9 Things to do in Monteverde
Monteverde is a unique place and, if you ask us, should not be missed during your trip through Costa Rica! Drive on a beautiful winding road through the mountains, arriving in a tiny little hilltop town, Santa Elena. Here you will find many hotels and restaurants, making Santa Elena a great base to explore the incredible nature of Monteverde.
1. Monteverde Cloudforest
Visiting the cloud forest is one of the most popular things to do in Monteverde. This is mainly because of its rare and unique character (cloud forests only make up 1% of all forests worldwide!). Due to the high altitude, these forest types get their name from the low-lying cloud and mist that creeps in between the trees. It also means they’re a haven for many wildlife species, and Monteverde cloud forest is no exception.
As you explore the forest, you’ll discover fascinating flora and fauna, hanging bridges as in La Fortuna, a waterfall, as well as hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies, and insects.
Open 7 am -4 pm every day of the year. Self-guided tickets are $25 USD per person, but we recommend taking a guided tour to spot more animals. Please note that it can be cloudy and rainy so take the necessary items.
2. La Reserva Bosque Nuboso, Santa Elena
Because of its popularity, Monteverde cloud forest can be busy with many people on the trails. Another alternative is Santa Elena cloud forest which is equally beautiful but much quieter. It’s home to 13km of trails which you can use to explore the fantastic diversity of plant life and animal species.
Open every day 7am- 3pm
Note: Both Santa Elena and Monteverde cloud forests are beautiful with or without a guide. However, we do recommend taking a guide here to spot more animals. But suppose you really want to see one of the most jaw-dropping rainforest reserves on the planet? In that case, we recommend Mistico in La Fortuna instead, which is roughly a 3-hour drive away.
3. Colibri cafe
Located right at the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Colibri Cafe is a beautiful spot to stop, refresh, and enjoy the peace of nature after your hike. As you sit and drink a famous Costa Rican cup of coffee, hummingbirds fly around your head, drawn to this spot because of the sugar water hanging around the patio. This is without a doubt an experience that you won’t forget; it’s so special to get so close to these stunning and unusual birds.
4. Night Walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest
You might have been on a day walk, but for a different kind of exhilaration, a night walk is the one to try! Monteverde offers the experience of seeing fantastic wildlife in the rainforest, coming to life under the moon and stars. Done on foot, you’ll walk through the forest with the help of a guide to find the amazing array of nocturnal animals.
5. Ziplining at Skyadventures
Monteverde doesn’t just offer tranquil forests and peaceful wildlife; you can also get your adrenaline pumping here with a variety of outdoor activities on offer. One of the most popular things to do is zip lining through the forest with SkyAdventures. You’ll get the opportunity to fly over the forest and see the cloud forest from a completely different perspective. 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.
If you don’t like something so adrenaline-pumping, there are also sky gondolas that take you high above the forest or more tranquil bridges where you can enjoy a leisurely walk among the treetops. (Book it here)
6. Canyoning, Monteverde
Canyoning is also a popular experience in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This activity offers the opportunity to traverse sheer walls and waterfalls into canyons and roaring rivers below. It’s an entirely different way to see the epic wildlife and nature, with a bit of exhilaration and refreshing water for good measure!
7. Frog Pond & Butterfly Garden
Costa Rica is known for its abundance of rare and beautiful wildlife. However, it’s particularly famous for being home to the red-eyed tree frog and other colorful species of amphibians. If you haven’t seen them in the wild yet, head to Frog Pond in Santa Elena, where you can find more than 25 different species of frogs.
Buy a ticket and enjoy the variety of colorful frogs in the day. Alternatively, you can come on the same ticket at night, which can be a better time as many species are nocturnal. This means that Frog Pond really comes alive with noise! Choose a guided tour if you want to learn some interesting facts about the frogs and have a little help finding the more mysterious species. Open every day from 9 am – 8 pm.
Close by, you’ll find Butterfly Garden, another natural oasis in Monteverde (30 different butterfly species of different colors, shapes, and sizes live here). It’s breathtaking to watch all the beautiful, graceful butterflies flying around in this tropical paradise. With a guide, you’ll learn some fascinating things about butterflies. Plus, they’ll point out the variety of insects, as well as the monkeys living right above in the treetops. Open every day 9 am -3.30 pm.
8. Coffee Tour, Monteverde
Coffee culture in Monteverde is huge, and there’s nothing better than enjoying a fresh brew in the morning as the mist closes in and the sun rises. Aside from trying coffee, it’s interesting to learn about how it’s made, a process that is a massive part of the culture in Monteverde.
