Though dairy farming used to be the main economy of Monteverde, this small rural farming area has grown to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. After word got out about the enchanting cloud forests, people from all over the world started including Monteverde in their itinerary and now it’s a must visit place in the country.
Not sure what to do in Monteverde? Check out our list of incredible things to do in Monteverde! We’ve visited multiple times and it’s an incredible destination for hiking, birding and adventure!
Did you know Monteverde is known as the birth place of the zipline? The locals claim to have invented the zipline as a way to deliver lunch to the workers and also to have set up the original canopy tour. Now there are a handful of ziplines in Monteverde that will fulfill any extreme adventurer’s adrenaline needs!
Not only can you zipline over the cloud forests at Selvatura Park or Sky Adventures Monteverde Park, you can also bungee jump 143 meters into the forest, tarzan swing 45 meters down or superman zipline 2 kilometers. Whichever one you choose, your excitement level will be through the roof!
The superman ziplines at 100% Aventura are hands down the most exciting and fun ziplines we’ve ever done. Check out our video of us flying 2 kilometers above the cloud forest!
If you love adventure and are looking for an exciting activity, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Monteverde and worth every penny!
See Resplendant Quetzals
National Geographic named Monteverde as the best place in the world to see Resplendant Quetzal, a stunning bird in the trogon family. For many years, the Quetzal’s immense beauty with iridescent green feathers and a long slender tail has captured the hearts of many, even becoming the national bird of Guatemala and name of their national currency.
As these birds live in high elevations mostly in cloud forests, Monteverde is one of the best places to see them. During mating season (about February – June ish), it is common to see males dancing and flashing their vibrant colors to impress females.
To see the Quetzals, you should go with a guide. Though these birds are colorful, they are small and can be difficult to see in the trees. In our personal experience, the best place to see these birds is in Curi Cancha Reserve. We saw 5 Resplendant Quetzals in one tree in March!
You can also see toucans, hummingbirds and many other birds in the reserve, so we highly recommend going with a guide. Plus they carry telescopes which you can use to take pictures with your cell phone with!
Hike the Cloud Forest
The tropical cloud forests are one of the most amazing places in Costa Rica. Since there are only a few countries where these forests exist, it’s also one of the most spectacular places in the world. As these forests sit more than1500 meters (5000 feet) above sea level, the vegetation is completely different. You won’t feel like you’re in a tropical country at all!
There are 3 cloud forest reserves in Monteverde: Monteverde, Santa Elena and Children’s Eternal Rain Forest. The most popular one is Monteverde and though we loved all 3, our favorite is Santa Elena. Less people, higher in elevation, more mossy and cloudy. It truly feels like you’re walking through a fairytale!
There are trails of varying lengths and beautiful view points in each reserve so no matter which one you go to, it’ll be a great experience. You can read our guide to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserves to see which one is right for you.
Walk the Hanging Bridges
Monteverde owes a large part of its popularity to the hanging bridges in the cloud forest. Get up high in the forest canopy by way of these bridges which range up to 800 feet long and 2400 feet in altitude (240 meters to 730 meters).
Many of the adventure parks have their own hanging bridges and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve has one long one. This is one of the best things to do with kids in Monteverde since the hanging bridges aren’t long, the infrastructure is excellent and they can see the forest from a different perspective.
Personally, we love the hanging bridges at Selvatura Park. They have 8 bridges ranging from 170 to 560 feet offering absolutely incredible views of the cloud forest because that park is very high in elevation (higher than all other parks).
Try Delicious Monteverde Ice Cream and Coffee
The reason why Monteverde has such great ice cream dates back to their founders, a group of Quakers who were looking for a peaceful area in Costa Rica suitable for dairy farming. They found that the weather, beautiful mountains and high altitude fulfilled all of their needs, thus putting Monteverde on the map as a leading dairy farming area.
Even though tourism is now their leading source of income for the locals, many still have dairy farms and make delicious ice cream, which for the most part, you can only find in Monteverde! There is a great ice cream shop in Santa Elena downtown next to the Amy’s Restaurant and there is also a Monteverde Cheese Factory where you can sample various cheese and diary products.
Additionally, because of the high altitude, coffee grows remarkably well in Monteverde. The San Luis Monteverde, Don Juan and El Trapiche are two excellent coffee tours to do in Monteverde. We love the El Trapiche, it is one of my favorite Costa Rican coffees!
Watch the Sunset from Cerro Plano View Point
From Monteverde, you can see both Pacific and Atlantic as it sits at the top of the Tilaran mountain range. There are several view points of the Pacific islands to watch the sunset.
Our favorite view point is the one on the way to San Luis. You can walk but it is a bit far and the road is very curvy and narrow. If you don’t have a car, there is a nice spot right outside the entrance to the El Establo hotel. Watch the sun go down over the mountains with the islands in the distance, one of the best free things to do in Monteverde!
Climb Up the Giant Ficuses
One of the most unique things to do in Monteverde is to climb up the giant ficus trees. These ficus trees, or “strangler trees” become empty as they take over another tree, growing their roots downwards and growing upwards at the same time. Eventually the center part dies with the ficus still living, leaving only the outer shell which you can climb up in.
I didn’t get a good picture of the one we climbed in but there are several in Monteverde. There is one in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, at 100% Aventura hanging bridges and near Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge.
More Fun Things to Do in Monteverde
These are our favorite things to do in Monteverde but you can also go horseback riding, visit San Luis waterfall, go canyoning and go on a night walk.
What to Do If You Have Only 1 or 2 Full Days in Monteverde
Here are some ideas for Monteverde itineraries.
1 Full Day in Monteverde
We recommend to visit one of the nature parks because you can experience the best of Monteverde: ziplining, hanging bridges and cloud forest. We personally recommend Selvatura Park for those who want to experience the most because they have ziplining, hanging bridges, a butterfly and hummingbird garden, a sloth center, a reptile and amphibian exhibit and a restaurant.
For those who want more extreme adventure, Xtremo and 100% Aventura are great choices because they have bungee jumping, an extreme tarzan swing and superman cables.
2 Full Days in Monteverde
On day 2, we recommend to do a cloud forest hike or a birding tour, or both! We did Curi Cancha Reserve in the morning for a birding tour and then hiked Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena by ourselves in the afternoon. You can also go to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.