Monteverde – how to visit the Cloud Forests of Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Before arriving here I wrongly assumed that Monteverde is one big Cloud Forest. It’s a complex of parks and natural reserves that are well prepared to receive tourists. Monteverde Natural Reserve is just one of them, but it’s the most famous. There are night tours, animal refugees, canopy tours, a snake zoo, a frog sanctuary. Nature lovers will not get bored here, fore sure.

One thing is a pity, all of those attractions, like most in Costa Rica, are privately owned and each ticket needs to be purchased separately. Each ticket is around $20 – $30.

Cloud Forest

First things first. If you are going to Monteverde it’s probably to see the amazing cloud forest. This unique forest always has 100% humidity, it’s always foggy, due to a high concentration of water. It’s like walking inside of a cloud. Due to those unique conditions, many unique species of plants and animals developed here, e.g. many kinds of rain frogs. More than 100 species of mammals live in the park, including howler and capuchin monkeys, five species of cats, deer, tapir, and sloths.

Santa Elena Park, Costa Rica
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

It’s very easy to visit the park. Just ask in the information center or in your Hotel, they all sell entrance tickets and arrange transportation for you. The entrance is around 25$ + 5$ for the transport there and back to your hotel.

There are two reserves that can be visited: Monteverde and Santa Elena. They both cover a very similar range of plants and animals travel between them. Santa Elena is less popular, therefore less crowded.

Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

I visited the Rain Forest on a cold, rainy day. It was stunning! The forest is indeed all misty, plants grow everywhere. I had an impression that if I stop moving for a while, the forest will take over my body as well 😉 Unfortunately, it also rains a lot here, so I didn’t get a chance to see any animals. They don’t like the rain either, I guess.

Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Cloud Forest by night

What is a visit to the jungle without a night tour? Happily, at night the jungle awakens and if you have a good guide, you can spot a lot of incredible animals! We went out to look for a jaguar that was seen there a few weeks earlier. Those animals have a very large territory, so we didn’t have much hope.

Frogs, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Red-eyed Tree Frogs, Santa Elena Natural Reserve

Although we didn’t see the majestic jaguar that night, there were lots of venomous snakes, rain frogs, spiders, humming bats (yes, bats!), birds (Quetzales!!) sleeping, and even a kinkajou! Many birds from the Quetzal family can be spotted here. Quetzal is a bird with long, green feathers that are very precious and were used by the ancient kings for decoration. Nowadays Resplendent Quetzales are very rare, and the only place on earth where you can spot them is Costa Rica.

I highly recommend taking a night tour. The area has a few of them in their offer. Depending on the time of the year and the weather, ask in your hotel which one is the best to take.

Viper, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Deadly Viper, Santa Elena, Costa Rica

How to get there

As I already mentioned in my previous post, Costa Rica is not a perfect country for backpacking and using public transportation. The connections exist, but to get from point A to point B you will need to pass by San Jose quite a lot. Although there are direct connections to Monteverde from San Jose and Puntarenas.

Since I was traveling from Manuel Antonio National Park I took a bus from Quepos to Puntarenas (one every hour from 6 a.m. onwards), then I changed for the direct Monteverde transfer. The whole trip took 6 hours.

To get there from la Fortuna you will need to buy the combo ticket car-boat-car. Since the road is very difficult, it is much quicker and more comfortable to travel by 4×4. It also is the fastest way to get through.

Where to stay

I stayed in the Hakuna Matata Guest House in Santa Elena. It was ok for a few nights, but they don’t have any heating. They have a common kitchen and a very nice breakfast. Plus, the staff was very friendly and helpful, so if you are looking for a simple and cheap place, I can recommend it.

You might also like:

Manuel Antonio National Park – how to get there, where to stay and what to expect.

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