Family Vacations to Monteverde National Park, Costa Rica

Sunset, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Sunset over the valley in Monteverde, Costa Rica (Doug Plummer/Photodisc/Getty)

Monteverde National Park Family Travel Tips

  • Be forewarned that the last hour of your drive into Monteverde is on a nightmare of a dirt road. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must.
  • The best months to see the Quetzal are February through April.
  • The actual Cloud Forest Preserve can be crowded with tour groups. I highly recommend Sendero Tranquillo, especially during the peak season, so that you can see the same exquisite terrain with a fraction of the people.

The road into Monteverde, the gateway to Costa Rica's cloud forest, is a rocky, pothole-strewn obstacle course. You're forced to drive slow and appreciate the countryside, a velvety mix of ridges and bowls not unlike the pastures found in the Scottish Highlands. The green slopes are dotted with sheep, cows, and horses, a testament to the area's origins as a farming community. The weather in Monteverde is surprisingly cool for a Central American locale (averaging about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), especially as you ride higher into the mist of the cloud forest.

Once you arrive you'll be out of the car and on a trail, and you'll understand immediately why folks would drive such a gnarly road for so long. The perpetual dampness from the clouds creates a slick layer of moss that covers the branches and tree trunks of this primordial forest. Add the thick vines that drop down from towering ficus trees, clay-covered trails laden with fallen passionfruit, and the large leafs of banana ferns and you have an enchanted terrain; it's as if you stepped into the backdrop of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

By all means bring your binoculars—this is a bird lover's paradise. On any given day in Sendero Tranquillo, you'll find one of the 53 varieties of hummingbirds that live in Costa Rica, the brilliant emerald toucanet (a smaller version of a toucan), the turkey-like black guan; and, if you're lucky, the queen of the cloud forest, the resplendent quetzal. It's not the size of the quetzal that gets birders all dreamy eyed; but the plumage, an iridescent green color with a Matisse-red belly, trailed by a billowing two-foot long tail feather. This should whet your appetite for other adventures in Monteverde, from horseback riding to zip lining.

Published: 3 Mar 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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