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Wordtravels

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

The cloud forest is one of the most famous ecotourism areas in Central America. It is called a cloud forest rather than a rain forest because of the altitude. At an elevation of between 3,840ft and 5,120ft (1,200m to 1,600m) the clouds go through the forest creating a misty and often dripping, mystical habitat supporting a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. It has been acclaimed as one of the most outstanding wildlife refuges in the New World Tropics. Because of the fragile environment there are restrictions on the number of visitors allowed into the reserve at any one time. The canopy is alive with over 400 species of birds, including the resplendent quetzal most easily seen during the March/April nesting season, as well as thousands of insect species and plants. In the shadows below are over 100 species of mammals, including five species of cats, although a glimpse of a jaguar is a very rare thing.

There are a number of good walking trails that lead through the six distinct ecological zones varying from swamp forests and deep gorges, past waterfalls and streams and onto forested outcrops traversing the Continental Divide. Exploration need not be restricted to the ground as various companies offer visitors a unique and exhilarating way of viewing the cloud forest - Sky Trek is a canopy adventure with a system of platforms connected by zip lines and suspension bridges criss-crossing the top of the forest, providing a vantage point from in and above the canopy. There is also the more sedate option of a ski lift traversing the treetops.

Address: Four miles (6km) along the road from Santa Elena

Transport: Buses leave daily from the National Bank (Banco Nacional) in Santa Elena at 6:15am and 1pm, returning at 12pm and 4pm. Taxis are also available.

Opening times: Daily from 7am to 4pm.

Admission: US$17 (adults), US$9 (children under 12). Tickets to the reserve are valid all day.