Imagine almost flying across wide and deep valleys along wire where you are suspended by a thin strip of nylon and a roller. Imagine doing this for about 2 miles.. Well that's what you get for your money and it is something that I would do again in a heartbeat.
It is truly a MUST DO activity.
You pays your money.. join a group of 20 or so other crazy people, attach a small nylon strap to your body, drive to a higher place, climb up a tall tree, attach you tiny strap to a steel wire and then coast down these wires (zip lines) for about 2 miles, from treetop to treetop, crossing over valleys hundreds of feet above the very tall trees in the process.
If it was just a walk through the treetops it would be great, but the added thrill of almost flying across valleys is incredible. There are many companies that provide this service. I only used one (Selvatura), which I do recommend. They also have a great hummingbird 'garden' at the end of the trip.
By visiting the cloudforest over the hanging bridges you can get a glimpse into the treetops of the forest, invisible from the ground. It gives you the opportunity to see other plants and trees and more birds. It's a special experience, however, don't expect to see more animals than on the ground. You really need a good guide or an experienced eye to observe the wildlife.
In the Monteverde region there are two opportunities: the "Sky Walk" and the "Tree top walk way" in Selvatura. We did the last one. The walkway is a 1.5 miles (3 kilometer) trail that crosses through the cloud forest. There are 8 suspension bridges between 36 and 170 meters high. It's a nice walk of about 1.5 hours and costs 20 USD per person.
In this tip I wanted to show a close-up of how your are suspended from the wires and the equipment that is used.
IN the picture you will see how you are suspended by a pulley wheel and an attached piece of nylon. There is an additional separate piece of nylon as a safety.
In this configuration, you use the glove to pull down on the wire to slow down. But beware, don't slow down too much or you will end up stuck in the middle. It is a balance between too fast and too slow.
A guided night walk can be very interesting, it will give you the opportunity to see some other animals, especially bugs that you won't see during the day.
The night walk starts at sunset. You will be given a flash light and together with a guide you will walk the dark trails looking for spiders, snakes, and all kind of night bugs.
We did ours at the Ecological Santuary in Monteverde. The cost per person is 15 USD. The night walk starts at 5:30 p.m.
Visiting a hummingbird garden is a wonderful experience. It's amazing to watch all those hummingbirds flying around you.
We went to the hummingbird garden in La Selvatura. The garden is situated in a corner of the park where several poles with baskets with sugar water are placed. About 14 different kind of hummingbirds come here daily. Sit down on a bench, take your camera and start shooting those cheerful, colourful little birds.
Entrance to the garden is 5 USD.
Note: there is no entrance fee when visiting the hummingbird garden at the entrance of the Monteverde Reserve.
This cloudforest is a private nature park. It was founded by Quaker families that came from the US to Costa Rica back in 1951.
At the entrance you will receive a map on which all the trails are indicated. There are trails ranging from a few hundred meters to several kilometers. The trails are well maintained, clearly signed, and it is quite easy to make your way around the reserve without a guide. There is one main trail leading to a nice viewpoint from where you will have a nice view over Puntaneras. There is also a trail going over a hanging bridge.
We had planned to walk for 3 hours, so at the entrance they showed us which trails to follow.
There is a limit of 120 people in the reserve at any time. This limit is rarely reached in the green (rainy) season, but if you come in the high season plan to arrive early.
The park is open daily from 7 am to 4 pm. Entrance fee: 13 USD
Many of the zipline companies also offer other attractions like canopy bridges, butterfly gardens and hummingbird gardens. On the one that we choose (Selvatura) you walked through a hummingbird area at the end of the Ziplines.
This was a very nice way to 'come down' after zipping through the treetops and across the valleys.
We were told that only 100 people at a time were admitted to the Reserve. So we got up really early and drove down there hoping to see some animals (Wildlife includes the Jaguar, Ocelot, Baird´s Tapir, Three-wattled Bellbird, Bare necked Umbrella bird and Resplendent Quetzal.) before the other 98 people had scared them off. Except for the coati mundi at the entrance and unidentified warblers and other songbirds that winter over, we didn't see any other wildlife like monkeys. We were too cheap to pay for a private guided tour, and I wasn't sure that I could keep up with the regular groups.
HOURS: 7 AM to 4 PM daily.
COST: US $12 adults, $6.50 for students with ID & children over 11, free for younger.
Restaurant, souvenir shop, art gallery. no restrooms on trails.
GUIDED TOURS: are available for $15 pp and last about 3 1/2 hours ($12 pp for groups of 5 or more) in English or Spanish. Guided night tours are $13, entrance, and guide included. Every night. Meet at 7:15 P.M. at reserve entrance, no reservations needed. Note that if it rains, the night tour is not recommended.
We were glad we had a car, because the area is quite spread out.
GETTING THERE: Bus leaves from the Banco National in Santa Elena de Monteverde at 6:15 AM and 1:00 PM daily (except Sundays in the low season, only at 6h15 am) . Returns at noon and 4 PM. Or take a taxi for $5, one way.
There are numerous walking trails of various distance in the Monteverde Reserve. I highly recommand hiring a guide for a nature walk in the park. It is well worth the money as the guides have great knowledge of the area and can explain the fauna and flora, as well as spotting wildlife along the trail. Without the guides, it will only be a walk in the forest. They have really sharp eyes and they know where the animals and birds hang out as the forest is their office! With the guide, I was able to see numerous spider monkeys, quetzals, toucans, hummingbirds, tarantulas and other species of birds.
There is also an early birdwatching tour and a guided night walk. I'm not sure about the prices for these tours.
You can hire a guide for $15, and the walk lasts for about 3 hours. Ask for it when you pay your admission.
