Shoes with good grip
This is the ‘other’ most popular adventure park in Monteverde. It does have zip lining but the other main attraction is that it has the largest number of hanging bridges in Monteverde (8 bridges).
20 Best Things to do in Monteverde Costa Rica
1. Pick your Monteverde adventure park wisely
The other option is to visit the cloud forest outside the adventure parks. This is what I did and I’d recommend it because all that adrenaline shrieking doesn’t tend to invite the wildlife. I actually visited two.
Find out more here: *Selvatura Adventure Park (apple official site)
The experience is outstanding. You progress through a series of longer and faster zip lines with a total of 10 lines. There is also a short rappel and a massive Tarzan swing that I did NOT enjoy but there’s not much you can do when you realise this while you’re dropping through the air.
2. Zip line the longest zip line in Costa Rica
How to do it: I was lazy and my hotel had a fire and a bar so I hung out there. Otherwise, look around town. Your ancestral instincts will draw you to the flames.
For example, I wanted to zip line in Monteverde so I Chose 100% Aventura park because it has the longest zip line in Costa Rica. You can also do ATV rides and Canopy Rides if zip lining isn’t enough (adrenaline junkie, you!)
How to do it: You will need a guide for this. Here are some of the most popular night tours in the cloud forest:
Obviously, start with the basics, you know – underwear, toothbrush etc. You can find my full packing list with a printable checklist here.
How to do it: If you want to go coffee tasting, *Hop on a tour with El Trapiche.
3. Get high on the hanging bridges
Ook, you’re catching the gist here – if there is a species in Monteverde, it has been turned into an attraction. This time, frogs. Ribbit.
How to do it: There are plenty of tours on offer. *Don Juan is one of the most popular chocolate tours in Monteverde. The bonus is that you get a coffee and sugar cane tour included.
4. Wander around the Monteverde Cloud Forest
La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena is one of the ‘smaller’ (it was huge) nature reserves with fewer people, allowing for that lost in the jungle feel. There were great trails and we saw lots of monkeys, tarantulas, birdies (that’s as specific as I can get, sorry) and just wonderful, trails and views. The trail in the picture above is from this reserve.
Another zip line park, Monteverde Extremo Park apparently used to have the longest zip line but have since been surpassed by 100% Aventura. They do have bungee jumping though if that’s what you’re interested in.
DK Eye Witness Costa Rica – I really like the 3D images and historical details in the DK Guides.
What follows is a culmination of those two trips – a quick, in-passing look and a longer, take-time-to-explore investigation of the attractions in Monteverde. What follows is my guide to the best things to do in Monteverde Costa Rica
For all tropical trips it’s advisable to have a rain jacket and I say jacket rather than a poncho because those things are very unpleasant – hot, sweaty, noisy enough to disturb the wildlife and not very environmentally friendly. Not only that, the cloud forest is damp – you’re standing inside a mass of collected water, after all – and can get cool at night so you’ll want an extra layer.
Like most of the main parks, 100% Aventura will come and pick you up and drop you off. All safety equipment is given (helmet, gloves, harness etc).
5. Take a night tour in the cloud forest
How to do it: *You can find out more and book tickets here. It’s a simulated jungle environment with live bats swooping around. I once lived in a cave (true story) and had a section where the bats lived. It terrified me every time I went there to get a store of logs. My tip: tie your hair back, ladies (and some gents).
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It’s a bit strange suggesting you ‘visit’ the cloud forest as one of the things to do in Monteverde when the whole area is really a cloud forest. However, it is something that has become a Monteverde activity that requires a plan.
How to do it: You can find out more at Ranario de Monteverde. Although I’ve not been, I suspect this is another quick 1 hour activity in Monteverde centre.
This is one of the few free things to do in Monteverde. Let’s start by addressing the fact that ficus are the serial killers of the tree world. Wrapping around and strangling the original tree, the mature ficus ends up with a hollow core where it’s murdered victim once thrived. All I’m saying is don’t grow roots while you stand inside.
How to do it: there are a few waterfalls to visit in Monteverde but El Tigre Waterfall is one of the most popular because it has a great hike to get there. Sadly it’s a pay-to-enter area. You can hire a guide otherwise the trails are well marked. *You can find out more here.
