February 12, 2010

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Costa Rica

Monteverde Costa Rica is one of this country’s most popular tourist destinations in part, because of the incredible biodiversity contained within its amazing wildlife refuges.

Monteverde, which means “Green Mountain” is one of the most verdant of places in Costa Rica and draws many thousands of tourists each year. This is a destination that should not be missed by visiting nature lovers and bird watchers.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Many Costa Rica tourists ask “What is a cloud forest?”

Unlike a typical tropical rainforest, cloud forests are generally found at higher elevations. Cloud forests are usually more humid because often the forest canopy is shrouded in low lying clouds or fog (hence the nickname “fog forest“).

Although cloud forests receive much less rain, the humidity and low light penetration causes the forest floor and low lying tree trucks to be covered in dense undergrowth such as moss and ferns, prompting some people to also call them “mossy forests“. In fact, Monteverde Cloud Forest boasts over 3,000 species of plant life including over 500 different types of orchids and 400 types of mosses.

Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is very extensive and the variance in elevation has created four ecological zones that are quite distinct from each other.

Tourists to Monteverde Cloud Forest are often treated to rare wildlife and bird sightings like the Resplendent Quetzal, the exceptional Bellbird, the Emerald Toucanet and about thirty different types of hummingbirds. The types of Monteverde animals found here are remarkable and include approximately 130 species of amphibians and over 120 different types of mammals such as the Jaguar, Tapir and Ocelot.

Monteverde Co-operative

Tourists who wish to take a piece of the cloud forest home with them should visit the Casem, which is part of the Monteverde cooperative and includes a store, workshop and gallery. The non-profit Casem cooperative provides training and employment to the women in the area who excel at various types of arts and crafts.

The main subjects of their artistic endeavors are the fauna and flora of the cloud forest such as souvenirs that are hand embroidered or even hand painted, portraying golden toads, quetzals and other plant and wildlife. Casem is an independent Monteverde cooperative. Funds raised through the sale of these local handicrafts help improve the livelihood of the women who make them. Tourists can purchase a wide variety of crafts including ceramics, jewelry, toys and wood carvings.

Monteverde Cheese Factory

Another famous and fascinating stop enjoyed by visiting tourists is the Monteverde Cheese Factory, which produces over 3400 lbs of cheese a day! For nearly 60 years the Monteverde Cheese Factory has produced an array of different kinds of cheeses plus other delicious products like cured meat and dairy products. There are some seventeen varieties of cheese that are produced at the local factory in Monteverde Costa Rica including Gouda, Provolone, Parmesan and a cheese smoked with local coffee.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Hummingbird Gallery

The Hummingbird Gallery is a rather unusual gallery located immediately preceding the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde Costa Rica. The Hummingbird Gallery holds a wealth of well documented photographs of the 51 different species of hummingbirds to be found in Costa Rica. The documentation also extends to Costa Rica’s fauna and flora.

The works were created by Patricia and Michel Fogden who painstakingly recorded all the living details of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery is also a souvenir shop where the beauty of Costa Rican textiles and t-shirts are tourist favorites.

The bird feeders set up outside the gallery is the meeting place for many of the varieties of hummingbirds to be found in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve including Costa Rica’s largest hummingbird, the Sabrewing.

Other Monteverde Costa Rica Reserves

When visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest region there are other nearby places of interest to explore.

Reserva Sendero Tranquilo is a haven for wildlife that roams freely on the 200 acres in this private reserve. Reserva Sendero Tranquilo offers visitors excellent guided tours that can take up to four hours at a time and are conducted by bilingual naturalist guides.

Santa Elena Forest Reserve is a 765 acre forest reserve that is even cloudier and more humid than the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Situated at a higher elevation than the Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena Forest Reserve is less travelled but well worth the visit. It can be experienced via the 10km of hiking trails.

Selvatura (with over 700 acres) is another area that is protected and offers tourists plenty to do including canopy tours, bird watching, nature walks through the rich cloud forests and beautiful gardens with butterflies and hummingbirds. Costa Rica is home to more than 1300 different types of butterflies!

All Inclusive Monteverde Tours

Monteverde Costa Rica and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are included as part of Caravan Tours’ fully escorted, all inclusive Costa Rica Tours. These are very affordable, all inclusive 10-day tours exceptionally priced, starting at just $995.

Visit Caravan’s Costa Rica Tours Reviews page to read what others have said about Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Caravan’s fully escorted Costa Rica tours.

Previous post: Costa Rica Wetland Reserves

Next post: Braulio Carrillo Park