One of the most unique environments in the world is on Costa Rica’s mountaintops. Cloud forests like Monteverde’s are formed by a combo of wind and geography. Trade winds flow from the northeast across the warm Caribbean Sea and drive moist air into the Cordillera Tilarán. The slope of the mountains pushes the air upwards allowing it to expand and cool. Since cool air holds less moisture the excess humidity forms tiny droplets, mist and clouds. When tiny droplets are deposited on surfaces before they collect together and fall as rain it’s called horizontal precipitation and in cloud forests it can be the main source of moisture.
Cloud forests are distinctive biologically as well. They don’t quite match the biodiversity found in the ecozone-tropical lowland rainforests, but they exceed them in uniqueness. The concentration of species found in only one location is higher than other locations except for islands like the Galapagos which are isolated by the ocean.
The most famous cloud forest in Costa Rica and perhaps in the world is Monteverde.
Sponge-like epiphytes (mosses, ferns and bromeliads) massively increase the surface area for horizontal precipitation. The whole ecozone functions as a water regulator, soaking it up in the rainy season (preventing erosion), and releasing vapor to the atmosphere and runoff downstream in the dry season.
While we were here we visited Selvatura Park on the recommendation of our friend Nick, who helped us plan this trip. Here we spent several hours hiking (in the rain) through 12 hanging bridges and a hummingbird garden and then several more hours ziplining through the cloud forest on 15 zip lines, the last one being a mile long! It is the longest zipline in all of America (meaning North, Central and South)! Two of them we did tandem (including the last one) several hundred feet in the air. I have heard the zip lines in Costa Rica were legendary, and to top that, the best place to do them was in the Cloud Forest in Monteverde. Let me tell you the legends are true. I have zip lined before. Nothing in the world hold a candle to doing it here. (Here is a video showing how you literally disappear into the clouds!)
The hummingbirds were so loud. They would zoom past and it sounded like jet engines flying by.
Along with hiking inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve we also hiked the grounds of the preserve at Valle Escondido.
Along the hike were heard lots of howler monkeys but then were heard a deep growl that was so close it scared the crap out of us.
That is when we discovered this cute little Coati Mundi up in the tree above us.
From here you can watch this...
Turns into this waterfall!
We did not have time to hike all the trails. This is where I wish I had 2 more days in Monteverde. To think I almost skipped this part of the trip all together! It was my favorite part.
Good bye mountains and clouds! We are off to the beach in the next segment of our journey.