Table Of Contents
- Entering the Cloud Forest
- Monteverde’s Sky Trek Herpetarium
- Monteverde’s Sky Trek Canopy Tour
- Hotel El Establo
- Laggus Restaurant at Hotel El Establo
- Tree House Restaurant
- Butterfly Garden in Cerro Plano
- Monteverde Tours
- SkyTram Tour
Entering the Cloud Forest
This is one of the absolute must see locations in Costa Rica with the cloud forest and its zip-line and sky tram activities, the abundant wildlife and the intriguing local history.
The Early Days of the Cloud Forest
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the original stomping grounds of a group of Quakers and Pacifists who moved to the area from Alabama when the Korean War began in 1950. They originally came to establish dairy farms, and over time set up the protected lands of what is now the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde). This area was decided upon after Costa Rica renounced its military in 1949.
Visit Monteverde on several of our tours of Costa Rica!
One of 14 Places Deemed Must Visit
Today the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is probably the biggest tourist draw in Costa Rica. It has been called the 14th most important place to visit before it disappears by Newsweek magazine, and was declared one of seven natural wonders of Costa Rica by a vote held through the newspaper La Nación in 2007.
There is plenty diversity in terms of food to be found in the Monteverde area, and below are some of the restaurants in the area:
- The Tree House Restaurant
- Café Orchid Coffee Shop
- Restaurant Arrecifes
- Taco Taco
- Don Luis Restaurant
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is located in the Tilarán Mountain Range, and can be reached from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in the Central Valley region in 2 hours and 22 minutes. It is about three hours from the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, and you will need a four wheel drive vehicle if you are thinking to make the trip in a rented car. There are tour buses and private shuttles that frequent the area, as well.
Different Kinds of Accomodations
Once there, the hostels, hotels and resorts of Montevrde and the Santa Elena area are numerous. One of the best resorts in the area is El Establo, but there are a number of different establishments in the area to suit all kinds of budgets.
Ecosystems of Monteverde
In the Monteverde Cloud Forest can be found 7 ecosystems, 2,500 species of plants, 400 species of birds, 490 species and subspecies of butterflies and a 100 types of mammals. The cloud forest if the habitat of the stunning resplendent quetzal and 400 different kinds of orchids. The variety of life that can be observed is simply mind boggling.
Monteverde’s Sky Trek Herpetarium
The Sky Trek Herpetarium in the city of Santa Elena, Costa Rica, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest is where you can find a large variety of reptiles.
More Than Just Reptiles
Other than reptiles such as snakes, turtles and basilisks, there are plenty of amphibians on display at the Monteverde Sky Trek Herpetarium. The famous Red-eyed Leaf (Tree) Frog can be found at the Monteverde herpetarium. There are over 40 species of amphibians and reptiles at the herpetarium, but if you plan on taking pictures, you should be sure to flip off the flash on your camera as not to frighten the creatures. Other reptiles that you will find at the herpetarium are as follows:
A Stop Along the Way
The Monteverde Herpetarium is located along the Sky Trek Canopy Tour which is parts suspension bridges, zip-lines and well-maintained mountain trails. The tour to the herpetarium is led by bilingual guides as is the tour of the herpetarium itself. All told, the trip is around 6 hours from start to finish, and there are plenty of opportunities to catch glimpses of rare Costa Rican flora and fauna.
See the sky trek museum here.
Going the Distance
Once you reach the Monteverde Sky Trek Herpetarium after passing 1.7 miles of zip line, five bridges and 1.5 miles of trails, you’ll be directed to your second part of the tour. In the herpetarium, you will learn about the venomous frogs and toads, poisonous snakes, lizards and the water and land based turtles of Costa Rica and, especially, the Monteverde Cloud Forest area. One of the features of the herpetarium consists of an interactive room where you will see dried snake skins.
Tours of the Monteverde Sky Trek Herpetarium can be done in conjunction with the canopy and forest tour, or they can be done as an individual tour. The individual tour of the herpetarium might be a good option in case of rain.
Monteverde’s Sky Trek Canopy Tour
The Monteverde Cloud Forest canopy tour is an unbelievable trip that can take you through the forest rooftop to give you a thrilling and fresh perspective.
Different Kinds of Trails
The Monteverde Sky Trek canopy tour is parts suspension bridges, zip-lines and well-maintained mountain paths that interlope the astonishing cloud forest. The tour is led by bi-lingual guides who insure your safety while explaining some of the more intricate and interesting points about the forest. All told, the trip is around 6 hours from start to finish, and there are plenty of opportunities to catch glimpses of rare Costa Rican flora and fauna.
After passing 1.7 miles of zip line, five bridges and 1.5 miles of trails, you might want to drop in on the Monteverde Sky Trek Herpetarium. In the Monteverde herpetarium you will learn about the toxic frogs and toads, venomous snakes, lizards and the water and land based turtles of Costa Rica. One of the features of the herpetarium consists of an interactive room where you can see dried snake skins.
