Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects an ecological zone that is rapidly disappearing
|Mountain Lodges||Cloud Forest||Birdwatching|
|Spectacular Views||Restaurants||Adventure Activities|
These attractions earn the remarkable high altitude cloud forests of Monteverde a top ten billing
Birds & Wildlife in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The main reason Monteverde is on “must see” lists is because the reserve founded by Qaker dairy farmers protects some of the worlds last pristine tropical cloud forest. The most famous inhabitant is the resplendent quetzal which has a tough task of it but actually lives up to its name. The iridescent green male has a flowing streamer tail up to three feet long that it uses to impress females in swooping swerving mating flights.
The cloud forest is also home to the highest concentrations of canopy epiphytes (plants that live on other plants) including orchids.
Other walks and hikes include the community owned and operated Santa Elena cloud forest reserve, the nearby San Luis waterfall, and four sequential falls each with a remarkably different personality at Viento Fresco.
Educational Centers & Museums
The list of centers where you can experience natural Costa Rica up close in Monteverde is quite impressive. There are insectariums, serpentariums, frog ponds, orchid gardens, hummingbird gardens, bat caves, and even a sloth rescue center – an offshoot of the famous Aviarios del Carib sloth rescue south of Limón on the coast.
There are also outdoor education opportunities with naturalist guided walks specializing in the botany and ecology of the cloud forest, birdwatching or the nocturnal inhabitants that are safely hidden away from daytime visitors.
The last thing some people want to hear when they head to Costa Rica to escape the snow is “you’ll enjoy warming yourself near the fireplace” but in Monteverde the elevation is high enough and the evenings cool enough that a fireplace is quite enjoyable. Don’t worry, it doesn’t even come close to cold enough to snow, but most of the hotels and lodges are strongly influenced by the mountain setting and would be right at home in the Alps or Rockies.
Some are rustic and others downright luxurious but they’re all constructed to take advantage of the amazing mountaintop views out over the gulf of Nicoya far below or into the trees of the surrounding forest.
From sushi (yes they bring in sushi grade fish daily) to Italian fine dining some of the best restaurants in Costa Rica are found along the road between the village of Santa Elena and the cloud forest reserve entrance. Of course there are also steak houses (it’s ranching country), typical Costa Rican restaurants, pizza and burger joints and amazing ice cream.
Monteverde was originally a dairy farming area and the tradition continues today at the lecheria cheese factory and ice creamery.
It’s not quite the adventure center that Arenal boasts to be, but Monteverde holds its own when it comes to adrenaline pumping activities. Monteverde may be the zip-line capital of Costa Rica and certainly has more big ones than any other area. They’re all quite good as far as flying through the treetops goes, so often the choice of which one to try is based on what else is there. Some have museums and educational centers and others trails and canopy bridges for more relaxed exploration.
As you might expect with a mountain top location and rainy climate waterfalls are abundant and dramatic and some of them are roped up for rappelling. The water is bracing at this higher elevation, but you don’t quite need a wetsuit.
Horseback was once the only way to get to Monteverde so it’s not surprising that there are great trail rides in the area. In fact you can relive the days when horses were used for practical transportation on an overnight ride down to the Tempisque basin.
What Not to Expect in the Monteverde Region
It may be important to know what not to expect so you can decide if Monteverde should be on your Costa Rica must see list or not. For example, although it can be hot under the noon sun you’re not going to have warm tropical nights in Monteverde. On the contrary it can be downright cool at this elevation so if the last thing you want to pack for your Costa Rica vacation is a sweater you may want to skip the cloud forest.
One of the most important things Monteverde lacks is a decent road to get there. The three axle breaking kidney punching goat paths from Arenal volcano via Tilaran, the beaches via Juntas, and San Jose by way of Sardinal are famously bad but that may be changing…see details.
For other things that are not in Monteverde, click here to read more…