Located at 1500 meters of altitude, the Monteverde Biological Reserve is probably one of the best known in Costa Rica. This high-altitude rainforest is fascinating. If there is an unusual reserve to visit during your trip to Costa Rica, this is it. Are you following us with your head in the clouds?
1. Take the hiking trails
The Monteverde Region is known and recognized for its exceptional fauna and flora, which makes it is a must see in Costa Rica. The Cloud Forest (forest in the clouds) is actually a nature reserve located in the humid forest of altitude. It is dense and thick with plant species that are over 1000 years old. The sound is like being drowned out by this ever-present haze. You will feel as if you are walking in a cocoon.
Visiting the forest with the help of a guide is the best. They are bilingual, mostly Spanish and English. They know the places like the pocket and will be able to show you everything and explain. Thrilling!
In the Monteverde Biological Reserve there are 9 well-signposted hiking trails. No matter which one you choose, the landscapes to discover are incredible! Humid forest, swamps, waterfalls, etc. The fauna is also very rich: birds, monkeys, sloths, agoutis and squirrels share the places. But which path to choose? Although they are all beautiful, we recommend the Cloud Forest Trail. It is very varied in terms of scenery. This trail is also great for watching birds, howler monkeys, capuchins, eagles, and of course sloths.
2. Visit the Santa Elena Nature Reserve
You can then take a walk through the Santa Elena Nature Reserve, which has more than 300 hectares. Reserve staff protect resources and contribute to the conservation of local biodiversity. Its aim is to sensitize visitors about ecology for future generations. The Monteverde ecosystem is particularly rich and must be preserved. The trails in Parque de Santa Elena have a wilder and more intimate side than those in the private reserve of Monteverde that some may prefer. If you can do both, it is even better!
More information: The Santa Elena Nature Reserve is open from Monday to Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is 14USD.
3. Observe Resplendent Quetzal
The Resplendent Quetzal is a mythical bird in Costa Rica and more generally in Latin America. It is difficult to detect because it is quite rare and very shy. It lives exclusively in the humid forests that are in the heights. As you understand, Monteverde is the ideal place to wait to see one or even better, take a photo of it. The Mayans have even made it a divinity, hence the important place it occupies in the hearts of Central Americans.
To see them, it is essential to visit the park with a guide. It could pass by a nest without realizing it. Guides have a sharp eye and never miss.
How to recognize the Resplendent Quetzal? Mainly because of its two large subcaudal feathers that can be up to 1 meter long ... Only males have them to seduce females ;-) They also have a beautiful crest on their head and their live colors are ... How splendid What are they!
4. Take a night walk
The night walks in Monteverde are extraordinary, if you are accompanied by a guide who will know how to show you everything. They will walk, without noise, in the heart of the forest in the clouds by the simple light of a flashlight. It is an experience to live! At night, in the absence of seeing well, our hearing is much more developed. You will hear another nature awakening. You will see many insects, more or less camouflaged. There are also, of course, bats, night birds, but also the famous... Tarantula. It is also possible to see snakes, other types of spiders, frogs, sleeping sloths, etc.
Our advice: Wear long clothes and a jacket, it is cold at night, especially with the humidity.
5. Tour the hanging bridges of Selvatura Park
Monteverde is famous for its suspension bridges. Several companies offer you the adventure of evolving in the humid forest canopy for around thirty dollars. We recommend that you go with Selvatura Park, which offers a very good bridge tour accessible to all. You will walk through the treetops and see nature and Monteverde from another angle. In total, a 3 km route with 8 bridges to cross. They are between 50 and 170 m long and suspended 12 to 60 meters high ... Nevertheless! The ecosystem at this point is particularly rich.
If the fog is not too thick the views are incredible. If fog is present, you will feel suspended in the air. In any case, the experience is worth it. You will see, among other things, incredible waterfalls of birds and it can be monkeys that jump from branch to branch. Take your time to enjoy the places, the route is not long (3 km).
