At the 26,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, located at the Continental Divide, the winds create clouds that envelop the mountain peaks. That means you hike through mist-shrouded woods, lush with ferns, mosses, vines and orchids that dangle from tree limbs. Known for its biodiversity, Monteverde shelters 400 species of birds, as well as jaguars, ocelots and quetzals, although the cats are rarely seen. The quetzals almost never appear on main trails, and many birds are more likely to be heard than viewed. That’s why some skip Monteverde, but for us, it proved to be a highlight.
On our three-hour hike, we felt as if we’d entered the forest primeval. As the sun filtered through the trees, our guide showed us why epiphytes (orchids are among these) grow there, pointed out the “hot lips” plants favored by hummingbirds and led us to a pristine waterfall.
Tip: Go with a guide. Typically, your hotel can make these arrangements. Book a guide well in advance, as only 160 people are admitted to the reserve at one time. Wear layers, take water, and remember the rain gear. You are in a cloud forest.