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. We spent a whole day wandering through the trees, exploring a unique corner of Costa Rica. We did a self guided hike so if you’re planning on doing the same, then this post will help plan for your day in the cloud forest.
*This post has been updated March 2020.*
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Map
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 as they stopped letting people park directly at the reserve’s entrance. 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 and you will have to turn around. It is prohibited to park on the side of the road.
There is a shuttle bus you can book in advance to go to the reserve.
- Santa Elena downtown to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: 7 AM, 8 AM, 1030 AM and 130 PM. Costs $3 USD one way.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve to Santa Elena downtown: 11 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM. Costs $3 USD one way.
- Roundtrip costs $5 USD per person. 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.
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.
Here is a 360 video of our day at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Move your mouse around in the video!
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.
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 70’s and the occasional spring shower. Stroll through the forest and even without a guide, you’ll discover why it’s so special.
Over 400 birds, 120 amphibians and reptiles and over 3000 plants are found in the Reserve! No wonder Monteverde Cloud Forest has been named one of the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica.
Tips for Visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- There is a cafeteria and bathrooms at the entrance, no bathrooms in the reserve.
- 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. We went in March and it was very sunny, no rain. Sunscreen is still necessary.
- If you are going in rainy season, I recommend getting there as early as possible for least chances of rain and bring rain gear (rain jacket, waterproof backpack, hiking shoes). For the rainiest months of Sept-November and don’t want to walk in the rain, I would keep your schedule flexible in case the day you want to go pours rain (which is very common during that time). Read our rainy season packing list.
- Stay on the trail and do not feed the wildlife.
- It’s hard to see birds with your naked eye in this reserve since the canopy is dense but if you want to see wildlife, I recommend going with a guide who will have telescopes/binoculars.
- Mosquito repellent is not necessary but there are a lot of little gnats at the viewpoint on Sendero la Ventana.
- If you plan to visit all 3 cloud reserves, purchase the tickets together to receive a small discount.
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!
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