6. Go down the longest zip line in Latin America
What if! You can have this opportunity in Monteverde. It is 1.6km long at 200m high ... They can reach a respectable speed of 60km / h. Were you looking for strong emotions that were out of the ordinary, let yourself be carried away by 100% Aventure company. Its route is made up of several small zip lines to get used to, tame fear or excitement. You will also be allowed a rappelling descent to bring the throbbing up, and here it is at last. It is huge, intimidating but terribly attractive. It is the longest zip line in Latin America with 1,590 meters long suspended 200 meters high. You are going to devastate the humid forest, a unique and extraordinary sensation. And as if in terms of emotions were not enough, the getaway ends with a jump to more than 45 meters high hanging from a vine. Yes, like Tarzan. Admit that you have always dreamed of it.
7. Go to the Cascada de San Luis
The San Luis Waterfall is a great fall 100 meters high. Its access is quite difficult, and it is worth it, but it is worth it! 3 hours of walking will be necessary on a path that borders the river. Like many hiking trails in Costa Rica that lead to waterfalls, it can be muddy and slippery - so plan on good hiking boots. If you want to stay dry on foot, it is also possible to do this excursion ... on horseback!
The arrival at the foot of this waterfall will seduce you. It ends in a beautiful pool where you can bathe ... Be careful, the water is very fresh. If you don't want to bathe, you can at least share a picnic in this idyllic setting.
8. Taste the local coffee
As you know, Coffee from Costa Rica is known for its extraordinary quality. The whole world is taking it from him. Ideally, coffee is grown in the heights where the climate is more temperate and humid. You will understand, Monteverde is an ideal area for coffee production, and you can visit the plantations, especially Santa Elena, easily accessible. If you are staying in the city, try to integrate the visit into your program, it is very interesting. The coffee growers will guide you through the plantation for 2.5 hours and explain the entire coffee making process. At the end of the visit you will be able to taste the coffees that are produced there. A 100% Arabica pleasure! Do not forget to buy them when you go out. It cannot be done more direct as a consumer chain ;-)
9. Stroll through the butterfly garden
It goes without saying: the Monteverde region is one of the richest in Costa Rica in terms of biodiversity. In addition to everything that has already been presented to you, you will find a beautiful butterfly garden displaying all kinds of "evolved caterpillars" of all colors and sizes. Of course, you will see other insects and flowers in a green environment. A very nice and scenic walk.
Among the species to consider that always make their effect by their size and color there are:
- The black and yellow Tetras
- The longwing zebra • The bright blue Morpho butterfly
- The Glasswing butterfly, which, as its name suggests, has transparent wings. you cannot do much better in camouflage technique
10. Jump into the Frog Pond
Another theme park in Monteverde. This time, the star is the frog in all its colors and sizes. Indeed, more than 25 species of amphibians are represented in terrariums. A perfect activity for your children who will have fun finding them hidden in the foliage. If you visit the place with a guide, you can even hold the frogs in your hands.
Good to Know: The Frog Pond is visited both day and night. You can even do both with the same ticket and you will see that the frogs are much more active at night.
How will we get there?
Monteverde is located about 170 km northwest of San José, very close to the Arenal Volcano. That said, the road network is not very developed in this part of the country and it takes 5 hours to get there ... Get used to it, don't worry ;-) If you decide to rent a car in Costa Rica, we strongly advise you to rent an SUV, otherwise you will be very quickly limited. First of all, it will be very difficult to see it impossible to go to Monteverde. Some track passes require powerful 4-wheel drive cars. Try the Monteverde adventure to the end or stop at Santa Elena. From there, buses make regular transfers to the entrance of the Reserve, which is not easily accessible ... This is the option we recommend.
Where can you stay?
Almost all buses or companies that offer to visit the nature reserve depart from Santa Elena. It is not very interesting, but it does have the merit of offering a plethora of accommodations if you want to spend a night on site to take more time to discover what the reserve has to offer. Most of the companies that propose you to visit the reserve or all the activities in Monteverde offer the transfer service from Santa Elena. It would be a shame to deprive yourself. Prepare warm clothes, the afternoons are cool, they are at altitude. Also, it goes without saying that the forest in the clouds is ... humid! So, bring rain gear too ;-)
If Monteverde was not on your to-do list, we hope it is now. Have you seen a national park near the sea like Manuel Antonio, which is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica? That is good! But the country is full of surprises and the humid and cloudy forest is one that you will only see once, so go ahead!