Monteverde/ Cloud Forest
Adventure travel, cascading waterfalls, sweeping Gulf of Nicoya views and wildflower-dotted fields await travelers to Monteverde’s quiet mountain slopes. Encompassing the small towns of Santa Elena, Cerro Plano and the Quaker-settled Monteverde, the region also offers fine dining options, nightlife and modern amenities.
Nestled in the Tilaran Mountain Range, this naturally rich and biodiversity area is one of Costa Rica’s must-see spots – visitors should plan to spend at least three days exploring its sights. The region is a unique paradise of lush landscapes and epiphyte-drenched cloud forests. Instead of government-owned national parks, Monteverde is home to several private forests and wildlife reserves, including the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Together, the private cloud forest reserves are home to more than 130 species of mammals, 400 species of birds including 30 species of hummingbirds, 5000 species of moths and 3000 species of plants. Forest trees drip with mosses, vines, ferns and more than 450 orchid species, of which 88% grow exclusively in trees.
A nature lover’s paradise, Monteverde invites its visitors to horseback ride through beautiful countryside, caffeinate on a coffee tour, explore the treetop canopy along hanging bridges, get to know Costa Rica’s snake, insect and frog species, or simply walk through some of the most verdant forests in the world. To end each day, glorious evening sunsets paint the sky in brilliant orange hues, and the sun’s last rays reflect beautifully off the Pacific Ocean.
Originally called “El Espinero” by the Corobici Indians, the Monteverde region was first settled by Costa Ricans in the early 1900’s. By the 1920’s, the Santa Elena settlers had begun cultivating coffee, which, in addition to the dairy industry, remains a major source of income for the region’s residents.
In the early 1950’s, nine Quaker families from the United States arrived in the area. Attracted by the country’s recently-disbanded army, the settlers named their town Monteverde, meaning “Green Mountain.” With them, the Quakers brought a sense of community, a culture of peace and a work philosophy that spurred the beginning of the region’s now flourishing dairy industry. In 1953, they founded the Cheese Factory, which further fueled area growth.
The Quaker families had purchased 3,460 acres, and decided to reserve one-third of their land to protect the watershed above their new settlement. Over time, the private reserve grew to more than 25,000 acres, of which 90% is primary forest. Today, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a valuable addition to the Arenal–Monteverde Protected Zone.
In 1972 the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve was established as the second protected area in the region, and in 1977 the first hotel was built. Since that time, more than 40 privately protected reserves have been established and some 220,000 tourists visit the area every year. Unsurprisingly, tourism is the number one industry in Monteverde today.