Established in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has largely been considered as one of Costa Rica’s most treasured places. This 4,000 hectare (9884 acre) private reserve protects a very delicate and sadly diminishing ecosystem: the tropical cloud forests. The original settlers, a group of Quakers recognized the vulnerability of the cloud forests and set out to protect Monteverde by creating the reserve.
Currently, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is run by a non-profit group and now tourists from all over the world visit this particular part of Costa Rica to learn about the precious cloud forests. Tourists can hike the reserve or take a guided tour to experience the beauty of a forest up in the clouds and appreciate its importance in the world.
Of the three cloud forest reserves, Monteverde is arguably the most popular and is absolutely worth visiting. In this post, we will help you plan your visit.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is about 6 kilometers (3.5 miles) from downtown Santa Elena, a 15 minute drive.
From Santa Elena, go east towards Hotel El Establo and to Cerro Plano. A little past the Establo Hotel, the road will turn into gravel (where the benches are by the side of the road).
From there, continue on this road for a kilometer or so and you will stay on the road to the left (where it then branches off to San Luis to the right).
There is now a dedicated parking lot for Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You must park here and you can’t miss it – you’ll see a huge blue sign on your right that says “Official Parking Lot Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve” across from Selina Monteverde to your left. You park there and there will be a shuttle that takes you to the entrance of the reserve and will pick you up to take you back to your car.
It costs $5 USD roundtrip per person to park and for the shuttle from this official parking lot to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
If you drive all the way to the reserve entrance, it is blocked off. The guard told us to turn around and go to the parking lot. For our second visit in February 2021, the guard did let us park on the street outside the parking lot but they did advise they are not responsible for anything that may happen.
There is a shuttle bus you can book in advance to go to the reserve.
- Santa Elena downtown to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: 615 AM, 730 AM, 930 AM, 120 PM and 3 PM. Costs $3 USD one way.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve to Santa Elena downtown: 640AM, 830 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM. Costs $3 USD one way.
- Reserve in advance at Monteverde Info Center.
This is the cheaper option for the public bus.
- Santa Elena downtown to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve: 6:15 AM, 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM (high season), 1:20 PM and 3 PM.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve to Santa Elena downtown: 6 AM, 830 AM (high season), 2 PM and 4 PM.
- Costs 700 Costa Rican colones per way.
Hours and Entrance Fee
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve entrance fee for foreigners is $25 USD per person and $12 USD per child from 6 to 12 years. They take cash (USD and colones) and credit card.
The reserve is open everyday from 7 AM to 4 PM.
You can pick up a map at the entrance office.
When we visited in February 2021, they didn’t give us a map as we did a guided walk. You may need to ask for them.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Trails
We hiked most of the reserve. The route we took as first to Sendero Nubloso to the viewpoint at la Ventana, then back to Camino, Puente to the bridge, Wilford Guindon, Tosi and Cuecha to the waterfall and back to the office. It took us about 3-4 hours total including stopping for photos and we walked roughly 5 kilometers total.
Sendero Nubloso (1125 m)
We took this trail to go to the viewpoint of the Continental divide. The trails are very well maintained and outlined and signage is excellent so it’s easy to find your way around.
This trail takes you to the viewpoint of the Continental divide where you can see the Pacific and Caribbean. Sendero Nubloso turns into sendero la Ventana which is 305 meters.
The views at Sendero la Ventana are incredible. You can peek over to the side of the trail and look over the entire cloud forest reserve!
This is a view of the Caribbean side overlooking the forests.
This is a view towards the Pacific side.
You have to walk back to the start of Sendero La Ventana and turn to Sendero Camino unless you want to go back through Sendero Nubloso.
Sendero Camino and Roble
We walked on Sendero Camino for about a 300 meters before turning onto Sendero Roble to go to the bridge. We stayed on Roble for about 100 meters and then turned onto Sendero Puente, crossed the bridge and continued onto Sendero Wilford Guindon.
Along the way, we ran into a couple of coatis!
When you turn onto Roble, there are a lot of steps and it gets a bit steep.
You’ll come upon a short hanging bridge, a nice spot to rest and look around.
The bridge is not super long or high up so if you’re scared of heights, it is not too bad. The view is really nice and it can only hold up to 10 people. Don’t run or jump on the bridge.
After the bridge, continue onto the Wilford Guindon trail. We chose this trail since it’s a bit faster going this way to the waterfall.
Sendero Wilford 970 meters, Sendero Tosi 660 meters
The trail from the bridge evens out in elevation and don’t forget to stop at the huge ficus tree! It’s not the one you can climb in (that’s in Santa Elena) but it’s still pretty big.