Cafe de Monteverde, close to the cloud forest, is one of the most famous coffee plantations in the whole of Costa Rica. They have guided tours daily (8.30 am, 9.30 am, 2 pm) where you can learn about farming, harvesting, roasting, and production. You’ll also get to taste five different kinds of freshly brewed coffee – delicious! The cost is $35 USD per person for a 2.5-hour tour.
9. Horse Trekking
Horse trekking on the high ridges above Monteverde with the deep green valleys below is an experience unlike any other! It’s a different way to see nature, get off the beaten track, and find secret trails. Various tours leave Monteverde, led by guides who are highly knowledgeable about horses and other wildlife in the area. You can pick from tours that range from one afternoon to several days of galloping through the countryside.
Horses are incredible animals that should be treated with great care and respect. For this reason, always make sure to research your horse trekking tour carefully to make sure they are correctly cared for.
Where to Stay in Monteverde
Monteverde offers numerous accommodation options. Choose from beautiful cabins in the forest within walking distance to cloud forest or hotels nearby in Santa Elena. (See all your hotels options here)
Santa Elena is a popular choice as most accommodation options are here, and it’s still a great base to explore the area. Plus, you’ll find restaurants, tour companies, and supermarkets here. Please note that the town and the surrounding area are very hilly, so a car is recommended to make life easier getting from A to B.
Planning on camping in Monteverde? Either stay at Camping Monteverde Tino y Carmen or at Restaurante Turin – Camping & Jardines. Read everything about camping in Costa Rica.
Best Restaurants in Monteverde
Santa Elena, Monteverde, has many restaurants to choose from and great cafes selling perfectly brewed cups of regional coffee. Some of our favorites were:
- Bon Appetit! (Italian)
- Taco Taco (Mexican)
- Soda el Rancho de Juanita (Costa Rican)
- Restaurante Thomas & Thiago
- Café Monteverde
- Tree House (Built around a tree, food wasn’t the best)
How to Visit Monteverde, Costa Rica
We recommend having a slightly more powerful car when you come to Monteverde as the roads can be pretty bumpy as you make your way up into the mountains. There are two well-maintained paved roads named Route 606 (ok for regular cars) and Route 142 + 145 when coming from Monteverde. Otherwise, this part of Route 145 is bumpy and not advisable for standard vehicles. However, although you might want a more powerful vehicle for your trip, you don’t necessarily need a 4×4 to visit Monteverde. (Be sure to set your navigation to Santa Elena, the town of Monteverde)
- From La Fortuna, it takes about 3.5 hours.
- From San Jose airport, the journey is 2.5 hours.
- From Liberia airport, the journey takes just over 2 hours.
By Public Transport/Shuttle Bus
Busses leave from San Jose directly to Monteverde and take around 4.5 hours ($6 USD). However, for more comfort and a slightly faster trip, choose a shared shuttle bus which takes about 3.5 (approximately $55 USD per person). If you’re coming from La Fortuna, it will take about 7.5 hours.
Buses do leave from Liberia, but they are not direct. You will always need to do the last couple of hours of your trip by taxi from Canas or Las Juntas.
Santa Elena is a small town, but getting around the town and the surrounding area of Monteverde can be challenging as it’s very hilly. Because of this, having a vehicle is the best option. Plus, it gives you the flexibility to travel around the area to the various cloud forests. If you don’t have a car, your hotel might be able to help you out with shuttle buses. Tour companies also offer this service, usually as part of the ticket price or as an added extra.
Your budget for Monteverde
Monteverde is slighty more affordable than most destinations in Costa Rica. Expect to pay from 20 – 200 USD a night for a room and 7 – 30 USD for a meal. Most things to do in Monteverde have an entrance fee with an average price of 20 USD. For example, the national park and waterfalls. Know that tap water is safe to drink in Monteverde like most places in Costa Rica.
Best Time to Visit Monteverde
Monteverde is green and luscious all year round due to the rainy weather. You’ll also notice much lower temperatures up in the mountains in comparison to the coast, as Monteverde is 1440 meters above sea level.
Generally, December to April is the best time to visit as this is the drier season, which is better for exploring. The animals will also be more visible in the jungle as they won’t be sheltering from the rain. Visiting in the rainy season months of September & October is not a good idea as the rain can cause the roads to become very muddy, making it especially challenging to travel.