15 BEST Things do in Monteverde, Costa Rica
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Monteverde, Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. In this blog, I share the 15 best things to do in Monteverde as well as where to stay and info on Monteverde that’s important to know before you go!
When I first set my sights on visiting Costa Rica I imagined stunning landscapes, lush forests, and an abundance of cool and interesting wildlife. Funny enough, I found it all in Monteverde.
After only a short few days exploring Monteverde, this stunning region quickly became my favorite place I visited in Costa Rica, and it just may become yours too! In fact, I loved Monteverde so much that I actually decided to stay longer – and I’m glad I did.
From the surface, there are many obvious things to do in Monteverde that most travelers check out. Of course, the most popular attraction is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. However, after digging a little deeper and spending over a week exploring the area, I found so many more fun and interesting things to do and places to explore in Monteverde!
From the most popular attractions in Monteverde to the little known experiences that I loved, here are the absolute BEST things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica (and other important tips and advice for visiting!)
About Monteverde, Costa Rica
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972. The reserve consists of 10,500 hectares of cloud forest and is home to over 2,500 plant species, 400 bird species, 100 species of mammals, and thousands of insects.
Although the region was originally settled for dairy farming, parts of the forest were left untouched by farming and these areas now make up the Monteverde Cloud Forrest Reserve. Visiting the forest in one of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica, and in my opinion, a highlight of Central America.
Access to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is most commonly done from the small town of Santa Elena. Santa Elena is often mistaken as “Monteverde Town” however, this is not true. “Monteverde” is simply the name of the nature reserve and region, and Santa Elena is the closest town to the reserve.
Downtown Santa Elena is only 5.5 kilometers from the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. In Santa Elena, you’ll find lots of hotels, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, and supermarkets as well as the area’s main bus station.
Visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest can be done in one day, however, around Santa Elena you can find a huge range of amazing things to see and do!
Monteverde, Costa Rica FAQs
Yes! there are a few free activities to do in Monteverde included in this blog. The most popular though is to visit the famous Ficus Tree.
In my opinion, you’ll need at least 3 days to explore the area and do a few tours. I personally stayed for 6 days and loved it!
$25 USD for adults and $12 USD for children.
15 Awesome Things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica
1. Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Of course, the number one reason to visit Monteverde is to visit the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This huge cloud forest is truly stunning to see and explore.
There are a total of 6 hiking trails through the forest that lead to different attractions and points of interest. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve boasts a beautiful waterfall, several amazing lookouts, and a massive hanging footbridge. You could literally spend all day exploring the reserve.
The best time to arrive is early in the morning. The reason? This place is popular and gets very busy in the afternoons.
The entrance gates open at 7 am (close at 4 pm), and by 8 am there’s likely to be a line about an hour-long to get in. Getting to the entrance gate before it opens is a must if you want to get in and explore without the crowds. The entrance to the park is $25 USD, however, be sure to take your student ID (if you have one) for a discount!
You can visit the reserve on your own or on a guided tour. This specific guided tour is a great option and includes a 3 hour guided walk through the reserve for only $35 USD. The tour is run by Roy who is native to the region and knows so much about the area.
I personally visited Monteverde on my own and loved it. With that said, looking back I wish I had paid for a guide. I truly believe you need an expert on the area and flora and fauna to truly appreciate the forest.
Getting there – All taxi’s from Santa Elena will take you to Monteverde Cloud Forest and will charge around $10 USD for the trip. There is, however, a bus that leaves from the terminal in town and picks up from anywhere on the main road (route 620) on the way to the cloud forest. Departure times are 6:15am, 7:20am and 1:15pm and return at 11:30am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm. The bus costs $1 USD each way and does not need to be booked in advance.
*Important – On your way to the Monteverde Cloud Forest about 1km from the entrance there is a sign to buy tickets/tourist information. This is a waste of time and in no way connected to the park. The rangers told us that in peak season stopping here in the morning can add 2 hours to your wait time to enter the trails!
