Monteverde is located over 4,000 feet above sea level in the province of Puntarenas in the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica due to its amazing cloud forests and the wildlife they are home to. There are three cloud forests in the area: Monteverde, Santa Elena, and Children’s Eternal Rainforest, although Monteverde is the most popular destination. The forest is home to over 400 species of birds, so a bird watching tour is highly recommended. It is one of the best places in the world to see the resplendent quetzal as these birds mostly live in high elevations in cloud forests. During their mating season (February to July) you may even get the chance to see the males trying to impress the females with their displays and dances. You can also find the likes of hummingbirds, keel-billed toucans, three-wattled bellbirds, howler monkeys, and sloths.
Average rating: 4.7 (very good)
Average cost: activities such as guided night walks can cost around $28 per trip; bird watching around $38; and cloud forest tours around $35. Trips to the Monteverde hanging bridges cost around $35, and hummingbird/butterfly garden visits cost around $15.
Best time to visit: the typical ‘dry’ season is December to May (when most people visit) and wet season is June to November. March and April are the hottest and driest months in Monteverde. Although because of its location, wind, rain, and fog are all common in the dry season, and the weather can change extremely quickly. In the wet season, some of the walking trails and roads heading up to Monteverde may even be impassable.
How to get there: you can travel by public or private bus and/or car to Monteverde, which has a range of hotels on offer. It’s important to note that some of the roads heading into Monteverde are quite rugged, very steep, and bumpy!
Typical activities: bird watching, guided night walk, cloud forest tours, hummingbird/butterfly garden visits, hanging bridge walks
Number of reports: 3
WILDLIFE IN Monteverde
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
three-wattled Bellbird – 33% OF VISITORS (1/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Monteverde is home to the spectacular and unusual three-wattled bellbird. These fantastic birds are more likely to be heard than seen due to their distinct ‘bonk’ call. They breed in foothills and forests between 1,200 to 2,100 m – making Monteverde an ideal place to see them. Males and females have very distinct appearances, with the most notable difference being the three long, black wattles that dangle from the males’ beak. The best time to see them is from March to July. A bird-watching trip is highly recommended if you aim to see (rather than just hear) this bird.
Hummingbird – 33% OF VISITORS (1/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Costa Rica is a paradise for hummingbirds – providing a home to 52 different species. Monteverde alone supports more than 30 and you can’t really miss them on a bird watching tour. If you want a closer look head to Selvatura Park’s hummingbird garden. There are up to 14 different species of hummingbird that call this garden home, including the coppery-headed emerald, violet sabrewing, and purple-throated mountain-gem. The hummingbirds flock around the feeders while you have the chance for a picnic or a rest on the nearby tables.
Quetzal – 0% OF VISITORS (0/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The resplendent quetzal is said to be easier to see in Costa Rica than anywhere else in Central America. This is especially true in Monteverde due to the protected nature of the cloud forests which are one of their main habitats. Known as one of the most beautiful and colourful birds in the world, they are hard to find even with a guide (as we unfortunately found out!). The best chance to view these beautiful birds up-close is during their breeding season. In the cloud forests of Monteverde, this is mid-February to July when the wild avocados (one of their favourite foods) are in abundance.
Toucan – 33% OF VISITORS (1/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
There are six different species of toucan in Costa Rica. We were lucky enough to see two in Monteverde: the keel-billed toucan and the emerald toucanet. While you don’t necessarily need to hire a guide to see these birds, if you want to get some good photographs you may want to make use of a guide’s spotting scope! Keel-billed toucans prefer elevations of 500 to 1,500 m, making Monteverde an ideal place to spot them. The emerald toucanet can be a little harder to find, owing to its small size. It stands at only 30 cm, making it the smallest toucan in Costa Rica. They prefer higher elevations of 800 to 2400 m and are commonly spotted in Monteverde.
Howler monkey – 33% OF VISITORS (1/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Mantled howler monkeys are one of the most common, and largest, of the monkey species found in Costa Rica. There are good chances of seeing and even better chances of hearing them when staying at lodges in the forest. Waking up to their booming calls as the dawn breaks is an unforgettable jungle experience! They are less active than other monkeys so can easily be overlooked – look out for brownish-black balls in the treetops. They are less common in higher elevation areas but you can still find them in the cloud forests of Monteverde.
Sloth – 33% OF VISITORS (1/3) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
There are two species of sloth that live in Costa Rica – the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and the brown-throated sloth. Due to its higher elevation, only the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth is found in Monteverde. This species has more hair and can survive in colder temperatures, while the brown-throated sloth cannot. Hoffman’s two-toed sloths are nocturnal and so can be difficult to find. It’s advisable to hire a trained guide if you want to spot one. Although you may also spot one on a bird-watching tour, as we did!
Photo credit: Sarah Oosterveld under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr