Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles


The highlight was seeing 2 resplendent quetzal. Another Canadian saw 4 the same day. May is breeding season.


… The “song” is a treble syllable described as kyow or like “a whimpering pup”, often in pairs, which may be repeated monotonously. …

It was something closer to a puppy whimper than a kitten’s sound.

… classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss. …

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) … founded in 1972 … visited by roughly 70,000 visitors a year. …

… extremely high biodiversity, consisting of over 2,500 plant species (including the most orchid species in a single place), 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects, has drawn scientists and tourists since. …

I hiked all the trails in less than 4 hours. A number were closed. They looked to me to be closed permanently.

trail map

I did take one of the closed trails for a few hundred metres, just to compare. It seemed about the same but without trail maintenance.


For lunch I propped myself up against my pack under a giant tree. And enjoyed it so much that I left behind a Summit Stone.


A second highlight was the bridge through and above the forest canopy. Dangling plants living only on “air” are amazing.

click for larger version

Cost for entry in 2015 was $20 for a foreign adult. Locals consider that high compared to a similar experience in the other reserves.

On the other hand, this is the only official local hiking area that reaches the continental divide.


Though you are not likely to see any animals … (I saw only one mammal fleetingly) … I recommend this hike.


Transportation between San Jose and Monteverde is relatively painless. You can easily get to the Arenal volcano, as well.


I recommend it. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the best hikes in Costa Rica.

more photos

El Balcon de Iberia, Cuba

Tom Mangan tipped us off to this well loved day hike.

The trail leads through the spectacular Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt (Alexander von Humboldt National Park), which UNESCO recognizes as “one of the most biologically diverse tropical islands sites on earth.” Careful where you step: you will pass some of the world’s smallest vertebrates on your way to the El Majá Waterfall, which cascades over 82 feet.

autentica Cuba


The trail begins at the first narrow section of the Santa María River …

Your hike will take you to the source of the Santa María River—El Majá Waterfall, more tban 82 feet (25 meters) high—where you can rest in the shade before treating yourself to a refreshing dip.

Duration: 5 hours
Distance: 4.3 miles
(7 kilometers)

Fansipan, Vietnam – not recommended

World → Asia → Vietnam → Fansipan

No longer one of the best hikes in the world


  •  Vietnamese: Phan Xi Păng

“the Roof of Indochina”

A cable car will open September 2015 or sooner, degrading the hiking experience. The Sapa area is great, but trek elsewhere in the region. This summit will soon be flooded with suitcase tourists. 😦

Below is our old information page, no longer being updated.

Update (this is an exception 🙂) from patriciaoprea March 2017:

I paid about 60 USD the night before (I’m so last minute) for a tour from Sa Pa
It was 2 days,1 night.

The good thing about this? We arrived at the summit at 7:00 in the morning.
The cable car is built, but NOBODY is there at that hour, because it hasn’t opened yet!

I loved this hike, go for it 🙂



  • map Fansipan3,143 meters (10,312ft), it’s the highest in Indochina
  • Northwest region of Vietnam, near the Chinese border
  • 9km southwest of Sapa (Sa Pa), a gorgeous hill station developed by the French
  • 1-3 days hiking
  • pine forests, bamboo thickets and jungle
  • best months October through April. Some say April and May are best as it’s warmer. And the flowers are in bloom.
  • avoid the wet season from June to September, with heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August
  • record for scaling Fansipan is one hour and thirty-five minutes, in case you want to better that time. 🙂

Panoramic views of the mountain ranges of northwest Vietnam, if you get any views at all. The summit is famously shrouded in cloud.:-(

Why We Like This Hike

  • about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 fauna species (sadly many of the larger animals have been hunted out)
  • no ropes or technical climbing skills are needed
  • plaque at the peak placed February 2007
  • colourful minority ethnic people, especially on market days
  • ridge walk sections were our favourite



  • malarial mosquitoes can be a danger some months of the year
  • bring warm clothes. Temperatures below freezing are frequent.
  • snow is possible
  • climb is rough, wet, muddy and cold. Some bring rubber boots.
  • gloves with good grips recommended for ladders and rock scramble
  • scramble ladders and tree roots
  • you may be clutching bamboo at points
  • we’ve seen warnings about poisonous snakes, leeches, rodents, perhaps exaggerated
  • dogs are a worry, both in Sapa and on the trail. Even if you don’t carry a trekking pole, you might want to carry a stick
  • Sapa is a tourist trap. Touts are a pest.


Guided trips are no longer as inexpensive as they once were. Seems the government got stricter with guide requirements.

We paid $95 for a one day, up-and-down for 1 person October 2014.

A two day trek costs $180 for 1 person October 2014. You can negotiate on price with some agencies.

Shop around. The official government tourist information office quoted $120 for the $95 tour. Assume the difference is commission.


There are a number of options, including a 1 day guided up-and-down.

