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Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Explore the Rainforest

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Imagine yourself in Costa Rica and you might conjure images of fun in the sun or treks to epic volcanoes. But there’s no doubt about it, one of Costa Rica’s most intriguing features is its expansive network of rainforests. Of all the great forests in the country, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the most breathtaking.

Venture to this private reserve, one of the best national parks in the country, and you’ll find unimaginable lush greenery, mist-filled canopies, captivating wildlife and exhilarating activities. Experiencing its natural wonders could take a lifetime and with so much to do in the park and surrounding area, Monteverde Cloud Forest is a magnificent destination worthy of a spot in all travel itineraries, family, solo or group tours. To help you plan your adventure, enjoy this guide on what to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Facts

Number of annual visitors Over 70,000
Size 104 sq. km
Province Puntarenas
Entrance fee/permits USD 20 per person*, USD 6 for students and children over 6. A maximum of 450 persons admitted per day.
Camping No overnight camping permitted within the reserve.
Common animal sightings Birds (quetzals, toucans, hummingbirds, parrots), howler and capuchin monkeys, anteaters, armadillos, sloths, tapir, deer, snakes, frogs, toads, wildcats (rare)
Best season to visit The dry season, December to May is the best time to visit. While the forest is covered in clouds for the entire year, the wet season (from June to November) makes many of the trails impossible to pass.

Highlights

  • Let out an obligatory scream as you soar through the sky on riveting zip-lines.
  • Encounter some of Costa Rica’s most elusive birds and other wildlife while hiking in one of the best places to hike in the country
  • Discover mind-blowing vistas from the ridge-top of the Continental Divide.
  • Tour working farms to learn the traditions of growing some of Costa Rica’s culinary delicacies.

Lowlights

  • While wildlife is abundant, many animals can be shy or hidden in the dense forest. Consider bringing binoculars and remember to look up in the canopy!
  • Monteverde rainforest is home to venomous spiders, snakes, and other reptiles. Though they are usually elusive, do stay alert and take precautions as you explore. 

Activities in the Park

Zip-lining

Monteverde Cloud Forest provides excellent adventures like ziplining.
Experience the forest in a completely different light when ziplining above the treetops.

Though zip-lining has taken off in destinations around the world, Monteverde is home to some of the first and definitely some of the best zip-lines around. Crossing incredibly close to the treetops, then soaring across open sky, these long cables will have you wondering when you’ll hit the next platform.

Hanging bridges

Monteverde Forest has hanging bridges linking to most areas of the park.
The hanging bridges provide excellent views of the forest.

Walking through the treetops across long suspension bridges is one of the essential things to do in Monteverde. These bridges make excellent pit stops on your hike to peer deeper into the treetops in search of wildlife or snap breathtaking photos among the misty greenery.

Sky tram

Want more adventures in the canopy? Consider taking the cable car. You’ll head up one of the highest mountains in Monteverde to an overlook on the Continental Divide. This is a great option for people seeking a less physically strenuous adventure and is accessible to all ages!

Hiking

Couple hiking through the jungle in Costa Rica
Hiking through the forest is the best way to discover the rich landscape and wildlife.

Any way you chose to venture through Monteverde is spectacular, but wandering on trails by foot is best for close appreciation of the diverse flora and fauna. Admire fascinating ferns, orchids and bromeliads that line the trails, breathe in the fresh crisp air and definitely take the trail to “La Ventana,” an epic viewpoint overlooking the Continental Divide.

Try the Costa Rica Experience tour where a guide takes you on a walk through Monteverde. 

Birdwatching

Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to many species of birds.
Hummingbirds are a common sight in the forest.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is where you will find the Quetzal.
The resplendent quetzal can be spotted in the Monteverde Forest.

 Monteverde has long been recognized as a top destination for birding enthusiasts. Bring your binoculars and remain watchful for the resplendent quetzal, the three-wattled bellbird and emerald toucanets. Don’t be surprised to hear hummingbirds buzzing by your head as you walk!

Wildlife tours

Birds aren’t the only inhabitants of this lush oasis. Still, many of the interesting animals in the rainforest can be challenging to spot. Wildlife tours in Monteverde, Costa Rica will give you the best chance of spotting the shy critters as trained guides know where to look and the behavioural habits essential for the search. For a thrilling take on wildlife tours, book a night walk tour for a rare opportunity to spot some interesting nocturnal animals.

Try the Pura Vida tour if you are into spotting wildlife in Monteverde. 

Wildlife Exhibits

With the abundance of unique animals in the region, there are endless opportunities to encounter and learn about Monteverde’s local residents. Check out the butterfly garden, bug museum, frog exhibit, and bat jungle in the surrounding towns of Monteverde and Santa Elena.

Activities outside the Park

Horseback riding

Not only is horseback riding an exciting way to venture through the terrain, it also is one of the most efficient ways to travel through multiple areas, trotting through mountains and countrysides within just a few hours. Though horses are not permitted within the actual reserve, several tour options are available to ride on private land and trails nearby.

Botanical gardens

Orchids are common in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
The Monteverde Orchid Garden is located just 5 kms away from the Forest Reserve.
Monteverde Orchid Garden is 5 kms away from Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Costa Rica is home to over 1400 species of Orchids.

Whether you’re a plant enthusiast or not, a trip to the nearby Monteverde Orchid Garden or Monteverde Botanical Garden is a marvelous way to spend the afternoon. Witnessing unique orchids thriving in their natural habitat is a rare experience that should not be overlooked. The Orchid Garden is situated just 5 kms outside the park while the Botanical Garden is located 8.5 km west to the park.

Coffee, chocolate, and sugarcane tours

A delicious addition to a tour in Monteverde Cloud Forest, seize the opportunity to learn the traditions and cultural history of some of the world’s favorite culinary items. Tours offer an excellent glimpse into local life on private farms and reward the taste-buds with rich samples.

Cheese factory

After your chocolate tour, you may need to balance that sweet tooth. Head over to the nearby Monteverde Cheese Factory to enjoy the region’s excellent selection of cheese and yogurts. If you didn’t get your sweet fix already, enjoy some ice cream featuring local flavors, such as coconut, soursop, or rum raisin.

GOOD TO KNOW

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve spans for miles.
An aerial view of the landscape in Monteverde Cloud Forest.
  • The park is open daily from 7am to 4pm
  • Though no camping is permitted overnight in the park, a small hostel offering basic lodging is located within the reserve. Many other accommodations are available in Monteverde or the nearby town of Santa Elena.
  • Expect wet conditions. A rain jacket and suitable hiking shoes are recommended.
  • Travel from San Jose to Monteverde takes 2.5 hours by private vehicle. Alternatively, buses leave San Jose at 6:30 am and 2:30 pm daily for a 4.5 hour journey.

Don’t miss an opportunity to see Costa Rica’s most breathtaking scenery. With a trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you’ll be refreshed, inspired, and invigorated by the landscape, the people, and the thrilling range of things to do.

*Prices are as per January, 2018.

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