Why is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve so famous?
Why is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve so Famous
In April 2019, CNN featured the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve as one of the top 25 most beautiful places globally and the most magical place in Costa Rica. The first time I visited this nature preserve, I was surprised to see many tourists at the entrance. I had previously heard that the place was beautiful. Still, being a local Costa Rican, I was already pretty used to seeing many beautiful parks around the country, so I was inquisitive to see what made this place different from the rest. After getting in, I quickly realized what makes the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve so famous and popular.
The combination of the lush green virgin forest scenery along with a wide variety of flora and fauna is what makes the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve so famous. The reserve is so special and unique that it draws nearly 70,000 scientists and tourists to this place every year. This private nature preserve protects more than 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres), of which 90% is virgin cloud forest. Monteverde is also home to more than 2,500 plant species, 100 mammal species, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects.
Keep scrolling for more information and tips on where to go when visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, whether you plan to come for the scenery, flora, fauna, or both.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve offers extensive trails surrounded by a fantastic combination of trees and plants. The trees are short and crooked. Mosses, climbing ferns, lichens, and epiphytes (air plants) form thick blankets on the trunks and branches of the trees. This extraordinary combination is what constitutes the magical scenery of the place. It is what makes the forest look so vibrant and alive, the reason why Monteverde is considered Costa Rica’s “green lung.”
Cloud Forest Flora
Epiphytes make up 29% of the flora, with 878 species. They are organisms that grow on the surface of a plant and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water, or debris accumulating around it. These species include orchids which make the cloud forest look more dense and colorful.
Monteverde is home to the highest concentration of orchids on earth found here. There are approximately 1,400 types of wild orchids throughout Costa Rica’s forests, and 500 of these species live in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. All of them are gorgeous, but most of them are tiny, so you need to go with a local tour guide to find them.
Cloud Forest Fauna
Mammal species include agoutis, coatis, and three types of monkeys; howler, white-face capuchin, and spider, but it is not easy to spot them even with a local tour guide. The trails open to the public only represent about 3% of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve area, and the animals usually try to stay away from contact with humans.
Bird species include a few types of hummingbirds, such as the Green-crowned Brilliant and the Violet Sabrewing, and other popular bird species such as the Slate-throated Whitestart and the Collared Whitestart. The renowned Resplendent Quetzal is also present, and it is a highlight for many visitors on their Monteverde trip, as this is one of the most beautiful species in the world.
The best trail for birdwatching at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is Sendero El Camino which is 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long, and it takes approximately 2 hours to complete both ways. It is better to go with a local tour guide who knows where the birds usually are. Tour guides also have a spotting scope, making it a lot easier to find birds up in giant trees’ branches.
Other attractions make the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve famous worldwide. For example, the continental divide, the suspension bridge, the waterfall, and the hummingbird gallery.
The continental divide is another big reason tourists visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This line divides the continent into the Pacific and the Caribbean, crossing the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. In this section, there is a viewpoint called “La Ventana” (the window), where visitors can see the Pacific side of the country to the left and the Caribbean side to the right. This viewpoint is only reachable for the physically fit because of the long and steep trail to get there.
The trail starts from reception through Sendero Nuboso A (1,125 meters or 0.7 miles), Sendero Nuboso B (800 meters or 0.48 miles), and Sendero La Ventana (305 meters or 1,000 feet) to finally reach the platform with the viewpoint. The total elevation gain is 65 meters (213 feet) and the hike to get there takes approximately 1.5 hours at a moderate pace.
La Ventana is quite interesting. As you climb up the stairs to get to the viewpoint, you will notice that the forest on one side is shorter than the forest on the other side. This rare phenomenon happens because of the different climates between the Pacific and the Caribbean. The Pacific is drier and windier than the Caribbean, while the Caribbean is more rainy and humid than the Pacific. These fundamental differences in weather bring to life different flora species to each side of the continent. This multitude of flora species builds the foundation for more fauna to coexist, constituting the high density of biodiversity in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
On the way back from La Ventana to reception, you can either go back through Sendero Nuboso, which will now be downhill, taking approximately 45 minutes, or go back in a circle through Sendero El Camino (2 kilometers or 1.2 miles), taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Cloud Forest Bridge
The suspension bridge is the most popular attraction at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This iconic place is a great place to take a picture that will make your Monteverde trip memorable.
You get there via Sendero Roble, an extension from the Sendero El Camino, so you do this after the continental divide trail. The first part of Sendero Roble is just steps, which can be a tiring climb, so just like La Ventana, this trail is for the physically fit.
Though this suspension bridge is beautiful, it is relatively small compared to the other parks with Hanging Bridges in Monteverde. Still, if you only have time to visit one park in Monteverde and you choose the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, this bridge will give you a good taste of how it feels walking above the canopy of the cloud forest on a hanging bridge.
The hanging bridge at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve spans a valley. It is moderately high, and this will allow you to see many epiphytes (bromeliads, orchids, ferns, mosses) and other forms of life that inhabit the treetops typical of the area.
Cloud Forest Waterfall
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve waterfall is the third top sight that is worth visiting. This waterfall is small but pretty. Sendero El Rio will take you there. If you were to hike just this one trail directly from reception, it would take you approximately an hour and a half both ways. The trail is 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles), and it has an elevation gain of 65 meters (213 feet). Sendero El Rio leads to Quebrada Cuecha, which has a short side trail leading to the waterfall.
The hummingbird gallery is a small cozy garden with feeders and endemic plants that draw dozens of hummingbirds. This place is actually outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Still, it deserves mention in this post because it is a beautiful place to visit, and the entrance is free. You do not need to pay the entrance fee of the Monteverde reserve to see the hummingbird gallery.
The hummingbird garden is right next to the reserve entrance, on the left side of the road. The place belongs to the owners of a small and tasty coffee shop named Cafe Colibri. You can go there to hang out, photograph hummingbirds, and get ready for or recover from a hike at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Cloud forests are rare
The final reason the Monteverde Cloud Forest is famous is the scarcity of this type of forest around the globe. In fact, according to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, only 1% of the global woodland consists of cloud forests, with a total of 736 cloud forest sites distributed among 59 countries. Six of those sites are in Costa Rica, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the most visited, with approximately 450 per day during the peak tourist season from December through April.
These visitors come to admire this rare phenomenon named cloud forest, which occurs at particular conditions such as elevations of more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) above the sea level, mean temperatures between 8° and 20° Celsius (46° and 68° Fahrenheit), and annual rainfall that can range from 500 to 10,000 mm/year. These conditions make the cloud forest a unique attraction you cannot miss during your visit to Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Join a cloud forest tour
One of the best parts about visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is engaging on a nature tour with a local guide. The Cloud Forest Tour is a 2.5-hour light walk with a local tour guide to learn all about the cloud forest and to see some wildlife with their help. Learn more about the cloud forest tour here.
I am the founder of Monteverde Tours Online. I live in Monteverde, and I love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time in the outdoors and dining out in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, no coffee shop, and no restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!
We love helping visitors, connecting them with the different tours and activities to have a memorable experience in Monteverde.
If you need help planning things to do in the area, send us a message, and we will happily assist you!