Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small community in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Roughly a four-hour drive from the Central Valley, Monteverde is one of the country’s major ecotourism destinations. The area is host to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and several other natural attractions, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists.
National Geographic has called the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve “the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves”. Newsweek has declared Monteverde the world’s #14 “Place to Remember Before it Disappears”. By popular vote in Costa Rica, Monteverde was deemed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica, along with Isla del Coco, Volcán Arenal, Cerro Chirripó, Río Celeste, Tortuguero, and Volcán Poás.
This article deals with Monteverde and its surrounding zone. This includes Santa Elena, the area’s largest town and tourist hub, as well as the nearby cluster of homes and businesses known as Cerro Plano, the community of Monteverde, and numerous reserves and attractions in the wider region.
Areas with poor drainages support swamp forests, while other parts — dissected by deep, expansive gorges — have numerous streams tumbling through, creating rapids, waterfalls and standstill pools. It’s not just the forests and landscapes that are so diversified, though.
The variable climate and large altitudinal gradient sustain the amazingly diverse set of creatures who live here. Some of these include the jaguar, ocelot, Baird’s tapir, three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrellabird, and the famously elusive resplendent quetzal. The flora and fauna of Costa Rica is incredibly impressive.
History: In the early 1950s, a group of Quakers from the United States left their homes in Alabama and arrived in Monteverde at a time when the region was just beginning to be settled. The Quakers, fleeing the United States to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, established a simple life in Monteverde, centered on dairy and cheese production. Some of these families helped establish the Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve some 20 years later.
In 1972, the Monteverde rainforest was threatened by local farmers looking to expand their property and homestead on certain forest sites. With this prospect in mind, visiting scientists George Powell and his wife joined forces with longtime resident Wildford Guidon to promote the establishment of a nature preserve. The Tropical Science Center, a non-governmental scientific and environmental organization, proved receptive to the efforts of the Powells and Guidon, and accepted institutional responsibility for ownership and management of the protected areas. An initial land purchase of 328 hectares (810 acres) formed the core of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.
Following the preserve’s creation, the Tropical Science Center continued to secure the financial and human resources necessary to expand, consolidate, and properly protect the preserve’s current 10,500 hectares. See more Monteverde photos. This is just one more example of Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability; a commitment to ongoing reforestation is another.
Hours: For daily schedules and rates, please click the tour reservation options below. Children ages 6 and under are free.
Information: The restaurant, souvenir shop, and art gallery are open from 7 AM to 4 PM. There are restrooms at the entrance but none on the trails.
Guided Tours: Group tours are available in both English and Spanish and last about 2.5 hours. The entrance fee is included in the cost of these tours. Another guided tour option is the Early Morning Bird Watching tour, where you will search for birds as you make your way through different elevations in the Monteverde Reserve. Entrance to the reserve is included in the price of this tour as well.
Location: 3.6 miles (6 km) SE of Santa Elena, Monteverde. See the Monteverde map for more information.
Getting there: Buses heading to the reserve leave from the Banco Nacional in Santa Elena at 6:15 AM, 7:20 AM, and 1:15 PM. Return buses leave the reserve at 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM. Cost is $1 each way. Visitors can board the bus anywhere along the road between the town of Santa Elena and the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Those that do not wish to take the bus can take a taxi either way, which costs around $10 (for up to five passengers) each way.
Hiking Trails in Monteverde: The trails here are well maintained. Regular shoes are fine, as long as you are able to walk comfortably. There is no need for rubber boots or hiking shoes for daily trips. You may, however, need this type of footwear if you plan on staying overnight in one of the huts.