A Cloud Forest to Remember
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the outstanding wildlife sanctuaries of the tropical New World, extending down the Caribbean and Pacific slopes of Costa Rica’s Continental Divide. Climatic and geographic influences create temperature and humidity gradients that vary dramatically over short distances. Elevations in the cloud forest vary from about 800 meters in the lower reaches of Río Peñas Blancas, to 1,842 meters atop Cerro Tres Amigos. Elfin woodlands, sculpted by the prevailing winds blowing over exposed ridges, contrast dramatically with protected coves where majestic trees drip with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines and mosses. Habitats vary from poorly drained swamps to deep mountain gorges created by clear streams and rivers with rushing whitewater rapids and cascading waterfalls.
The combination of variable climate and terrain has resulted in extremely high biodiversity across four different bio-communities. Monteverde is home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 3,000 plant species (among them 500 different kinds of orchids), as well as tens of thousands of insect species. Among the more exotic and spectacular wildlife are jaguar, ocelot, Baird’s Tapir, three-wattle bellbird, bare-necked umbrella bird and resplendent quetzal.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is an excellent opportunity to take in the forest’s attractions. Two tours are on offer and the tour prices are included in the admission ($20 for international visitors). A 2.5-hour group tour with bilingual guides (English/Spanish) is a good introduction to the reserve. If you’re bird watcher, the reserve also offers a guided tour spanning a range of elevations; there’s a chance you can spot a reclusive quetzal. If you fancy wandering the reserve on your own, there are trails of varying difficulty and length. Wear good hiking boots or shoes as the trails can be muddy.
A Sky Walk tour is another excellent way to understand the cloud forest ecosystem—you cross a series of suspension bridges for an eye-level view of the canopy, where 90% of the forest flora and fauna are found. If you fancy a more heart-thumping canopy tour, try the Sky Trek zipline tour; no experience required, guides do it all (well almost—you have to follow directions and hang on). With a total combined distance of 3 km, the tour’s cable system includes nine cables. For a more sedentary experience, try the 800 m Sky Tram.
Other attractions include:
- Café Monteverde’s Coffee Tour, a 3-hour visit to a working coffee plantation and mill
- El Trapiche’s sugar cane tour, 2 hours in an ox-drawn cart (the intricately decorated carts alone are worth the price of admission)
- Café Carburé’s chocolate tour, a hands-on 45-minute tour that takes you through the necessary production steps
- The Butterfly Garden, near Pensión Monteverde Inn, is open from 9 to 11 a.m., when butterflies are most active
- The Orchid Garden in Santa Elena, where you can examine more than 400 orchid species (from tiny to large)
- The Frog Pond, a few hundred meters north of the Monteverde Lodge, is worth an after-dark visit when the frogs are most active
- The Bat Jungle, learn about bats in 45 minutes or so, including watching them fly and roost in their darkened enclosures
Your concierge team at the Belmar Hotel can help you decide which tours, activities and attracations are for you and take care of making all the arrangements. Of course, with the sumptuous views of rich, verdant rainforest that you’ll have from your private balcony and floor to ceiling windows, you may never want to leave your room!
An eco hotel, Belmar is proud to have earned the 5 leaf Certificate for Sustainable Tourism with their “farm to table” practice of sourcing local ingredients, and their commitment to renewable energy.
Monteverde’s biodiversity, climate and landscapes are what most people imagine when they hear cloud forest. The reserve is truly a “green mountain,” a stopping place on your Costa Rica vacation that you’ll never forget.