Described as being like “Jurassic Park” or a fairytale land of elves, the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica is a special place on the planet.
The rare ecosystem of Monteverde in Costa Rica is part of only 1% of the planet’s global woodlands known as cloud forest. Cloud forest is rainforest up in the clouds at high elevations. In Costa Rica, tropical warm air condenses at high altitude (above 5,000 feet) into persistent fog and mist, and moisture is more consistent drizzle than rain showers.
Located in Costa Rica’s Central Highlands, Monteverde is about three hours from major destinations like San Jose, Arenal Volcano and Pacific Coast beaches of Guanacaste.
Monteverde is very different from the rest of Costa Rica. Its elevation – between 4,662 feet (1,440m) and 5,900 feet (1,800m) – creates an “eternal spring” climate that is fresh, misty and chilly, with pockets of warm sunshine and rainbows, and eternal green. Dew-soaked moss and vines hang all over giant trees, splashed with colorful delicate orchids and ferns in all shapes and sizes. Clouds and mist weave in and out of hilltops and forest in the early mornings and late afternoons.
Monteverde is considered one of the most extensive cloud forests in Central America. More than 2,500 different types of plants and animals, including 426 types of orchids and 400 species of birds, live in this cloud forest. Monteverde is a favorite destination for bird watching in Costa Rica, especially to see the elusive, jewel green and red Resplendent Quetzal.
Many people combine a visit to Monteverde with the Arenal Volcano, since it is very close geographically, or with Guanacaste beaches that are in easy proximity. The community of Monteverde consists of protected nature reserves like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The little town of Santa Elena offers hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions amid dairy farms and coffee fields.
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 44 Quakers (a pacifist religious group) from 11 families 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, and were thrilled to enjoy religious freedom in a country that had just abolished its army in 1949. The Quakers in Monteverde were the driving force behind preserving the unique cloud forest, and established conservation foundations and private reserves to protect the area. They continue their dairy farming to this day, producing some of the best cheeses, yogurt and ice cream in Costa Rica.
There is a lot to do in Monteverde:
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
- Monteverde Orchid Garden
- Canopy zip line tours
- Night walking tours
- Horseback riding
- Wildlife and nature exhibits
- Coffee tours
- Monteverde Cheese Factory
Where to stay in Monteverde Costa Rica
Make your trip to the world-famous Monteverde cloud forest unforgettable with a stay at El Establo Mountain Hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels in the region.
The hotel cascades in stair-steps down a verdant hillside, interspersed with native trees and lush flower gardens. Comfortable and well-appointed rooms feature either a private balcony or patio with magnificent views across the Monteverde forest, down the valley and out to the Nicoya Gulf with its islands and distant coastal mountains. Right on the property, there are hiking and mountain biking trails, the Tree Top canopy zip line tour and the Night Walk tour. There are two excellent restaurants, café-bars, a spa, two heated indoor pools, a tennis court, basketball court and mini soccer court. El Establo Hotel is part of the Enchanting Hotels collection in Costa Rica.
Article by Shannon Farley