Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Misty cloud forests, howling monkeys, and hummingbirds zipping around exotic orchids: Monteverde is a lush, ecological area in the mountains of Costa Rica that’s well worth a visit. On our trip to Costa Rica, we absolutely fell in love with the lush forests of Monteverde; my daughter especially loved it!
Monteverde is home to sprawling cloud forests considered by Costa Ricans as a natural wonder, with a unique blanket of cloud nurturing 90% of untouched forest and an abundance of extremely rare plants and animals, some of which are only found below these canopies and nowhere else in the world!
Hike the rainforest trails, walk the hanging bridges, and get up close to the howling monkeys and all kinds of wildlife — here’s a long list of incredible things to do in Monteverde. I highly recommend including Monteverde in your Costa Rica itinerary!
Things to Do in Monteverde
1. Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Monteverde’s biggest appeal is the cloud forests. As these forests sit from 1500 meters and more above sea level, the vegetation is completely different as the rainforests you’ll find anywhere else.
There are actually three cloud forest reserves in Monteverde: Monteverde, Santa Elena and Children’s Eternal Rain Forest. The most popular one is Monteverde Cloud Forest.
First established in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve initially covered only 810 acres of forest land. Today, it extends over 35,000 acres and houses over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians.
TIP: You can get self-guided tickets for US$25 per person, but you’ll spot a lot more animals on a guided tour. Open 7 am -4 pm every day of the year.
2. Visit Santa Elena Reserva Bosque Nuboso
Monteverde Cloud Forest is the most popular cloud forest in the area, and it can get crowded especially at peak season. We actually prefer Santa Elena Cloud Forest (La Reserve Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena) which is just as spectacular but way less busy.
Over 13km of hiking trails crisscross the reserve and they get your up close and personal to a huge variety of plants and animals. A recently upgraded observation tower in the reserve offers views all the way to the Arenal and Miravalles volcanoes (on a clear day). Open since 1992, Santa Elena was one of the first community-managed conservation projects in the country.
The self-guided entrance fee for Santa Elena reserve is US$16 for adults and US$9 for kids; guided hikes cost US$33 per person. Open every day 7am- 3pm. Note that all proceeds go toward managing the reserve, as well as to environmental education programs in local schools.
3. Walk the Hanging Bridges at Sky Adventures
One of the most unique things to do in Monteverde is to walk the hanging bridges built high above the canopy of the cloud forests for a bird’s eye view. From this height, you get to feast on a panorama of the cloud forests and glimpse howling monkeys, sloths, and snakes that tend to live high up in the trees.
We walked the hanging bridges at Sky Adventures Monteverde and loved the experience! They have the longest hanging bridges in Monteverde, with bridges that stretch up to 800 feet long and 2400 feet in altitude. It takes just under an hour to walk the hanging bridges. This is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids since the hanging bridges aren’t too long and give kids the chance to see wildlife easily.
A walk on the bridges, along with ziplining and sky tram, costs US$120 per adult and $60 for kids.
4. Go on the Longest Zip Line in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has gained fame for having some of the coolest ziplines in the world, and Monteverde actually has the longest zipline in Costa Rica.
We recommend going ziplining at Aventura Adventure Park, where you’ll get to fly over the forest and progress onto a series of longer and faster zip lines. Adventure seerks should try the massive Tarzan swing that’s akin to bungee jumping (I did something similar called the Shot Canyon Swing in New Zealand).
You can also try other activities like abseiling or superman ziplining (where you are lying down facing forward). The ziplining circuit costs $84 USD per person and is open from 8 am to 3 pm. All safety equipment is given (helmet, gloves, harness etc). It definitely felt professional and safe.
TIP: Smartphones, cameras or GoPros are not allowed on the zipline. But if you need photos, Aventura Park actually takes excellent photos which cost only $20 for a set.
5. See Hummingbirds at Selvatura
Out of the world’s 343 known species of hummingbird, around 50 species can be found in Costa Rica alone. Considering that Costa Rica is a small country, there are three times more hummingbirds here in Costa Rica than in the whole of the US! Hummingbirds in Costa Rica live here all year round, so there’s a good chance to see them during your trip.
The best place to see hummingbirds in Monteverde is Selvatura Park, a colossal 850-acre ecological complex packed with wildlife and adventure activities. At the Hummingbird Garden, you can observe more than 14 different species of hummingbirds — including species that are not commonly seen in other areas of Monteverde.
It’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with these fairy-like creatures. Feel their fluttering wings whizz past your ears and watch as they feed just inches away on the nectar! If you’re patient enough, gently rest your finger near the feeder the Monteverde hummingbirds will gratefully use you as a perch!
Book a visit of the hummingbird park for just $12. The visit is self-guided and there’s no limited time.
If you’re a horse-lover, Monteverde is an awesome spot to jump on the saddle. Not so long ago was horseback riding still the most common mode of transportation in Monteverde, some might still argue that it is the best way to explore the area, considering the state of the roads.