2. Climb the famous ficus tree
Ficus trees can grow in some weird shapes, but few are as unique as the famous ficus tree in Santa Elena. The tree is hollow from the base to the top and its trunk is made solely of a root system that weaves its way up from the forest floor that looks like a spider’s web.
Visiting the tree is one of the most unique free things to do in Monteverde and if you’re up for it, you can also climb the tree to get amazing views of the surrounding forest. Climbing to the top is not for the faint hearted but just getting some pictures inside the tree is an easy feat most can accomplish.
A visit to the tree is short and sweet and you can reach its location on Google Maps by walking from Santa Elena. Once you find the trail on the side of the road, follow it to the tree. It’s easy to spot as the tree is completely hollow!
3. Go bird watching
Bird watching is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica. The region is home to over 400 bird species including extremely rare and beautiful birds like the Three-Wattled Bellbird and Quetzal. Seeing these birds for any bird watching enthusiast is a dream come true and there are some great tours you can join to increase your chances of seeing them.
There are a few places you can do bird watching tours in Monteverde with the most popular being tours in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Curi Cancha Reserve. I personally did this tour at the Curi Cancha Reserve and loved it! The tour started at 6:30 am to maximize the chance of seeing birds as they are most active in the morning. We eve saw one Quetzal (pictured above!)
The best part about bird watching in Monteverde though, is you don’t have to do a bird watching tour to see amazing birds. In fact, you’ll see plenty of birds around town and we even saw lots of hummingbirds from our hotel window at Hotel El Bosque!
4. Visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Many visitors aren’t aware that there are actually two cloud forest reserves near the town of Santa Elena. In fact, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, although less popular, is an attractive alternative to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. But why?
Well for starters, it attracts far fewer visitors which makes the experience a lot better. The trails in the reserve are also longer and you actually get to explore much more of the forest. Also the fact that the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is cheaper to visit and the entrance fee to the park is only $16 USD for adults makes it more accessible to those on a budget.
In the Santa Elena Cloud Forest you’re also more likely to see wildlife such as sloths. This is simply due to the fact fewer people go and as such, don’t scare the wildlife away.
In my opinion though, visiting one of the two is enough and despite differences in trails, both reserves are very similar. Choosing one can be hard, but I did really love the Santa Elena Cloud Forest because it was far less busy!
5. Visit the hanging bridges at Selvatura Park
One of my favorite tours I did in Monteverde was the hanging bridge tour at Selvatura Park. This amazing experience sees you exploring the treetops of the surrounding forest via 8 huge suspension bridges as well as 1.9 miles of hiking trails! The trail loop back to the start point and takes around 2 hours to complete at a slow pace.
Walking through the treetops was a totally surreal experience and along the way, we saw a Howler Monkey and Coati. You’ll also see lots of birds on the hike, but for me, the highlight was the views of the forest!
If you’re are afraid of heights you may struggle with some of the bridges but the experience is very safe and the bridges are well built!
You can do the tour self-guided or with a guide. Personally, I loved doing it on my own as you can enjoy the park at your own pace and enjoy the views more peacefully. The non-guided tour I did costs $50 USD for adults but they have local, student, and child discounts.
Getting to the park: The Selvatura Park is located just down the road from the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Pickup is included in the ticket price of the standard adult, child, and student tickets.
6. Visit the Hummingbird Garden
While I was at the Selvatura Adventure Park I decided to check out the Hummingbird Garden that’s part of the park. In the gardens, there are a heap of hummingbird feeders and you can see a few different species of hummingbirds.
There are so many of them flying around and they fly right past you at lightning speed. The gardens are also beautiful and you can just sit back for hours watching these magnificent birds. If you want to get a photo of a hummingbird this is the place to do it!
A visit here is quick and cheap. Entrance to the gardens was only $6 USD and it was a great way to finish off the treetop walk. Although you can see hummingbirds around Monteverde for free, you simply won’t see this many in one place anywhere else!