A World Unto Itself in the Treetops
Some of the animals you could see along your trip through the treetops and the forest floor of Monteverde’s cloud forest include over four hundred ninety kinds of butterflies, the crested owl, the green macaw, sloths, pacas, olingos, foxes, boa constrictors, and peccaries. The animals aren’t the only living things to take note of in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and, of the plant life, you will come across orchids (white, lilac and yellow varieties), mosses, epiphytes, lianas, the trumpet tree, the oak tree, the zapote tree and the strangler fig tree.
The Tilaran Mountain Range
Monteverde is in the Tilaran Mountain Range, and much of the life found here is endemic to the region. Monteverde’s Sky Trek Canopy Tour is your one of a kind chance to glimpse the wondrous beauty of the premiere cloud forest of Costa Rica. You can find out about other adventures in the Tilaran Mountain range when planning custom vacations with our Monkey travel pros.
The Luxuriant Hotel El Establo in Monteverde
El Establo Mountain Hotel in Santa Elena, Costa Rica, is a sprawling and elegant property in the foothills of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Rooms in the Hotel
The one hundred and fifty five rooms of El Establo Mountain Hotel in the misty cloud forest of Monteverde are rated as Deluxe, Suites and Honeymoon Suites. This hotel offers some of the most lavish amenities and services to suit its guests. On the property you can find a gym; tennis, basketball and soccer courts, two restaurants with Costa Rican, international and fine dining options; two indoor tempered swimming pools, a spa, a bar, a conference center and canopy tours on site.
Tempered Swimming Pools
The indoor swimming pools are temperature moderated to be somewhat tepid so that the water is not too cold or too hot. At the spa you can find a number of different treatments including a green leaf massage, a hot stone massage, deep tissue massages and aromatherapy massages. El Establo’s spa services seek to calm and rejuvenate the senses.
Restaurants at El Establo
The two onsite restaurants are Laggus, which is a fine dining restaurant, and Las Riendas. Las Riendas serves buffet style meals that can be bought in a plan, and a la carte dishes that combine both Costa Rican and International cuisine. Laggus, on the other hand, is the kind of upscale dining experience where you will find exceptional gastronomic concoctions along with stunning views of the El Establo grounds, lake and the Gulf of Nicoya.
A Little History
The Hotel El Establo was opened in 1991 by a half Quaker-half Costa Rican family that decided to make a change for the tourism industry. Quakers originally came to the Monteverde area in 1950, because their religious beliefs did not allow them to participate in the coming Korean War. The hotel had been a cattle ranch, hence the name El Establo which means “the stables,” in English. The cattle ranch is no longer in operation, and the grounds have been transformed into the elegant and stately El Establo Mountain Hotel of the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
You can enjoy an outstanding Costa Rica vacation on the Jewels of Costa Rica tour which represents a great opportunity to enjoy both the Cloud Forest and El Establo.
Laggus Restaurant at Hotel El Establo in Monteverde
For fine dining at Hotel El Establo in Monteverde, Laggus restaurant offers a sumptuous array of dishes that fuse fresh ingredients with multiple cooking techniques.
El Establo is home to Two Restaurants
There are two restaurants at Hotel El Establo. The first is Las Riendas where the food is great, but it is average. The second is Laggus which caters to finer tastes. Laggus offers a selection of fine wines, premium grade beef, delicately fashioned deserts, fresh caught seafood and more. The atmosphere is a little bit more intimate at Laggus, and the wait staff has been trained to be both attentive and discreet simultaneously.
At the Center of El Establo
Laggus is found in the center of El Establo, and seats up to 100 guests. From the restaurant, guests can walk out onto a row of balconies that perch over a lake, and overlook the Gulf of Nicoya. The restaurant is also the location of a lounge bar where guests can grab a cocktail while they wait for a table or just because they want one. The lounge bar is on the second floor of the building, and has large flat screen TVs and ample seating. The main dining room is open to the public, but there are also two exclusive rooms for small parties or special engagements.
Laggus hosts a happy hour from 5 to 7 pm every day with 2 for 1 drink specials. During the high season, Laggus hosts live music in the lounge, and there is a pool table for gaming. Dining at Laggus requires a reservation, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from 2 pm to 10 pm.
The Tree House Restaurant at Monteverde
Dining among the branches of a Tree House
Right in the center of the Santa Elena town, there is a restaurant with a tall ficus tree in the middle. Spiral stairs go all the way up to a spacious seating area on the second floor decorated by a beautiful stained glass window, and were friendly personnel will wine and dine you.
