One of my favorite moments in Costa Rica was standing on a metal suspension bridge within the rainforest canopy of Monteverde. To look out over rolling terrain covered in mighty trees enraptured my heart.
This unparalleled perspective offers a chance to see boisterous parrots, tranquil sloths, and mischievous Howler monkeys high among the moss-covered branches. Depending on the time of day, you'll either be engulfed in misty clouds, rain showers, or beams of sunlight.
While Brad and I enjoyed our bird's-eye view, a group of friendly Midwesterners told us about a Resplendent Quetzal sighting at the viewpoint along the Sendero Nuboso A trail. Our mouths practically dropped to the forest floor with excitement!
We reached the wooden platform after a suspenseful power walk. A family of Howler monkeys kept us and a few tour groups company while we all tried to find the Resplendent Quetzal. Eventually, a local guide was met with great fanfare after spotting a magnificent male perched directly above us!
Awestruck is an understatement. Sharing a moment in the rainforest with the crown jewel of Central America was an electrifying honor. The distant sighting inspired us to book a stay at Trogón Lodge in San Gerardo de Dota where we saw seven more dazzling Resplendent Quetzals in one day.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is a perfect area to encounter fantastic birds, peculiar insects, and beautiful plant life. Below I cover helpful information to make your visit to the park unforgettable.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
The reserve is located in Monteverde; a section of the Puntarenas Province. Visitors usually choose to stay in the town of Santa Elena to explore the area, especially the parks of Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and Curi-Cancha Reserve.
Founded in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve was made possible by a partnership between local Quakers inhabiting the region and researchers studying the biodiversity of the area. The park protects approximately 4,125 hectares/10,193 acres of land on the continental divide and contains 50% of Costa Rica's biodiversity!
Visitors can hike 13 km/8.1 mi of well-kept trails with incredible scenery and terrain. Brad and I completed most of the trails in one day with a relaxed pace. Besides the lively rainforest, the iconic red suspension bridge and multi-level waterfall are the main attractions.
Some trails, such as the Sendero Roble, offer a more in-depth experience to view flora and fauna. Monteverde has 3,200 species of plants, 425 species of birds, 101 species of reptiles, 120 species of mammals, 658 species of butterflies, and 60 species of amphibians. The amount of biodiversity is astonishing!
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is walkable (1.5 hours) from Santa Elena. However, the local bus is the most convenient method of transportation if you don't have a car or want to pay for a taxi. Hop on the white Monteverde bus leaving from the center of town via the schedule below. Brad and I took the 7:30 AM bus on the way there and the 4:00 PM back to town.
From Santa Elena
From Monteverde Reserve
Tickets cost 900 CRC ($1.50 USD) per person each way. Just tell the driver you are going to the reserve. The ride takes about 30 minutes to reach the main entrance.
What to Expect Upon Arrival
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is the most popular park in Monteverde, so an early arrival is a great way to beat the crowds. Tour groups are less common as you proceed farther away from the main entrance.
Brad and I prioritized the suspension bridge in order to get a chance alone to take pictures. The plan worked, albeit for only five minutes! Afterward, we hiked our way around the outer loop which intersects several trails.
The reserve has an elevation of 1,500 m/4,921 ft, resulting in unpredictable weather. Sudden rain showers are common in the brisk cloud forests, so prepare with sufficient layers and a rain jacket. Brad and I were comfortable with our hiking shoes, pants, and sweatshirts.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is open every day, 7:00 AM-4:00 PM. Tickets cost $25 USD (14,039 CRC) per person via cash or credit card. Bring a copy of your passport, driver's license, or other valid picture ID.
Bathrooms are located at the main entrance. The nearby restaurant serves breakfast and lunch in addition to snacks. Next door is a delightful café with hummingbird feeders where you can drink a cup of locally grown coffee.
We decided to pack a lunch to enjoy along the trails. Please take out what you take in and leave no trace, including biodegradable food which can harm wildlife.
Fortunately, bug repellent isn't necessary with the high altitude and dense forest. I do recommend bringing sunscreen and sunglasses. Consider a rain cover for your backpack or waterproof bag to protect your belongings, especially electronics.
Take a picture of the trail map at the main entrance to use as a reference. Map placards and signs are located throughout the park. Overall the reserve is easy to navigate and suitable for all ages.
Guided tours, including birdwatching and night walks, are available to book online through the website, via email at [email protected] or by phone +506 2645 5122. A tour is a great idea if you desire to learn more about the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve ecosystem.
Initially, I was concerned the crowds would inhibit our adventure in the rainforest with noise and distraction. The morning was a little overwhelming with swarms of tour groups and rambunctious kids, but I later grew to appreciate the benefits of the situation.
Brad and I never would've seen the Resplendent Quetzal without meeting the Midwesterners. To pay it forward, I patiently helped a woman find the camouflage bird in the lush canopy. For all of us to come together over a wonderful creature was a beautiful reminder for me to embrace human connection, not run away from it.
As we made our way deeper into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, I took the time to share wildlife discoveries and make conversation with fellow visitors. The rainforest taught me a valuable lesson that day between mankind and nature: harmony.