If you go with a guide, they’ll be able to tell you the various plants and flowers in the forest, including these huge trees. They say that on one tree alone you can find nearly a hundred different plants living on it!
Sendero Cuecha and the waterfall
And finally, you reach the waterfall after turning onto Sendero Cuecha for half a kilometer.
To get back to the parking lot, walk all the way back on Sendero Cuecha (987 meters).
We didn’t see a ton of wildlife since we went by ourselves. We heard a lot of birds, saw a few hummingbirds and ran into a couple coatis.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Guided Vs Non Guided Walk
You can do either a guided or non guided walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We have done both and I recommend a guided walk for anyone who wants to learn more about the cloud forest.
When it comes to wildlife, the forest is crazy dense so it’s harder to see wildlife here. However, it is worth having a guide to learn about the unique cloud forest ecosystem. If you love trees, orchids, flowers, moss and that kind of nature, definitely book a guided walk. You will not walk all of the reserve on the guided walk, only 1-2 trails.
On a non-guided walk, like what we did, we were able to walk a lot more of the reserve all the way to the viewpoints, waterfalls and other points of interest. We didn’t really learn anything about the cloud forest but it was a very good hike so we recommend a non-guided self walk through Monteverde if you just want to hike.
We made a video of our guided walk through Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which you can watch below.
If you love nature and the outdoors, then Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the perfect place for you. The weather is very comfortable in dry season (December – May) with temperatures in the high 70s F (25 C) and the occasional spring shower. Stroll through the forest and even without a guide, you’ll discover why it’s so special.
Tips for Visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- There is a cafeteria and bathrooms at the entrance. Nno bathrooms inside the actual reserve on the trails.
- Bring lots of water. They sell food in the cafeteria and there is also a restaurant near the parking lot that has a hummingbird garden.
- We wore long light hiking pants, Yeison wore his closed toed hiking shoes, I wore KEEN hiking sandals and we both wore Columbia hiking shirts.
- Bring a rainjacket, no matter what time of year you visit as this area tends to rain more.
- Stay on the trail and do not feed the wildlife.
- Mosquito repellent is not necessary but there are a lot of little gnats.
- If you plan to visit all 3 cloud reserves, purchase the tickets together to receive a small discount.
- The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a great place to hike for all visitors, you don’t have to be in super awesome shape to walk. There isn’t a handicap trail however.
Other Cloud Forest Reserves in Monteverde
Since there are 3 cloud forest reserves in Monteverde, you may be confused as to which one to visit. Click here to read our guide comparing Monteverde, Santa Elena and Children’s Eternal Rain Forest or our guide to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (great if you don’t want to be around a lot of people).
Read about other hikes in Costa Rica!
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Children’s Eternal Rain Forest in Monteverde
There are affiliate links in this post.
Do you recommend a closed toe sandal such as KEENS, a goretex running trail tennis shoe or a hiking boot style shoe for visiting Monteverde in April? Which would you recommend as a first choice?
Is a sweatshirt/hoodie and a raincoat to wear over a good option for Monteverde?
Thank you!! ☀️
Trail running shoes are fine for Monteverde, I would not take a closed toed sandal like KEEN since depending on which reserve you’re going to, it can rain and be a bit chilly. You will need warmer clothes in Monteverde
We will be in Monteverde for 2 days. We want to go to AT LEAST ONE of the cloud forests, we want to walk on the hanging bridges and we definitely want to to the zip lines. Our kids are ages 10 and 13. What do you recommend so that we can do and see the most while visiting for two days?
Which area has the most zip lines/best zip lines?
Thank you!! ☀️
I would visit Selvatura Park or Sky Adventures Monteverde
Do you recommend a guided day tour or guided night tour? Which is your personal recommendation and favorite? Thanks!
Yes, you can read about it in our post Monteverde night walk
Hello and thank you for your informative blog.
I know you said that they can take cash at the entrance, but do you know if the entrance requires a reservation? Thanks!
No, you can purchase tickets directly at the ticket office the day you visit
Love your blog and it’s been so useful when planning my trip for early December! So I was thinking of doing the Cloud Forest Bio Reserve in the morning and books the Selvatura Gold pack (zipline and bridge) for 1 pm. Do you recommend it or do you think it’s too much?
That is fine, just go early to the reserve so you have plenty of time in the reserve
Nicole and Max says
Hi, I see on this info page in the video your guide was from ThreeBrothers Tours. Would you recommend them for a Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Tour or should we go through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve? Thanks in advance for your opinion.
Both are great so whichever works for you, the Three Brothers are our personal favorite guides in the area
Dashing Eric says
Hi Is it safe to leave your luggage and belongings in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve parking lot while in the park ?
