Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Over the decades, Monteverde has become a synonym for “eco-tourism”, whose model has inspired countless other private projects throughout the region.
At the beginning of its worldwide known success story, which finally goes back to 1951, there were several Quaker families who left the USA to settle in Monteverde in order to escape being drafted by the army. They began to clear the acquired land to make it usable for dairy farming, but soon realized that the cloud forest was essential to protect the watershed of the region. As a result, they created a first protected area of several hundred hectares, which was constantly extended. Since 1972 it has been the official protected area “Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde y Santa Elena”. The access roads are still as bad as they used to be, but the way here has become a well-trodden path for a good part of the tourist flows in Costa Rica, as Monteverde is hardly omitted from any travel route to the “top destinations” of the country. In the village Santa Elena you will find numerous smaller hotels, restaurants and “Sodas” as well as a bank and the offices of the park administrations.
Since no more than 150 visitors are allowed in the protected area at the same time and tickets are not sold in advance, one should be on the spot during the high season before the opening (7.00 a.m.) in order to be sure to be admitted.
Three protected areas are located in the Monteverde region: the “Reserva Monteverde” (4000 ha), the “Reserva Santa Elena” (310 ha) and the children’s rainforest of the “Bosque Eterno de Los Niños” on the eastern edge of the Arenal-Monteverde zone.
The Monteverde Reserve is by far the largest, but also the most visited. A large part of its system of 9 trails with a total length of 13 km is reinforced by concrete or wooden planks and is therefore easy to walk on, although at the cost of a less authentic natural experience compared to the unpaved trails of the Reserva Santa Elena. (4 paths of 12 km total length). The biodiversity of the protected areas is spread over four life zones with an altitude of 1200 meters ( between 1440 and 2600 meters). More than 400 species of birds have been recorded, including the quetzal (from January to June), the bellbird and the moorguan, 120 amphibian and reptile species, 490 butterfly species and 100 mammal species. The latter include 60 bat species alone, the endangered cats ocelot and jaguar as well as the rare tapir. The chances of seeing two-toe and three-toe sloth or howler monkeys are much better. Among the 3000 plant species there are not only hardwood tree giants but also countless mosses and ferns, bromeliads and orchids. Most of the represented orchid species bloom in March. Trees in the higher regions, which are exposed to constant north winds from the Atlantic Ocean, form the so-called elfin forests, whose moss-covered and epiphytic trees all seem to grow in one direction.