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Where, When and How Can You Find Quetzals in Monteverde Costa Rica?

a colorful bird perched on a tree branch

Spectacular Resplendent Quetzal

A fantastic variety of birds occur in Costa Rica and with more than 900 species to choose from, it can be tough to pick the most spectacular bird of all. However, if we had to settle on one species, it would have to the Resplendent Quetzal.

The iridescent green and scarlet plumage is so breathtaking, Mayan peoples associated it with the deity Quetzalcoatl! Also known to Aztec peoples, the word “quetzal” comes from their Nahuatl language and means “tall standing plume”.

The quetzal can only live in mature cloud forests from around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) to 9,000 feet (3,000 meters) where Lauraceous trees provide its main food source. Known as “aguacatillos” (small avocadoes), quetzals rely upon and track this energy rich fruit and pick it from the tree in hovering flight. During the breeding season, they also feed small lizards to their young.

Around the size of a large pigeon with tail plumes that can be more than two feet in length, the male Resplendent Quetzal is one of the more striking bird species that live in cloud forest habitats. Ranging from Chiapas, Mexico to western Panama, Costa Rica lies in the heart of their range and provides excellent chances at seeing it, especially at such classic birding sites as Monteverde. 

Where Can You Find Quetzals in Monteverde Costa Rica?

The best places to see Quetzals in Monteverde include the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, as well as the Sky Adventures Monteverde Park.

However, in recent years it has been spotted more frequently in the Curi-cancha Reserve.

When can you find Quetzals in Monteverde?

The best time of the year to find Quetzals in Monteverde is during the summertime from December through April and the best time of the day is usually early morning (between 6 am and 10 am, as well as during the early afternoon, between 1 pm and 3 pm. 

Breeding occurs from February to April with pairs laying one or two eggs in a hole excavated from the soft wood of a dead, decayed tree trunk and is preceded by males giving mellow whistled calls and display flights accompanied by loud cackling vocalizations. Nesting time is when young birds are most susceptible to such predators as toucans and snakes whereas adults also have to watch out for Bicolored Hawks and other large raptor species.

How can you find Quetzals in Monteverde?

The best way to find Quetzals in Monteverde is to go to one of the Monteverde nature parks with a local tour guide, who knows the area and who has probably already spotted a nest since a couple of days ago. Local tour guides also communicate with one another to share information that will help them spot wildlife more easily, but then the next question is how expensive is it to go with a tour guide? 

How much do nature tours cost to find Quetzals in Monteverde?

Local tour guides and nature parks collaborate in Monteverde for the visitors to have the best experience, but they sort of work separate from each other. On one hand, nature parks have entrance fees, which can range between $10 and $20 for kids (under the age of 12) and up to $25 for adults (and kids 12+), and on the other hand, local guides have a separate fee for the guided tour, which is typically $20 for kids and $25 for adults, but it can get to up to $100 per person (kids and adults) depending on how experienced the tour guide is, as well as how personalized you want your experience to be (i.e. going with a tour group of 8 to 10 people, or going with only your family and your tour guide). 

The obvious benefit of going with a tour group is that you will usually pay at least 50% less than going on a private tour, and likewise, the benefits of going on a private tour is that you usually get to see more and learn more, and you establish an intimate relationship with your tour guide which enriches your experience. 

Can you find Quetzals without a tour guide in Monteverde? 

It’s possible to find Quetzals without a Tour Guide in Monteverde, but it’s unlikely. We have sent hundreds of tourists with and without guides to all of the nature parks over the last decade and from our experience, we’ve noticed that only a small fraction of those who go without a tour guide find the Quetzals. 

Is there a guarantee I will find Quetzals in Monteverde? 

Absolutely not. There are no guarantees when it comes to spotting wildlife in the natural habitat, even if you are going with a local tour guide. Animals are unpredictable, so there is no way someone can guarantee that you will find Quetzals in Monteverde (or any other place for that matter -unless they are held captive). 

However, after sending hundreds of tourists with our local tour guides to the different natural parks in Monteverde, we’re pretty confident that you will have high probabilities of spotting them on a nature tour.


Monteverde is a great place to find the infamous Reslplendent Quetzal, and there multiple parks where you can find this spectacular bird, but the best two places include the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Curicancha Nature Preserve, the best time to find them is during the early morning and early afternoon between the months of December and April, and you can do this with the help of a local tour guide.

Now that you have this information with you, if you would like to join a group with one of our experienced tour guides at either the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or the Curicancha Nature Preserve, you can book your spot with us below. 

About the Author

Daniel Lalinde holding a mountain bikeDaniel Lalinde

I am the founder of MonteTours Costa Rica. I live in Monteverde and love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time outdoors and dining in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, coffee shop, or restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!

We love helping visitors and connecting them with the different tours and activities for a memorable experience in Monteverde.

If you need help planning things to do in the area, message us, and we will happily assist you!