Arenal, Monteverde, and the Northern Lowlands Sights

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve (Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde)

  • 10 km (6 miles) south of Santa Elena Map It
  • Monteverde
  • Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge
  • Fodor's Choice

Fodor's Review

One of Costa Rica's best-kept reserves has 13 km (8 miles) of well-marked trails, lush vegetation, and a cool, damp climate. The collision of moist winds with the Continental Divide here creates a constant mist whose particles provide nutrients for plants growing at the upper layers of the forest. Giant trees are enshrouded in a cascade of orchids, bromeliads, mosses, and ferns, and in those patches where sunlight penetrates, brilliantly colored flowers flourish. The sheer size of everything, especially the leaves of the trees, is striking. No less astounding is the variety: more than 3,000 plant species, 500 species of birds, 500 types of butterflies, and 130 different mammals have so far been cataloged at Monteverde. A damp and exotic mixture of shades, smells, and sounds, the cloud forest is also famous for its population of resplendent quetzals, which can be spotted feeding on the aguacatillo (similar to avocado) trees; best viewing times are early mornings from January until

September, and especially during the mating season of April and May. Other forest-dwelling inhabitants include hummingbirds and multicolor frogs.

For those who don't have a lucky eye, a short-stay aquarium is in the field station; captive amphibians stay here just a week before being released back into the wild. Although the reserve limits visitors to 250 people at a time, Monteverde is one of the country's most popular destinations. We do hear complaints (and agree with them) that the reserve gets too crowded with visitors at times. Early visitors have the best chance at spotting wildlife.

Allow a generous slice of time for leisurely hiking to see the forest's flora and fauna; longer hikes are made possible by some strategically placed overnight refuges along the way. At the gift shop you can buy self-guide pamphlets and books; a map is provided when you pay the entrance fee. You can navigate the reserve on your own, but the 2½-hour guided Natural History Walk (7:30 am, 11:30 am, and 1:30 pm) is invaluable for getting the most out of your visit. You may also take advantage of two-hour guided night tours starting each evening at 5:45 (reservations required). The reserve provides transport from area hotels for an extra $6. A guided walking bird-watching tour up to the reserve leaves from the park entrance each morning at 6 for groups of four to six people. Advance reservations are required.For more information, see the highlighted listing in this chapter.

Read More

Sight Information


10 km (6 miles) south of Santa Elena, Monteverde, 60109, Costa Rica

Map It


/2645–5122; /2253–3267-in San José

Sight Details:

  • $18 entrance; $36 natural history walk; $17 night tour; $64 morning bird-watching tour
  • Daily 7–4


Map View

Map of

What's Nearby

  • Restaurants
  • Sights
  • Hotels

See all sights in Arenal, Monteverde, and the Northern Lowlands

Add Your Own Review

When did you go?

Minimum 200 character count

How many stars would you give?




Don't Miss



No Thanks

Love To Travel?

Get FREE e-mail communications from Fodor's Travel, covering must-see travel destinations, expert trip planning advice, and travel inspiration to fuel your passion.

Thank You

Now sit back, relax, and check your inbox to start planning your next travel adventure.

Please tell us more about the type of travel you're interested in. Check all that apply.