Monteverde Hiking | Discovering Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Costa Rica

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May 5, 2019

Out of all the amazing destinations in Costa Rica, Monteverde Cloud Forest was the place that had me most excited. Just the term Cloud Forest evokes images of something otherworldly. I imagined Monteverdelooking like the floating mountains in Avatar. Now it wasn’t that spectacular but it was damn close. We were visiting Monteverde to walk on some of the famous Monteverde Hiking Trails which are known for their abundant wildlife and spectacular views.

Monteverde Hiking

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972 and is named after the nearby town of Monteverde. The Reserve covers roughly 26,000 acres (10,500 hectares) of protected cloud forest and is visited by around 70,000 people a year. There are 6 ecological zones, 90% of which is virgin rainforest. The biodiversity of the area is staggering, there are over 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammal, 400 bird species and 120 reptilians. This much diversity brings the world’s leading scientists to Monteverde Cloud Forest every year. In fact, as we were leaving the main reserve I chatted to a group of scientists who were trekking into the heart of the reserve to do some field work. They were carrying huge backpacks as they were going to be in the reserve for a week and needed to take in all their provisions. Most of the Reserve is off limits to tourists to keep it protected, a great idea in our opinion.

Monteverde began in the 1950s when 11 Quaker Families from Alabama in the USA purchased land in Costa Rica to live as farmers. They moved to Costa Rica to avoid the Korean War draft. Quakers are pacifists so being forced to fight in a war contradicted what they believed in. They chose Costa Rica because 3 years earlier (1948) Costa Rica got rid of it’s military (Costa Rica still doesn’t have a military). It was the Quakers who named the place Monteverde (Green Mountain) for the year-round green plants.

The journey to Monteverde from Arenal National Park was spectacular. We first crossed a huge lake or dam covered in mist and then we slowly ascended up into the mountains. The landscape changed the higher we got. We passed small villages with houses right on the edge of the cliffs and small kids running around playing, oblivious to the huge drops. The temperature went from hot to cold the higher we got. About halfway up you could actually see the clouds and slowly but surely our bus went above them. It was like we were on an aeroplane albeit, a very slow one.  

Our main aim for visiting Monteverde was to hike Monteverde’s hiking trails for a few days and observe the spectacular wildlife. After checking in to our lodge we discovered that our lodge had its own hiking trail so we dumped our backpacks in our huge room and hit the trail. Within minutes we spotted wildlife. We were walking happily minding our own business when a Deer came out of the bushes and scared the living daylights out of us! You can take the people out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the people it seems. That night we made some friends who were also staying in our lodge and we made a plan to hike some of Monteverde’s hiking trails the next day. 

Monteverde Hiking Trails

Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve)

The history of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a perfect example of how humans and nature can coexist together for the benefit for all. This virginal forest impressed the first Quaker settlers so much they decided to preserve about a 3rd of their property when they first arrived. By 1972, however, encroaching squatters threatened its sustainability. The community joined forces with environmental organisations to purchase 328 hectares of forest adjacent to the already preserved area. This became known as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve). 

In 1986 the Monteverde Conservation League was formed to buy land to expand the reserve. Two years later it launched the International Children’s Rainforest project which encouraged children and schools from all over the world to raise money to help buy and save the rainforest. The project was a resounding success and today the reserve totals 105 sq km! So this is why we chose to start our first hike at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. 

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