- Summary: Cloud forest; mountains, adventure sports and sightseeing
- Landscape: Cloud forest, rainforest, mountains
- Attractions: Hanging bridges, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, San Gerardo Station, waterfalls, wildlife
- Activities: Adventure tours, bird & wildlife watching, night hikes
- Caters to: Couples/honeymooners, families, independent travelers, nature lovers
- Quick Facts: 105 miles northwest of San Jose ; 61-75 °F ; 4,100-5,900 feet
A gentle mist settles over the canopy in the grey dawn light of the Monteverde cloud forest. A thin sheen of dew collects on the leaves and the moss dripping down to the forest floor. This is the green planet. Shades of emerald and harlequin, fern and mantis, gripping to ancient, gnarled tree trunks ascending toward the firmament shaded by Caribbean clouds carried across the continental divide. In the canopies, blooming orchids, bromeliads and moss climb over each other in an eternal struggle for light; homes for howler monkeys, sloths, emerald toucanets and resplendent quetzals.read more close
Monteverde's cloud forest reserves
Monteverde's blanket of cloud forest folds over the Tilaran Mountains; each crease yields a variation in its habitat. While visitors know about the verdant trails and panoramic views at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve; the Santa Elena reserve's wetter, greener habitat explodes with life in a way unmatched even by the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Two miles below the Santa Elena Reserve hidden in the confines of the Children's Eternal Rainforest, The San Gerardo Station offers a waypoint into the undisturbed primary and secondary rainforest so often overlooked by visitors to Monteverde.
Things to do
The small mountain town of Santa Elena serves as the base camp for Monteverde's adventures. While no trip to Monteverde is complete without hiking in the cloud forest, a world of adventure tours offer a chance to see to the cloud forest from the dizzying heights of Costa Rica's highest zip lines and Central America's largest bungee jump; the saddle of a galloping horse or the seat of an ATV. Explore the wildlife up close at the butterfly garden, the Frog Pond and the Serpentarium, or grab a flashlight and join a night tour for a look at what lurks in the forest under the cover of night.
Enjoy a fresh cup of coffee at one Santa Elena's coffee shops or better yet, join one of Monteverde's coffee tours and learn how Costa Ricans have been growing their own coffee for the last two hundred years. Monteverde's agricultural side offers a glimpse into the lives and traditions of Costa Rica with samples of its best flavors like fresh toffee from the Trapiche tour, or chocolate made bean to bar from one of Costa Rica's foremost chocolate experts on the chocolate tour at Café Cabure.
Places to Stay
Rest among the cloud forest, watch the sunset over the Nicoya gulf and relish the nightlife in Santa Elena while staying in one of Monteverde's bed & breakfasts, hotels and hostels. Rooms are available at every budget from an assortment of comfortable hostels in downtown Santa Elena to the luxury hotels along Cerro Plano. An equal number of small hotels and boutique hotels exist close to each of Monteverde's reserves.
Monteverde's cloud forest is one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet and nature's cradle for more than 3,000 species of plants including 450 orchid species and 360 ferns species. Among the trees, ferns and flowers dwell Costa Rica's few surviving jaguars as well as tapirs, agoutis, peccaries, sloths and 130 species of mammals. In addition, there are 60 species of bats, 700 species of butterflies and 5,000 species of moths.
For the avian inclined, Monteverde's a bird watcher's paradise. More than 440 species of birds dwell in and around the cloud forest making up five percent of all of bird species on the planet. Visit Monteverde in the mating season, Feb. through May, and you may catch a glimpse of the resplendent quetzal. Even if you don't, you're sure to cross paths with some of the area's other amazing birds like the blue-crowned motmot, the black-faced solitaire, three-wattled bellbird and emerald toucanets.
Monteverde’s microclimates combine with the region’s strong trade winds and unique location straddling the continental divide create a cool, mountainous and windy climate.
Though separated by just a few miles, Santa Elena and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve may witness very different temperatures and rain conditions. These reserves, both high in elevation, regularly experience moist, cool weather.
The Monteverde area does not have a proper dry season; instead, the drier season lasts from Dec.-April. Sections of both the Santa Elena and Monteverde cloud forests are located on the Caribbean side of the continental divide and generally experience the opposite weather conditions.
Windy days and nights keep moisture circulating through the area year-round. During the wet season (May-Oct.) downpours often follow sunny mornings. The region receives an average of 118 inches of rain annually.
Corobici Tribe who originally inhabit Monteverde named it “El Espinero”. Costa Ricans settled Monteverde in the early 1900's. Twenty years after started cultivating coffee, which, in addition to the dairy industry, remains a major source of income for the region’s residents.
In the early 1950’s, nine Quaker families from the United States arrived in Monteverde. Attracted by the country’s recently-disbanded army, the settlers named their town Monteverde, meaning “green mountain.” In 1953, they founded the Cheese Factory fueling further local economic growth.
The Quaker families purchased 3,460 acres, and decided to reserve one-third of their land to protect the watershed above their new settlement. Over time, the private reserve grew to more than 25,000 acres.
In 1972 the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established as the second protected area in the region, and in 1977 the first hotel was built. Since then, more than 40 privately protected reserves have sprawled and some 230,000 tourists visit the area every year.