Cloud forest comprises only 1% of the planet’s global woodlands. Monteverde’s rare ecosystem is internationally famous as one of the most extensive cloud forests in Central America and a “jewel in the crown” of world cloud forests. At 1,800m (5,900 ft.) elevation, this natural sanctuary is blessed with an “eternal spring” climate – fresh, misty and chilly, with pockets of warm sunshine and rainbows.
Cloud forest is rain forest up high, where the tropical coasts’ warm air condenses into persistent fog and mist, and moisture is more consistent drizzle than rain showers. In this cathedral of green, trees drip with dew-soaked hanging moss and vines, splashed with colorful delicate orchids, bromeliads, epiphytes and ferns in all shapes and sizes. More than 2,500 different types of plants and animals, including 400 species of birds, call Monteverde’s cloud forest home. The elusive, jewel green and red Resplendant Quetzal is the bird most dream to see.
The community of Monteverde, due south of Volcano Arenal but nearly 3 hours driving from there, the capitol city of San Jose or Pacific Coast beaches, consists today of protected nature reserves, the little town of Santa Elena, dairy farms and coffee fields, and hotels and tourist attractions. The relatively rural area, whose biggest income now is tourism, was originally founded in the 1930s by Costa Rican farming families. In 1950, a group of Quakers (a pacifist religious group) from Alabama, USA, fled persecution for not supporting the Korean War and sought refuge in Monteverde’s peaceful hills and valleys. They found the climate perfect to continue their lifestyle of dairy farms and cheese making, today producing some of the best cheeses in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has done a good job of protecting more than 25% of the country in national parks and private conservation reserves since 1970, and Monteverde is no exception. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, founded in 1972, now stretches over more than 35,000 acres and is one of the few remaining habitats with all six species of wild cats – jaguars, ocelots, pumas, jaguarundis, margays and oncillas. The community-established Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve harbors white-faced, howler and spider monkeys, jaguars, three-toed sloths and a fantastic number of insects, birds and reptiles within its lush 765 acres. Created in 1989, it is an excellent example of what people can do to protect and learn from the environment where they live.
Valle Dorado Tours, your center for custom travel in Costa Rica, is a good choice to help you arrange a visit to Monteverde. Valle Dorado specializes in tailor-made trips, thematic tour packages and a great selection of one-day tours.
Popular activities in Monteverde include hiking nature trails, exploring the tree-tops on hanging bridges, whizzing down zip lines, riding the rails on an old-fashioned train through the cloud forest, horseback tours, viewing orchids, butterflies, frogs, snakes and bats at their respective wildlife and nature exhibits, and cultural activities such as a coffee and sugar mill tour or visit to the Monteverde Cheese Factory.
In case you need accommodation check El Establo Mountain Hotel, a top luxury hotel located in the town of Santa Elena.