Rich biodiversity and gorgeous scenery truly make hiking the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve a piece of heaven on earth
Since 1972, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has been wowing visitors with its rich biodiversity, gorgeous scenery, and 13 kilometers worth of hiking trails to take it all in. Founded by Quakers, the area was later visited by scientists who helped to establish it as a nature preserve to ward off farmers trying to expand in the area.
For more than 40 years, both scientists and tourists alike have flocked to Monteverde due to the fact that it’s one of the most biologically diverse locations on the planet. With six different ecological zones and spanning over 26,000 acres, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains 90% virgin forest and more than 3,000 combined plant and animal species.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is about two hours north of Los Sueños, near the town of Santa Elena. Once you reach Santa Elena, you may continue on the road to the reserve roughly six kilometers, which will take you to the entrance. Busses also run along the road from Santa Elena to the reserve and back, and taxi service is available as well.
Entrance fees vary, from $18 for a foreign visitor and $9 for a foreign student, to $6 for Costa Rican residents and $4 for a student from the country. Children from out of the country that are ages six to 12 are charged $9, and those from Costa Rica cost $3.
Climate and Topography
Fog created by cooling precipitation causes the characteristic clouds of the reserve. A tropical rain forest, both temperatures and rainfall remain high throughout the year, with temperature averages ranging from about 74 degrees Fahrenheit down to 57 degrees during the colder months.
Hiking trails are well maintained in the reserve, and offer many paths and a variety of options suitable for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Taking the Sendero Brillante trail will lead you to La Ventana overlook, where you are able to see how the Continental Divide shapes the land and forests below. There are also excellent bird watching paths, trails through swamps and across rivers, and the chance to tour the five suspended bridges the park offers.
Flora and Fauna
Probably the most impressive aspect of the Monteverde Reserve is the sheer quantity of different plants and animals contained within its borders. The forest is believed to hold the highest diversity of orchids in the entire world, with more than 500 species already found there, and 34 actually discovered within the reserve. All in all, there are over 3,000 different types of plant life in the park- 755 species of trees alone.
Monteverde Could Forest is also home to 161 types of reptiles and amphibians, 500 species of butterflies, and over 400 kinds of birds. They even offer a special bird watching tour you can make advanced reservations for, which embarks daily at 6 am.
One of the only habitats remaining that supports all six species of the cat family, Monteverde is home to the jaguar, ocelot, pumas, and over 100 other species of mammals. If you get there early enough, you may be lucky and glimpse one of the many cats, bats, primates, or rabbits that reside here.
What to Bring
While you won’t need special hiking boots to traverse the well-groomed trails of the reserve, a good comfortable pair of shoes is always recommended, as is being prepared for rain and sun with a poncho and sunscreen. Any time you hike, always being water with you, a snack if you’ll be out for an extended period, and make sure you bring your camera! You’ll need it to capture the awesome things you’ll see during your visit.
As there are many different trail options to explore, a map is always a recommended companion on the trails of the Cloud Forest. These can be found in the reserve’s gift shop, Tangara, located in the main building. You might also find a unique souvenir there made by local artisans to commemorate your visit.
After your day exploring all of the truly amazing things that the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has to offer, head back to their on-premises restaurant, La Foresta, for a snack, some coffee, or for an authentic Costa Rican lunch. The restaurant is open every day from 7 am to 4 pm and is the perfect way to cap off your day in the park.
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