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Cool things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica

The small town of Monteverde in Costa Rica sits with its head in the clouds amid the stunningly beautiful Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Monteverde, which means green mountain, is known for its cloud forests, wildlife, suspension bridges and some of the longest zip-lines in the world.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

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Best things to do in Monteverde

If you’re looking for active adventure, nature and mystical cloud forests you’ll find them all in Costa Rica’s main ecotourism destination. It also serves up excellent coffee, cheese and ice cream. Here are some top things to do in Monteverde…

Hiking in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If you’re wondering what to do in Monteverde, then top of you list should be hiking the cloud forest. There are three cloud forests to choose from; Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Forest and The Children’s Eternal Rain Forest.

We were staying at Trapp Family Hotel which is the nearest hotel to Monteverde Cloud Forest so it made sense for us to hike there. We parked up in the small car park near the entrance, paid the entrance fee and stepped into the trees. The mist hangs low as it weaves through the trees and gives the forest an enchanted air.

Monteverde Cloud Forest,Costa Rica
Into the forest

We walked into the refreshingly cool cloud forest all the while keeping our ears and eyes open for birds and wildlife. There’s a constant buzz, chattering and squawking in the forest. Almost as many sounds to be heard as there are shades of green.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) was established in 1972 and started out at just 810 acres. Today the high-elevation ecosystem extends to 35,000 acres although only 3% is open to visitors. That’s more than enough for a day’s hiking and we spent around five hours exploring the 13 km network of trails, paths and lookout points.

Hanging Bridge, Monteverde, Costa Rica

The trails are well-kept and the signage is good. We never felt lost or worried that we’d never make it out again. Guides can be hired if you want to know more about the wildlife and cloud forest but we felt happy exploring on our own.

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Exploring the cloud forest

Hanging Bridges and Waterfalls

We crossed a hanging bridge where we could look down onto the trees and foliage from above. We discovered waterfalls, giant trees and lookout points although we couldn’t actually see much because the view was shrouded in clouds. I guess that’s a cloud forest for you…

Waterfall in Monteverde Cloud Forest
Waterfall in Monteverde Cloude Forest

Cloud Forest plants

There’s a massive amount of flora and fauna in Monteverde Cloud Forest with some trees  playing host to hundreds of species of plants, mosses and ferns. There are over 400 different kinds of orchid alone. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s Costa Rica’s national flower.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Animals

The forest is home to many animals. We saw a coati as we arrived and there are howler and capuchin monkeys. Five species of cats roam the park including pumas and the endangered jaguar. There are also deer, tapir and sloths, although we didn’t see any. We were lucky to see sloths in La Fortuna and also in Peru in the Amazon Jungle.

Over a thousand species of reptile and amphibian live in the reserve including red-eyed tree frogs, toads and snakes – both poisonous and otherwise. There are also many types of butterfly, creepy crawlies and insects. Think again if you’re squeamish.

If you’re worried about mosquito bites I’ve got you covered. Read my post about how to avoid mosquito bites in the jungle.

If you want a better chance of seeing any of the wildlife, a guide will know the best places to find them. They know the forest better than anyone and will have a scope with them so you can get a closer look without disturbing any wildlife. Obviously there are never any guarantees and you’ll need to find a guide and book prior to your visit. 

Birdlife in Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde cloud forest is a birder’s paradise with around 400 different species to be spotted. The rare Resplendent Quetzal can sometimes be seen during mating season and there are scarlet macaws and many other more common birds.

Humming Bird on tree


The Continental Divide

The Continental Divide extends from Canada right down to Argentina passing through the Monteverde cloud forest. At the park’s lookout point you can see where the water divides and flows off to either the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific. Well you can on a clear day – this was our view!

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest

Read more: A Cost Rica Adventure

What is a Cloud Forest?

A cloud forest is like a rainforest except the altitude is much higher, usually in the range of 3,000 to 8,000 feet. Monteverde is 4662 feet above sea level.

Due to the higher altitude it’s much cooler, extremely humid and mostly enveloped in mist or cloud. Because of the moisture levels, many epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) such as ferns, moss, air plants, and orchids are found in abundance throughout the forest.

Mosses and ferns, Monteverde cloud forest
Moss and Ferns in Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Entrance Fee

Entry into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve costs USD $20 per person for foreigners and USD $7 for nationals. They take both cash (USD and colones) and credit cards. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is currently run by a not-for-profit group. An additional USD $20 is payable for a half day guided cloud forest tour which includes transfers to and from the reserve. 

Ceiba pentandra aka a broccoli tree

Opening Times

The reserve is open daily from 07:00 to 16:00 hours.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Maps

Monteverde Cloud Forest maps are available at the entrance. However, they prefer you to take a photo on your phone as part of their sustainability effort. They’ll ask what you’re interested in seeing and mark it out on the whiteboard map so you can take a shot and refer to it on your phone en-route. What a great idea – more places should do this.

We visited Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in September towards the end of the rainy season which is technically from June to October. The temperature was comfortable and it didn’t rain. Go earlier in the day to avoid showers.

