The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve will astound you with its beauty, bounty, and biodiversity. Wind-sculpted elfin woodlands give way to rainforests where tall trees — festooned with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines and mosses — rise high into the sky. Check more similar tours in our top Costa Rica tour list
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Areas with poor drainages support swamp forests, while other parts — dissected by deep, expansive gorges — have numerous streams tumbling through, creating rapids, waterfalls and standstill pools. It’s not just the forests and landscapes that are so diversified, though.
The variable climate and large altitudinal gradient sustain the amazingly diverse set of creatures who live here. Some of these include the jaguar, ocelot, Baird’s tapir, three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrellabird, and the famously elusive resplendent quetzal. The flora and fauna of Costa Rica is incredibly impressive.
History: In the early 1950s, 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. The Quakers, fleeing the United States to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, established a simple life in Monteverde, centered on dairy and cheese production. Some of these families helped establish the Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve some 20 years later.
In 1972, the Monteverde rainforest was threatened by local farmers looking to expand their property and homestead on certain forest sites. With this prospect in mind, visiting scientists George Powell and his wife joined forces with longtime resident Wildford Guidon to promote the establishment of a nature preserve. The Tropical Science Center, a non-governmental scientific and environmental organization, proved receptive to the efforts of the Powells and Guidon, and accepted institutional responsibility for ownership and management of the protected areas. An initial land purchase of 328 hectares (810 acres) formed the core of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.
Following the preserve's creation, the Tropical Science Center continued to secure the financial and human resources necessary to expand, consolidate, and properly protect the preserve’s current 10,500 hectares. See more Monteverde photos. This is just one more example of Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability; a commitment to ongoing reforestation is another.
Hours: For daily schedules and rates, please click the tour reservation options below. Children ages 6 and under are free.
Information: The restaurant, souvenir shop, and art gallery are open from 7 AM to 4 PM. There are restrooms at the entrance but none on the trails.
Guided Tours: Group tours are available in both English and Spanish and last about 2.5 hours. The entrance fee is included in the cost of these tours. Another guided tour option is the Early Morning Bird Watching tour, where you will search for birds as you make your way through different elevations in the Monteverde Reserve. Entrance to the reserve is included in the price of this tour as well.
Location: 3.6 miles (6 km) SE of Santa Elena, Monteverde. See the Monteverde map for more information.
Getting there: Buses heading to the reserve leave from the Banco Nacional in Santa Elena at 6:15 AM, 7:20 AM, and 1:15 PM. Return buses leave the reserve at 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM. Cost is $1 each way. Visitors can board the bus anywhere along the road between the town of Santa Elena and the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Those that do not wish to take the bus can take a taxi either way, which costs around $10 (for up to five passengers) each way.
Hiking Trails in Monteverde: The trails here are well maintained. Regular shoes are fine, as long as you are able to walk comfortably. There is no need for rubber boots or hiking shoes for daily trips. You may, however, need this type of footwear if you plan on staying overnight in one of the huts. Learn more about what to pack in “What Should I Bring For My Adventure Vacation In Costa Rica?”
Sendero Bosque Nuboso (Cloud Forest Trail): 1.2 miles (1.9 KM) long with an elevation gain of 213 feet (65 m), this trail generally takes around 1.5 hours to complete. A self-guided tour booklet of the trail — available in both English and Spanish — can be purchased at the entrance. This is one of the most popular trails because it's extremely pretty and has good examples of strangler fig plants.
El Camino (The Road): 1.2 miles (2 km) long with an elevation gain of 131 feet (40 m), this trail generally takes around 1.25 hours to complete. It is wider and more open than other trails, allowing for more sunlight and thus more butterflies. This trail is also excellent for bird watching.
Sendero Pantanoso (Swamp Trail): 1 mile (1.6 km) long with an elevation gain of 131 feet (40 m), this trail takes around 1.25 hours to complete. It passes through a swamp forest while traversing along the Continental Divide, and is adorned with magnolias, plants bearing stilt roots, podocarpus (the only conifer tree in the preserve), and more.
Sendero El Río (River Trail): 1.2 miles (1.9 km) long with an elevation gain of 213 feet (65 m), this trail takes around 1.5 hours to complete. This trail leads along the Quebrada Cuecha and has a short side trail to a waterfall, where there are several zapote trees.
Sendero Chomogo: 1.1 miles (1.8 km) long with an elevation gain of 492 feet (150 m), this trail generally takes about 1.25 hours to complete. This is the highest trail in the preserve, reaching 5,510 feet (1,680 m) above sea level. Oak, bamboo, and heliconia are common in the higher areas, and ‘hot lip’ plants abound throughout most of the walk.
Sendero George Powell (George Powell Trail): 0.1 mile (0.2 km) long with an elevation gain of 66 ft (20 m), this trail takes about 10 minutes to complete. This trail, named after one of the preserve’s founders, runs through second growth forest.
Sendero Brillante (Shining Trail): 0.2 miles (0.3 km) long with an elevation gain of 49 feet (16 m), this trail takes about 10 minutes to walk. You are led along the Continental Divide to La Ventana (The Window), an overlook with a wide view of an elfin forest below. Bamboo is common along much of this trail.
Sendero Roble (Oak Trail): 0.4 miles (0.6 km) long, this lovely trail is narrow and leads to a beautiful grove of heliconia trees.
Suspended Bridge: 300 feet (100 meters) high, this bridge has spectacular views of the canopy, bromeliads, orchids and more. For a tour of the five remaining suspended bridges, go on the Sky Walk tour.
Wilford Guindon: Named in honor of one of the preserve’s founder, this trail rises and falls through patches of sunlight.
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