Cloud Forest Diary
Absence of real rain, even with a moist and swampy feeling can only be observed in a cloud forest. While rain forests are common, cloud forests are not simply because of the requirement of a certain altitude and formation of clouds through rainshadow regions. There are a few privately owned and maintained parks in Monteverde, that encapsulates the extreme biodiversity along with the geographical intricacies.
The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are two prime parks in the area where you can experience the diverse species of animals and vegetation. We explored the two parks starting early morning when the opportunity to see some of the more elusive animals are more. Most efficient and effective way of seeing the parks are with guides simply because of their experience of spotting camouflaged animals. In most cases, the trails are well maintained and directed.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Address: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve 55-5655, Costa Rica
This is one of the oldest reserves and has quite a few trails around the park. Without guide but with a slow walking pace keeping eyes and ears open for cues, it took us 5 hours mostly because of the sudden elevation gains. We took the Cloud Forest Trail, El Camino, Swamp Trail along the continental divide, Shining Trail that leads to La Ventana with an overlook to both sides of the divide (you can easily tell the difference between the two sides of the rainshadow region from here), and Suspended Bridge with a spectacular view of the canopy and some more wildlife.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Address: 6 km (4 mi) north of Santa Elena, Costa Rica (+506 2645 5390)
This park requires reservations and a shuttle ($2 per person) picks up visitors from their hotels. Located north of the town, next to the Selvatura Adventure Park, it has a couple of easy trails (e.g. Cano Negro). In the easy paced trail, there are a few lookouts to the Arenal Volcano, but visibility is often going to hinder any views. A nice quiet park to enjoy the tranquility but for the admission fee of $14 per person, and with other options available, we thought this park can easily be skipped.
Night walk in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Probably one of our best experiences in spending time in the forests, to book a night walk trip in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We booked through Anywhere Costa Rica. Priced at $50 per person, they pick you up from the hotel before dark and drive up to the entrance of the park. A scary gondola ride through the dense fog as darkness sets in, is followed by a walk around the park through the suspension bridges trying to spot nocturnal animals. We spotted several nocturnal frogs, a tarantula, owls and birds. But we heard that on other days you can spot many more creatures albeit with flashlights.
Curi Cancha Reserve
Address: 300 meters west of the Monteverde Cheese Factory, 60109, Costa Rica
Not one of the most advertised places, therefore sort of off-the-beaten-path, the Curi Cancha reserve is located near the Monteverde Cloud F0rest Reserve and is also a privately owned park. They have knowledgeable local guides and photographers who can guide you through the park and a large network of them make it easier to spot elusive species of mammals, birds and reptiles. We found this to be the most underrated parks to spot wildlife in Monteverde. Takes about 3 hours to complete but again to maximize your chances of spotting wildlife, go as early as possible.