Although it was a dry day we didn’t see more than a dozen other people during our hike. At times it felt like were the only people there. Despite not seeing huge amounts of wildlife this was one of my favourite things to do in Monteverde and I’d whole heartedly recommend it.

The Hummingbird café near the entrance sells coffee and snacks and there’s a toilet there. There are none in the reserve.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

What to take with you

Don’t forget to take a water bottle for your water – ideally one with a looped handle to attach to your backpack. Don’t be that person using a plastic single use bottle. 


Binoculars or scope

I took all these pictures with my Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ200 camera which has an amazing x 30 Leica lens but is small and light too. The perfect travel camera.

A waterproof jacket

– the weather can change quickly

My Saloman waterproof walking shoes were perfect for this hike.

Almost as important as good hiking shoes are good socks. I like Darn Tough socks which last for years and are some of the comfiest walking socks I own. (no seams)

Craghopper long hiking trousers

A fleece or light jacket – it gets chilly in the evenings throughout the year

I used my smaller backpack by my favourite backpack brand Osprey. The Osprey Daylite pack was big enough for carrying everything I needed including my waterproof jacket, cap and camera gear but also small enough to be comfortable and light.

Read my review about the bigger Osprey Farpoint Backpack which is great for travelling. 

More things to do in Monteverde

There are loads more things to do in Monteverde. We only had a couple of days to explore so couldn’t fit everything but here’s a range of more activities to suit various interests.

Monteverde Hanging Bridges

Most of cloud forest life is found in the upper levels of the tree canopy so it makes sense to get up high and take a suspension bridge tour. Some bridges are up to 60 metres high and 150 metres long which offer fabulous views of the cloud forest canopy. If you want a better chance of seeing wildlife go early from 06:00 to 09:00 hours.

Cloud Forest, Monteverde
Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

If you’re just heading to Monteverde for just a day, canopy tours can be arranged through operators from San Jose which take in a variety of suspension bridges, nature trails and even zip-lines. It’s a great way of seeing the best bits that Monteverde has to offer in one hit.

Check rates and availability for Monteverde Suspension Bridge Tours

Canopy Zip Line Tours

zip-line, Costa Rica
Ziplining in Costa Rica

If you’re looking for an adrenaline hit then Monteverde’s got you covered with the longest, scariest and highest zip lines through the tree canopy. Adventure lovers should try the zip lines at Selvature Adventure park or Sky Trek Monteverde near to the Santa Elena Reserve. Be sure to book in advance. 

Monteverde Orchid Garden

There are over 1,300 varieties of orchid in Costa Rica. Head to Monteverde Orchid Garden to get a better looks at the delicate flowers, from the tiniest orchid on the planet to vivid coloured and faintly freckled varieties. A 35-minute guided tour will teach you more about Costa Rica’s national flower than you thought possible.

Entry costs just USD $12. The Monteverde Orchid Garden is open every day from 08:00 to 17:00 hours

If you like the Orchid Garden you may also want to visit Monteverde Butterfly Garden.

Glass Wing Butterfly, Costa Rica

Watch the sunset from Cerro Plano View Point

One of the best places to see the sunset is at the top of the Tilaran mountain range. You can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean from the Cerro Plano View Point and it’s one of the best places to catch a sunset. So I’m told – when we were there it was too misty to see much but on a clear day the view’s a stunner. You’ll need a car or taxi to get there.

Monteverde Cheese Factory

In 1951, a Quaker community from Alabama in the United States made their way to Costa Rica to escape military draft. They settled in Monteverde and did what they know best – dairy farming. Hence the reason for the fabulous cheese and ice-cream you’ll enjoy in Monteverde.

Monteverde’s Cheese Factory was founded in 1953 and the tour will teach you about the production of Monteverde’s delicious dairy products with sample tastings of cheese, yoghurt and delicious ice cream. The settlers also had the foresight to set aside an area of the cloud forest for conservation.

Wildlife and Nature Parks

If you don’t see much of Monteverde’s wildlife during a hike in the cloud forests – they like to hide – then visit one of the wildlife parks like Monteverde Frog Pond or the Bat Jungle.

Red Eyed Frog, Costa Rica

Horse riding in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If you want to get out in Monteverde’s countryside but don’t want to walk then seeing it from horseback is the next best thing. This 4-hour excursion will take you along the continental divide with wonderful views of the countryside and the Gulf of Nicoya. Amble along quiet roads and tracks away from busy tourist areas spotting wildlife on the way.

Check rates and availability for exploring Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve on horseback.

Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane Tours

Coffee beans growing on tree

Coffee beans on the tree

Costa Rica is renowned for its amazing coffee – it’s the country’s biggest export. Get an insight into how coffee, chocolate and sugar cane is produced and processed on a tasty tour. There are a few tour options but two of the best are El Trapiche which’ll take you on an ox-drawn cart ride and you may get the chance to pick some coffee beans. The tour lasts around three hours. Check rates, reviews and availability.

