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Monteverde Cloud Forest OR Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve? What’s The Difference?

Monteverde Cloud Forest OR Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve? What’s The Difference?

Last updated on March 1st, 2021 at 10:31 am EST

The article below addresses the cloud forest and cloud forest reserves in Monteverde. For general information about Monteverde, including hotels, attractions, and more, don’t miss our related blog post:

Must-Know Info About Monteverde Costa Rica From Seasoned Visitors

Are the Monteverde cloud forest and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve the same?

Nope! But we don’t doubt why you’ve found yourself asking this question. Several Monteverde resources, especially international resources that have loose ties to Costa Rica, erroneously use the phrases “Monteverde cloud forest” and “Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve” interchangeably, which is awfully confusing to first-time Costa Rica travelers. This is a problem because the Monteverde cloud forest and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are two different things. To help provide clarity among a pool of misinformation, we wrote the article below, which outlines how the Monteverde cloud forest and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are different and the types of experiences you can have at each.

About the Monteverde Cloud Forest

“Monteverde cloud forest” is a compound term that joins a destination (Monteverde) with an ecosystem (cloud forest). To undersand what the compound term represents in Costa Rica, we’ll need to look at the terms “Monteverde” and “cloud forest” separately.

What is Monteverde?

Monteverde is a rural community that sits, as the crow flies, roughly 90 kilometers northwest of San Jose, Costa Rica. (By car, Monteverde is about a 150-kilometer drive from San Jose, depending on the route taken.) Monteverde is also an inland, high-elevation, mountainous destination.

What is a cloud forest?

A cloud forest is a type of ecosystem (life zone) that typically exists at a high elevation. It is marked by significant (oftentimes persistent) low cloud cover, which creates moist air and soil, encouraging forest growth. Trees, plants, mosses, lichens, and flowers, especially orchids, flourish in Costa Rica’s cloud forests, contributing to the nation’s impressive biodiversity.

Costa Rica is home to more than one cloud forest because it has several high-altitude destinations. The most talked-about cloud forest is in Monteverde but others exist in the San Ramon, Zarcero, and San Gerardo de Dota areas, among others.

What is the Monteverde cloud forest?

The Monteverde cloud forest is one area of Costa Rica where you can experience a cloud forest ecosystem. The word “Monteverde” is assigned to the term “cloud forest” because the entire Monteverde community falls on cloud forest land. Some of the cloud forest land is protected (either by the Costa Rican government, locals, or expats), as is the case for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (see below for more information about the reserve). Some of the cloud forest land is public, as is the case for most of the community of Monteverde, save for private spaces in the community such as homes, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. Often, people talk about the Monteverde cloud forest as one specific place, like an attraction or a park, when the compound term truly refers to the community of Monteverde itself. The community just happens to be set in and surrounded by cloud forest.

Within the Monteverde community (technically within the Monteverde cloud forest) is a site called the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. The word “Biological” often gets dropped from the name so you’ll likely hear the reserve referred to as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. To learn more about the reserve, continue reading below.

About the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

As described above, the entire Monteverde community is set in the cloud forest. Inside the community, you’ll find everything from hotels and restaurants to protected land spaces called “reserves”, “biological reserves”, or “cloud forest reserves”. Though each one is different from the next in some respects, they are all the same thing at their core: an area of land within cloud forest that provides nature trails for walking and hiking. One of these reserves is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, more commonly known as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which happens to be the most popular reserve in the Monteverde region. Less frequented reserves include the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest reserve, the Hidden Valley Reserve, the Curi Cancha Reserve, the Aguti Wildlife Refuge, the Ecological Sanctuary, and more.

To merely visit the Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica, all you need to do is travel to the community of Monteverde. To visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica, you’ll need to travel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve within the community of Monteverde, and pay a fee to enter the reserve.

To access the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve by car, you can drive as far as the reserve’s official parking lot (you’ll need to pay to park in the lot), where you’ll catch the reserve’s complimentary shuttle service that travels to the reserve’s entrance, a quick five-minute drive up the road. (The shuttle departs regularly from the parking lot.) Here’s a map of where the parking lot is located.

Experiences inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

When travelers talk to us about Monteverde, one of the most common questions they ask is whether they should visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or not. The answer to this question depends largely on the person asking it. To help you decide whether you should visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, we’ve compiled a list of the experiences you can have directly inside the reserve. An asterisk (*) signifies an activity that is unique to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which means you can’t have it elsewhere in the Monteverde region.