7. Join the Monteverde coffee, chocolate and sugarcane tour
Coffee and chocolate are two things I absolutely love! So, it’s no wonder that I was so excited to join the famous coffee, chocolate, and sugarcane tour in Monteverde. On the tour, we learned all about 3 of Costa Rica’s most popular exports. The tour lasts for 2 hours and the first hour is dedicated to coffee.
You’ll learn all about growing coffee beans and get to try lots of coffee that is included in the ticket price. Next, it was time to learn about and try lots of chocolate and drink sugarcane juice! I left the tour on a high – most likely from the unlimited coffee and loads of chocolate we ate!
Although not as well-known as other attractions in Monteverde, this tour is still a must-do especially if you haven’t done a coffee or chocolate tour elsewhere in Costa Rica.
8. Visit the Monteverde Frog Pond
This next thing to do in Monteverde is surprisingly best at night! The Monteverde Frog Pond is home to 25 native frog species. Despite going during the day on our first visit, we only saw 1 frog! However, the ticket price includes two visits so we decided to come back at night. Under the cover of darkness, the frogs really come out to play.
During the night visit, I saw so many frogs! Some of the coolest included the Poison Dart Frog and Yellow Eyelash Viper.
The tour of the facility costs $15 USD and my recommendation is to go at night and tag along with one of the guided tours. The guides know how to spot the frogs and you’ll see lots!
The frog pond is located in town walking distance from most hotels. The frog pond is open from 9 am to 8:30 pm daily.
9. Go zip-lining
If you’re after a super thrilling adventure tour in Monteverde then I can personally say zip-lining is for you!
There are a few companies in Monteverde and I had a hard time choosing which one to do my tour with. The most popular is the Selvatura Park tour that can be combined with your canopy walk. Although convenient, after checking out lots of reviews online, I decided to go with the 100% Aventura Ziplining tour.
It turned out to be the right decision and the entire tour was fantastic. We enjoyed 10 zip lines over a few hours including Latin America’s longest zip line! But it didn’t end there. The tour included an ATV ride through the forest and what they call the Mega Tarzan Swing.
Overall, I can’t recommend doing the tour we did enough. From start to finish it was amazing and really good value for money!
10. Enjoy the best treetop dining experience at San Lucas
There’s something about Monteverde that feels so romantic, and Bailey and I hadn’t treated ourselves to a nice night out in a long time. So we did the usual TripAdvisor search looking for a place to enjoy a nice meal, and that’s how we stumbled upon the San Lucas treetop experience.
The minute I saw the photos of the restaurant I knew we just had to do it. Not only were we going to be able to enjoy a nice meal out, but, also get a once in a lifetime experience dining in the treetops of Costa Rica!
What makes this place unique is it’s not only located high above the floor in the treetops, but each table is private and sits in its own booth. This made the experience that much better and so much more romantic!
The San Lucas Restaurant is actually part of the Chira Glamping Hotel. But unlike most hotel restaurants, this place is amazing!
Unfortunately, the experience isn’t cheap. At $88 USD a person it can seem pricy. However, after dining at San Lucas I’d say it’s actually good value. The meal is 7 courses and when you factor in the setting, views, and service, I honestly must say it’s totally worth it!
11. Visit the Bat Jungle
I must admit it…I hate bats! There’s just something creepy about them! However, I know this animal is misunderstood, so to learn a little more, and maybe reduce my fear of them, I reluctantly visited the Bat Jungle in Monteverde.
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the tour and must say I have a newfound respect for bats. These little guys actually do so much for our planet and are necessary for many ecosystems in Costa Rica and around the world.
There are 90 bats from 8 different species in the large enclosure and when we went there were even a few babies. The tour costs $12 USD for adults and after you can check out views of Curi Cancha Park to enjoy some free bird watching.
This isn’t a must-do in Monteverde, but, if bats interest you or scare you, go for it!
12. Try locally made beer at Monteverde Brewing Co.
Being a beer lover, this was one of my first stops in Monteverde. Monteverde Brewing Co produces locally made craft beers. All round the beer here is really good and any craft beer lover should stop by. My favorite beer was the Mi Tata IPA. You can also stop by for food and even get takeaway, which I highly suggest.