Horse Trek Monteverde is the most well-know outfitter in town. They offer short and multi-day horseback riding tours through rarely visited parts of the forests that you wouldn’t see on foot. Try the mountain & farm view ride (2.5 hrs) with Horse Trek Monteverde or book this horse riding experience through the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
10. Take a Coffee Tour in a Plantation
Costa Rica is all about coffee: their culture, traditions, and history are closely intertwined with the production of coffee. Monteverde produces some of the best coffee in the world, and
Cafe de Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s foremost coffee plantations and cafes. They run daily coffee tours around their plantation at 8.30am, 9.30am and 2pm. The tour covers every stage of coffee farming and processing, from seed germination, to farming, harvesting, processing and roasting. It is an in depth experience of coffee, in its environmental, social, and economic context.
The coffee tour costs US$35 per adult and $10 for kids (6-12 years old) and at the end of which, you get to taste their freshly brewed coffee. Book your tour here.
11. Wander around in Santa Elena
Most travelers base themselves in Santa Elena, the main tourist town of Monteverde. Santa Elena might look like a small town, but it packs a punch with the amount of things to do. I’ll go into details in the next section.
When in Santa Elena, you need to check out the Tree House Restaurant, an eclectic restaurant built around a tree. It’s a small restaurant, but the dishes are served in the “Pura Vida” Costa Rican way.
Another great place to eat in Santa Elena is the Green Restaurant, which serves food made with only local produce and ingredients. I absolutely loved the steak there and would go back to Monteverde just for it! I also highly recommend Taco Taco, an authentic Mexican place that serves refreshing drinks and some of the best burritos I’ve ever had.
12. Check out the Serpentarium
In Santa Elena town, you’ll find a serpentarium that’s home to a big collection of reptiles. A guide will show you around and introduce you to more than 50 species of slithery snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles and other cold-blooded critters. Your ticket entitles you to a return visit after dark, when the nocturnal species come out. Guided tours leave every 90 minutes between noon and 6pm.
13 . Visit the Butterfly Garden
Near the Serpentarium is a Butterfly Garden, home to more than 40 species. Complimentary with the entrance ticket is a knowledgeable naturalist guide who will bring you on an enlightening hour-long tour. There are. Check out the observation cases which allow you to witness the butterflies as they emerge from the chrysalis (if your timing is right). Other exhibits feature the industrious leafcutter ant and a tarantula hawk specimen (the wasp that eats tarantulas!). My daughter loved this place!
Open every day 9 am -3.30 pm. Entrance fee is Adult – $18 + tax, children under 3 free.
14. Wander around the Frog Pond
Another interesting place to visit in Monteverde is the Frog Pond (also known as Ranario), where you can observe the many frog species in the area. 28 species reside in transparent enclosures lining the winding indoor jungle paths. Also included in the entrance ticket are guides who will point out frogs, eggs and tadpoles with flashlights. Your ticket entitles you to two visits, so come back in the evening to see the nocturnal species. The entrance fee is USD $20 and included daytime and nighttime admission.
15. See the Bat Jungle
At the Bat Jungle, you’ll get to see over 90 bats in a stimulated jungle emvironment, designed to resemble the cloud forest at night. Included in the entrance fee is a guided tour that takes about 45 minutes. The tour is both informative, educational and entertaining, with a focus on biology and conservation.
The exhibit costs USD $12 to enter and is run by a well-known bat biologist who has tons of insight to share on the nocturnal species. Open 9am – 7:30 pm everyday.
16. Visit the Monteverde Orchid Garden
Costa Rica is home to approximately 1,300 species of orchids, and the Monteverde Orchid Garden has 425 of them. There are species that are endemic to Monteverde, and a collection of miniature orchids, including the smallest one in the world.
Your ideas about orchids will be shattered on the 45-60 minute guided tour of the Orchid Garden, which will also teach you the facts about these frequently tiny and vulnerable blooms. The biggest surprise for us – the orchids you believe you know and adore were not grown naturally, but rather laboratory-bred hybrids.
They offer guided walks both in English and Spanish. Entrance fee is $12. Every day from 8 am to 5 p.m.
17. Watch the Sunset from Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve
One of the best places to see sunset in Monteverde is the Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve. It’s surprisingly easy to get, as it’s located right off the main road and in walking distance from most hotels. There are several benches and it’s a great place to see the sunset. I recommend going early, because the spot is popular and otherwise the best places are taken.
It’s a nice hike from Santa Elena Town to Mirador. If you go by car, you’ll have to park your car by the kerb as the reserve doesn’t have a carpark. Entrance fee is $18 per person, kids under 5 are free. Open everyday from 7am – 4:30pm.
18. Take a Night Walk in Curi Cancha Reserve
This is my absolute favorite thing to do in Monteverde! We signed up for a nocturnal hike in the private Curi Cancha Reserve and saw so many animals it was incredible!
Our guide David was knowledgable, fun and excellent in spotting wildlife. He also carried a huge telescope that allowed us to see small insects or illusive birds clearly. Thanks to him, we spotted a giant tarantula, a Lora viper, a rare orange-bellied trogon bird, and a stunning jewel beetle.
