Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica: Plan Your Visit

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica is the most popular area to hike in the Santa Elena/ Monteverde area.

This protected land consists of several hiking trails, a waterfall, and an impressive suspension bridge that visitors can walk over.

We are a couple that lives in Costa Rica. We love to hike and search for wildlife. So, we have visited Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve several times. We have discovered all the things you should and shouldn’t do while here.

With this comprehensive guide, you will find out everything you need to know about the opening hours, directions, trails, what to wear, and more helpful tips for making your trip a memorable one.

Directions to the Reserve

We were a bit confused with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve directions. 

If you use Google Maps and put in “Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve” it provides the correct directions, but it marks the point as the middle of the preserve. 

So, we were a bit unsure if we were actually driving the right way.

To avoid confusion, I suggest putting in “Cafe Colibri” as your destination. This cafe is located just before the entrance to the reserve.

To add to our confusion, just before arriving at the reserve there was a large parking lot on the right-hand side of the road that said “Official Monteverde Preserve Parking.”

Typically, this means nothing in Costa Rica. People try to do this all the time at places like Manuel Antonio National Park just to make some money with their parking lot.

So, I told Thomas to keep going. But, he decided to pull in and just ask. Well, it turns out that this large lot is actually an official parking area. 

We ended up parking here and there was a shuttle to the main entrance. 

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The shuttle ride takes about 3 minutes. We paid about $5 to park.

Alternatively, you can drive to the official entrance and parallel park on the road. This is nice because then you don’t need to wait for the shuttle when you are done hiking. 

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But, we didn’t wait any more than 7 minutes for the shuttle. 

The parking lot was also nice because although I don’t feel like the attendant was really paying too much attention, it at least felt like the car was a bit more secure than it would have been on the side of the road.

However, I just checked out the Google reviews and some people definitely didn’t have such a good experience. There are a lot of reviews saying they waited more than 30 minutes for the shuttle.

Maybe if you have the time it is best to drive to the entrance and see if there is space to parallel park on the road. Worst case scenario, you can always drive the few minutes back to the lot. 

Opening Hours

The park is open from 7:00am until 4:00pm every day all year round.

If possible, we suggest arriving here at 7:00am or 8:00. That way you can beat the crowds and tours.

Plus, it is often the driest time of day during the rainy season

Entry Fee to the Reserve

$25 for adults

$12 for Students

$12 for Children

If you are a Costa Rican resident the entry fees are:

$8 for adults

$6 for students

$6 for children

It is possible to pre-purchase your tickets online on the official Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve website

But, I would suggest just buying them in person on the day of. That way if your plans change you will have more flexibility. 

We were there at one of the busiest times of the year and only had one couple in front of us in line. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica Tours

Visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve with an experienced guide is a great way to ensure you will see a lot of wildlife, learn all about the flora and fauna, and probably learn some more history of the area as well. 

There are three guided tours that we suggest. Each one is a little bit different, so let’s go through all your options.

Cloud Forest Reserve Morning Walk without Transportation

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  2 to 3 hours | ✅ Book it!

If you are looking for a guide, we suggest a tour with the company Monteverde Wild. Their guide will meet you at the entrance of the reserve and take you on a two to three-hour-long hike.

Just note that the cost of this tour is just for the guide per person. You will need to purchase admission tickets separately on arrival. Also, this tour does not include transportation.

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Walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest with Transportation

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  3 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, an expert naturalist guide will lead the way through the park. The guides are super knowledgeable about flora, fauna, history, and more!

We love this tour because they provide round-trip transportation from hotels near Santa Elena and Monteverde.

National Park fees, bottled water, and the expertise of a professional guide are all included as well.

Monteverde Cloud Forest + Curi-Cancha Reserve + Night Hike (Private)

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 – 8 hours | ✅ Book it!

This tour includes hassle-free round-trip transfers from selected area hotels. This is an intimate nature experience exclusively for your group.

On this tour you will experience:

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve: Begin your day in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Engage in a morning exploration of one of Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems, surrounded by lush vegetation often enveloped in clouds.

Curi Cancha Reserve: After lunch, journey to the Curi-Cancha Reserve. Wander through a mix of secondary and primary forests, experiencing a transition zone that’s perfect for birdwatching. From hummingbirds and toucans to trogons and colorful tanagers, it’s a birder’s paradise.

Monteverde Wildlife Refuge Night Hike: Cap off the day with a night hike. From amphibians and reptiles to nocturnal mammals like sloths, armadillos, and even wildcats, it’s a unique adventure you wouldn’t want to miss. Telescopes and flashlights are provided for an enhanced experience.

Facilities

At the entrance, there is an area with bathrooms, potable water stations, a gift shop, and a dining area. 

The bathrooms were clean enough and completely fine.

For the potable water, I would suggest trying to only drink bottled water that you have brought with you. I’m sure the water is probably fine, but if you can avoid risking it, I would.

The gift shop area was nice, but most of the things they had you can also buy at the gift shops in downtown Monteverde if you prefer.

If you are looking for something to eat, the dining hall had a sign saying that they served Costa Rican breakfast, paninis, pizza, coffee etc.

In my opinion, there are better options nearby, which I get to in the “what to do Nearby” section of this article. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica: Plan Your Visit

The Cloud Forest Hiking Trails

There are several hiking trails here. This is great because you can make your stay as long or short as you want. 

When Thomas and I visited we hiked almost all of the trails so we could get the full experience. If your time is short, I suggest hiking:

map of monteverde cloud forest reserve

Sendero Nuboso A to Sendero Camino. Head east on Sendero Camino until you get to Sendero El Puente. Head west on Sendero El Puente back towards the entrance.