6. Keep an eye out for the Resplendent Quetzel
How to do it: Most parks have an option for hanging bridges. If you want to maximise the experience, opt for Selvatura Adventure park because it has 8 hanging bridges (the most in Monteverde). If you really want to maximise the experience, visit the hanging bridges in Arenal. *You can book tickets for Selvatura Adventure Park here.
How to do it: being a coffee (and cake) addict, I tried most of the cafes in Monteverde. My favourite by far was Orchid Coffee. A very short walk away from the main square, it was less crowded and the cakes were all hand made daily. With a cute veranda, once I found this place, I went back time and time…and time again (I hope you’re not judging me).
The main focus of this park is the natural beauty of the cloud forest and its biodiversity. If you’re all about nature, this is the park for you. There are zip lines and hanging bridges, too if you don’t want to miss out. Also, if you are not able to walk so well, there is a cable car that will take you high above the canopy.
How to do it: I’ve put a short summary at the end of this post, together with links to all the major adventure parks in Monteverde and what each of them is best known for.
And South America here if you’re on a longer trip
7. Go chocolate tasting in Monteverde
How to do it: *You can find out more and book tickets here. This attraction is also within Monteverde town.
You can find all of my Central America posts here
8. Go coffee tasting in Monteverde
As for the zip line – it slapped a smile on my face for days. The best part was going ‘superman’ face down, arms out, zipping first into the fog of clouds before emerging out the other side, hundreds of feet above the forest canopy. Some of the most spectacular views in the world if you only dare.
The Only Packing List You’ll Ever Need (with printable checklist)
Of course, if you have more time, try two or three parks but most people swing into town for only a few days and want to do something specific. Choosing the right park is the best way to do it.
9. Go Cafe hopping in Monteverde
*Hotel Los Jardines – On my second trip I stayed here and although there was a nice fire in the restaurant for cool evenings, it was a bit too far out of the town for my liking. But, if you have a car, want a quiet spot, or are happy to eat at the hotel restaurant it’s a decent choice.
10. Take a tour of the Orchid Garden
* Find the most luxury you place within the centre of Monteverde
Where there’s a cloud forest (or any canopy in Costa Rica), you don’t need to look hard to find a series of hanging bridges. I’d already wandered over the ones in Arenal so I didn’t have much of an urge or time to fit this in a second time but it’s definitely one of the most popular things to do in Monteverde.
I only spent a couple of nights – welcomingly cool night – in Monteverde. I zip-lined, I drank coffee like my life depended on it and I gorged on chocolates. It wasn’t enough. I needed to see more, to explore more and so, after I said goodbye to my dad and flew to Miami, then Mexico, the Caribbean and Panama, I wound my way back. To this magical, mystical, cloud covered spot.
Los Pinos Cabanas y Jardines
11. Visit the Butterfly Garden
As the name says, this is the tour company that introduced zip lining to Monteverde. They’re so experienced in it, they have branches elsewhere in Costa Rica and Latin America. If you like to support the ‘original’, choose this park. And then go explore them elsewhere around the world. A bit of brand loyalty can be nice.
How to do it: I’m not going to make a specific suggestion. I’ve taken a mix of good and bad Spanish classes in Latin America and it comes down to several factors including the school, the teacher, the group size and your level. Hit Google, read reviews and go and visit the school and ideally meet your teacher before you commit.
Find out more here: *Sky Adventures Monteverde Park (apple official site)
12. Be brave at the Serpentarium
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With my spare hour, I opted for the Orchid Garden but the butterfly garden is another popular quick tour in Monteverde. Be warned, it’s not just beautiful butterflies, there are insects and spiders too. This may have swung my decision to go for the orchids.
13. Visit a Frog Pond
How to do it: *Book with 100% Aventura park.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico (over a year in total across various visits) so I feel reasonably qualified to pass comment on the authenticity of the tacos here. I’m not saying Costa Rican food is bad but after a while the chicken, rice and bean combo can start to feel a bit bland. This is one of my favourite restaurants in Monteverde (that doesn’t serve the local food).