We never really recommend it, but you can park in the official parking lot of Monteverde, take the bus up to the entrance and the official parking lot does have a guard there. Try to make sure that all your belongings are as hidden as possible and don’t leave any valuables in the car while you’re in the park just to be safer.
Laura R says
We are planning a trip mid-June 2021. We will have a rental car and plan to drive to the reserve. Any thoughts on availability of guides at the park this June? And are these guides as good as the advertised $65/person tours that can be booked online?
You can book a guide on the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve’s website, I recommend to do this to secure your guide since they have limited availability.
Brian Welte says
My Friends at MyTanFeet — in this article you mention “If you plan to visit all 3 cloud reserves, purchase the tickets together to receive a small discount.” Where can I buy the three tickets together, and how much does it save?
Also, if I purchase tickets for all three cloud reserves, is it just the tickets, or can you also include guided tours?
They told us that it is when you purchase tickets at the office or the Santa Elena info center, I’m not sure how much the discount is nowadays though. It is only entrance tickets. Guided tours are a different price and no discount for tours.
I was wondering if there was parking for your vehicle at these cloud forest reserves? Thanks!
Hi Cory, yes there are parking lots.
Hi Karen, Monteverde is pretty rainy during October and November but if you can get there early, that’ll be better. The road to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is not paved and does have some pot holes, but you can definitely go on your own with a 4wd. You can read more about the Monteverde road conditions.
Karen Turner says
Thanks so much for your helpful articles! We are staying in Playa Hermosa this week and want to do a day trip to Monverde cloud forest (planning to leave around 5 AM ). The hiking that you described sounds amazing! We have our own vehicle with 4wd.
Our question is, how is the road getting into the park? Since it is rainy season we aren’t sure if it is something we can do on our own, but hope that it is!
Jeremy Ross Mann says
Quick question. Would it be possible to uber from a hotel in the town section of Monteverde to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve? If not, are there taxi’s or buses that go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest? I’d appreciate some insight. Thanks!
Hi Jeremy, there aren’t any Ubers in Monteverde but you can find lots of taxis. There is also a public shuttle from Monteverde Info Center to the Monteverde preserve. The hours are 615 AM, 730 AM, 930 AM (high season only), 1:20 PM and 3 PM. The return is at 6 AM, 8:30 AM (high season only), 11 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM. Just make sure to reconfirm at the center as these were the hours we got when we last visited last year.
We are planning to spend some time hiking around the cloud forest, but it looks like with our other plans we will only have threeish hours before it closes at 4. Do you know if we have to be out by four or if it is just that the office closes at 4.
Hi Patrianna! Generally they stop selling tickets around 3 PM and you need to be in the park before then and they will ask you to leave by 5 PM as it starts getting dark at that time.
Hi Andrea! I do remember being able to hire a guide on site when we arrived at the office to pay for our ticket, however if you are visiting during high season like now through April (Particularly March and April), I recommend hiring a guide from a tour company in advance so you are guaranteed a guide. It gets super busy during those months
We would like to do a guided nature wak at the reserve and we are finding it difficult to find how to do this. Do you know if we can hire a guide on site?
Thanks for the great info on your site!
Kelli Smith says
This site is great & full of information! I need some help with transportation. The internet is just about 50/50 on rent a car/don’t rent a car. We are planning to visit multiple locations. If we do not rent a car and take the shared shuttles from San Jose to Arenal to Monteverde to Manuel Antonio back to San Jose, how do we get to the activates in each location? Once we arrive in La Fortuna, how do we get to the volcano area to hike or when we get to Monteverde, how would we get to the reserve? Any insight is very appreciated! I would like to rent a car but I am horribly directionally challenged and my friend is the absolute side seat driver I have ever encountered 🙂 I am afraid we will spend all our time lost or spend just as much money on taxis and shuttles.
Hi Kelli! I totally understand your concern. So if you don’t rent a car, most of the tours include transportation and this is very true for La Fortuna. They will pick you up at your hotel/hostel and drop you off there and pretty much all the tour companies offer transportation. We recommend booking tours this way in La Fortuna since you will also get a guide and whatever meals included whereas if you take taxis everywhere, the price really adds up to pretty much the same and all without the guide and extra food/meals.
In Monteverde, there are buses that go from Santa Elena to the cloud forest every day (the schedule is in the post) so you can do that on your own. Or you can also book tours with a tour company that includes transportation if you want a guide but it’s not necessary to have one for the cloud forest reserve. If you go to the adventure parks like Selvatura or 100% Aventura, they include transportation in their tours as long as it’s from a hotel/hostel. I hope that answers your questions!
Agness of aTukTuk says
I would love to visit this wonder. Very educational and helpful tips, Sammi!