Monteverde is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. While it’s well-known for its cloud forests and opportunities to try some adrenaline-filled sports, there are plenty of other things to do in Monteverde that will keep you entertained for this part of your Costa Rica itinerary.
The Best Things to do in Monteverde
Walk along the Hanging Bridges in Selvatura
The Hanging Bridges in Selvatura Adventure Park are some of the best in Monteverde, maybe even in all of Costa Rica. The bridges are suspended high above the forest canopy, giving you spectacular views down to the forest floor and along the treetops (weather depending!)
At Selvatura, visitors will walk along a trail through the forest, across 8 bridges up to 180m high and up to 170m long. Each visit lasts a couple of hours and gives you the opportunity to admire the flora and fauna of the surrounding forests from above.
Even with a fear of heights, a trek along with hanging bridges is still one of the best things to do in Monteverde. The bridges are perfectly safe, being made of industrial-grade steel and having regular maintenance to confirm their strength. But if you’re still worried, have a chat with the staff on reception who may allow you to try the first bridge, and get your money back if you really don’t fancy the whole visit.
Ziplining through the Forest Canopy
If you’re after an adrenaline-filled activity in Monteverde, try zip lining! There are plenty of different types of zipline tours that will take you through the forest canopies. Which one you choose depends on your own preferences! For the highest zipline tour, try The Original Canopy Tour. For the longest, head to the Aventura Canopy Tour. Or for a good mixture of vertical jumps, Tarzan swings, abseiling and superman style ziplines, Monteverde Extremo Park is the best.
Viator has some great options that include hotel pickup and drop off on request. See for yourself below.
Visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest
The Santa Elena Cloud Forest is a must do when you visit Monteverde. It’s even been named by NewsWeek as one of the top places to visit before it disappears forever, so time really is of the essence with this one. At 1,440 metres above sea level, it’s the condensation in the air that leads to the presence of clouds here, and the huge amount of biodiversity that can survive.
You can join a tour of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest, led by an expert guide who will teach you all about the plants, trees, birds and creepy crawlies that call this part of Costa Rica their home. You may even be lucky enough to see the Resplendent Quetzal – one of the most beautiful birds in the world – as it flies amongst the trees.
Make sure you take a rain coat and clothes designed for the cloud forests! Read my list of clothes to wear in the rainforest here.
See Hummingbirds at the Hummingbird Garden in Selvatura
The Hummingbird Garden at Selvatura gets you up close and personal to an incredible number of hummingbirds of all sizes and colours, each one more beautiful than the last. It’s a fascinating sight to watch them flap their wings with incredible speed, and to hear them whizz past your ears as they fly around the garden.
The staff fill up bird feeders with sweet nectar to attract the birds, which means you’re guaranteed to see at least some hummingbirds when you visit. You may spot people holding their fingers out for the birds to rest on, but please don’t be tempted to touch them. They’re still wild animals, and very delicate ones at that!
Admire the Orchids at the Orchid Garden and Coffee Shop
The Orchid Coffee Shop is well known in the heart of Santa Elena town for breakfasts, lunches, delicious cheesecake and Costa Rican coffee. But while you’re there, you should stay to explore the wonderful selection of orchids in the Orchid Garden next door.
Here, you’ll find over 500 different species of orchid, from miniature orchids found in the cloud forests, to larger species found in the transition forests. There are guided tours conducted in both English and Spanish that last 45 minutes and cost up to $14 for an adult.
Climb a Giant Ficus Tree
A short walk from the Santa Elena Cloud Forest, there’s a popular tourist spot hidden in the trees where you climb inside a Ficus tree, all the way to the top. Confused? Let me explain… A Ficus tree is an example of a tree that grows on another tree. Its branches and trunk wrap around the host, effectively strangling it until it dies. This leaves the Ficus tree with a hollow inside and a ladder-like trunk that brave souls can climb to get beautiful views out over Monteverde.
If you’re not there to climb all the way to the top, the areas where Ficus trees grow are popular spots for hiking and relaxing. We saw plenty of locals there, walking their dogs and stopping for picnics, so it’s not just the tourists that are fascinated by the tree!
Eat at Taco Taco
Speaking of food, the town of Santa Elena is also home to some of the best Mexican food in Costa Rica from Taco Taco. Book a table at this funky bar/restaurant and you’ll be treated to delicious tacos, burritos and fajitas, all made with fresh, sustainable ingredients. There’s plenty for vegetarians too!
Taco Taco started life as a small taco truck, but its focus on quality quickly made it one of the most popular places to eat in Monteverde. Demand quickly outweighed supply, and the owners decided to open the permanent restaurant in Santa Elena. Eating here should definitely be on your list of things to do in Monteverde.
Head out on a night walk in a nature reserve
Fans of wildlife will love heading out to a local nature reserve to see what they can find. One of the best ways to do this in Monteverde is to join a night walk tour, led by a qualified guide, who will show you the nocturnal animals that live in the forests.
You could see snakes, scorpions and various creepy crawlies, but if you’re really lucky, you may even spot porcupines, armadillos and sloths. You’ll be given a torch to help you identify the creatures you see on your walk, but it’s a good idea to bring long trousers and closed toe shoes in case you step on something nasty.
Visit Viator for a good selection of tours in Monteverde!
Volunteer at the Monteverde Institute
If you want to do something more meaningful with your time in Monteverde, consider visiting the Monteverde Institute to support their reforestation programme. Volunteers at their dedicated tree nursery can help pack soil ready for planting trees, or clean the nursery floor by picking up fallen leaves and twigs.
If you choose to visit the Institute itself, you can learn more about their reforestation programme and other sustainability practices, as well as the Quakers that founded the Monteverde (as we know it) back in the 1950s. It’s a fascinating place to visit, and well worth it if you’re interested in the environment and its conservation!
Go swimming in the San Luis Waterfall
With so much moisture in the air in Monteverde, it’s no surprise that a trip to a waterfall makes one of the top things to do here. You can brave a 3 hour hike by the Santa Elena Cloud Forest to reach the San Luis Waterfall, which is in a beautiful area for photography, picnicking and hiking. In the area around the waterfall, you may even spot monkeys, birds and lizards too. On particularly hot days, you could even go swimming in the pool at the waterfall’s base but, be warned, it can get very cold!
If you’d prefer a shorter hike to reach the waterfall, you can drive to the San Luis Research Facility to learn about ecotourism in the area. From there, it’s a 45 minute walk down to the waterfall.
As the waterfall is on private land, you’ll need to pay around $10 to reach it, with the entrance fee taken at the start of the trail.
Visit the Monteverde Butterfly Garden
There are around 60 species of butterflies in Monteverde’s Butterfly Garden, located close to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. The garden presents a great opportunity to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
Guided tours last an hour, and take in the entire lifecycle of a butterfly, from caterpillar and cocoon to their growth as spectacular butterflies. Once the tour is over, you’ll be able to explore the facility’s four gardens on your own until they close.
You can also volunteer here if you’ve got 10 weeks spare. The time will be spent learning how to be an English speaking guide, introducing tourists to the butterflies and other creepy crawlies that call the gardens their home.
If Monteverde is just a part of your trip to Costa Rica, find out where to go next with my 10 day Costa Rica itinerary!
If you’re trying to decide what to do in Monteverde, this list is bound to keep you occupied. There really is something for everyone, from wildlife spotting opportunities for animal lovers, to waterfall hikes for nature fans and some delicious food options for those with hungry tummies too!
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