In the Puntarenas canton of Costa Rica, Monteverde is an increasingly popular destination with ecotourists that’s home to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, plants and trees, and is renowned as a wildlife refuge. Here’s our pick of the best places to stay.
The principal village of Monteverde, Santa Elena, has only been populated since 1918. Quakers from Alabama discovered the area post World War II and toiled to conserve the land, allocating an area that is now known as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
Poco a Poco was borne out of the dream of a solo Costa Rican who decided to convert his own house in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. The persistence of this passion project has been realised in the form of the cosy Little by Little hotel. Key features include a spa, warm water pool and hot tub. The Octuma bar and restaurant serve tantalising concoctions enhanced by indigenous ingredients. The Garden Superior 16 room is a superb choice for romantic couples, with its private jacuzzi and garden terrace.
Close to downtown, the picture-perfect designer gardens of Monteverde Lodge are the ideal picnic setting. Fill a basket with goodies from the excellent El Jardin restaurant, washed down with the signature drink, Jigüiro, made with fresh guava juice, rum, triple sec and a squeeze of lemon. The private table in the butterfly garden is a romantic spot for couples. Bedrooms complement the natural surroundings showcased by the awe-inspiring forest views enjoyed from private balconies.
The Los Pinos family are as dedicated to protecting the land of their lush reserve as they are to the comfort of guests. Established in 1987, this 8ha (20-acre) private retreat is brimming with local wildlife. The popular onsite trail leads up to a glorious viewpoint. At the hydroponic vegetable garden, visitors relish joining in the harvesting of herbs and vegetables, ensuring their lunch will be even more delicious.
This superior base for adventurous types offers unparalleled vistas of the Gulf of Nicoya in all its marine and wetlands glory. Days are whiled away swinging Tarzan-style on the Tree Top Canopy Tour, zip-lining at Selavatura Adventure Park and checking out the amphibians of the herpetarium. After winding down at the Green Leaf Spa, indulging in the chocolate wrap, hot stone massage or coconut exfoliation, it’s time to head for dinner at Las Riendas, where the shimmering lake view captivates.
Environmental preservation is paramount at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge. Motmot restaurant, named in homage to the resplendent bird that populates the area, offers a variety of tasty Costarian dishes using natural unprocessed spices and herbs. Breakfasts consist of freshly home-made bread, flavoursome natural fruit jelly and the lodge’s signature granola.
This hotel and organic farm is surrounded by waterfalls and canyons, so there’s an overwhelming sense of being nestled in nature here. Hummingbirds and butterflies flutter around diners at the al fresco restaurant that serves dishes augmented by home-grown salad leaves, vegetables and herbs. For the chance to see Monteverde’s wildlife up close and personal, the night tour is not to be missed and commences with a typically cinematic sunset.
One for foodies who care about the provenance of their produce, the majority of ingredients used in the Belmar’s popular restaurant are grown on the family farm, Madre Tierra. Displaying a devotion to the environment and sustainability, they harvest their own coffee beans, collect eggs from free-range hens and make a variety of artisan cheeses. At 4.30pm it’s Tico Time, when bocas (Costa Rican tapas) are served with ales from the in-house microbrewery.
Although it’s only a five-minute jaunt to downtown Monteverde, there’s a sense of total seclusion within this conservation complex that incorporates the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Adjacent to the Aguti Wildlife Reserve, the view from the outside bar belongs on the front of a postcard. The bird-watching tour offers the chance to catch a glimpse of the striking quetzal and on the guided hike, the surrounding ecosystem is explained as participants learn about the relationships between plants and animals.