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18 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest

18 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re in the middle of a Jurassic Park movie, a visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest is a must. It’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica!

This unique ecosystem is one of the top nature reserves in Costa Rica as it’s home to some of the most exotic plants and animals on the planet, including ocelots, jaguars, and pumas – oh my! 

According to the Tropical Science Center (TSC) of Costa Rica, Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to half of the country’s flora and fauna, which is saying something since Costa Rica is famous for its biodiversity. Unsurprisingly, the cloud forest is popular with scientists as well as tourists. 

Now, I’m a firm believer that when you’re exploring any mysterious tropical forest, it’s always good to be prepared. So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 18 things you need to know before you visit Monteverde Cloud Forest. 

1. About Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve 

Bailey walks along a trail in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica
Once on the trails, we lost sight of everyone!

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972, making it one of the oldest private reserves in Costa Rica. A graduate student, George Powell, came up with the idea to create the reserve after he saw how the Monteverde area was being harmed by hunters and squatters. 

It wasn’t super popular at first. In 1975, only 431 people visited the forest, most of whom were biologists. However, a small bed and breakfast opened in the late 70s, and during the 80s, tourism began to boom. Today, there are around 250,000 visitors each year!

Monteverde literally means “green mountain,” and it’s easy to see why it was given this name – the area is blanketed in a lush, verdant forest. 

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is made up of 26,000 acres of cloud forest. At this point, I should probably stop and explain what a cloud forest is. 

A cloud forest is a tropical forest that is constantly shrouded in heavy mist or fog. Basically, it’s so moist inside the forest that it’s covered in clouds.  

Monteverde Cloud Forest is made up of six ecological zones, which each has its own unique microclimate and ecosystem. The reserve is home to more than 100 mammal species, 400 bird species, and over 2,500 species of plants. 

2. Where is Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

A stone walkway throught he forest in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica
A pathway in Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Monteverde Cloud Forest is located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, which runs parallel to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s in the Monteverde region, making it one of the best things to do while visiting Monteverde!

The reserve itself is about 4 hours from San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, making it a popular day trip from San Jose or a place for a weekend getaway.

People usually travel to the closest town and visit the forest from there, which is what we did. 

The closest town is often referred to as Monteverde, but it’s actually called Santa Elena – Monteverde is the overall region. From Santa Elena, it’s a short drive (about 15 minutes) or bus ride to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. 

3. How much does it cost to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

View of a small mountain covered in thick cloud forest in Monteverde
Does it get more beautiful!

Entrance to Monteverde Cloud Forest costs $25 USD for adults and $12 USD for children unless you happen to be a Costa Rican resident. If that’s the case, you’ll only pay $8 USD for entry, regardless of age. 

At the park, you’ll be able to pay in either US dollars or colones. If you’re doing the calculations, $25 USD is roughly 16,500 colones, although of course, exchange rates do fluctuate so double-check this before you go. You’ll also be able to pay with a credit card if you prefer. 

Your entry fee includes a handy map that you can use to explore the forest on your own if you’re not visiting as part of a tour. 

4. Do you need to book your ticket to Monteverde Cloud Forest in advance? 

A dark section of cloud forest in Monteverde
Monteverde would be a wild place at night!

You can’t book your entry to Monteverde Cloud Forest unless you’re visiting with a guide as part of an organized tour. We’ll get more into the best tours available later on in this post. 

However, it’s really not necessary to book in advance if you’d rather explore the park by yourself – turning up on the day is perfectly fine! 

5. When is the best time to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

A spider web hangs from a tree in Monteverde Cloud forest
Be sure to keep an eye out above you on the trails!

When you’re figuring out the best time to visit Costa Rica, make sure you factor in when the wettest time of the year is around here. As you might expect given its name, Monteverde Cloud Forest has a pretty long rainy season.

The rainy season runs from May until November, so it lasts for seven months out of the year. October tends to be the wettest month, while March is the driest. 

There are some obvious disadvantages to visiting Monteverde during the rainy season, but one of the biggest is that birds often hide away from the rain. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, it’s probably better to hold off until dry season if you can. 

