Cloud Forest Costa Rica: A guide for visiting Monteverde

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(Last updated on: 27/10/2021)

The Cloud Forest Costa Rica is an incredible place to visit and should absolutely be on any Costa Rica itinerary! In this article I teach you all about the Cloud Forest Costa Rica, where it is, what to do whilst there and why you should visit. Intrigued? Read on to find out more…

What is the Cloud Forest Costa Rica?

Cloud Forest Costa Rica

Located in stunning Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is an area of cloud forest covering 26,000 acres. It is named after the nearby town of Monteverde. The reserve itself was founded in 1972, although the cloud forest itself has obviously been there much longer than that.

The Cloud Forest Costa Rica is incredibly high in biodiversity and has six ecological zones. More than 70,000 visitors head to the reserve each year, keen to explore the area and see the huge range of flora and fauna to be found here.

Getting to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

You can access the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve by bus from the town of Monteverde as well as Santa Elena. The bus service runs five times per day. You can get taxis around here, too.

This general area is a round four hours away from the Central Valley by car and many people choose to hire a car here.

You can also reach the area from San José by twice-daily bus – it leaves at 6.30 am and 2.30 pm. Again this takes around 4.5 hours, with the morning bus arriving in Monteverde at approximately 11.00 am.

Can you stay at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

There is a lodge (Cloud Forest Lodge) at the reserve. It hosts up to 47 visitors at any one time, and is one of Costa Rica’s best eco lodges. This means they are environmentally friendly, and kind to the nature that surrounds them. The lodge’s ethos is focused on bringing positivity to the local area and community, while encouraging guests to reconnect with nature, respect it and fall in love with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Rooms are surrounded by wildlife and nature – the views are second to none, and you’ll never forget waking up to these beautiful landscapes and the sound of birds, monkeys and more. The on-site restaurant, MOTMOT, has a varied menu offering all sorts of delicious flavours, always cooked with ingredients fresh from the garden. They make their own bread, and you can sample the traditional Costa Rican breakfast dish of ‘gallo pinto’ (rice and beans) during your stay. Food is served between 6.20 am and 10.00 pm, and bar service starts at 10.00 am – choose from national and foreign beers as well as a range of tasty cocktails.

Rooms start at $90 per night and are tastefully but simply decorated. Comfortable beds and earthy decor will give you all the right vibes for a night at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve! Book a night walk for $20 per person, or take the canopy tour which starts at $28.25 per child.

Alternatively, there are some great Airbnb’s and hotels in the area. Recommended hotels include Hotel Trópico Monteverde and Senda Monteverde Hotel. You can also check available accommodation for your travel dates using the map below-

Booking.com

What is there to see at the Cloud Forest Costa Rica?

There is so much to see at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. With 878 species of epiphytes (air plants) alone, you’ll marvel at the wide range of flora dotted throughout the reserve. The forest and the wider region is also home to the largest number of orchid species in the entire world – the number stands at over 500, but they’re just the ones scientists and botanists know about. 34 of these were new to science when they were discovered, which is just one example of the unique ecosystem at play here.

Cloud Forest Costa Rica

In terms of animals throughout the reserve, there are so many that you might see on a visit here. With around 161 species of amphibians and reptiles alone, keep a look out for frogs, snakes and more – this was the original habitat of the now-disappeared Monteverde Golden Toad! There are so many birds throughout the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which you’ll spot with ease: the green-crowned brilliant, the coppery-headed emerald and many more. A lot are migratory birds, just passing through, so a winter visit will give you the best chance to see the most different species if birdwatching is your hobby of choice.

There are mammals here, too. Keep your eyes peeled for porcupine, wild pigs, deer, rabbits, ground hogs, 58 varieties of bat, squirrels and so much more. Butterflies and insects complete the huge range of creatures here, and you are bound to spot your fair share. Any visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a learning experience, especially for nature lovers!

Our highlight was finding a sloth in the tree right outside of our accommodation during our stay in the cloud forest Costa Rica! In fact, we bought a stuffed toy for our four month old daughter and called it ‘slothy’…. and five years later it still comes travelling around the world with us!

Cloud Forest Costa Rica

Things to do at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the surrounding area

You and your family or trade party won’t get bored here, that’s for sure!

Hiking

It’s a nature reserve – so there is a lot to see and do here. For those who love hiking, you couldn’t ask for somewhere more beautiful to do so; head out early while its quiet, as the forest wakes up around you and it isn’t too hot or humid. There are various trails in place which makes hiking here a doddle, and you’ll get to make amazing memories in this beautiful location as you pass through the lush greenery. 

Night walking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Walking at night is another great way to experience the reserve. Cloud forests truly come alive at night – it’s a completely different experience to seeing the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve during the day! With a guide, you’ll be able to meet all of the forest’s nocturnal residents like the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth as well as tarantulas and armadillos. Wrap up warm though, because cloud forests can get pretty chilly at night!

Bird spotting

Bird spotting is another perfect way to spend a day at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Grab your binoculars and a camera, keep quiet and see if you can spot the amazing (and rare) Resplendent Quetzal among all the other species of birds here. It is a shy bird, and one that was once considered a god by the Aztecs. Known for its beautifully coloured feathers, you’ll be lucky to spot one – though if you do, it’s something you will remember forever.

Visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve 

This is the neighbouring reserve – it is less crowded, and much smaller. Santa Elena is still worth visiting as it shares many of the same species which you can look out for as you wander through the 8 miles of hiking trails. For those not looking for a big adventure in the region, this might be for you!

Cloud Forest Costa Rica

Unique experiences at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

There are three things that have had a major impact on Costa Rica, as well as the country’s culture. They are coffee, chocolate and sugar cane. Throughout Monteverde there are places to really discover this side of Costa Rican culture – the tasty side! Head to a local coffee farm and see exactly how your morning brew comes to be: from seed to bean to cup. You can also get involved in a chocolate making workshop, taking cocoa beans and roasting and grinding them. It’s amazing to think what a bar of Galaxy Caramel once looked like! Experience a sugarcane farm too, and see how sugar extraction works. There is a lot to learn in Monteverde, and your taste buds will thank you too…

Other things to do here

There are zip lines and suspension bridges throughout the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You can visit the Monteverde Nature Centre which has plenty of information on offer, and head to the serpentarium and butterfly gardens. There is a gift shop, and of course you can head to the restaurant at Cloud Forest Lodge for something to eat if dinner with a view is on your bucket list – which, let’s face it, it should be. You can even book horseback tours through Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve!

Book a guided hike through the reserve, or really go for the adrenaline hit and plan an extreme bungee jump in the Monteverde Cloud Forest – that will definitely get your heart pumping and give you a holiday experience you’ll never forget! The wind rushing past your ears as you hurtle towards the low hanging clouds? What a thrill that would be…

You can book specific tours to include those zip-lines and suspension bridges, if you are brave enough to head up high, and there are tours with round-trip transportation from San José included! All in all there are so many easy ways to discover this beautiful part of Costa Rica, and you won’t be disappointed.

What to wear in the Cloud Forest Costa Rica

Cloud Forest Costa Rica

It can be fairly cool in the cloud forest – take a jacket, and make it a thick one if you plan to do any nighttime hiking while you’re there. And comfortable shoes are a must because whatever your exact plans are, they’re bound to include some walking or physical activity. And there’s nothing like sore feet to ruin a wonderful day at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve!

Further reading: Cloud Forest Costa Rica

If you are headed to Costa Rica, then make sure you check out these articles too-

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Dr Hayley Stainton

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Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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