The Panamerican Highway starting about 15 miles south of San José rises over the Cerro de la Muerte, or Mountain of Death, so named about a century ago when settlers migrating to the rich lowlands beyond often perished in cold, windy rains near the 10,000 foot peak. Today a modern highway runs through the area, and it is now known for its outstanding scenery and for excellent high elevation bird watching. Most notable is that this region is very likely the best place in the world for observing resplendent quetzals-birds so spectacularly beautiful they were considered divine entities by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Many comfortable lodges are now located here for visitors to best enjoy the colorful avifauna and cool mountain scenery.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest in the Tilaran Mountains of northwest Costa Rica is one of the world’s premiere destinations for naturalists. A cloud forest is an especially beautiful and rare type of rain forest created by frequent mists from low-lying clouds. This cool and moist environment is characterized by massive trees covered by thick “carpets” of small plants. Much of the resident wildlife is endemic to these habitats. In addition to forest hikes, visitors can enjoy many other area attractions including horseback riding; dining in numerous restaurants; live frog and butterfly exhibits; bird watching; crafts and gift shopping; “zip line” tours and bridge walks in forest canopies; a visit to a native orchid garden and more.