However, visiting during the wet season does mean that Monteverde will be quieter. There will be fewer visitors around, so you’ll feel like you have the cloud forest to yourself. Plus accommodation prices tend to be cheaper. The forest is also super lush and green during the rainy season, so it’s definitely worth considering if you don’t mind getting soaked. 

The dry season runs from December to April. This is Monteverde’s high season, so expect accommodation prices to be higher. However, the weather will probably be lovely and sunny, and the birds will be out and about.  

If you can visit during December, you’ll enjoy dry weather but the cloud forest will still be close to its greenest in the aftermath of all the rain. It’s the best of both worlds! 

6. Monteverde Cloud Forest hours 

A lady walks through Monteverde Cloud Forest 
The forest really is cloudy!

The cloud forest is open from 7 am to 4 pm all year round. There are no special days or holidays when it closes, so you can visit any day you like. 

7. Is there parking at Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

Vines and Moss hang from a tree in Monteverde Cloud Forest
Don’t forget to stop and look closely – the forest is just amazing!

Yes, the cloud forest has its own parking lot where you can leave your car while you explore if you took a rental car to get here. It’s well-signed, so you won’t struggle to find it. 

Technically, the parking is free but you can’t actually drive into the reserve entrance itself. Instead, you’ll take a shuttle from the parking lot, which costs $5 USD per person. So if you’re driving to the reserve, you’ll have to buy a ticket for the shuttle. 

8. Can you visit Monteverde Cloud Forest without a tour? 

A hummingbird in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica
On a tour you’ll see a lot more wildlife!

Yes, you can visit Monteverde Cloud Forest without a tour, and plenty of people do. However, we actually recommend booking a tour for your first time. 

Most of the trails are well-marked and although the cloud forest is huge (over 26,000 acres!), many of the best things to do are fairly close together. In fact, only about 3% of the park is open for public exploration. 

However, hiring a guide will ensure this is one of the top tours in Costa Rica for you as you’ll see all the best parts.

A tour guide comes in super handy when it comes to identifying wildlife. Unless you’re already a pro, it can be really hard to spot some of Monteverde’s animals. Not only will they help you to spot rare creatures, but they’ll also explain what exactly it is you’re seeing. We certainly wouldn’t have known half of the flora and fauna we spotted on our tour without the help of our guide! 

A guide will also help you to understand more about the cloud forest and its ecology. Monteverde is home to some really incredible plants and animals, many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. 

So to sum it up, if you’re one of those super independent travelers who strongly prefers to go it alone then no, taking a tour is not necessary.  

With that being said, it can really help you to get the most out of your visit and spot some amazing wildlife, so we say go for it! 

9. What are the best tours in Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

A frog at the Monteverde Frog Pond
Red eyed tree frogs are so cool!

As you might expect, there are tons of different Monteverde Cloud Forest tours available. Whether you want to explore the forest by night or whizz along Costa Rica’s longest zipline, there’s definitely one to suit your interests. 

Night tour 

You’ll see a totally different side to the Monteverde Cloud Forest at night, as many of its coolest creatures are nocturnal. From tarantulas – eek! – to armadillos and two-toed sloths, you’ll see a huge variety of animals that you wouldn’t spot during the daytime on this two-hour nighttime trek

The tour is only $35 USD and includes transportation from your hotel. The tour lasts from 6-8 pm and is a great way to see the forest for the first time or as an additional way to explore if you want to visit again. With around 80% of the animals in this forest being nocturnal, you’re guaranteed a whole new adventure when you come after dark.

Guided day tour 

private guided tour of the cloud forest allows you to tailor the entire experience to your own interests. Just tell your guide what you’d most like to see, and they’ll design the perfect itinerary for you!

Just a quick note – the $62.50 USD price tag doesn’t include the entrance fee to the park and you’ll need to organize your own transportation. However, that’s pretty easy to do – more on that to come! 

Private tour 

If you’re traveling with a group of friends or family, then a private Monteverde Cloud Forest tour is a great way to explore the reserve. On this tour, you’ll have a chance to see quetzals, Monteverde’s most iconic bird, as well as howler monkeys, sloths, and more. 