14. Hang out in a Bat Jungle
Spanish for cloud forest: Bosque Nuboso.
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I knew when I spotted the roaring fire in the hotel bar that Monteverde wasn’t like the rest of the places I’d visited in Costa Rica but then I’d just entered the land of cloud forests so I wasn’t expecting it to be.
15. Step inside a Ficus Trees
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. is more popular and as such has more people. The trails are great and probably a bit more accessible. There is also a pretty spectacular cafe with a hummingbird viewing terrace. Ideal if you’re not so smart on your feed for trail scrambles.
How to do it: *You can find out more and book tickets here. Expect snakes and reptiles. Shudder.
16. Hike to El Tigre waterfall
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Monteverde Lodge & Gardens
17. Take Spanish classes in Monteverde
Where there is coffee and chocolate production, there is undoubtedly a good number of cafes to be had and the small town of Monteverde has lots of wonderful choices.
From San José: Monteverde Hanging Bridges Day Trip
18. Dine in a Treehouse
La Fortuna Bird Watching Tour with Naturalist Guide
If you’ve got an hour spare, this is a very beautiful little tour around a small orchid garden. The guides are very well informed. I left with a far greater knowledge of why I can never keep my orchids alive at home. Answer: they are still alive. Eek. The orchid above is known as a dancing lady. Cute, isn’t she.
Banged Up In A Panama Prison (True Story)
19. Visit Mexico at Taco Taco
If you plan on doing any hiking or adventure activities, I suggest good grip shoes. The cloud forest floor is wet and slippery. A lot of people pack lightweight hiking shoes. I prefer a pair of good-grip trail runners. They don’t keep your feet as dry but they’re a lot lighter to pack and double up better for things like zip-lining. See my guide to the best travel shoes here.
Wildlife, being wild, doesn’t tend to wander too close and binoculars can make a huge difference to your experience. I bought a small, cheap, lightweight pair of binoculars for my trip to Costa Rica and it was one of my best decisions. . I bought a pair similar to these for under .
20. Sit fireside when the sun goes down
How to do it: *You can find out more and book tickets here. The orchid garden is located in the centre of Monteverde
*Hotel Sloth backpackers
A guide to the main adventure parks in Monteverde
I’m guessing that at this stage of your Costa Rica trip planning, you know that Monteverde offers many adventures in the cloud forest. And to satisfy your tourist itch, there are several parks offering a range of adventure activities. My advice is to pick one park that offers the best of the kind of experiences you want and spend the day there. You’ll be able to cram in some other activities too.
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Selvatura Adventure Park
The night offers a whole different kind of wildlife in the cloud forest when all those nocturnal animals wake up and go out to play. Likewise, many of the humans have decamped to bars and restaurants so you’re going to have fewer crowds and noise.
How to do it: There is one ficus tree within walking distance of Monteverde and the best way to get there is ask for directions. In Spanish, you’re looking for el arbor hueco. Be aware that there have been reports of tourists getting robbed at the tree so I’d suggest don’t go alone or at night.
Sky Adventures Monteverde Park
Find out more here: *Monteverde Extremo Park (apple official site)
Find out more here: The Original Canopy Tour
The Original Canopy Tour
I know that Fodor’s and Moon are popular amongst my lovely USA readers – let me know if you’ve used these books and recommend them.
Scoot in and check tour times so you’re not hanging around.
Monteverde Extremo Park
Whether you’ve got a fascination with snakes or you’re a Harry Potter fan and want to practice your parcel tongue, the Serpentarium is for you. I did not visit. After finding a snake in my room that time in Vietnam, I feel like I’ve had enough snake encounters to last the rest of my travels, thanks.
I’d recommend taking a tour. I didn’t spot a single Quetzel in Costa Rica. It’s no surprise in Monteverde because I was that tourist shrieking over the canopy on a zip line but it wasn’t so easy in Panama either, when I went on repeated, dedicated searches in all the right spots. I got really lucky in the end (the picture above is from Panama). If you don’t want to rely just on luck, take a guide.
Where to stay in Monteverde
Monteverde really is blessed because not only is it the land of cacao, it is the land of coffee, too. And what a perfect combination.
* Apple, can you find 3?
