Steeped in history, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve initially dates back to the early 1950’s when a group of Quakers from the United States left their homes in Alabama and arrived in Monteverde at a time when the region was just beginning to be settled. In order to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, the Quakers established a simple life in the area, primarily based around dairy and cheese production, before its 328 hectacres became acquired by George Powell in 1972.
Exotic plants and fruits in Costa Rica.
Today it boasts over 10,500 hectacres of magnificent land and offers a wide range of guided hikes, tours and spectacular accommodation for those wanting to take their time and explore the local area. In fact, it’s currently visited by over 70,000 people each year; all of whom are eager to know more about its biodiversity. You can read some more facts about Costa Rica here .
Located 6km south east of Santa Elena, a bus service operates three times daily at a cost of just $1 each way; or you can expect to pay around $10 each way for a taxi. Full details of how to get to and from the reserve can be found on their website . Either way, the reserve itself is open from 7am to 4pm and this includes the restaurant, souvenir shop, frog pond and art gallery.
Sun rays filtering in through thick canopy in Cloud Forest Jungle in Costa Rica.
The reserve itself is one the most popular on the Central American Isthmus. Monteverde currently houses 2.4% of worldwide biodiversity; not to mention one of the best examples of sustainable tourism you’ll possibly ever witness. From here you can even step onto the ‘Continental Divide’ where you can quite literally put one foot on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and the other on the Pacific side!
As you might well expect from a reserve of this size, tourists are able to take part in various trials and guided tours. With over 13km of trials, one option to explore is a walk up the La Ventana where you’ll be able to witness some breathtaking views; not to mention the opportunity of seeing over 120 different species of reptiles and amphibians, some of the 130 mammals and over 500 different bird types. If there’s one thing you mustn’t forget – it’s your camera.
Guided tours are also available throughout the reserve and are offered in both English and Spanish. They currently include (but are certainly not limited to):
The Early Morning Bird Watching Tour – Starting at 6am on a daily basis, the early morning bird tour takes avid birdwatchers (in groups of no more than 6) on a 4.5 hour adventure through the tropical forest where sightings of the majestic quetzal and three-wattle bellbird are certainly not uncommon! Further tours then operate at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Bird watching can be fun with right amount of patience.
The natural history walk – With so much biodiversity to explore, the natural history walk offers a great opportunity to not only discover the cloud forest but all those who live in it, including its many mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The 2.5 hour walk starts after a brief 10 minute DVD presentation and leaves at 7.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm daily. The tour price is currently $37 for adults.
The night walk tour – Leaving daily at 5.45pm this evening tour offers a unique insight into the nocturnal activities of the reserve meeting all sorts of residents along the way, from frogs to bats! The current tour price is $20 for adults or $25 to include transfers (which are subject to availability).
The popular cloud forest trail – This tour is 1.2 miles long and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. The price of this tour includes a self-guided tour booklet and either an English or Spanish speaking guide. It’s a particularly popular trial since it not only reaches an altitude of 213 feet but also boasts good examples of strangler fig plants.
The El Camino; or “the road” tour - Again, this tour is 1.2 miles long and takes about the same amount of time to complete (depending on mobility within the group). Because it’s slightly wider and more open than the other trails it offers a great opportunity to see more species of both butterflies and birds.
The swamp or river trails – These are simply perfect for younger guests as they’re both just 1 mile long and add an element of fun by passing through either the swamp forest or river, which then leads up to a picturesque waterfall and makes for a great place to take unforgettable photographs!
Much shorter trails can also be taken through the reserve by completing either the George Powell Trail (0.1 mile long), The Shining Trail (0.2 miles long), the Oak Trail (0.4 miles long) or the suspended bridge walk (another great hit with younger members of the family!)
Whilst tour prices tend to vary, the current entrance fee into the reserve is $20 for an adult and $10 for a child under 12. Discounts are also offered for students and residents.
Jungles and volcano in Costa Rica.
For visitors wishing to take their time and explore the reserve in much more depth – or simply use it as an ideal base from which to explore other parts of Costa Rica – the reserve offers good accommodation options at its own “La Casona” (meaning “the Big House”); a seven bedroomed hostel with capacity to accommodate up to 43 guests at any one time. Built inside the reserve itself (and designed to minimise the environmental impact through sustainable practices), La Casona boasts 3 leaves through the Sustainable Tourism Certification and offers comfortable bunks (with bedclothes), restrooms, baths, hot water and a separate area to enjoy refreshments after a long day exploring the reserve. Private room prices (which include a private bathroom, 3 meals and entrance to the reserve) start from $81.00 for adults and $44.00 for children.
All income raised by the cloud reserve is used for the protection, research, environmental education and maintenance of the reserve, together with the management and protection of its four other protected areas; ultimately meaning that all visitors to the reserve make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability.
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