There’s a maximum group size of 8 and the usual price of the tour is $31 USD per person, which doesn’t include transport or entry to the reserve. You will get to use a special ‘spotting scope’ to help you see the birds hiding in the trees. Tours run twice daily at either 7:30 am or 1:30 pm.

Zipline tour 

Take your adventure to the next level and soar through the treetops like a bird on this zipline tour. Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to a 15-cable zipline course, including one cable which is half a mile (1 km) long. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a giant Tarzan Swing! 

On this tour, you’ll also enjoy a walk through the hanging bridges, which are suspended high above the ground, and get an up-close look at some of Monteverde’s amazing biodiversity. 

At $140 USD this tour is the priciest one on our list, but it does include transport to and from the park, lunch, and your entry fee. If you can fit it into your budget, this is a seriously awesome experience that you’re unlikely to ever forget! 

10. What are the hiking trails in Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

Daniel walks along a red hanging bridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica
The red hanging bridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica

There are nine hiking trails in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, covering a total distance of 8 miles (13 kilometers). A few of the best ones include:

The Sendero Bosque Nuboso (or Cloud Forest Trail) 

This is one of the most popular routes to take. It’s 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers) long and takes around 90 minutes. There’s an elevation gain of 65 meters (213 feet), so it’s not too strenuous, even for beginners. It’s also incredibly beautiful and boasts some of the park’s best flora. 

El Camino 

El Camino is a wide and fairly open trail that is great for butterfly spotting and birdwatching. It’s 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) long with slightly less elevation gain than the Sendero Nuboso trail, so again this is a good hike for those who don’t consider themselves to be super fit. 

The Sendero Paseo (or Swamp Trail) 

This mile-long (1.6-kilometer) trail takes you through – you guessed it – a swamp forest. This means that you get to see lots of different plant life, as well as the animals that live in these environments. 

The Sendero El Río (or River Trail) 

This trail leads you along the Quebrada Cuecha stream and you can take a quick detour to a scenic waterfall. Again, this hike takes around an hour and a half to complete, although if you want to visit the waterfall you’ll need to factor in a little extra time. 

The Suspended Bridge 

At 100 meters (300 feet) high, the bright red suspension bridge offers amazing views of the forest canopy and is a great photo opportunity. It’s also a lot of fun to walk across! 

11. How long does it take to explore Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

Dense cloud covers Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
The cloud cover comes and goes so fast!

You’ll need at least 3 to 4 hours to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, but you could easily spend all day there. There are so many different things to see and do, from hiking and birdwatching to zip lining and visiting the butterfly garden.

Unless you’re on a pretty tight schedule, I’d recommend setting aside a whole day for the cloud forest. 

Related read: After spending a day in the forest, grab a beer from one of the best local breweries in Costa Rica. We loved Monteverde Brewing Co. for their small-batch beer and yummy burgers.

12. What wildlife can you see in Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

quetzal bird in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The Resplendent quetzal birds are so beautiful!

What wildlife CAN’T you see in Monteverde Cloud Forest might be a better question. 

With over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 reptiles and amphibians, and 3,000 types of plants, this is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. 

Some of the most popular creatures to spot include: 

Resplendent quetzal 

This is Monteverde’s most famous bird and you’re almost guaranteed to see one if you go on a guided tour. They’re incredibly beautiful, with bright green plumage and long tail feathers. 

Poison dart frog 

These little frogs are only around 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long, but they’re very brightly colored, so they’re easy to spot. They’re also one of the most toxic animals on the planet, so don’t get too close! 

Jaguar 

Monteverde is one of the only places in Costa Rica where you have a chance of seeing a jaguar. These massive cats are incredibly rare and elusive, so spotting one is a real treat. 

Ocelot 

Maybe it’s because they look like a cross between a leopard and a domestic cat, but I just find ocelots to be so darn cute. These spotted cats are a lot more common than jaguars, but they’re still pretty rare. They’re most active at night, so take a night tour if you’re keen to spot one. 

