It’s difficult to imagine a greener, more lush country than Costa Rica. The landscape of the country’s rugged volcanic interior is impossibly verdant, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to some of the most breathtaking cloud forests on earth.
Viator’s Sky Adventure Monteverde Park offers three options to tour the town’s nearby cloud forest with views from within the park and from high above it. The Sky Walk + Sky Tram option includes a bit of both — it starts with a leisurely, two-hour hike through the forest and ends with a one-hour gondola ride over it.
Costa Rica’s two seasons — rainy and dry — each provide distinct experiences in the Sky Park. My December visit (at the dawn of the rainy season) guaranteed a persistent haze of fog and clouds every day. While such weather isn’t ideal for crystal clear photography, it envelops the cloud forest in a moody, fantastical atmosphere that feels like a Lord of the Rings set.
The Sky Walk tour kicks off from the park’s visitor center with a brief orientation before jumping right into the thick of the rainforest. It’s an indescribable environment where the air feels impossibly dense and is abuzz with the sounds of what must be a million birds. In two short hours, our well-versed, bilingual guide rattled off a dizzying array of facts about the area’s plant and animal life.
Even by Costa Rican standards, Monteverde offers a staggering amount of biodiversity — indeed, it’s home to more than 2,500 plant species, 400 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, and thousands of insect species. The Sky Walk tracks a route along the forest floor (with awe-inspiring views of the towering trees above) and across six long suspension bridges (with just as awe-inspiring views of the rainforest canopy below).
Fortunately the rain held out during my hike, but visitors should pack ample rain gear because the storms here are unlike anywhere on earth. As I would soon learn.
The Sky Walk is immediately bookended by boarding the Sky Tram — a functional gondola designed for sightseeing above the cloud forest canopy. The gondola’s path tracks one of the area’s highest peaks at nearly a mile above sea level. It’s a dramatic ridge that, on a clear day, offers stunning, panoramic views stretching from Laguna de Arenal in the north to the Pacific Ocean in the west.
The 2,600-foot-ride (more than half a mile) is completely exposed to the elements that, in the rainy season, often include driving rain and 60 mile-per-hour winds. Such was the case on the day of my visit. At one point, the wind was so constant and so strong that I was certain my gondola car was horizontal. Turning to my guide, I naively asked if they ever shut it down due to wind. He shrugged his lips and sheepishly shook his head as if to indicate a definite no. It was clear to me in that moment that Costa Ricans are a hearty people. At the top, a viewing platform offers a bit of reprieve from the weather and a perfect vantage point to see for miles in either direction. “Perfect”, that is, when the weather is ideal.
Part of the fun of outdoor adventures is that they’re adventurous. Nature doesn’t always cooperate exactly how we’d like. For my part, I took advantage of an Irish coffee from the tiny cafe on the viewing platform and embraced the “pea soup” view around me.
I was, after all, still lucky enough to be breathing the fresh, mountain air of the Costa Rican rainforest. And it’s not every day that anyone gets to experience that.
Ready to learn more about tours like these — head to Viator and start exploring!