December 15, 2009

Cloud Forests of Costa Rica

What are cloud forests?

Cloud forests (aka “fog” forests) are similar to rainforests except that they have high humidity and less rain. Cloud forests can be found in nearly four dozen countries around the globe that have either tropical or sub-tropical climate conditions.

Cloud forests exist where forested mountain areas with high humidity are persistently shrouded in low lying clouds (usually at the forest canopy level). This is usually caused when warm moist winds push up against mountain terrain. As the air rises and cools the cool air can’t hold as much moisture and clouds or mists are formed by the excess humidity.

Costa Rica cloud forests can be found in a number of locations throughout this small country. These cloud forest regions have the right combination of geography and weather and many are designated as national parks.

Places like Braullio Carrillo National Park, Irazu’ Volcano National Park, J. Castro Blanco National Park and Monteverde Biological Reserve all display the unique characteristics of cloud forests and are major tourist attractions.

Escallonia Cloud Forest Trail

Escallonia Cloud Forest Trail near Costa Rica’s Poas Volcano National Park is another favourite tourist destination primarily because of the Costa Rica cloud forest.

There is an abundance of small cypress and myrtle growth plus orchids, tropical ferns and Escallonia plants that give the Escallonia Cloud Forest trail its name.

Escallonia Plants

The escallonia that dominates many of the Costa Rica’s cloud forest sites includes more than three dozen varieties of small evergreen trees, ferns and shrubs. This type of plant is native to South American but obviously does well in many other tropical and subtropical locations like Costa Rica.

Escallonia plants flower at various times throughout the year, with primary colors appearing in summer and autumn. This makes a cloud forest trail hike a perfect escape for visitors wanting to get away from winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

Biological Curiosities

Cloud forests stand apart as a biological curiosity because they differ slightly from many other rainforests, especially those in lowlands of tropical countries.

Biologists have found that some of the species in certain cloud forests are found only in that one place. This is reason enough for many travellers to include an Escallonia Cloud Forest hike on their vacation itinerary.

But even the cloud forests of Costa Rica are changing, as world temperatures affect plant growth. New animal and plant species move to higher elevations as well, changing the biological map of the forests.

Cloud forests are, as mentioned earlier, a unique combination of factors that come together perfectly in the mountains of Costa Rica. With the right humidity levels and elevation, the thick green forest vegetation becomes shrouded with added beauty and mystery when engulfed with low level clouds and fog that move in and stay, depending on strength and direction of the winds.

Costa Rica All Inclusive Tours

The Escallonia Cloud Forest Trail is included as part of Caravan Tours’ All Inclusive Costa Rica Tours. Caravan’s fully escorted 10-day tours are affordably priced, starting at just $995. Visit Caravan’s Costa Rica Tour Reviews page to read what others have said about Caravan’s all inclusive tour of Costa Rica.

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