Thousands of outlandish insects hover through the forest. In the daytime, glass wing-butterflies, aptly named for their transparent wings, float through the foliage searching for flowers. At night, red, yellow, and green lights flicker throughout the forest as fire flies signal each other in the darkness.
Nine trails weave through a mere eight miles of forest, leaving the majority of the reserve virtually untouched. The trails wind through the verdant, primary and secondary cloud forest high in the mountains.
The reserve's clouds actually form in the Caribbean and move east with the trade winds blowing up through the Tilaran mountains that divide the dry Pacific region from the wet, humid Caribbean region.
Average Temperature: 59 to 77 degrees
Annual Rainfall: 117 inches (9.75 feet)
Flora & Fauna
The Monteverde cloud forest is biologically diverse – within its acres, scientists estimate that the park has more than 3,000 plant species, 120 mammal species, 130 amphibian and reptile species, more than 400 bird species. In fact, more than half of Costa Rica’s bird species are found here, including the resplendent quetzal, three-wattled bellbirds, black guans, bare-necked umbrella birds, hummingbirds, and tanangers (more than 30 species in the Monteverde area). The best time for bird watching is during the dry season (Dec. to April), though many birds are spotted year-round. Hikers and wildlife watchers report sightings of baird’s tapir, capuchin and howler monkeys, two-toed sloths, coatimundis, howler monkeys and agoutis.
A visitor's center offers reserve maps, information and guided tours. A gift shop and restaurant sit adjacent to the reserve’s visitor's center. Dormitories are also available; the reserve has 43 bunk beds and both private and shared bathrooms.
Guests can walk the park in guided natural history tours and night hikes in either English or Spanish with prior reservation. All tours begin at the visitor’s center with a slide show and educational videos.
Nine trails string their way through more than eight miles into the depths of the cloud forest. These are some of the most intriguing treks through the reserve:
The Cloud Forest Trail ( Sendero Bosque Nuboso ),is wide, leisurely and leads to the a viewpoint of the continental divide.
The Walking Trail ( Sendero Camino ) takes guests up and down stairs on a small trail leading through some of the densest over growth in the forest.
The Swamp Trail ( Sendero Pantanoso ) – offer 2.2 miles of moderate hiking through some of the more verdant regions of the forest.
The Creek Trail ( Quebrada Cuecha ) leads to the Monteverde's waterfall.
Chomogo Trail ( Sendero Chomogo ) features 1.2 miles of a steep climbs.
From downtown Santa Elena, drive east along the paved road, passing first through Cerro Plano and then onto a winding dirt-and-gravel road that heads up the mountain. After passing the Monteverde Cheese Factory, look for signs to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde). The road ends at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve visitor center.
Public buses ($2; 45 minutes) leave Santa Elena for the reserve at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. every day. A taxi from downtown Santa Elena costs about $10 one-way.
People have long understood the importance of the cloud forest since the 1950s when Quakers first recognized that the forest provided vital water resources for the agriculture in the valleys below. In 1973, the Center for Tropical Studies took over to form the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve covering 8,500 acres.