Monteverde Costa Rica
You'll feel like you're on top of the world, but really, you've reached the central point of the nation's continental divide. In Monteverde, Costa Rica, the sun-kissed faces of beach dwelling locals are replaced by the warm smiles of farmers, artists, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts—particularly in the small yet pleasant town of Santa Elena.
Situated at 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level, Monteverde, Costa Rica is a lot like the United States' Pacific Northwest region — evergreen due to the precipitation and moisture-filled clouds which hover over the horizon on an almost daily basis. Monteverde's cloud forests are the byproduct of fog (a thick, low-hanging cloud) tangling amongst the leaves and branches of the forest canopy. When these water-based clouds come into contact with solid plant material, the plant absorbs what it needs and the remaining water condenses and drips down — layer by layer, organism by organism — until it reaches the forest floor.
This natural 'waterwheel' is what maintains Costa Rica's impressive ecosystem; within the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica you'll find:
- - Tens of thousands of diverse insects.
- - 2,500 species of plants (420 are strictly orchids).
- - 400 varieties of birds.
- - Over 100 types of mammals.
There is more than one way to enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica's cloud forests, so whatever your energy level or ability, you won't find yourself excluded from this experience. Hike down forest trails; choose a canopy tour with a suspension bridge; or take aerial photographs from the vantage point of a sky tram — there is an option for you. Allergies preventing you from spending too much time outdoors? Don't worry, you can still experience this miraculous environment from a variety of indoor museums and gardens.
You might have heard about the famous journey to reach the town of Santa Elena and the gateway to Monteverde — it can be bumpy, as large sections are still unpaved and the terrain is not friendly to any vehicle that is not a 4x4 or lacks clearance. Some people refer to the bumpy ride as a "Costa Rica massage.” It’s best to leave the driving to a professional who is familiar with Monteverde’s landscape, so be sure to book transportation services along with your accommodations and tours.
The beauty of making the trip to Monteverde, Costa Rica is that you will not only see but feel the contrast from the lower elevations. As you ascend, there are multiple transitions of temperature, moisture, vegetation and terrain. Perched upon the divide, weather is influenced primarily by the Pacific and its predictable salty dryness (and occasional showers in the rainy season). However, at the top of the divide, the warm wet Caribbean winds create the almost continuous source of moisture that fuels this unique habitat.
As if the natural beauty of Monteverde, Costa Rica isn’t enough, you’ll also be feasting upon delicious and fresh cuisine. Read, “6 Costa Rican Foods You MUST Try,” then peruse our Monteverde Dining Guide.