Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Nearly 5,000 feet above sea level—and reached via a four-hour, precipitous, unpaved drive from San José—this 25,700-acre, amazingly biodiverse preserve is the most popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica. Aptly named (Monteverde is Spanish for “green mountains”), the park’s verdant, misty forests contain some 2,500 plant species—including hundreds of orchid varieties—along with 100 different mammal species and 400 kinds of birds. (This is one of the only places where you might catch a glimpse of the quetzal, an elusive, iridescent green bird that was revered by the Mayans.) The park’s infrastructure is well maintained and includes well-marked hiking trails that you’ll likely share with many other nature-lovers, especially in high season. To maximize your chances of seeing wildlife, hire a guide through your hotel and arrange an early-morning or evening tour.