Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the best hidden gems in Costa Rica. Although no longer kept in secret, getting there can be a lit...

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the best hidden gems in Costa Rica. Although no longer kept in secret, getting there can be a little bit challenging especially if you drive from the north on road 145 when the sun is setting down. You definitely don't want to get stuck at night on a poorly maintained curvy mountain gravel road with no guardrails. Lucky us, we got to Monteverde village before it turned dark.

Despite its remoteness, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve ranks very high on TripAdvisor and other travel resources. Local people used to refuse that the roads be paved to Monteverde area in order to avoid mass tourism. But today only a small section of the road to Puntarenas / San Jose (about 12 miles / 20 km) remains unpaved yet very well groomed. 
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve gets ten times more visitors than the neighboring Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, so I was worried that it was going to be very crowded. However,  it turned out that the park maintains a quota of 260 visitors at a time which usually fills by 8:00 in the morning during a high season. We arrived at around 7:30, and the park's ranger said they were always full for that day. For those travelling without a car, there is a shuttle bus which runs four times a day from Santa Elena village to the reserve. Departures at 6:15 or 7:30 are your best bet to be admitted to the park.
Unlike other parks we visited in Costa Rica, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a private natural park and is not managed by Costa Rican government. The admission is quite pricey ($20 per adult), but we got used to it by then. There are plenty of well marked trails to keep you busy for at least 2-3 hours, however a large portion of the park with its trails was closed for visitors.
A cloud forest is a rare ecosystem on the planet. The main difference from a regular rain forest is with clouds that are usually hung at a canopy level.
The yearly precipitation is plentiful, so the trees are usually covered with moss, orchids, ferns, lichens and other plants.
I really liked the park's quota on a number of visitors. The park was not crowded at all which allowed us to enjoy the nature.
There are very strong winds on top of the continental divide blowing from the Atlantic Ocean towards the Pacific. On a clear day you can see as far as Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna from the Window (Ventana) lookout.
This area belongs to Quakers, a couple of dozen settlers from Alabama who arrived here in early 1950s. Quakers is a religious Christian sect who promote peace and strongly opposed the US involvement in the Korean War. It was three years since Costa Rica had abolished their army and become neutral, so no wonder Quakers chose it for living. 
This park was created thanks to the efforts of George Powell, a scientist who studied birds in this area, and Wilford Guindon, one of the first Quakers arrived from the US. I saw a local tour guide from National Geographic Expeditions who is a relative to those first Quakers settlers. 
Hanging bridges are very famous in Monteverde area. There is just one in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the rest are in adjacent Selvatura Adventure Park.
The views from the bridge are simply stunning. The bridge hangs about 300 ft (100 m) above the ground and you basically walk on top of the trees.
It's a bit scary to walk on the bridge as it staggers from side to side.
With the help of a very friendly Costa Rican girl we have met on the trail, we spotted a pair of quetzals. It's a sacred bird for Maya and Aztec people as it's believed to be a goddess of wind and aurora. It was deemed a crime to kill a quetzal, so people would pluck its feathers and let it fly. 
Quetzal is a symbol of Guatemala and featured on their currency. It's a very rare bird so we considered ourselves very lucky to have seen it. 
Another inhabitant of a low elevation forests - aguti, a common rodent in Costa Rica.
A beautiful waterfall at the end of the Quebrada Cuecha trail.
Spectacled owl sleeping on a tree.
A nice free hummingbird gallery at a souvenir shop and bakery.

My other posts from Costa Rica:
Pure Life in Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park - A Paradise on the Pacific Coast
Poás Volcano National Park
Scarlet Macaws in Carara National Park
Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park
2-in-1: Zoo and Nature Park in Costa Rica
Tenorio Volcano and Celeste River
Tortuga Island - More Than Just A Tropical Beach

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