Walking on Air: A Guide to Costa Rica’s Cloud Forest

By Bianca Ohannessian   

What is it?

A magical rainforest set high up in the misty mountains of Moteverde, with hanging bridges suspended from the tree tops.

Costa Rica is leading the way when it comes to protecting its flora and fauna, and this national park is no exception. The high altitude brings swirling mists and rainbows over the lush green jungle, and the moist air creates just the right environment for its hundreds of exotic species of animals and birds. It’s also home to an incredible 2,500 varieties of plants. Admittedly, a lot of them look very similar to the untrained eye. But they are all very pretty anyway.

 

The Hanging Bridges

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A series of several swinging bridges, known as the Sky Walk trail, will take you through the forest. They give you a bird’s eye view of the vibrant green valleys and canyons below and make you feel a bit like Indiana Jones.

They’re made of metal and look pretty sturdy until you step onto them and you realise the floor is made of a criss-cross pattern so you can see through all the gaps – it’s a long way down. Then you take a few steps and the swaying and sounds of creaking metal begins. You know it’s safe but it’s still a little unsettling if you’re not great with heights.

The spectacular views will soon take your mind off any thoughts of the bridge engineering though, as you look out over the thick tropical canopies.

And if you’re short of time, or just downright impatient, you can zoom through the forest on zip-lines instead.

 

The Creatures of Cloud Forest

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You can also spot some of the exotic wildlife with your feet planted firmly back down on solid ground. You might see an opossum pottering around (not to be confused with a possum) or monkeys chomping on fruit in the branches.

There’s also a humming bird area at the national park. You’ll hear the buzzing sound of their wings as you approach the garden. These tiny birds beat their wings so fast that they’re almost invisible as they dart around picking up bird seeds. But you’ll be able to spot their glowing iridescent colours all across Costa Rica if you keep an eye open for them. There’s a butterfly garden too, where you can see more winged creatures flitting about.

You can also join a night tour of the jungle where a guide will point out nocturnal creatures in their natural habitat. As your group creeps through the jungle by torch light, you might be lucky enough to see sloths, armadillos or colourful tree frogs.

 

What else?

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The nearby Tico village of Santa Elena caters to visitors that have mainly come to see the Cloud Forest, but it still has a low-key feel. You can find authentic Costa Rican restaurants serving Casado, as well as artisanal cafés and bakeries and a few local bars too. You can even continue the forest vibes at dinner with a visit to Tree House, a restaurant-bar which has been built around a giant tree illuminated with colourful fairy lights.

Costa Rica is also famous for its coffee, and you can discover where it’s made here. There are tours available that show you around the fair trade plantations where the Café Monteverde beans are harvested and prepared, before sampling the final product in the coffee shop.

 

What to wear

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Although the warm sun still shines on this part of Costa Rica, it can get a bit chilly this high up. Depending on what time of year you’re going, you might get a bit (or a lot) of rainfall too. So basically, you’re going to need a lot of layers.

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