  • You can walk/hike along trails that travel through the cloud forest, admiring and photographing Costa Rica’s biodiversity and a host of endemic species along the way
  • You can cross a hanging bridge
  • You can visit a small waterfall
  • You can search for birds and other wildlife
  • *You can stand atop the Continental Divide (the place at which rain that falls to the west drains into the Pacific Ocean and rain that falls to the east drains into the Caribbean Sea)*

Experiences outside the reserve but still in the Monteverde cloud forest

You may be surprised to learn that most of the activities that draw people to the Monteverde region fall outside the boundaries of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This means that even if you decide not to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you can still experience several awesome adventures. Below is a list of worthwhile experiences that rival hikes through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve due to their proximity to nature.

  • You can tour a set of hanging bridges. Separate from the hanging bridge you’ll find inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde is home to two of Costa Rica’s most famous hanging bridge parks: Sky Adventures’s Monteverde Park, home to the Sky Walk hanging bridges, and Selvatura Park, home to the Treetop Walkways hanging bridges. Both of these sites, which near the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (about a 12-kilometer, 25-minute drive from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve), provide a series of hanging bridges you can cross while hiking through the cloud forest.
  • You can ride an aerial tram high above cloud forest treetops
  • You can go ziplining around cloud forest treetops
  • You can go tree-climbing in the cloud forest
  • You can walk/hike along trails that belong to other reserves in the Monteverde region (not the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve) where you can observe Costa Rica’s biodiversity and search for birds and other wildlife
  • You can tour an orchid garden
  • You can take a night tour to explore the cloud forest after dark

There are also other activities you can experience in Monteverde that have less to do with nature; you can tour a coffee farm, visit a hummingbird garden or butterfly garden, stroll around reptile and amphibian exhibits, and go horseback riding.

To give you an idea of how the landscape outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve compares to the landscape inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, see the photos below. The first photo was taken during the Sky Walk hanging bridges hike in Monteverde, and the second photo was taken inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The two photos are eerily similar, which shows that there’s plenty of cloud forest to be experienced in Monteverde both inside and outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Common questions and our answers

If I want to see the Monteverde cloud forest, do I need to go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

No. You can experience the Monteverde cloud forest by visiting any adventure park or reserve in the Monteverde region, or by just visiting the destination of Monteverde itself.

Can I visit more than one cloud forest reserve in Monteverde?

Absolutely! You can visit as many cloud forest reserves as you like. Each reserve is owned and managed by different people though, so you’ll need to pay a new entrance fee at each one. It’s also worth noting that the cloud forest reserves are spread out around Monteverde, so you’ll need to drive, take public transit, or hire a taxi/driver to get between each.

Are the famous Monteverde hanging bridges found inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve does have one long bridge, but it’s not what people are referring to when they talk about Monteverde’s famous hanging bridges. Monteverde’s famous hanging bridges are located at Sky Adventures’s Monteverde Park (home of the Sky Walk hanging bridges) and Selvatura Park (home of the Treetop Walkways hanging bridges). Both parks are located in the Monteverde region but outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Can I go ziplining inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

No. Ziplining is forbidden inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a protected land area. When people talk about ziplining in Monteverde, or ziplining in the Monteverde cloud forest, they’re talking about ziplining at adventure parks in the Monteverde region that fall outside the boundaries of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Several adventure parks in Monteverde provide ziplining opportunities, including Sky Adventures’s Monteverde Park (home of the Sky Trek canopy ziplining tour) and Selvatura Park (home of the Canopy ziplining tour).

Can I ride an aerial tram inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve?

No. There are no aerial trams located inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. When people talk about riding an aerial tram in Monteverde, or riding an aerial tram around the Monteverde cloud forest, they’re talking about the tram (called the Sky Tram) at Sky Adventures’s Monteverde Park, which is located in the Monteverde region but outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

For more information about Sky Adventures’s Monteverde Park and Selvatura Park, don’t miss our related blog posts:

Monteverde Sky Walk Hanging Bridges: Everything You Need To Know

Monteverde Sky Trek Canopy Ziplining Tour: Everything You Need To Know

Monteverde Sky Tram Aerial Tram: Everything You Need To Know

Sky Adventures Monteverde: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, And Tram Rides In The Cloud Forest

Selvatura Monteverde: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, Butterfly / Hummingbird Gardens, And A Reptile / Amphibian Exhibit In The Cloud Forest

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Monteverde? Did you opt to tour the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, participate in adventures outside the reserve, or both during your time in the Monteverde cloud forest?

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Monteverde Cloud Forest OR Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve? What's The Difference?
Article Name
Monteverde Cloud Forest OR Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve? What's The Difference?
Description
Do you know that the Monteverde cloud forest and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are different? We compare and contrast both to help you decide which to visit!
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The Official Costa Rica Travel Blog
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