The brewery is located right in Santa Elena and from most hotels in the town, you’ll be able to walk here with ease!
13. Enjoy homemade desserts at Orchid Coffee Shop
Start your day right in Monteverde and head to Orchard Coffee Shop! This place serves amazing coffee and the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Of course, cheesecake isn’t exactly a healthy breakfast but they also have classics such as eggs benedict and French toast.
To be honest though, I came for the coffee and cheesecake!
If you plan on coming later in the day be prepared to wait for a table…this place gets busy! To avoid the crowds, head over first thing in the morning for a quiet coffee in Santa Elena town!
14. Wander the Monteverde Butterfly Garden
This one is for the kids! The Monteverde Butterfly Garden is a pretty relaxing activity you can do walking distance from town. I was a little underwhelmed at the tour but it was still very informative. With that said, there were some kids on in our tour group and they loved it!
The tour wasn’t just about butterflies and you’ll learn about other insects including spiders and cockroaches too. My favorite part of the tour though was the Leafcutter ant area. These guys are so cool and it’s crazy how strong they are!
The experience costs $15 USD for adults which I found to be a little overpriced for the activity. However, if you’re traveling with kids then it’s a great thing to do in Monteverde!
15. Hike to Monteverde Waterfall (Catarata Los Murciélagos)
This next activity in Monteverde isn’t the most amazing thing to do, but with that said, on our last day we were looking for a short activity to do before we finally caught our bus the San Jose. Our hotel suggested a walk to the Monteverde Waterfall.
From the main road we walked down a small driveway and onto the trail. It only took 10 minutes to reach the falls but we quickly escaped the town of Santa Elena into a very tranquil and beautiful surrounding.
Although too cold to swim the day we went, we just enjoyed the view and surrounding flora before heading back up. The bad thing about this small waterfall is the entrance fee. As it’s private land, there is a $6 USD fee to visit the falls.
Finding the path can be hard, however, it is on Via 620 just past the Bat Jungle on the outskirts of town. The locals call the waterfall “Catarata Los Murciélagos” and there is a sign with this name on the road.
Where to Stay in Monteverde, Costa Rica
Monteverde Backpackers – Low Budget Hostel
For budget travelers, Monteverde Backpackers is the best hostel in Santa Elena Town. You’ll be able to meet other travelers, explore Monteverde, and have some social nights with a few too many beers!
Camino Verde B&B – Modest Budget Hotel
If you want breathtaking views right from your room then the Camino Verde B&B is a great choice. This B&B is one of the top-rated hotels in Monteverde but doesn’t come with the price tag you’d expect for such a great hotel.
El Bosque Trails & Eco-Lodge – Luxury Hotel
This is where we stayed! I honestly loved it and can easily recommend it to others! The hotel is located on 23 acres of land just outside of Santa Elena. The hotel is right near the Curi Cancha Nature Reserve and you’ll see plenty of birds around the property!
Check availability on Booking.com
Chira Glamping Hotel – Luxury Camping/Hotel
Mentioned above, this is the hotel connected to the San Lucas dining experience treetop restaurant. Although an expensive place to stay, this is a truly magical glamping experience that gets you as close as possible to nature without sacrificing comfort! The views from the rooms are incredible and they even have private hot tubs and play areas for kids!
Check availability on Booking.com
Ficus Guest House – Airbnb Cabin
Hotels are so last year, and these days we love to stay in Airbnbs! The Ficus Guesthouse is a private cabin on Airbnb with a super host. It’s located in the heart of Santa Elena but surrounded by nature.
Check availability and other properties on Airbnb
Before you go…
Monteverde, Costa Rica really is such an amazing place to visit! I had so much fun, and looking back, I left no stone unturned. My hope is you can use this travel blog on the best things to do in Monteverde and also make the most of your time!
Of course, if you plan on getting up to some of the adventure activities in this blog, be sure to get yourself travel insurance! We personally recommend World Nomads. They offer great coverage for adventure travelers.
Also, if you loved this blog then be sure to read all our other Costa Rica blogs or these related articles below!
July 15, 2020