Costa Rica is well known for its diversity in flora and fauna as well as numerous national parks. One of the most easily accessed forested areas is found at Monteverde National Park. Located only 50 miles as the crow flies, from San José, it can easily be enjoyed on a long weekend trip from the country’s capital city, making it an ideal escape for expats working in the city or travellers with only a few days to fill on their trip. Dailyjaguar.com
Monteverde is found on the continental divide of Costa Rica’s spine. Its high altitude – some 1,440m above sea level – means it receives a steady supply of clouds. The moisture that the clouds contain, usually in the form of fog, is caught on the branches of the tallest trees from where it drips down to other organisms below, allowing for a complex ecosystem to be supported. Within the area there are over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species and over 2,500 varieties of plants, over 400 of which are orchids.
The area is home to two cloud forest reserves: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, established in 1972, has extended its protective reach since being founded and now covers an area of over 35,000 acres. All six species of the cat family -jaguar, ocelot, puma, oncilla, margay and jaguarundi – can be found here as well as some endangered species of bird – the three-wattled bellbird and resplendent quetzal.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve was established later in 1989 and is directly controlled by the local community, rather than the government. It supports a similar variety of plants and animals but in addition it is home to the spider monkey. Boasting many trails, this is a reserve smaller in area to Monteverde Reserve but enjoyable for visitors who wish to see the delights with a guide or alone. Furthermore, there is an observation tower that affords great views of the Arenal Volcano on clear days.
Canopy tours, tails, aerial tram and local museums are a great way for visitors to enjoy exploring this diverse environment. The butterfly farm is very popular amongst children, however the more adventurous traveller can also enjoy zip-lining and horseback riding. Usually, people recommend to have a few days spare to stay here due to the numerous activities on offer. Numerous hotels and lodges and campsites can be found in the settlements of Santa Elena and Monteverde, including some which are located just a few minutes walk from Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve itself.
It can be simple to reach Monteverde. Buses leave from San José and Punatrenas twice daily, with either journey lasting approximately four hours. When travelling from the north, you can get a bus to Monteverde after first catching a bus to La Irma. From the town of Monteverde it is easy to get to the park, with three buses leaving daily.