Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica is located just 150 kilometres away from San Jose in the northern part of Puntarenas Province right on the Continental Divide.
Monteverde cloud forest reserve known in Spanish as Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde is just 5 kilometres from the town of Santa Elena and is one of the most stunning nature reserves in the whole world.
The reserve covers a total surface of 10.000 hectares ( 25.900 acres) of cloud forest and attracts more than 75.000 visitors each year.
Cloud forest Monteverde Costa Rica is made from 6 different ecological zones out of which 90% of them are virgin forests.
Here you can find more than 2.550 species of plants, more than 110 species of mammals, 390 species of birds and thousands of insects, amphibians and reptiles.
The place is considered by scientists and naturalists as a unique habitat with species of plants and animals not discovered yet.
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History of Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica
The history of this beautiful biological reserve starts in 1972 when George Powell, a scientist that visited this cloud forest decided to do everything he can to protect such a unique habitat.
At that time the local flora and fauna had been destroyed by people moving into the forest, cultivating the land and hunting for animals.
With the help of a Quaker named Wilford Guindon and the Tropical Science Center Foundation, Powell promoted the necessity of protecting that habitat.
In the beginning, Monteverde cloud forest biological reserve had just 330 hectares (821 acres) obtained from donations.
Over time the reserve extended thanks to the efforts of Guindon and many international foundations and it reached the surface it has today.
Best time to visit Monteverde Costa Rica cloud forest
Like the entire country, Monteverde also has two seasons: the dry season that lasts from December to April and the wet season from May to December.
The best time to visit the protected area is during the dry season but bear in mind that cloud forest has its own microclimate so rain, fog and wind is quite common even during the dry season.
And the wet season is really wet with daily rains and fog everywhere, so less visibility and there is also the wind which is quite chilly sometimes.
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The rainiest months of the year are August, September and November when the forest is quiet and the number of tourists is really low, so no queues for zip lines and other popular attractions.
Getting to Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica
Monteverde cloud forest Costa Rica can be reached by car, by public transport or with a guided tour.
Getting to Monteverde by car
The biological reserve is located about 3 hours drive from San Jose, depending on traffic, in between San Jose International airport and Liberia airport.
In order to get to the Monteverde reserve, you need to follow Highway 1 towards San Ramon and Liberia and go further than Esparza and Puntarenas.
Leave the highway and take the exit to Sardinal and then follow the signs pointing you to Monteverde.
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Beware of the strong winds that are very common in the area because of the high elevation above sea level.
The winds are stronger from November to March so drive carefully and don’t underestimate nature in Costa Rica.
Getting to Monteverde by public transport
There are buses from all major towns and cities from Costa Rica to this fabulous cloud forest reserve.
From San Jose there are two daily buses, one that leaves at 6.30 a.m. and another one at 2.30 p.m and the bus station is located at Avenida 11 and 9 and Calle 14.
The cost for a ticket from San Jose to the edge of the cloud forest is around 5 USD and in about 4 hours and a half, you reach the cloud forest.
From Puntarenas there are also two daily buses, one at 1.00 p.m that passes by La Irma and another one at 2.00 pm that goes directly to Monteverde; both buses arrive at the protected area at 5 p.m.
From La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano area there is a bus that leaves at 8.00 in the morning and arrives at the biological reserve at 11 a.m.
Entrance ticket and opening hours
Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica is open on a daily basis from 7 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon.
The admission fee is 20 USD for adults and children between the age of 6 to 12 will pay 25 USD, while children under 6 years old can visit the park for free; the citizens and residents fee is just 7 USD.
What you can see in Monteverde reserve
If you want to see as much as you can on your trip to Monteverde we strongly recommend you to hire a guide that will give you a lot of information about the local plants and animals but also will show you rare species of plants and many animals.
Most of the animals are hidden in the canopy or in the clouds so a local guide is exactly what you need to point
Just for you to have a clue about how many species of fauna and flora can be found inside this protected area, I want you to know that here live more than 2.550 species of plants, including 500 species of orchids.
Besides the plants, there are the animals that live here: 110 species of mammals, 390 species of birds and a huge number of insects, reptiles and amphibians.
Among the most common animals that you can see here are the white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys as well as coati, agouti and paca which are two small mammals like rodents.
And there are the birds, many colourful and beautiful birds some of them extremely rare in Costa Rica like resplendent Quetzal and also the tiny and beautiful hummingbirds and three wattled bellbirds.
Explore Monteverde Costa Rica cloud forest
There are six main hiking trails spread around the reserve suitable for everybody: some of them are short and easy to walk while others have a few kilometres and go around waterfalls and swamps.
An interesting thing to mention here is that only about 4% of the total surface of the biological reserve is open to the public, the rest of it is just for scientific studies and observations.
From all the trails from the park two are most important:
- Sendero Bosque Nuboso or Cloud Forest trail that continues with Sendero Pantanoso and Sendero El Rio
- Sendero Camino or Road trail which is shorter and extremely accessible
Sendero Bosque Nuboso
One of the most popular hikes in Monteverde cloud forests in Costa Rica is definitely Sendero Bosque Nuboso that leads you high in the canopy to spot the rich fauna and flora.
After about one hour of hike, you will get to a beautiful viewpoint known as La Ventana or the Window from where you have a great view of the Continental Divide, the place where the Pacific and the Atlantic slopes meet.
From that viewpoint, you can continue on Sendero Pantanoso or Marshy trail to get to Sendero El Rio or River trail.
At this part of the trail, you are at exactly the same level as the canopy so you can admire the fauna and flora from the forest canopy.
This is one of the best spots to see wildlife in these dense forests from Costa Rica.
There is also a small but beautiful waterfall on this hike, just a few steps outside the Sendero El Rio, but worth the little extra effort to go to it, too.
If you plan to hike all these trails you should book at least half a day to observe all these species of birds, animals and trees.
The trails are very well maintained and not very difficult, but you need hiking boots and a lot of water with you.
Sendero Camino is by far the most visited hiking trail from the park and it leads to the suspension bridge from the reserve.
From the hanging bridge, you have a wonderful view of the forest and if you don’t want to go back on the same trail that you came, you can choose Sendero Wilford Guindon for going back to the ranger station.
Sendero Camino is one of the easiest trails from Monteverde Costa Rica cloud forest and offers amazing views of the canopy, perfect for bird watching and wildlife observation without a lot of effort.
Activities and things to do in Monteverde reserve
For those of you looking for some Costa Rican adventure in the wild we definitely recommend the following list of activities:
- Birdwatching tours
- Coffee tour
- Sky tram and sky trek
- Horseback riding
- Hiking in the protected area
- Canopy tours or zip lining
Where to stay
The area around Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica offers some of the most interesting accommodations from Costa Rica.
The town of Santa Elena is the main place where to set your camp for exploring the area and here, Monteverde Lodge and Gardens is our favourite spot.
The lodge is located in the middle of the forest, just 15 minutes drive from Monteverde cloud forest reserve that features spacious rooms with an amazing view and one of the best restaurants in the area.
Monteverde Cloud forest biological reserve is one of the most popular attractions from the country because of its unique ecosystems and the high numbers of species that live here.
It is a very developed and well maintained protected area with many suspension bridges from where you can see the Continental Divide and the green canopy.
Pack with you a raincoat, long pants, hiking boots, some water and a snack and prepare for an unforgettable day in the middle of nature.
Plan your trip to this beautiful place: Logistical tips and tricks
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Rentalcars. com as they have free cancellation 24 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.