When you are in the Monteverde/Santa Elena region, like the night hikes, there are a few options to consider for visiting cloud forests. We narrowed it down to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve based on positive reviews, as well as the mission of the reserve. The lower price certainly helped too! Entrance fee + tour + transportation came down to about $33 per person, while a different option would have been a little more.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the first community-managed reserves in Costa Rica. Proceeds from entrance fees, tours and the souvenir shop are either reinvested in the management of the reserve or are channeled to a local high school to help upgrade technology, and fund courses in environmental education, biology, agriculture, languages and tourism.
Trails are open daily from 7:00am until 4:00pm. There is an entrance fee payable by cash, as well as a guided tour for an additional fee offered twice each day. We emailed them to reserve our spot on the 7:30am tour the morning after our arrival in Monteverde. The reserve doesn’t have its own shuttles, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out the transportation situation. There’s a public bus [in the shape of a shuttle van] that picks up several times daily for $2 each way. The guy from our hostel was kind enough to call them for us.
It was a bumpy ride up [as are most roads to and from Monteverde] to the reserve, and we arrived at the reserve a little bit before 7:30am.
Here is our guide, Donald. He actually rode up to the reserve in the same bus as we did. In the photo, he is pointing out the various orchids at the reserve entrance. Did you know that there are over 1,400 wild orchid types in Costa Rica?
There was a snake in a tree by the parking lot that one of the people working at the reserve spotted. Glad I was able to zoom in with my camera!
An abandoned hummingbird nest. There are 57 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. We saw them during our trip, but they were much too quick for my fingers.
Black Guan - a bird that is larger than a grouse and smaller than a turkey. There were a few rustling in the trees above us, but we mostly saw tail feathers.
On to the flora!
With the constant cloud covering, moss grows in abundance in the cloud forest.
The walk through the cloud forest was a pretty neat experience, and I’d do it again in hopes of seeing more wildlife! They’re quite different from what you see on a night walk, so it was definitely worth checking out both. The reserve is actually made of several trails, and we wandered a bit on our own for half an hour before boarding the 11:00am bus back to town. There was plenty more to see, but our stomachs were telling us to head back to civilization. With a tour starting at 7:30am and lasting about three hours long, we were glad to have brought a snack or two!
We ended our visit to the reserve with a white-nosed coati sighting [members of the raccoon family] in the parking lot.
Visit the Santa Elena Reserve
General Info and Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reservations can be made: here!
They do not offer a shuttle service, but if you email or call them, they can recommend one.