The Cloud Forests of Costa Rica

Or at least two of them.

We’ve ventured near cloud forests thrice on this trip: camped near one in Mexico, hiked near one in Guatemala, and intended but got blockaded near one in Nicaragua. We’ve ventured into cloud forests twice (thus far) in Costa Rica.


Despite occupying less than 1% of the world’s woodlands, cloud forest contain 15% of the world’s biodiversity. Or some remarkable stat like that. I can’t remember the exact numbers from the brochure I read — and Google isn’t helping at the moment — but, basically, lots of bio stuff happens in little space.


We went to Monteverde to witness this biodiversity. Or at least Andrea and the kids did. I went to see the Replendent Quetzal, a brilliant bird that eluded us in Guatemala, and to save you the drama, continues to elude us in Costa Rica…. We did see lots of clouds, however.

We arrived at dusk. The guards were chipper enough to let us camp just outside the gate. One even called me “dude”. They also encouraged us to check out the Colibrí (hummingbird) Cafe just outside the park. So we did. Hundreds of hummingbirds, from the cute and endemic Coppery-headed Emerald to the larger and aggressive Violet Sabrewing, buzzed our ears. It was awesome. It would, however, be the most birds we’d see.

We entered the park as soon as it opened. 7am. It was sunny. Briefly. Within meters of entering, the clouds, like an army of weary soldiers, began marching toward the forest. Then it began to drizzle. Then the wind began to whisper. We, like the guards from the previous night, who had remanned their posts that morning, remained chipper. We’ve fought weather before.

We spotted two Bananaquits and one Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush a few meters later. Except for one errant Azure-hooded Jay halfway into the hike, that’s all we’d spot. The entire hike. The allied forces of clouds, rain, and wind assaulted us for the next four hours. Visibility was reduced to a few meters. Yet the hike remained enjoyable. We even crossed a hanging bridge at one point.

As soon as we exited the park, the forces relented. A troop of howler monkeys appeared. A Green Hermit buzzed my ears. We retreated to the Colibrí Cafe for brownies, coffee, and hot chocolate.

Santa Elena

We took my parents — who left yesterday (sad face) after spending the last two weeks touring Costa Rica with us — to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest to see the Quetzal, err, biodiversity. Unfortunately, we saw much of the same: clouds, rain, and wind. Oh, and much more mud.

Santa Elena is an equally impressive forest in terms of terrain, though the trails aren’t as well-maintained. We hiked through mud the entire three hours — Everett and my father both had epic plummets into the mud. But, like in Monteverde, the hike was still beautiful. Otherworldly. Like venturing through a fantasy.

Here Comes The Sun, Doo Doo Doo Doo

If you visit the cloud forests of Costa Rica — and you certainly should! — stay nearby and wait for the weather to break before entering. You’ll see much more biodiversity if you do.

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