Monteverde, Costa Rica is an area in the Puntarenas region, located in the Tilaron Cordillera in the north of the country. It is one of the country’s main eco-tourism destinations.
A popular vote in Costa Rica has elected The Monteverde Cloud Forest as one of the country’s 7 natural wonders, including Isla del Coco, Arenal volcano, Cerro Chirrip, Rio Celeste, Tortuguero, and Poás volcano.
The first reserve created here in 1972 and attracting a considerable number of tourists and naturalists is the “Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve”. Since then, several other parks have been opened in the forest and offer activities such as trails with footbridges in the canopy (the upper floor of the forest directly influenced by solar radiation), zip lines, night walks to discover the wild life…
A cloud forest, as the name suggests, is a forest where cloud cover is constant with a humidity level of about 100% throughout the year.
In Monteverde, the forest is located at 1400 meters above sea level. The weather is foggy, humid and windy with an average annual temperature of 18˚ C. Annual rainfall averages 3,000 millimetres and humidity ranges from 74% to 97%.
Despite (or thanks to) these conditions, the place is beautiful! Just be well equipped with wind-cut rain clothes and good shoes.
On the road to Monteverde, we still have doubts about the usefulness of our rain gear. The weather is so beautiful and so hot!
Our drop-off point, San Elena
For our weekend, we chose a hostel in San Elena, the largest village in the area.
The price of the night was $27 for the room, to which we added $5 per person for breakfast. Dormitories are of course cheaper. There was a shared kitchen available, and a shop next door. Practical if you want to avoid meal expenses.
Otherwise San-Elena is a very touristy village, and you can find affordable restaurants.
Good surprises when we arrive at our hostel. First of all, we can check in our room in advance, but also and most importantly, our host presents us a map with all the activities and parks in the surrounding area and we can arrange and book our weekend with him.
Small info on the different parks
The “Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve” is managed by U.S. funds. This implies a lot of money invested in marketing and advertising, hence its fame. The other parks, run by locals, have less means to promote themselves. They take advantage of the fame of the large park which attracts tourists, but must call on local tour operators to win customers. Our host tells us about all this and the local economy and recommends them to us. He is so enthusiastic and passionate that we follow his advice.
Our plan for the weekend
- Saturday afternoon: Selvatura Park with its walk on 8 bridges – Hummingbirds Garden in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
- Saturday 6:30 p.m.: night walk to admire the wildlife
- Sunday 10:30 a.m.: 100% AVENTURA. THE amusement park with its 9 zip lines, 2 “superman” ziplines and its famous Tarzan swing as its main attractions.
Small recommendation on the organization of your weekend
There are buses that serve the various tourist places from San Elena. They are free or paid depending on the location you want to go. For example, the return trip to the Monteverde reserve costs $3.50. I think it’s worth it, given the state of the roads. As soon as you leave the centre of the village, the roads turn back into tracks and there is a lot of traffic.
Monteverde SELVATURA park
It’s time for us to leave for Selvatura Park. A shuttle picks us up at the hotel and we’re off.
In the span of a few kilometers, we go from a great sun to cold and rainy weather. It’s unbelievable! But that’s what makes the charm of the place.
We start with the hummingbirds garden which is extraordinary.
Hummingbirds are in the wild, but come to take advantage of the feeders installed for them. So there is a back-and-forth of non-fierce birds that land on our hands to be able to eat quietly. One of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had! I could have stayed here for hours.
But the walk in the forest awaits us. And what better way to tell you about it than pictures!
We do the walk without haste, the scenery is beautiful and as there are not too many people we can take our time on the catwalks. The vegetation is really different from the one we have at the seaside, where the dry season burns everything. Here it’s raining 😊
It took us two hours to go around.
Our night walk
We are back at the hostel around 6:00 p.m., and after warming up around a snack and putting on an extra sweater, we are ready for the 6:30 p.m. night walk.
We are in the coldest month of the year here. Bad luck.
