Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Monteverde
Concierge.com's insider take:
A wide variety of flora and fauna thrive in the eerily mist-shrouded mountains of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. High on many bird spotters' lists is the quetzal, an iridescent green bird with an extravagant long tail. Hiring a guide is a good idea, as most of the birds and animals are hard to spot in the dense foliage here. Visit at night on a guided flashlight tour to view the various species of rain frogs and other colorful amphibians that come out in the dark. It's also possible to travel up through the rainforest in the Sky Tram gondola. If you're brave enough, zip-line back down through the trees. Once you've hiked Monteverde's main reserve, strap on your hiking boots once more and head to the smaller Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, run by the local community. Thanks to its higher elevation, Santa Elena has some creatures—such as spider monkeys—not found within the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Getting to the Monteverde region requires an arduous uphill drive on unpaved roads subject to frequent landslides. Despite being only 105 miles from San José, this region takes about four hours to reach via the Pan-American Highway (or an equal time when traveling from La Fortuna along the north shore of Lake Arenal, due to the winding mountain roads).