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.
We’ve visited Monteverde multiple times and even though the area is not very big, there are some amazing activities in the area. Check out our list of 7 incredible things to do in Monteverde, perfect for nature, wildlife and adventure lovers!
Did you know Monteverde is known as the place where the zipline was born? 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!
Monteverde Costa Rica zipline
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 once placed 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 indeed one of the best places to see them. During mating season (about February – June ish), it is common to see multiple males dancing and flashing their vibrant colors to impress females.
To see the Quetzals, you should go with a guide. These birds aren’t very big and though colorful, are hard to see when high and far in the trees. Although you can see them in all the cloud forest reserves, the best place is in Curi Cancha Reserve as it is more open so it’s easier to see them. We saw 5 Resplendant Quetzals in one tree in March!
You can also see toucans, hummingbirds and many other birds in the reserve but we highly recommend going with a guide who have trained eyes. 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 from 1500 meters and more above sea level, the vegetation is completely different. You don’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.
Many of the adventure parks have their own hanging bridges and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve has one long one. You can do a self-guided hike or go with a local guide in any of the 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 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 coffee is one of our absolute favorites so you definitely need to try the coffee or take a tour. Our favorite coffee shop is the El Trapiche which just opened up in Santa Elena downtown.
Watch the Sunset from Cerro Plano View Point
Monteverde sits on top of the Tilaran Mountain Range, about 1500 meters in elevation with stunning views of both the Caribbean and Pacific on a clear day. There are several view points where you can get an incredible view of the islands in the Pacific and watch the sunset go down behind the mountain.
Our favorite view point is the one on the way to San Luis but a closer one is in Cerro Plano, 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 that you can’t really do in other parts of Costa Rica 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 yet growing upwards at the same time. Eventually the center part dies yet the ficus still survives, 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, one in the hanging bridges at 100% Aventura and a public (free) one on the trails 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, canyoning and go on a night walk. You don’t need to stay more than a couple days in Monteverde to get a good feel for the area, most people stay just 1-2 full days.
Monteverde Costa Rica Hotels
There are some great lodges and inns in Monteverde. Here are our favorites.
There are also plenty of hostels in Santa Elena downtown such as Pension and Santa Elena Backpackers.
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