he Children’s Eternal Rainforest, or “Bosque Eterno de los Niños” in Spanish is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica. Spanning over 22,500 hectares (over 55,000 acres), the forest is owned and managed by the Monteverde Conservation League. It was named after the children from all over the world who have taken part in what is known as the Children’s Rainforest Movement.
The Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) is an independent, non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation and rehabilitation of tropical ecosystems. It was created in 1986 by a group of local and international scientists who wanted to protect the forest surrounding the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
In 1987, the Children’s Rainforest Movement gave money to the league in order to buy and protect the rainforest. Since then, the MCL has worked with other international organizations in order to form the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The organization’s main focus now is to strengthen its education programs and foster more research in the rainforest, and when funds are available, acquire strategically-placed pieces of land.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is one of the most biologically-diverse places in the world. It encompasses 7 different habitats that are home to 2% of the world’s orchids, 3% of the world’s butterflies, and almost 5% of the world’s bird species. It gives visitors the opportunity to explore and learn about these many habitats that can be found at different elevations (ranging approximately from 1,500 ft up to 5,900 ft) of the reserve. There is also virgin and secondary rainforests within the reserve, as well as reforested areas.
In addition to being an important protected area in Costa Rica, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest is also a watershed, feeding numerous downstream communities, farms, and hydroelectric projects. It plays a major role in tourism as well, as it is the backbone Arenal, La Fortuna, and Monteverde, which attract thousands of visitors every year, providing monetary support for thousands of local families.
Over 120 species of mammals, 100 species of reptiles, 400 species of birds and 600 species of butterflies have been recorded by biologists within the reserve. There are two biological stations operating within the forest: San Gerardo, and Poco Sol. Visitors have the option of paying an entrance fee for a self-guided, a guided or a night walk. The two stations also offer the option of staying overnight in the rainforest. Three meals per day and trail use are included in the nightly rate. Prior reservations are needed to enter the two stations.
San Gerardo & PocoSol Stations
The San Gerardo Station is located 4,000 ft. above sea level in the pre-montane rainforest on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica’s Tilarán mountain range. It is a mixture of primary and secondary forest. The station is about 4 miles from the town of Santa Elena. Temperatures range from 60° to 80°F (16° to 27°C), and most days offer a mix of sun, clouds, and rain, with constant humidity. The simple, rustic lodge is located on a hillside, offering panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano, Arenal Lake and the surrounding forest.
San Gerardo Station offers approximately 6 miles (10 km) of easy and moderate trails. While hiking, you can see frogs, reptiles, mammal, butterflies, moths and birds, like the endemic Bare-Necked Umbrella Bird. There is even a waterfall tucked away in the forest. Visitors can hike the trails on your own or arrange a day or night tour with a natural history guide.
Please note that the only way to arrive to San Gerardo is by foot. The trailhead begins at the Santa Elena Reserve. The first part of the moderately hike is along the “Camino Publico”, an unmaintained 1.6 mile (2.5 km) dirt road. From there, take the 0.6 mile (1 km) “Principal” trail to the station. Make sure to wear sturdy footwear and pack light if you´re planning to spend the night in the lodge.
The Poco Sol Station is located 2,360 ft. above sea level on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica’s Tilarán mountain range. It has a similar climate to San Gerardo Station, with constant humidity and temperatures raning from 60° to 90°F (16° to 32°C). The charming lodge is also located on a hillside and offers sweeping views of the Peñas Blancas Valley. Guests can arrive
The forest at PocoSol is located along the Caribbean lowlands and the Continental Divide, allowing for an impressive biodiversity and stunning scenery. Guests and visitors have access to 6 km. trail system with elevation ranging from 2296 to 3281 feet. While hiking through the tropical west forest and premontane forest, visitors can see a wide variety of flora, like ferns, bromeliads and heliconias. Pocosol also has a lake perfect for bird watching, relaxing streams, a waterfall, and even volcanic mud pits! Tours with a natural history guide can be booked ahead.
Bajo del Tigre Reserve
The Bajo del Tigre Reserve is unique feature of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. This unusual pocket of land is located in the transition zone of the forest, with trails traversing through premontane wet to seasonal moist forest. Its elevation and location along the Pacific slope make the reserve distinct from other protected areas in Costa Rica. Visitors have the opportunity to see rare species of plants and animals that are uncommon in the surrounding area, including 30 recently-identified trees species.
Considered one of the best places in Costa Rica for wildlife observation, Bajo del Tigre offers two miles of trails that are suitable for families. There is also a small children’s center and a lookout platform offering beautiful views of the Nicoya Peninsula. Visitors can enjoy a guided walk with an experienced nature guide or enjoy the trails at their own pace.
One of the must-do activities at Bajo del Tigre is the twilight tour that lasts from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Visitors have the opportunity to observe species preparing for sundown and nocturnal species. You will likely see snakes, tarantulas, beetles, bats, agoutis, coatimundis, frogs and owls, just to name a few.