The Tree House Restaurant & Cafe is a unique place, the experience of dining among leaves allows you to be a part of Mother Nature, just as we were flowers growing from the branches of the tree. Sharing that feeling while enjoying delicious food, will let you connect with every single bite, taste and aroma.
Fun facts about the tree and much more
- Ficus Trees can be from 15 – 20 meters high but sometimes they can reach up to 30 meters
- The Ficus at the Tree House Restaurant in Monteverde was planted over 65 years ago by a local resident
- The property was an empty lot with just the tree in the middle, so when people came to town they left their horses there to run errands
- The restaurant is owned by two Costa Ricans
- Ficus have been around forever, so probably that tree will remain there long after the restaurant. In fact, one of the oldest ficus trees is in Sri Lanka, and its believed to have been planted in 288 B.C. (yeah, you read that right)
You are what you eat: All about the menu
At the Tree House Restaurant in Monteverde they take pride on Costa Rican food, alongside great international dishes you can find casados, great picadillos and a great Latin American fusion that includes dishes from Peru, Mexico and Colombia, and meat cuts specialties from all over the world.
Be prepared if you decide to order the “Tablita Típica” a bigger size dish, you can eat by yourself if your very very hungry or share with one or even a couple of friends. It has chicken, meat, shrimps, everything to satisfy even the toughest critic.
We tried their food, drank their wine (and some delicious recommended sangrias) and enjoyed every bit of it, but we couldn’t leave before drinking some Costa Rican coffee, and that my friends, is a most. At the Tree House Restaurant all coffee house personnel has professional barista training, so you will be able to enjoy some freshly brewed tico coffee as a digestive.
Because of the food, the great ambiance and majestic tree in the middle, we give the Tree House Restaurant in Monteverde 5 Monkey coins.
Restaurant: Tree House Restaurant & Cafe in Monteverde
Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica
Schedule: 11am – 10pm
The Monteverde Butterfly Garden in Cerro Plano Costa Rica
The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens have been brought to fruition by a pair of Canadians living near the cloud forest reserve in Cerro Plano, Costa Rica.
Butterflies Are Not the Only Insects
The center is not just focused on the preservation of the area butterflies, but on a number of different insects that can be found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve area. You can find arachnids, stick bugs, a leaf cutter ant colony, and even some beetles are to be seen creeping and crawling about the sanctuary. The mission of the Monteverde Butterfly Garden is to enlighten people to the world of the creatures that many people find to be less than enchanting. Some of the species of butterflies that you are likely to see are as follows:
The Monteverde Butterfly Garden covers a three acre property where visitors can see not only the arachnids and insects of the insectarium, but also White Faced Capuchins, Howler Monkeys, Mot Mots, Toucans, Agoutis and a large variety of flora, as well. The duo of Bryna Belisle from Quebec and David Makynen from Ontario started this venture in 2012, and have been literally getting their fingers dirty ever since.
At the Welcome Center
You can begin your introduction to the kinds of insect life found in Costa Rica with a video about the different insects and arachnids that can be found in Costa Rica at the butterfly garden’s welcome center, and then take an hour long tour of the insects and arachnids that are onsite (don’t worry, they are kept in glass cases). The tour will educate you as to the varying climates of Costa Rica, and what those climates mean to the local butterfly and insect population. After the tour, you can traipse about the property, or you could take a longer look at some of the creatures found in the glass cases.
The Monteverde Butterfly Garden might give you the heebie jeebies, but it will likely teach you a thing or two about the little creatures that make up the smaller world of insects and arachnids.
Monteverde Tours in Costa Rica
For those adventurers that like to travel high among the clouds, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is truly an adventure to behold! A cloud forest, often thought of as a mist forest, it is surrounded by a tropical atmosphere with low hanging cloud formations, at a high resting canopy level, which Costa Rica is widely known for.
Fresh & Fertile Greenery
The canopies of Costa Rica are a very popular attraction since the cloud forests are so fresh and fertile with beautiful greenery to be seen throughout the entire exotic country. One identifying fact about cloud forests is that they are typically heavily covered in moss, layering the ground and foliage, which is why they are also often referred to as “moss grove forests”. The reason for the heavy moss growth is due to the high degree of precipitation captured and held in the environment, making growth plentiful and abundant.
The Town of Santa Elena
Set atop the backbone of Costa Rica’s Interior Division, Monteverde is an incredible habitat that resides high above the beach towns and seaside shorelines. The city of Santa Elena is petite and charming, with famous yet cozy, down to earth restaurants and a very warm small town feel. Located nearby is the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which houses a diversity among its plant and animal life.
