Site-specific height-diameter models may be used to improve biomass estimates for forest inventories where only diameter at breast height (DBH) measurements are available. In this study, we fit height-diameter models for vegetation types of a tropical Atlantic forest using field measurements of height across plots along an altitudinal gradient. To fit height-diameter models, we sampled trees by DBH class and measured tree height within 13 one-hectare permanent plots established at four altitude classes. To select the best model we tested the performance of 11 height-diameter models using the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). The Weibull and Chapman-Richards height-diameter models performed better than other models, and regional site-specific models performed better than the general model. In addition, there is a slight variation of height-diameter relationships across the altitudinal gradient and an extensive difference in the stature between the Atlantic and Amazon forests. The results showed the effect of altitude on tree height estimates and emphasize the need for altitude-specific models that produce more accurate results than a general model that encompasses all altitudes. To improve biomass estimation, the development of regional height-diameter models that estimate tree height using a subset of randomly sampled trees presents an approach to supplement surveys where only diameter has been measured.