The Don Juan Tour is a family run business and they offer four daily tours. The tour teaches visitors the entire process behind coffee, chocolate and sugar cane. From the bean to cup. Don Juan Tour has a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism.

Where to stay in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Santa Elena is the nearest town to Monteverde cloud forest. Santa Elena accommodation is varied and ranges from small boutique hotels to hostels and lodges. The small town has a choice of restaurants, bars and cafes and lots of shops selling tours and outdoor and activity clothing.

Check rates and availability for Monteverde accommodation

We stayed at the Trapp Family Hotel which is the nearest hotel to Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve. We could look out over the grounds to the forest from our bedroom window and the room was spacious. Food in the restaurant was very good and the staff were friendly and helpful. The reserve entrance is approximately 1 km from the hotel.

Trapp Family Hotel, Monteverde
Trapp Family Hotel, Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde Weather

Monteverde is wet most of the year but drier December- April. We were there in September and only experienced a little rain. Rainy season is April – November. Temperature is an average high of 65° and refreshingly cool with rain or mist.

How to Get Around Monteverde

Bus – The bus is the cheapest way to get around Monteverde. One runs between downtown Santa Elena, the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Curi-Cancha Reserve several times a day for $1 USD each way. You can get picked up anywhere in downtown Santa Elena.

There’s also a private shuttle service that will pick you up at your accommodation and take you the Santa Elena Reserve for a few USD.  Your hotel/hostel will call them for you.

Taxi – You can get taxis anywhere in Santa Elena and Monteverde. The prices are set a list of prices is displayed in the taxi.

Driving in Costa Rica – La Fortuna to Monteverde

For the drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde the best roads to take are Route 142 to Tilaran, then Route 145 to 606. The drive takes about 3.5-4 hours and the roads are a mix of paved and dirt surfaces. The drive from La Fortuna is rugged at best and twisting, pot-holed and rutted at worst. We were glad we’d hired a 4×4 car and a couple of times during our trip we’d have been scuppered without it. 

For car hire we like to compare prices at Discover Cars.

The ferry which crosses Lake Arenal is for foot passengers only so you’ll need to drive all the way around the lake. The last leg of the journey is the shortest distance but takes the longest amount of time. We had to drive very slowly in places.

Transfers within Costa Rica

We had a hire car for the whole of our Costa Rica trip but there are various other transfer options available include minibus or private car transfers.

Bookaway is an excellent travel resource for internal transfers. You’ll find timetables, routes, various transfer options and other useful information to help plan your travels around Costa Rica, as well as allowing you to book your tickets online.

Read more: The best things to do in La Fortuna

On a positive note the views are spectacular and the poor road puts a lot of people off so the place isn’t over-run with hordes of tourists. Monteverde Cloud Forest makes the bone-shaking drive totally worth it.

So, that’s everything you need to know to have an amazing time in Monteverde, Costa Rica. What’s top of your list of things to do in Monteverde?

Planning your Costa Rica Road Trip

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, make sure to check out our other helpful guides

We were guests of Trapp Family Hotel for two nights. All other expenses we paid for ourselves including flights, tours, meals and car hire.

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Emily-Ann Elliott

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

I loved Monteverde and actually went zip-lining there on my birthday! Costa Rica is such an amazing country, I'd love to go back there one day.

Suzanne Jones

Wednesday 29th of January 2020

We absolutely loved it too and were just saying yesterday we'd go back in a heartbeat. What a fabulous place to celebrate a birthday!


Monday 27th of January 2020

Sounds like a great experience 😄

Suzanne Jones

Wednesday 29th of January 2020

The best!

Rhonda Albom

Saturday 25th of January 2020

Monteverde looks like an amazing place, filled with some really interesting animals. We saw coati in Brazil, but not when we were in Costa Rica. As for mosquitos, after getting dengue last year, I am super paranoid about them.

Suzanne Jones

Sunday 26th of January 2020

This was my first time seeing coati - hadn't heard of them before so had no idea what it was at first! Dengue is nasty - we stayed in a treehouse in the Amazon Jungle a few years back and took loads of precautions including anti-mosquito clothing. Didn't get one bite - hoping I'm as lucky on my March trip.


Saturday 25th of January 2020

I think I have the same photo of the colorful frog - a great memory, thank you for writing about one of my favorite adventures!

Suzanne Jones

Saturday 25th of January 2020

We saw other frogs too but the photos didn't come out too well! Costa Rica was one of my favourite adventures too :)

Amy Tull

Saturday 25th of January 2020

Just the post I wanted to read! I am itching to get to Monteverde, but family stuff is keeping us home for a while. I am a birder and hope to see lots of great birds when I go. I noticed you said you didn't see many. Do you think you'd have had better luck if you went earlier in the day? Or with a guide?

Suzanne Jones

Saturday 25th of January 2020

I hope you get there soon. Good question Amy - we saw another couple who'd booked a guide but they didn't see much more than us. I think maybe the time of year is a factor. We went in September but earlier in the year during mating season might be a better time to go for bird watching.

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