This really is THE ULTIMATE, and something I've wanted to do for a long time!
In the reception block you are kitted out with a climbing harness to which a hook is attached.
One you reach the top of the hill (by way of many, many steps), you are attached to a pulley and sent across the valley on a wire! Woooweee!
The worst part is lifing your feet from the starting block, once you've done that, it's all plain sailing. The trick is to lift your feet up and make sure you are hanging strait. If you end up travelling diagonally, it will slow you down and you may not reach the platform the other end. You then need to turn around and haul yourself there, which can be hard work.
Safety is the main issue here and there are two different mechanisms connecting you with the wire above, so if one fails the other will still hold you.
You "steer" with your hands on a handle on the pulley, but you don't actually have to hold yourself up by your hands.
The course you follow with Skytrek, takes you back and forth over the valley, a total stretch of 2 kilometers (1.25 mile!) of cables, with 10 cables. The longest is 427 meters long (1,400 feet), and 127 meters high (417 feet).
From one of the platforms (quite a shake climb on wire mesh steps to reach it), we sailed off without being able to see the end of the zip wire - it was shrouded in cloud! That was the highlight for me!
I would like to add that this is a "sport" suitable for all ages of adults and some older children - we took my parents who were 75 at the time! (at that time they were the oldest to have been on it)
A guided tour with one of the students was a fascinating insight into the life cycle of the butterfly and the importance of this beautiful little insect. The information centre has exhibits of various stages of the development of the butterfly and the tour is a very hands-on experience.
The hour-long tour includes a visit to the greenhouse where the butterflies are raised before going outside to the enclosed garden. There are many different types of butterfly here and they are not shy to be photographed.
Imagine a lush cloud forest, what is the best way to see it?
Well you could trek round it at floor level, pay to walk mid way up the trees in the bridges called Sky Bridge.
Or, you could zip line your way over and through the trees.
Oh yes, what an awesome ride. One line is over half a mile long. The view is great.
Lasts about 2 hours
Costs about $40, well worth it
While in the Monteverde area, even more so if you don't have a car, you feel alone and with nothing to do. We got our hand on a little brochure that lists everything to do in the area. Kind of touristic, but if you plan to stay more than a day or two, know that there's stuff to do! It's made by the members of Monteverde Chamber of Tourism.
Serpentario (snakes zoo): www.snaketour.co.cr
Ranario Frog pond: email@example.com (8$ pp)
Horseback riding La Estrella: 506-645-5075
Monteverde Butterfly Garden: firstname.lastname@example.org (7$ pp)
Monteverde Coffee tour: www.crstudytours.com
Monteverde Cheese Factory: www.crstudytours.com
Natural Wonders Tram: www.naturalwonderstram.com
Reserva Biologica Monteverde www.cct.or.cr (12$ pp)
Santa Elena Cloud forest reserve: www.monteverdeinfo.com/reserve (9$ pp, guide +15$ pp)
Sky Walk: www.skywalk.co.cr (15$ pp)
Sky Trek: www.skytrek.co.cr (40$ pp)
Aventura Canopy Tour (35$ pp)
Selvatura Canopy Tour (35$ pp) Walkways (15$ pp)
Canopy Tour (45$ pp)
World of insect (7$ pp)
Ecological Farm (7$ pp)
Women handicraft center and coffee factory (casem)
Aerial adventure (15$ pp)
Children forest (Bajo Del Tigre Trail)
In the same area with Monteverde there are a number of different ecological areas and trails. So one afternoon we drove to a small area of the Children's Eternal Rain Forest of Costa Rica (Bosque Nuboso de Los Ninos). The trail was being constructed of cross sections of tree trunks, and when I stepped on one of them, it tipped up and deposited me on my butt.
One of the reasons to visit this section is that it is in a transition zone from pre-mountain wet forest to pre-mountain moist forest. Because of its location on the Pacific slope, elevation and humidity, Bajo del Tigre is a very different habitat from other rain forest reserves in the area. Thirty of the tree species in Bajo del Tigre are among those in the area that have recently been identified as new to science.
The website says: "As part of your experience at Jaguar Canyon, you will be sharing the home of the sloth, white-faced monkey, agouti, coatimundi, kinkajou, margays, porcupine, hog-nosed skunk, fox, coyote, armadillo, and bats, plus a world of insects, butterflies, spiders, reptiles, frogs, snakes, and great bird watching."
We did see a blue crowned mot mot (although I didn't get a picture) and this squirrel.
* Operated by the Monteverde_Conservation League as part of the Children's Eternal Forest. 3.5 km. of trails particularly suited to families.
* LOCATION: On the road to Monteverde_Reserve.
* HOURS: 7:30 A.M. TO 5:30 P.M. COSTS: $5 pp/day; $4 for students with ID and children.
Santa Elena Reserve is another private park in the Monteverde area. This reserve is operated by the local high school, with the revenue going back to education funding in Monteverde.
There are 4 hiking trails in the reserve. Guided tour is available for $14 for about 3 hours.
As the guide led us on the Encantado Trail, we heard a thunder sound, the guide then told us to run towards a point where there was an opening, and there it was, Arenal Volcano, in a distance, with a puff of smoke coming out from the top! That was the highlight of the walk. The guide also spotted a three-wattled bellbird resting very high up on a tree. This spectacular species is in great danger of becoming extinct because of the loss of habitat.
After the guided walk, I went on the Youth Challenge Trail, hoping to take another look at the volcano. It is a 1.4km loop, quite an easy walk. I climbed to the top of the observation tower, which is above the trees. You can have a great view of the surrounding area. Too bad the clouds have moved in around the volcano when I got there.
Entrance fee is $10.