Hummingbirds 

With 14 different species of hummingbird in Monteverde, these tiny birds are one of the park’s most iconic creatures. They’re incredibly fast and often hard to photograph, but they’re so beautiful that it’s worth trying. Visit the Selvatura Hummingbird Garden to make sure that you get a glimpse! 

Okay, I could go on all day about the Monteverde Cloud Forest wildlife but I think you get the idea – there’s A LOT of it and it’s all pretty incredible. 

13. What should I bring to Monteverde Cloud Forest? 

The pathway through thick jungle in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica
You’re in the clouds so bring a rain jacket!

My top recommendation is to bring a waterproof backpack to Monteverde Cloud Forest. The forest is incredibly humid and misty at all times of the year, and your stuff will get very damp if you don’t. 

Other than that, just make sure that you bring the usual things that you would take on any hike, like sunscreen, insect repellent, a camera, and some cash.

You’ll be doing lots of walking so make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes that have plenty of grip. You’ll also need a rain jacket. Even if the forecast says that it isn’t going to rain, it’s always best to be prepared! Sunglasses are also a good idea. If you’re going to be here all day, prepare for all types of weather!

You may also want to bring some water and snacks if you plan on spending a long time in the park. There is one cafe by the park’s entrance, but you might get peckish while exploring deeper inside the reserve. 

You don’t need an ID to enter the park, but if you’re visiting with kids, it’s a good idea to bring proof of their age so that they can get the discounted entry rate. If you’ve booked a tour in advance, then you should bring a form of ID to show the guides. 

To be honest, I always think it’s smart to bring a form of ID with you when traveling – you never know when you’ll need it. I learned this the hard way! Nowadays, I usually take my driver’s license with me just in case. 

14. Facilities in Monteverde Cloud Forest 

Cloudy and dense jungle in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica
Isn’t it so dreamy!

There are bathrooms close to the reserve’s entrance, but you won’t find any along the trails.

There’s also a cafe close to the park entrance. Cafe Colibri is pretty much an obligatory stop for all Monteverde visitors. They do great coffee and fresh, homemade food. Best of all, there are always hundreds of hummingbirds hovering around the feeders, so it’s a great place to relax and watch these beautiful little birds do their thing. 

Related read: To fuel up before your adventure or grab a meal after, I recommend checking out some of the best restaurants in Monteverde!

15. Is Monteverde Cloud Forest suitable for kids? 

View of Monteverde Cloud forest
It’s so thick!

Absolutely! Monteverde Cloud Forest makes a great day out for the whole family.

Many of the park’s trails are pretty short and fairly easy, so they’re suitable for visitors of all ages. It’s also not a huge park, so you don’t need to worry about your little ones getting tired and whiny because they’ve been walking for hours on end. 

16. Should I hire a guide to explore the park? 

Tropical cloud forest Monteverde, Costa Rica

As we mentioned earlier, the park is pretty easy to navigate on your own but you should hire a guide if you want to spot wildlife. Monteverde is home to an incredible variety of animals, birds, and plants, many of which are pretty hard to spot. It would be a shame to travel all this way and then miss out because you didn’t know what to look for! 

A guided tour will also teach you a lot about Monteverde’s history, ecology, and culture. You’ll come away with a much better understanding of this special place and why it’s so important to protect it. 

Meanwhile, a night tour is great for spotting the cloud forest’s nocturnal creatures, which include big cats, and several species of monkeys. 

17. How do you get to Monteverde Cloud Forest from town? 

View over the cloud forest in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica
What a special place!

It’s pretty easy to get to Monteverde Cloud Forest from Santa Elena. One of the most popular ways to get there is by taxi, which is relatively cheap and takes around 20 minutes. Taxis are easy to find in Santa Elena and your hotel should be able to arrange one for you. 

Taxis in the Monteverde region don’t use a meter, unlike other parts of Costa Rica. Instead, you’ll agree upon a fixed price with the driver before you set off. Many taxis in Santa Elena have a price list displayed inside, but it is possible to negotiate. You shouldn’t end up paying any more than $10 USD each way. 

There’s also a bus from Santa Elena to Monteverde Cloud Forest. It’s slower but also super cheap at $1 USD each way. The bus leaves at the following times throughout the day: 6 am, 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.