It’s possible to do independently. But we wouldn’t recommend it unless you are familiar with the route.

click for larger version
click for larger version

There are three routes to the mountain. One is from Tram Ton, the others from the villages of Sin Chai and Cat Cat.

The first route is a more gradual climb because it has been selected for tourists. The trip can be made in a day.

The route from Sin Chai is shorter but more adventurous, requiring climbers to sometimes use ropes or other special facilities for climbing.

The route from Cat Cat is the longest, but mixes some challenging climbs with great scenery. After one day of climbing, there’s a break at 2,200m above sea level. Climbers can have a meal cooked by a Mong porter and camp, followed by a second camp at 2,700m before reaching the peak on the third day.

Most climbers chose a tour from Sa Pa at a cost of about VND1.5 million excluding train fare from Ha Noi, and tours should be booked a month in advance.

Climb Sipan
  • many hikers arrive by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, then bus from Lao Cai to Sapa. Those tickets sell out during high season, especially during holidays, as Sapa is super popular with Vietnamese.
  • even better, some feel, is the night sleep bus direct from Hanoi
  • we stayed at the Sapa Unique Hotel for about $35 / night. It gets rave reviews.

Trekking Guides


We recommend you hire a guide. Let them do the logistics. You simply enjoy the journey.

  • on the most popular route up from the Ranger Station Camp 1 is located at around 1,500m (4,920ft). Simple accommodation and food are offered.
  • at 2,800m (9,190ft) is Camp 2. Sleeping is communal in a very poorly maintained ‘hut’. Might have rodents. Have your agency bring tents, instead. Camp 2 is trashed and unsanitary.

Local Information

  • none aside from hotels and lodges

Best Trekking Guidebooks

  • none that we know of

Best Travel Guidebooks

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports


Click PLAY or watch Leonard Boey’s 2013 trip highlights on YouTube.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

climbing Fansipan, Vietnam

Fansipan is a mountain in Vietnam, the highest in Indochina (comprising Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), at 3,143 metres (10,312 ft). …

Update. I’m just about to book my flight. I hope to climb Fancy Pan end of October.

“the Roof of Indochina”


  • map Fansipan3,143 meters (10,312ft), it’s the highest in Indochina
  • Northwest region of Vietnam, near the Chinese border
  • 9km southwest of Sapa (Sa Pa) Township
  • 1-3 days hiking
  • pine forests, bamboo thickets and jungle

I’ll travel to the jumping off tourist town of Sa Pa. Hang out for a day or two looking at guided options. If I feel good, and the weather is reasonable, I’ll try for the one day up-and-down. About 10 hours total.

The best trip report I’ve seen was posted on mymilez:

We did not expect the climb to be so heavy. The trail was very steep and mostly ran in the rain forests and bamboo groves, by wet and slippery roots and rocks. …



Climbing Fansipan – highest peak of Indochina

Fansipan Peak was blocked due to snow fall damage January 2014.

Leave a comment if you have any advice for me. I’ve added Fansipan to our list of the best hikes in Asia.

coast-to-coast Madagascar

The plan is simple – to be a part of the world’s first group to walk across the northern part of the island from east to west, entirely on foot, a distance of almost 400 km, in the seemingly impossible timeframe of three weeks. …


Days pass by as we trek west. We camp in rural villages – usually on patchy football fields where, night after night, hundreds of curious children and adults alike surround us, amazed at the presence of a ‘Vaza’, a white ghost – the Malagasy term for westerners. They haven’t seen many before. In fact, in this part of Madagascar, away from the tourist trail in the south, the last foreigners that have entered the foothills of the Tsaratanana were the French army in the late 1940s and occasional mineral prospectors in the 1970s. …


At exactly the half way point of the journey, after almost two hundred kilometers of uphill slogging, we reach the summit of Maromokotro, Madagascar’s highest mountain. …


read more – Adventure Travel: Madagascar

(via Hiking in Finland)

Surviving New Zealand’s Hardest Hike – Dusky Track

Eric Leifer of National Geographic Young Explorers :

Fiordland National Park, tucked away far within New Zealand’s South Island, has the notorious claim to fame as one of the wettest locations in the southern hemisphere; and with a mean annual rainfall of 268 inches …

Throw yourself off the deep end by accepting the challenge of the country’s hardest trail, the infamous Dusky Track, an 84-kilometer route that impossibly forces its way through this impermeable landscape. …

Nat Geo


Dave at the Lost City

… a good 4 to 5 day hike. We had great weather with no rain, which meant hot afternoons. In the mornings, we were up around 5am to be on the trail by 6am. This was to avoid the heat and catch the sun rise. Although hiking in the heat was hard work, the waterfall swimming pools at the end of every day (except the last) were a magnificent reward. Amazing water and then catch some rays in the sun. …

Ciudad Perdida, Colombia – The Lost City