Nicoya, Monte Alto Nature Reserve
If you've had enough of the heat and dust of Guanacaste you can quickly have a complete change of scenery. A 60 min drive from Samara, or 20 min from Nicoya you find a lush jungle in the mountains with moderate temperatures and a fascinating display of plants and wildlife.
Monte Alto is a nature reserve located 480 - 880 meters above sea level. It belongs to the Nosara Protected Zone which serves the combined purpose of protecting nature and wildlife along with the important water resources of the headwaters of the Rio Nosara. The project was founded in 1994 when the Rio Nosara had lost 90 percent of its original amount of water due to deforestation.
Today the reserve covers 924 hectares of low mountain moist forest which is in transition to humid forest. Small wildcats and many other animals roam the thickets and scientists discovered yet unknown species of plants.
Monte Alto forms part of the "Cuenca" a continuous stretch of protected forest in the mountainous interior of the Nicoya Peninsula. It belongs to the biological corridor of Costa Rica and connects to other nature preserves like the Karen Mogensen Reserve.
The Orchid Trail
A major attraction of Monte Alto is the orchid path which winds 500 m through the forest. The easy-to-walk trail is flanked by trees and posts, festooned with a vast array of orchids. 80 species of native orchids and bromeliads of Costa Rica thrive in the Monte Alto mountain reserve, displaying intriguing shapes and colors.
Small bridges lead over the winding creek, who many miles downstream will become the majestic Rio Nosara. You see large blue Morpho butterflies flapping by, watch troops of leaf-cutting ants carrying pieces of flowers and leaves, and sometimes come across howler monkeys, agutis and coatis. Bird lovers might be interested to know that more than 200 species of birds are found in the reserve.
Besides the orchid trail there are 5 more trails through the pre-mountaine jungle of the Monte Alto reserve. One trail leads to a waterfall, another one to the lookout point of Cerro Romo, the highest point in the entire region. From its peak at 883 meters altitude you enjoy panoramic views to the Gulf of Nicoya in the east, the beaches of Samara in the west, and the plains of Guanacaste in the north.
Lodging in Monte Alto
Monte Alto offers accommodation in a large log house surrounded by forest. Each of the 5 rooms has a private bathroom and bunk beds for 3 - 4 guests. On the second floor is a big recreational area which looks out to the jungle covered mountains. Upon prior notice you also get delicious traditional meals, served in the nearby rancho.
Monte Alto is a great destination for nature lovers and eco-tourists who can learn about the intricacies of the jungle on guided tours. It is also well suited for groups and educational activities. There is also a meeting room with audiovisual equipment for 30 people available.
For more information contact Miguel Mendez: Tel. (506) 2659 9347
How to get there:
From Nicoya or Samara drive to the town of Hojancha. If coming from Nicoya the road to Monte Alto is to your left, 500 m after the village center of Hojancha. From here you continue 6 km to the entrance of the reserve. The last 2 km are a bit steep and you might need a 4WD, otherwise just enjoy walking by foot through the jungle. Entrance fee is $5 per person.