Private Parks & Wildlife Refuges:
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Founded by Quaker settlers in the early 1950’s, this 26,000-acre private reserve is the largest and most popular park in the area today. The cloud forest is a prime location to spot wildlife – eight miles of groomed trails lead visitors to monkeys, coatimundis, sloths, frogs, insects and even the elusive resplendent quetzal. During the dry season (December-April), be sure to arrive before 10 a.m. to guarantee a spot on the reserve’s green trails.
Santa Elena Reserve
Dwarfed by the Monteverde Cloud Forest in both size and popularity, the 766-acre Santa Elena Reserve deserves more attention than it receives. The cloud forest’s trees drip with emerald-green epiphytes, and its quiet acres are home to 10% more wildlife species than its more famous cloudy neighbor. In addition, all proceeds from ticket sales go toward funding local high schools. Make sure to wear good hiking shoes, since the rustic trails are often muddy.
Children’s Eternal Forest
This conservation project began when a group of Swiss school children committed to “save the rainforest” and is today the largest reserve in the area. The 55,500-acre Children’s Eternal Forest – a combination of evergreen forest, seasonal cloud forest and seasonal rain forest – is fully funded by children and said to belong to every child in the world. Hikers often report sightings of Baird’s tapirs, three-toed sloths, hummingbirds, and toucans.
Cerro Plano Ecological Sanctuary
Once a working farm, the Ecological Sanctuary now plants four to five million trees per year for reforestation. In addition, the park takes a natural approach to attracting animals – instead of baiting them with food, the reserve plants specific trees and bushes to lure coatimundis, white-faced monkeys and many other animal species. June and July are the best months for viewing the resplendent quetzal. (7 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.; 2645-5869)
The small wildlife reserve, once home to farms and banana plantations, is now forested by 27 acres of secondary tropical forest. The private park is relatively quiet during the day, but has one of the most popular night tours in town. To catch a glimpse of the resident sloths and porcupines, make sure to reserve a night tour in advance. (Cerro Plano. 7 a.m.- 4 p.m.; 2645-6601)
Tranquil Path Reserve
Located between the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Guacimal River, this 200-acre private reserve promotes true ecotourism. Narrow trails minimize environmental impact, and tours are limited to six people per group, allowing visitors to experience the tropical forest in its natural state. (2645-5010)
San Luis Research Station
Administered by the University of Georgia, the 173-acre research station is one of the area’s best birding spots. Birdwatchers have reported seeing more than 230 avian species here, including the jewel-toned resplendent quetzal. Several trails wind through primary and secondary rainforest, and an on-site farm harvests tropical fruit year-round.
San Luis Waterfall
A strenuous hike leads to the 330-foot tall San Luis waterfall. The area is perfect for picnics, and several swimming holes lend themselves to leisurely afternoon swims. Guided horseback tours and walking tours to the waterfall are available, but adventurous travelers often hike the 1.5-mile rustic paths alone.
Cerro Plano Ecological Sanctuary
This private reserve is home to three waterfalls, each detailed on the sanctuary’s complimentary map. Be sure to ask at the front desk, as one of the waterfalls is difficult to reach during the rainy season. (7 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.; 2645-5869)
Museums and Gardens:
Ranario (Monteverde Frog Pond)
More than 100 frog species make their home in Costa Rica, but many are nearly impossible to see in the wild. Monteverde’s famous frog pond – housing 30 frog species and two toad species – is the ideal place to spot the more elusive amphibians. (Santa Elena. Butterfly garden open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Ranario 9 a.m.- 8:30 p.m.; 2645-6320)
Home to snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs and other cold-blooded animals, the Monteverde Serpentarium gives an ideal introduction to Costa Rica’s reptile and amphibian species. The venomous snake exhibit is especially informative, and many visitors may catch their first glimpse of the fer-de-lance. (Santa Elena. 8:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.; 2645-6002)
Monteverde Butterfly Garden
The butterfly garden’s volunteer-run tours are full of enthusiasm and a great way to see the country's diverse butterfly species. The garden also has a small please-touch bug exhibit, where visitors can get hands-on with tarantulas, millipedes, cockroaches and other creepy-crawlies. (Cerro Plano. 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mon-Sun. 2645-5512)
Located just outside the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the gallery’s many sugar-water feeders attract a multitude of hummingbird species. The small area is often so clouded with hummingbirds that the air buzzes with the sound of their wings. (Monteverde. 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.; free; 2645-5030)
Learn about Costa Rica’s 400+ orchid species at Monteverde’s orchid garden. Rare species, such as the Plztystele jungermannioides, the world’s smallest orchid, are also found here. (Santa Elena. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Sun. 2645-5308)
Visitors to the bat jungle often forget their fears while learning about these tiny mammals. An open bat habitat and bilingual exhibits round out the informative displays, educating and entertaining at the same time. (Monteverde. 9:30 a.m.- 8:30 p.m. 2645-6566)
World of Insects
For those who don't see enough crickets, katydids and walking sticks on Monteverde’s popular night tours, the World of Insects should do the trick. Tours are conducted in both Spanish and English, and show off impressive arthropods such as water cockroaches, arachnids and scorpions. (Santa Elena. 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.; 2645-6859)
Plan to spend an entire day enjoying Selvatura’s diverse offerings. Begin with one of the area’s most popular canopy tours, followed by a two-mile walk along the park's hanging bridges.
After lunch, visit the largest private collection of insects in the area, known as the “Jewels of the Rainforest," and observe thousands of six-legged critters, including beetles, stick bugs and butterflies, from all over the world. Later, explore Selvatura’s butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, reptile and amphibian exhibits and forest pathways. (Santa Elena. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Sun. 2645-5929)
Historical and Cultural Sights:
Friends Meeting House
Encouraged by Costa Rica’s army dissolution, nine Quaker families settled Monteverde in the early 1950’s. Their legacy still lives in Monteverde, and anyone interested may visit the Friends Meeting House that they founded more than 60 years ago. (Services 10:30 a.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Wednesday)
Monteverde Cheese Factory
In 1953, the Quaker settlers founded the Cheese Factory, which would soon become the area’s largest employer. Informative tours feature samples of freshly-made dairy treats, such as fabulous milkshakes, ice cream cones, and plenty of cheese, along with a helping of pacifist, Quaker history. Book a morning tour to watch the cheese-making process. Note that many of their cheeses are sold only at the factory, so stock up while there. (Monteverde. 7:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, to 12:30 p.m. Sunday; 2645-6565)
Monteverde Travel Guide
Monteverde Travel Guide
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