The hike runs everyday from 5.30 to 7.30pm for $20 per person. It’s always best to go wildlife watching with a guide as he/she has been trained to spot animals. Be sure to call in advance to book a spot as the night tours are popular.
Monteverde Travel Guide
Where to Stay in Monteverde
Luxury: Hotel Aguti Lodge & Reserve
Located right inside a private reserve, this stylish yet rustic hotel is a magical place poised on a hilltop overlooking the clouds forests. There are hiking trails all around the reserve where you’ll find animals like howler monkeys, aguti and the resplendent quetzal. You’ll be able to experience sleeping in the jungle without sacrificing comfort. Check the latest rates here.
Midrange: Monteverde Country Lodge
Located close to the cloud forest of Monteverde, this eco-friendly hotel offers rustic wooden cabin-style rooms surrounded by lush gardens. Guests of Monteverde Country Lodge enjoy free access to facilities at Hotel Poco a Poco, including an indoor pool, gym, hot tub and kids’ club. It’s a great choice for families who want to experience staying in the jungle. Check the latest rates here.
Budget: Casa Campo Verde
We stayed at this family-run lodge just a 10-minute drive from the centre of Santa Elena town. It’s great value for money, plus the view of the cloud forest from the second-floor guest room is fantastic. If you like local comfort food, you’ll love the breakfast and dinner here. Check the latest rates here.
How to Get to Monteverde Costa Rica
By Shuttle Bus
It’s very easy to travel around Costa Rica on shuttle buses. Several shuttle buses operate daily along the San José to Monteverde route for $15 per person. You can also find many shuttle buses from San Jose to La Fortuna.
Interbus is a reputable shuttle-bus company that also does airport shuttle pick-ups. They’re comfortable coach buses with A/C or heat and reclining seats. Click on the links above for the best fares.
Renting a car gives you the independence to travel at your own pace. However, roads in Costa Rica are in terrible conditions and many are unpaved. We actually wrecked a wheel while driving to Monteverde and had to change the tyre in the forest. Also be aware that there are plenty of police checks along the way — we heard that the fine for speeding is US$600, so make sure you stay within the speed limit.
We booked our car rental on Discover Car Hire and paid around US$160 for one week of rental and a baby seat. The car hire company had excellent services and provided transfers in/out to the airport. Our car was a Suzuki Celerio, a very small compact car. We definitely recommend renting a 4WD instead.
- From La Fortuna — 75 miles (121km); 3 hours.
- From San Jose airport — 87 miles (140km); 3 hours.
- From Liberia airport — 78 miles (141km); 2.5 hours.
Best Time to Travel Monteverde, Costa Rica
As with the rest of Costa Rica, Monteverde experiences mainly two seasons: the dry season and rainy season. The best time to travel Monteverde is during the dry season: from mid-December to April. This period promises plenty of sunshine and little rain, but don’t expect blue skies and sunshine during the dry season either. In fact, Monteverde gets about 102 inches of rain every year—that’s 8 feet!
We visited in April and it rained just in short spurts throughout our trip. That said, the dry season is also the most popular (and expensive) time to visit. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, visit between May and November when prices are lower and there are less crowds. During June and July, rain showers pause briefly, and Costa Rica’s forests burst with green foliage.
Even in the dry season, be prepared for cold nights and misty days. Daytime temperatures hover around 24 degrees (75°F) year-round. But it cools down significantly overnight, so be sure to layer up and pack warmer clothes for your visit.
How Many Days in Monteverde?
There are so many things to do in Monteverde that I would recommend spending at least 3 days here. On our Costa Rica trip, we spent 3 days in Monteverde and still felt like we only scratched the surface. The next time we visit, we’ll definitely spend at least a week there. Check out our full Costa Rica itinerary here.
Getting Around Monteverde, Costa Rica
San Elena is a small town, but all of the major Cloud Forest Reserves and hiking trails, are located outside of town and are best accessed by car. Renting a car lets you travel independently, at your own pace.also provides you greater flexibility to go throughout the region to the various cloud forests.
Some hotels in town provide free transportation to the parks and most reserves/attractions offer transportation options, though those are usually quite expensive.
What to Pack for Monteverde Costa Rica
Due to the wet, rainy weather in Monteverde, it’s essential to bring some waterproof gear. Pack a light waterproof jacket, hiking pants, and a rain cover for your backpack. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots on your trip as you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking in the cloud forests. As you’ll be going wildlife watching, having a pair of binoculars and headlamp (for night walks) will be very useful.
Here’s some things I especially recommend you pack for Monteverde.
Is it Worth Visiting Monteverde, Costa Rica?
Monteverde was our absolute favorite part of Costa Rica. Its lush cloud forests had some kind of magic and seriously impressive wildlife. I think you’ll like it as much as I do and hope you find this list of things to do in Monteverde useful. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
For those who are planning to travel more of Costa Rica, check out these articles:
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
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