Travel in Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest, located in the northern highlands of Costa Rica, known for its unique ecosystem and high biodiversity, is truly a nature lover’s paradise. ❤

DSC_3488A cloud forest is a humid and tropical woodland, found at high altitudes, which makes for cool climates and a consistently low-hanging fog. Just stunning! 😀DSC_3567This tropical montane forest is one of the few places on earth where the clouds and the earth intertwine, creating a distinctive environment for both exotic plants and animals.

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female orange-bellied trogon

In fact, there is an abundance of endemic species that can only be found in Monteverde. 😮

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unusual plant in Monteverde

Now as a home base for visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, most tourists stay in the small, mountain town of Santa Elena.

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local homes in Santa Elena

Santa Elena is incredibly touristic and family-friendly. It sort of reminds me of the cheesy Wisconsin Dells atmosphere, which I actually loved! I mean, after visiting so many party spots in Central America, as a non-party person, I was really embracing this kiddish vibe. For example, Santa Elena has a frog pond, snake exhibit, and butterfly garden, among other educational attractions. ❤

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Santa Elena frog exhibit

There are also many organic shops, cozy bakeries, and eco-friendly hotels.

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hotel in Santa Elena
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craft beer house in Santa Elena
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local art and souvenir shop in Santa Elena

One of my favorite stops was the Monteverde Coffee Center, which had a deliciously sweet, honey-press coffee, made by drying the beans with their fruit skin on.

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Monteverde Coffee Center

Anyway, to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, I took the local bus from Santa Elena, which took 15 minutes and cost 1.50 USD. I thought the facilities at the reserve were excellent, with a newly-built reception house, gift shop, cafeteria, and cafe.

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Monteverde reception
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Monteverde cafeteria and gift shop

Entrance to the park costs 20 USD for adults, but only 10 USD with a student i.d. 😉

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Monteverde trail map and ticket

Now before even entering the park, I had the delight of spotting over 6 resplendent quetzal birds, a toucanet, as well as, a large group of fluttering hummingbirds. Monteverde has the largest concentration of orchids on earth, which makes it the perfect nesting spot for these hummingbirds.

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green hummingbird
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purple/blue hummingbird
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toucanet

The quetzal birds may have been the highlight of this trip though, as they were absolutely stunning, with their iridescent green wings and bright red belly.

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Apologies for the fuzzy picture, but it was difficult to shoot these guys, as they were high up in the trees, right in the direct sunlight and covered in a foggy haze. They also kept hopping branches every 30 seconds! Hah!

The quetzals are frugivores, and I think I was lucky to spot so many, since this month is the fig and avocado fruiting season. DSC_3515As well, this time of year, they are mating, so I was able to spot both bright males and dull females.

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I felt like a quetzal paparazzi trying to shoot pictures from every angle! 😛

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so many bird booties! 😛

Anyway, after finally entering the park, I began a 15-kilometer hiking route, suggested by the staff, which led me on a path through the cloud forest, over a suspension bridge, and ending at a rushing waterfall. DSC_3523Here are a few pictures from the 3-hour trek. 🙂G1377268_1496261562917_high

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family of coatis

DSC_3570DSC_3580DSC_3599IMG_20170531_143219_191IMG_20170531_143711_542DSC_3544DSC_3549DSC_3588DSC_3553DSC_3605At the end, this Chatty Cathy kept me entertained for quite some time. 🙂DSC_3543

As well, the wildlife sightings didn’t stop once I left the reserve. Since these animals obviously aren’t contained, they can be found outside the reserve as well. One recommendation by a local was to walk back from Monteverde to the town of Santa Elena, where it’s easy to spot wildlife along the way.

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walking from Monteverde to Santa Elena
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bright orange butterfly
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bananaquit bird
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blue-grey tanager
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flycatcher

In fact, the guided night tour of Monteverde starts on this very same road.

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bat crossing sign on the way from Monteverde to Santa Elena

As a side note, these night tours range from 25-35 USD. As well, Monteverde can also be toured with a guide for an additional 17 USD pp; however, I was pretty content with everything I found on my self-guided hide. 😀

http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/
Accommodation: I stayed at Sleepers Sleep Cheaper Hostel. The name says it all right there! Hah! The beds were decent, for only 10 USD/night, which included a breakfast of eggs, cereal, and fruit as well.

Getting there: To get from San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua to Monteverde, Costa Rica, I took local transport. I first took a 5 a.m. bus to La Libertad, then caught the bus to the border, or La Frontera. I arrived at 6 a.m., when they opened, and after paying a 2 USD exit fee, I walked across the border to Costa Rica, where I caught a bus to La Irma. My fourth and final bus was to Monteverde. Total travel time was 8.5 hours, but the total cost was only 11 USD!

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bus stop at La Irma

Side note: Most shuttle services only offer transport from San Juan Del Sur to Liberia or San Jose, plus it costs a whopping 50-75 USD! Since I’m on a budget, I didn’t mind taking extra time on these local buses, as it saved me a small fortune! 😀

Anyway, not only was I able to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest trails, I was able to get a bird’s-eye view on an exhilarating canopy tour. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then! 😀

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