Finally, there are daily shuttles that leave from the information center in downtown Santa Elena from 6 am until 4 pm every day. It costs around $2 USD each way. 

18. Is Monteverde Cloud Forest worth it? 

Photo of thick forest in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica

Yes! It’s one of the most biodiverse reserves on Earth and it offers a totally unique experience.

You can spot so many incredible plants, birds, reptiles, and mammals here, and the whole place has a magical, ethereal atmosphere. It really is like nowhere else on Earth. 

All in all, Monteverde Cloud Forest is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity – which should be everyone! 

Where to Stay in Monteverde

The hot tub at Chira Glamping in Monteverde, Costa Rica
How magical is this?! Photo credit: Chira Glamping

With exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest now on your agenda, you’ll need a place to stay! Monteverde may be a small tourist town, but there are a surprisingly large number of great hotels in all budget ranges in Monteverde.

If you’re a budget traveler or backpacker, there are lots of nice hostels to choose from. If you like modern features and outstanding facilities, Selina Monteverde is the best option. The hostel is beautiful, has great reviews, and lots of activities including yoga. The only downside is Selina is a high-end backpacker hostel. You can book Selina on Booking.com or Hostelworld.

For the more budget-conscious, I recommend the Monteverde Backpackers which is almost half the price and includes breakfast. You can book Monteverde Backpackers on Booking.com or Hostelworld.

For those well past their backpacking days who can spend a little more, I love Camino Verde B&B Monteverde Costa Rica. This boutique hotel has beautiful rooms, a deck with magnificent views, and includes breakfast. It’s a comfortable hotel that comes at a great price.

If you’re a luxury traveler I highly suggest choosing what we call a “destination hotel”. These hotels are an attraction in themselves because of the unique experience they offer. In Monteverde one of the best is Chira Glamping Monteverde which offers luxury camping with the option to have your own private hot tub surrounded by nature.

Other EPIC Activities to do in Monteverde

Ziplining in Monteverde, Costa Rica
Ziplining in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Go ziplining – Ziplining in Costa Rica is such a fun way to see some fantastic scenery (as it flies past you!) and have an adrenaline-filled adventure. Visiting the 100% Aventura Park is easily one of the most exciting things to do in Monteverde while you’re here. 

Night walk – One of the best tours in Monteverde happens after dark! Experience the wildlife nightlife with a Monteverde Rain Forest Night Walk.  Almost 80 percent of the animals in Monteverde are nocturnal, so nighttime is the perfect time to spot them. You could see everything from sloths, porcupines, snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, or one of the many felines that call the rainforest home. 

Selvatura Park – Selvatura Park is a nature and adventure park located inside 850 acres of protected rainforest. This park has a network of hanging bridges above the tree canopy that give you incredible aerial views of the rainforest. Get the chance to explore all the bridges and the surrounding trail with the Selvatura Park Hanging Bridge Tour. This gives you two hours to explore and enjoy the forest from unique viewpoints. 

Go bungy jumping – Bungy jumping is one of the fun Monteverde attractions you have to try … if you’re brave enough! The Extreme Bungee Jumping in Monteverde Tour has a daring jump from over 460 feet. That’s the highest in Costa Rica and all of Central America! 

Horseback riding – This is a great way to give your feet a break and explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest on horseback! This Monteverde Cloud Forest horseback riding tour lets you cover a lot of ground as you trek through the farmland and surrounding landscape in Monteverde. Keep an eye out for toucans, parrots, monkeys, and other critters as you experience the rural side of Costa Rica, far from any crowds or traffic. 

Pura Vida!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on the way to Nauyaca Waterfalls
Thanks for reading and Pura Vida!

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a place that should definitely secure a top spot on your Costa Rican itinerary! Whether you visit during the day or night (or both!), exploring this magical forest is a truly special experience. Plus now you have all the tips and tricks to get the most out of your visit!

If you liked this guide, make sure to browse around our website to see our other blogs full of travel ideas and inspiration. Costa Rica definitely stole my heart and after living here and visiting here often, I want to make sure you enjoy it as much as I do!

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