Again a little shuttle ride, and we’re ready for the start of the walk.
Surprise! We must sign a paper that states that in case of injury, bite or poor physical condition we are responsible. And the guide to reassure us tells us that in case of venomous snake bites, we have 4 hours to get to the hospital. But that the closest hospital is at seven-hour drive away. I still don’t know if it was a joke…
We are provided with a flashlight and our small group of 8 goes on to discover wildlife in the forest. I want to reassure you that there is nothing difficult. There’s no risk. We follow our guide religiously, who gives us instructions to turn off our lamps as soon as an animal is in sight.
Our discoveries 😊
And so we walk for two hours in the forest in search of animals. Without a guide, it’s impossible to see them. Even when he saw one and pointed it at us with his lamp, the animal was hard to spot. We saw tarantulas, sleeping birds lulled by the wind clinging to their branches, a green viper about a metre long, a scorpion and…
Black scorpions are fluorescent when illuminated with ultraviolet light. No one knows the reason for this particularity. Maybe to attract some prey, but this has not been proven.
… a sloth eating. Exceptional! It’s quite rare, knowing that the sloth only moves a few hours a day.
Some info on the sloth
There are two large families. A nocturnal who has two fingers to its front paws and a diurnal who has three. In Monteverde, only the nocturnal species is present. And the sloth is vulnerable when he’s on the ground. Thus, he only comes down from his tree once a week to do his needs.
The ficus, also known as the “strangler tree” grows in the canopy. The peculiarity of this tree is that it grows from the top to the bottom by wrapping its roots around an existing tree. The wrapped tree dies and disintegrates which gives the ficus its particular empty shape. To take the picture, our guide lit the ficus from the inside with his torch.
Rain under the stars
Another peculiarity of the region. It rained throughout the walk, but the sky was starry. When we asked our guide how this was possible, he said, “Welcome to Monteverde!”
Climbing inside a ficus
There’s a ficus in Monteverde that you can climb. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time, but if you have a few hours off in San-Elena, it looks like it’s worth it. The tree measures about twenty meters high and the interweaving of its roots makes like a net that can be climbed easily. Besides, if someone did it, leave me a comment and details!
100% Aventura Adventure Park
On Sunday, after a breakfast with pancakes served by our host, we leave for the adventure park.
The goal is to visit the forest through a route of 9 traditional zip lines, enjoy a stunning view of the valley thanks to two “superman” zip lines including one of the longest in Latin America with its 1.5 km, cross a rope bridge, do a small abseiling following by a buggy ride, and the highlight of the ride, throw yourself clinging to a swing suspended 40 meters from the ground. Another way of discovering the forest with this 3-hour visit in the canopy.
The superman and the Tarzan swing
The “superman” is a zip line on which one is hung by the back and crosses the valley like… Superman. And when I say that we cross the valley, it is not a metaphor. It’s for real. And it’s amazing! I don’t know how high we are, but the trees have the shape of broccoli for me… Ok! Maybe I’m a little impressionable! But it was very beautiful.
And finally, Tarzan’s famous swing. Be aware that if you don’t like this last attraction, less than 40% of visitors do it. And as it is at the end of the route, instead of going left to take the bridge suspended in the void, to join the two guys who tie you up and open the gate and tell you to jump, and find yourself making a 40 meters jump… , you turn right 😀 For amateurs, the jump is nice. The first few seconds seem to last for hours, but after that, it’s a huge swing! I loved it.
I couldn’t take any pictures or videos of my exploits. It is not possible to take a bag or have access to our pockets because of the harness. Here is a link to the site of 100% Aventura. There is even a video of the jump, even if it’s not me!
After recovering from my jump, and teaching the staff how to say “shake” in French, I’m back at the hotel.
And it’s the end of the weekend…
It’s time to get back home. We stop to admire the scenery and take some pictures, but the wind is so strong that we have trouble standing upright. One last look and our weekend is coming to an end.