What is now known as Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was originally part of the Quaker Farms that were used mainly for dairy farming. During the early 70’s, the forests began to be threatened by local farmers wanting to expand their land. It was around this time that the Biologist George Power joined forces with Quaker Wilford Guidon to create a nature preserve that would protect the forests of Monteverde. Their efforts were successful and 328 hectares of land were declared as protected by the Costa Rican Government in 1972. This initial purchase became the core of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, with more land being added throughout the years until arriving at 14,200 hectares, the current amount of protected land.
Monteverde Cloud Forest is set upon the Continental Divide. It is considered a cloud forest due its elevation of 4,724 ft. above sea level and consistent low-level cloud cover at the canopy level. The trees are shorter than those you would see in a rain forest and have gnarled trunks and branches that form dense and compact crowns. These tree crowns intercept wind-driven interception, which then drips down to the ground. This fog drip allows for a thick moss to grow, which is a result of the high water content in the soil. This moss serves as a shelter for small animals and as lining for bird nests.
Spanning over eight distinct ecological zones, the cloud forest is home to over 100 mammal species and 1,200 amphibians and reptiles, as well as 400 bird species, including 30 hummingbird species. There are also 2,500 plant species. Monteverde is one of the few places where you can see all six species from the feline family: Jaguars, Ocelots, Pumas, Northern Tiger Cats, Margays and Eyra Cats. However, many visitors come to Monteverde to see another species: the stunning quetzal.
Resplendent Quetzals are known internationally for their great beauty. Once considered a sacred symbol for the Maya and Aztecs, these birds have an iridescent emerald sheen (that appears to go from green-gold to blue-violet), a red breast and a green tail. The tales on male quetzals are longer than their bodies, making for a spectacular sight! The best time to see quetzals in Monteverde is from March to May during nesting season.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is open from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day of the year. There are 3-hour guided tours a day (available in English and Spanish) and an additional nightly tour that begins at 5:45 PM, as well as a bird watching tour.
One activity you cannot miss out at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is hiking. You will be pleasantly surprised to find out that you do not need a guide to explore the system of well-maintained trails that are apt for all kinds of levels. You don’t even have to buy hiking boots! A steady pair of shoes will do if you’re just planning to be in the cloud forest for the day.
There are over 13 km of trails you can explore. Each one has its own unique features, surprises and flora and fauna. We have compiled a list of the trails and small description of each one so you can choose which one(s) you will hike the next time you’re in Monteverde.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Hiking Trails
- El Camino: The 1.2 mile (2 km) long trail generally takes around 1.25 hours to complete. “The Path” is wider than other trails, allowing for more sunlight to come in. El Camino is a great hiking trail for those who want to see the colorful butterflies or go bird watching.
- Sendero Bosque Nuboso: The “Cloud Forest Trail” is one of the most popular hiking trails in Monteverde Cloud Forest, known for its stunning beauty and lush vegetation. It takes about an hour and a half to complete. You can purchase a self-guide tour booklet (available in Spanish and English) of the trail in the entrance.
- Sendero El Rio: The 1.2 mile (2 km) “River Trail” takes about an hour and a half to complete. It is covered by massive trees and thick cloud cover. While hiking this beautiful trail, make sure to visit the small waterfall and keep your eye out on the thick underbrush which is home to all kinds of creatures.
- Sendero Patanoso: This fascinating mile-long trail weaves through a swamp forest, hence its name, the “Swamp Trail.” It takes about 1.25 hours to complete and goes along the Continental Divide. During the hike, you can observe a variety of plants and endangered trees.
- Sendero Roble: The narrow 0.4 mile (0.6 km) long “Oak Trail” is excellent for a relaxing stroll and has one part surrounded by stunning heliconia trees.
- Sendero Brillante: If you want go a quick hike, we recommend the “Shining Trail”. This 0.2 mile (0.3 km) trail follows the Continental Divide to La Ventana, a stunning lookout point with views of the forest. You admire bamboo trees during the hike.
- Sendero George Powell: “George Powell Trail” is another excellent option for a short hike. This 0.1 mile (0.2 km) trail is named after one of the preserve’s founders. It winds through a secondary forest.
- Sendero Chomogo: “Chomogo Trail” is the highest trail in the reserve, rising 5,510 feet (1,680 m) above sea level. This 1.1 mile (1.8 km) trail is home to oak, bamboo and heliconia trees, and takes about 1.25 hours to complete.
- Suspended Bridge: You cannot miss out on this amazing attraction. It rises 300 feet above the ground and offers beautiful views of the canopy. You can admire plant species like bromeliads, orchids and much more.
- Wilford Guindon: This .8 mile (1.3 km) trail is named after one of the reserve´s founders. It winds up and down through the forest, giving you a feeling of solitude and relaxation. The Wilford Guindon trail happens to be the only trail connected to the suspension bridge in the reserve, which makes it a great option for wildlife viewing.
The hiking trails are just one of the many attractions in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You can also visit the butterfly garden, a serpentarium, bat jungle or a frog pond. You can even get your adrenaline pumping on the ziplines or suspended bridges. In addition, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve also offers a lodge, a restaurant, an information center and a gift shop and much more!