Hiking the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

Hiking has long been described as one of the largest segments of nature-based tourism, and more and more people are taking part in hiking activities in different geographical locations. In mountain regions and protected areas hiking is normally the most important recreational activity. It can provide important tourism revenues for the local population. In recent years several rural destinations have put huge efforts into facilitating hiking and thus taking advantage of tourists’ increasing demand for destination experiences in nature and activities promoting their health and well-being. Perhaps hiking is an activity with the potential to stimulate both mental and physical health and well-being.  Costa Rica is one such destination that offers some of the best natural reserves for trekking.   The Famous Monteverde Cloud Forest is one such place.  Established in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has largely been considered one of Costa Rica’s most treasured places.  Its biodiversity is remarkable. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Photo by Jan Weber on Unsplash


he Monteverde cloud reserve is located 5.5km from the town of Santa Elena. It consists of 6 main trails, some of which are short and only take about 10 minutes to complete, while others are about a mile long. The trails are about 13km in total and make up 3% of the park.  The rest are protected areas that are only accessible by scientists and researchers. 

The forest is one of the most popular places for hiking in Costa Rica. The trails are well-marked, easily accessible, and relatively flat. There are some steep inclines on the Roble and Chomongo trails.  However, hiking all trails should take 4-5 hours to complete.  Upon arrival, the staff at the front entrance will explain the different trails and the best one to take.  You can see a picture of a map of the trails below. 

The first loop of the trail went up to Sendero Bosque Nuboso A and then B to the continental divide, where you can take in the breathtaking view of the pacific ocean and Caribbean sea found at the end of the Sendero Ventana.  From here, walk down part of Sendero La Camino, unto Sendero Roble and Sendero Chomongo, to complete the first loop. The trials for this loop are very well maintained, outline and signage make it easy to find your way around.  

The second loop is the most challenging. There are some steep inclines on the Roble and Chomogo trails.  In this loop, you’ll go up Sendero Wilford Guindon trail which meets Sendero Puente, onto the incredible 300ft tall canopy suspension bridge through the cloud. The bridge is super high and long and holds ten people at a time. The height of the bridge is not too bad if you are a person that is afraid of heights, and the view from the bridge is really beautiful to take in. From the bridge back to the trailhead along Sendero Camino, from that trail, you can hike along Sendero Tosi to the waterfall and then walk back to the entrance along Sendero Cuecha to complete the third loop.

on your hike, depending on the time of year, the top of the continental divide would be covered in clouds and can be very windy toward the eastern side. It will be mostly mist and cloud, hence the name “Cloud Forest.”  You might not see anything as the entire forest around you would be draped in clouds. On a clear day, you can see far to the east and the west.  There are lots of vibrant flora and fauna to see.  Gorgeous flowers sprung from the foliage with their petals dripping from the mist.  You’ll even spot coati, birds, and other creatures just hanging out on the trail or in the trees around. The weather can be different in some parts like the Sendero Tosi, with a warmer temperature, little mist and sunlight gleaming through the trees.  

Photo by Christopher Austin on Unsplash 

Things to Know

  • You have the option of hiking the forest as a self-guided or a guided tour.  
  • There is no parking available at the entrance of the park, but you are allowed to park in a well-marked lot that is found along the road to the reserve. 
  • Shuttle service is provided to transport you from the parking lot to the reserve and back when complete.  It is about $6USD to cover both parking and shuttle service. 
  • If you don’t have a personal car, buses head to the reserve from the Nacional in Santa Elena at 6:15 am, 7:20 am and 1:15 pm.
  • The Restrooms are only at the entrance, but none on the trails.   
  • The reserve is open every day from 7 am -4 pm. 
  • The entry fee is $25 US per person and  $12 US per child from 6- 12 years. 
  • Take along with you a rain jacket, it is likely to rain, and it can be pretty cold, so you might want to wear something warm.  

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