This is the trail with the hanging suspension bridge. After the bridge you can follow Sendero Camino or Sendero Wilford Guindon back to the parking lot.

For a longer hike, a good route is:

Sendero Nuboso A to Sendero Nuboso B to Sendero La Ventana. Here you can enjoy a nice view of the forest canopy.

From there, head west on Sendero Camino until you get to Sendero El Puente. Head west on Sendero El Puente back towards the entrance. This is the trail with the hanging suspension bridge.

After the hanging bridge, follow Sendero Wilford Guindon to Sendero Tosi to Sendero Cuecha. This will take you to the waterfall.

We didn’t find the waterfall to be very impressive, but we were there in the dry season. I bet during the rainy season there is a lot more water. 

From there, take the trail back to the parking lot.

What to Bring and Wear

During the rainy season you will likely get soaked here and the trails might be muddy. 

To Bring

Bug Spray

Sunscreen

A full water bottle

Waterproof backpack (this is a must-have for all of Costa Rica during rainy season)

Change of clothes

Binoculars

To Wear

During the dry season what you will want to wear will probably vary to the rainy season.

In the dry season it tends to be windy here, but you most likely won’t have any rain. I suggest long pants or shorts, hiking boots, and a t-shirt with a long sleeve layer on top.

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In rainy season you will want:

Rain jacket, waterproof pants, lots of layers, hiking boots.

Often you might start your hike being cold and by the end be really warm.

Background Information on the Reserve

I think that the whole history of Monteverde is really interesting. 

A group of Quakers from the United States moved to this area in 1951. They consisted of 11 families from Alabama. Apparently, as pacifists, they were trying to avoid the Korean War draft.

They settled in Costa Rica because the country had just abolished its military. 

To make a living, they started producing cheese and milk which eventually began being sold all over the country.

It is still possible to buy Monteverde cheese and while in the area we definitely suggest visiting the Monteverde Cheese factory. You can no longer tour it, but at least stop in and get some ice cream or cheese.

Anyway, the Quakers knew that this area was special and with the help of several biologists and conservationists throughout the years, the protected area was eventually established in 1972. 

The reserve consists of over 26,000 acres which contains  6 ecological zones.

The Monteverde reserve is home to: 

– Over 2,500 plant species (including more species of orchid in a single area than anywhere else in the world) 

– Over 100 species of mammals

– Over 400 species of birds

– 120 reptilian and amphibian species

Wildlife in the Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica is home to a wide array of wildlife species. 

Some of the notable animals found in the preserve include:  

the resplendent quetzal

various species of hummingbirds

monkeys like the mantled howler and white-faced capuchin

coatis

Ocelots (if you are very lucky)

What is a Cloud Forest?

A cloud forest is a unique type of tropical or subtropical forest.

It can be characterized by persistent low-level cloud coverage and distinguished by its high levels of humidity.

It is normal here to have abundant epiphytes (plants growing on other plants).

Monteverde, Costa Rica, qualifies as a cloud forest due to its high elevation. which places it within the cloud base.

Plus, its high annual precipitation, which contributes to the formation of clouds and mist necessary for the ecosystem’s distinct features.

What to Do After

If you start your day at the reserve around 7am you will likely be done within three to four hours. That means you will have the whole rest of the day to do fun activities.

First off, you might be ready for breakfast or lunch….

Check Out the Cafe

Just next to the entrance to the reserve is a place called “Cafe Colibri” This is a nice place to visit for breakfast, lunch, or even just a drink.

After a rainy hike through the cloud forest, it is always nice to have a coffee or hot chocolate here.

Although the food and drinks here are good, the real draw is the hummingbirds.

They put out hummingbird feeders so you can sit and watch all the different species of hummingbirds fly up for a little meal while you are enjoying your meal.

Get Lunch

If you prefer to go somewhere besides Cafe Colibri for lunch, there are plenty of options nearby. We suggest two places which are both basically on your way back into town. These are:

Tramonti: I suggest going here if you are in the mood for Italian. They serve great pizzas. It is also possible to get pasta, meats, seafood etc. The building is really nice. Its a wooden frame encased in glass.

Belmar Craft Brewery: This restaurant is located on the Hotel Belmar property. It is located next to a small pond and just a really peaceful vibe. We like to go here for a beer and get a few appetizers to share.

Take a Night Tour

One of our favorite things to do in the evening in Monteverde is to take a wildlife night tour. This is a great way to see all the night active animals in the area with an experienced guide.

We have a complete guide to Monteverde night tours.

Or you can go ahead and book your night tour 

For more ideas of fun things to do in the area check out our complete Monteverde travel guide.

It is filled with the best places to stay, where to eat, packing tips, and more!

FAQ: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

How much does it cost to go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

Admission to the reserve is $25 for adults and $12 for children and students.

Why is the Monteverde Cloud Forest special?

The Monteverde cloud forest is special because there are not that many cloud forests in the world. To be able to hike through a protected area like this is very unique.

How long does it take to hike the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

That is completely up to you. The way their trails are set up makes it very easy to hike for as little or as long as you want. We suggest spending about three hours here.

Should I visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve or La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena?

If you would like less crowds, La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena is better. For more trails and better views, go with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica is a diverse area to experience a unique environment filled with flora and fauna. 

In our opinion, it is a must-do activity while in Monteverde.

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Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

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๐Ÿ›๏ธ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

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The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

๐Ÿ’ฐ What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colรณn (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

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An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

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Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

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Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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