The Scenery & Wildlife
At an incredible height of almost four thousand feet above sea level, it is truly a sight to behold, and the way that the forest captures the fog and transfers the captured water to bring life to an incredible amount of wildlife is truly breathtaking. The ecosystem of this forest is grandiose, spanning nearly a thousand different species of wild animals and over twenty five hundred varieties of plants. A fun fact is that out of all these different plant families, almost four hundred and twenty different species of these plants are wild orchids. A number of the different orchid types you might expect find are:
- Prosthechea Vespa
- Guarianthe Skinneri
- Epidendrum pfavii
Museums, Adventures & More
Some of the animals that this beautiful forest is home to include the jaguar, the Baird’s Tapir, the Bare necked Umbrella Bird, and of course we couldn’t forget to mention the renowned and famously shy quetzal. Adventurers can visit this exciting outdoor escape via trails or by bus. While there, you can experience the forest even further through canopies and the incredible Monteverde Museum. Those seeking adventure should certainly sign up for one of our adventure guided tours to experience all of the exotic animal and plant life that has to be seen to believe!
You can see many of the amphibians that you miss in the daytime at night on a night tour, or you can stop by the amphibian museum:
How did this all begin one might ask? A brief background on the history of the Monteverde Cloud Forest has it that in the mid nineteen fifties, a group of Quakers from America came to Costa Rica from deep in the heart of Alabama to avoid being drafted in the Korean War, and began building farms in the Monteverde area, creating an industry centered on cheese and dairy. While there, the families that traveled over helped establish Monteverde, and the beloved cloud forest.
Sky Tram Tour in Monteverde Costa Rica
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the incredible landscapes and cloud forests of Costa Rica from a bird’s eye point of view?
Take a look at some activities in Monteverde to make the best plan for your vacation!
Flying Like a Bird
Imagine flying like a bird high above the beautiful rainforests of Costa Rica. The elevation is incredible as you soar in a romantic gondola up to a beautiful lookout where you can gaze over the beautiful natural environment that is home to the local Costa Rican natives. Adventure seekers are sure to love the Sky Tram, your own personal guided tour taking you up to freedom from all worries.
Take Pics From a Variety of Angles
The trip starts as you are led up by a guide that speaks both English and Spanish. The rider is allowed to stop the ride at any moment, which makes taking pictures of the incredible animals a reality and an exceptional opportunity. Imagine, you see one of the majestic red Macaws, and you now have the chance to stop the ride, on its way up, pull out your camera, and take a beautiful photograph that will last a lifetime.
The Observation Deck
Once you reach the top, you are invited to witness the atmosphere from the observation deck, and you will receive a spectacularly breathtaking view. While you are up at the top you can also view our famous hills and area of Monteverde, or any of the other beautiful locations where the Sky Tram stops during this Adventure Tour.
Sky Tram, Sky Trek and Canopy Tour
You are free to take your time and observe as much of the lands rich culture before returning to your gondola and making your way back down the Sky Tram. There are two ways of ending your Sky Tram adventure, and both of which are led by our world class professional tour guides. You can take the gondola back down, or, for the adventure seekers, you can take one of the famous Zip Lines under the supervision of one of the tour guides. This experience will take about 20 minutes both ways, and we highly suggest that you combine this with one of our other attractions, such as Sky Trek and/or the famous Costa Rican guided Zip Line tour.
As Your Tour comes to an End
The tour guides are quite funny and charismatic and we guarantee that you will feel like family as they put your fear of heights at ease. You’ll simply be laughing too hard to have anything but pure delight on your face as you make your way back down to your final destination. After you finish your adventure, how about finding one of the many restaurants at the bottom for you and your family to dine in and eat a world class meal while you celebrate the day.
Photographers, thrill seekers and anybody that just wants to get a bird’s eye view of this beautiful landscape should definitely add this to their trips checklist. This is one that should not be missed!
Questions & Answers
Does the cloud forest reserve in Monteverde limit the number of visitors?
Yes. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve allows a maximum 450 people inside per day, and no more than 250 people are allowed on the trails at any given time during the day. These limits were designed to protect wildlife from excessive disturbance, because although visitors are strictly forbidden from touching, feeding, or in any way interfering with wildlife, our mere presence in the park is already an impact. The limits as to the number of people in the reserve help curb any harm we may unknowingly be doing with each visit.
Travel agents are welcome to provide even more detailed answers, or seek out more information here.
Does the guided tour at the Monteverde Reserve include the entrance fee? Are we guaranteed entrance?
Yes, our guided tours include entrance fees to the park, but the park limits the number of entrances daily to 450 people, with only 250 allowed on the trails at a given time. Sometimes, you and your group might have to wait a little before the park allows our entrance. We cannot control this aspect of the tour, but your guide will do what’s possible to make your time worthwhile. Sometimes our groups explore the periphery of the park to search for wildlife during the wait. Once the park opens entrances again, then your group can enjoy all that Monteverde has to offer. Monteverde opens from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm every day of the year.
Learn more at Costa Rica Monkey Tours!