These professionally run tours are both educational and entertaining, and ensure that participants will walk away with more knowledge and more fun than they walked in with.
A tour of Monteverde’s cloud forests promises all this and more. Plainly speaking, these forests are the area’s crown gem, the main reason that most people assent to the grueling car ride up the road leading to Monteverde. The fact of the matter is, however, the trip is well worth it.
Led by bilingual naturalist guides, cloud forest tours acquaint visitors with the ins and outs, as well as the ups and downs, of this unique tropical ecosystem. Typically, a small group will be led along the reserve’s forested trails, combing over plants, trees, insects and animals as they are encountered. This sort of hands-on, interactive education allows participants to ask questions and receive direct answers.
The guides will encourage participants to use their senses while exploring the forest – to listen for the call of birds, touch the bark of trees, and smell the aroma of tropical flowers. A wide range of animals lives within the reserve, including sloths, agouti, jaguars and several types of monkeys—and it’s your guide’s job to help spot as many of these creatures as possible. Additionally, over 2,500 plant species and tens of thousand insect species reside here as well, providing even more educational fodder for your trek through the forest.
It is not, however, only during the daytime that such places can be explored. Night tours are equally enthralling, as you’ll encounter insects, amphibians and mammals that you would otherwise miss during the day. Such creatures include snakes, spiders, porcupines, tree frogs and more. Night tours depart at sunset, right when these nocturnal animals are beginning to wake up, look for mates, and hunt.
Some 90% of all cloud forest organisms are found within the upper level of the forest canopy. The sunlight is more powerful and direct at the top of trees, and as such, fuels a greater number of species than the shadowy reaches below. Plants cling to other plants, and animals climb to soaring elevations to hunt for fruits and nuts.
This being the case, suspension bridge tours are a fabulous way to see what these cloud forests are made of. Bridges range both in length and height – some being as long as 500 ft and as tall as 200 ft – and allow visitors to not only peer into the tops of the forests, but also into the thickly vegetated canyons below. Tours can be conducted either with or without a guide and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and all physical abilities.
Visitors that wish to be immersed in the forest but seek a more thrilling experience would be wise to choose a zip line tour. If you know anything about Costa Rica, you know that it’s famous for its zip lines. And Monteverde has the longest, safest and most professional lines in the country.
Sturdy steel cables stretch from one platform to the next, sometimes in and sometimes above the forest itself. Guides equip and instruct all participants before the tour begins, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and capable. From there on out, all that is required of participants is to be focused and remain calm—gravity will do the rest. Stretching a few miles in length, these cables will have tour takers flying across canyons and above canopies, looking down and out at the priceless views ahead.
Still, you don’t have to be standing or whizzing hundreds of feet in the air to enjoy Monteverde’s spectacular environment. You can, in fact, simply mount a horse and have an equally satisfying experience. Horseback tours give participants the unique ability to cover a lot of ground in a few short hours, thus allowing them to encounter a wide breadth of sights. Savvy guides will lead tour takers to some of the area’s best spots and point out creatures that you might otherwise miss. All in all, a horseback tour is one of the best ways to see a great deal of Monteverde’s wilderness.
Entering Monteverde, fields of coffee spread into the distance. These fields – many of which are part of the local fair trade cooperative – supply Monteverde and coffee connoisseur's throughout the world with some of its finest and freshest coffee. Tours of these plantations are exciting and informative, furnishing visitors with both the history and current practices governing coffee production. Local farmers lead visitors through the fields and explain their growing and harvesting strategies. This allows participants to get a first-hand look at the coffee plant and even taste a ripe bean. Tours then enter the processing mill, where the coffee is refined before being roasted, and finally end at the coffee shop. Here, tour takers are rewarded with a hot, ultra-local cup of Monteverde’s finest.