Monteverde, North Puntarenas

One of Costa Rica’s most visited places is Monteverde in Puntarenas. Monteverde is home to one of the rarest habitats on Earth, the cloud forest, and an astounding variety of flora and fauna.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is unique from Costa Rica’s other rainforests, with a constant mist that looks like clouds and gives the forest its name.

The high humidity at this spot, 1,600 meters above the ocean, creates the mist and provides a cloud-like cover.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Eight different biological zones are distinguishable in this moisture-rich environment, which shelters several thousand animal and plant species across its 26,000 acres.

The reserve is a bird-lover’s paradise, with more than 500 species; bring your binoculars for a view of the quetzal, whose green plumage contrasts nicely with its red chest and belly, the blue-throated toucanet and the three-wattled bellbird.

Be on the lookout for pumas, monkeys and endangered jaguars, as well as the red-eyed tree frog that serves as a Costa Rican icon.

If you’re lucky, you can also find the golden toad, known to live only in this forest; although some think it may be extinct.

Along with the teeming wildlife, the cloud forest offers 420 orchid species and 200 fern species.

If you find the Monteverde cloud forest a little busy, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is its lesser-known neighbor and offers much the same experience. Similar wildlife species are found here as well, including the spider monkey and sloth.

Canopy Tours and Trails

Monteverde’s cloud forest offers 13 km of well-maintained trails that make for a great day hike.

One of the most exciting ways to view the area’s cloud forests is by zip-line tour. The forests spread over the continental divide, and a zip-line gives you stunning views. The longest zip-line is 770 meters long, so you have plenty of time to take in your surroundings and the wonders of the forest below.

If your adventurous spirit doesn’t include zip-lines, you can still enjoy amazing views with the smaller forest’s skywalk, which stretches across canyons and connects with trails, giving you the same canopy experience.

Monteverde Butterfly Garden

Along with the multitude of animals and plants in Costa Rica, you’ll find insects abound as well.

Monteverde offers one of the country’s numerous butterfly farms, which showcase butterflies in an amazing variety of colors and patterns.

Visit Monteverde’s farm for a look at the striking, black and yellow thoas swallowtail, zebra longwing with black-and-white stripes, the bright blue morpho butterfly and the glasswing, known for its translucent wings.

A Little History

Monteverde is more rural village than town, although it does offer some conveniences. Your best bet for services such as gas is to stop in nearby Santa Elena, which offers a bank, pharmacy, restaurants and Internet cafes.

The Monteverde area has several dairy farms, which produce some delicious cheeses.

The dairy farms were established by Quakers who migrated from the U.S. to Costa Rica to avoid the WW II draft. The Quakers were instrumental in developing Monteverde and preserving the cloud forest.

How to Get to Monteverde

Monteverde is about 150 km northwest of San Jose along surface roads.

It is in the Tilaran Mountain Range and is high enough to be a little chilly, so remember to bring a sweater or dress in warm clothes.

Monteverde is Spanish for “green mountain,” and you’ll see that it is aptly named. As you travel to this little village, be sure to stop and admire the view of rolling green hills and communities that stretch out below.

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