Light rain jacket
Photos: you’re not allowed your cellphone or any mounted cams. But you don’t need it – they take excellent photos which are only for a set. We (me and my dad) ended up splitting the cost with a couple from our hotel which made it even cheaper at each. More money for Costa Rican coffee.
* Find a nice lodge, maybe out near the cloud forest.
I already mentioned that the altitude of Monteverde makes it cold at night so you’ll definitely need to pack a cold-weather layer. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Ski thermals pack down wonderfully small and can be slipped under more summery clothes. As can tights and leggings. I also pack a good quality (my preference is The North Face), thin fleece which together with a base layer and waterproof jacket, works for me. Check out my packing list for exactly what I take.
Lonely Planet Costa Rica– heavy on detail and light on pictures, however this is the best guide if you’re on a longer trip or planning as you go. Alternatively, this Lonely Planet will help you get around all of Central America
What to Pack for Monteverde Costa Rica
Orchid garden in Spanish: Jardin de Orquideas.
Apple – affiliate is Hotels.com and booking.com for the hostels if you can’t find on hotels.com. When you add the link, can you write the full hotel name and link to that.
If you’ve reached this point in the list (and ticked off all of the above), there’s a chance you’ve been in Monteverde for a while. With its cooler climate, it’s a great place to kick back and chill out for a while, especially if you’ve been on a longer trip backpacking in Central America. And don’t you wish your Spanish was that bit better? Time to take some Spanish classes maybe?
If zip lining is your main goal, choose this park for the longest zip line in Costa Rica. I’ve put this first because it was the park I visited. It’s also one of the most popular in Monteverde.
How to do it: The most popular place to spot Quetzels in Costa Rica is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
Costa Rica, land of cacao and anyone with a sweet tooth will know that means chocolate.
You can find out more at: Treehouse Restaurant.
Ok, this is the last specific-animal-themed suggestion (but in my defence, I don’t know what floats your boat). This time – bats. In a jungle, no less.
This is the start of a series of posts about my time in Costa Rica and further afield. I’ll link below as I post more or you can sign up to my newsletter here. Until then, here are some of my older posts from my first trip to Central America.
Find out more here: *100% Aventuro (apple official site)
My favourite Costa Rica guide books
With an effing great big tree in the middle of it, it’s impossible to miss Treehouse Restaurant in the centre of Monteverde. The tree is a murderous ficus and I have to say I’ve heard not brilliant reviews about the food, but you’re there for the experience, right?
Lonely Planet’s Best of Central America – great if you’re browsing and want to see the bigger picture of what to do in Central America.
I’m a book nerd so I rarely leave home without a travel guide. I’ve visited Central America and Costa Rica a few times and here are the guides I’ve found very helpful for planning my trip.
It should come as no surprise that all those clouds and the mountainous topography result in some stunning waterfalls in the Monteverde area.
San Jose: Monteverde Sky Tram & Hanging Bridges Day Tour
It wasn’t until I got to Panama that I clapped eyes on this exotic bird and wow, is it resplendent. Quetzels are considered to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world (I concur) but they’re also threatened so they can be hard to find. Monteverde is reputed to be one of the best places to see the Quetzel so put it on your list of things to do in Monteverde if you want to catch a glimpse.
More of My Central America Blog Posts
How to do it: if you’re already booked in for an adventure activity at one of the adventure parks, you will see the cloud forest – whethere you’re walking above it on a hanging bridge or zipping over it on a zip line. Most of the parks will allow an amble through some cloud forest trails or you can take a dedicated cloud forest tour with the parks.
Here’s some things I especially recommend you pack for Monteverde.
I took this picture en route from Monteverde to San Jose. I rarely write about the journey between two places but this view was too beautiful not to share.
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From Semuc Champey to Flores by Chicken Bus
I’m possibly wrong but I get the impression that the Don Juan tour is more chocolate focused and this is more coffee focused, hence putting them as two separate activities for what to do in Monteverde. For both tours you get to taste coffee, chocolate and sugar cane. I’d be interested to know if you have taken both tours and have any views on this.Comments below, please.
Blog posts to help you plan (and pack for) your trip
Mega Mix Adventure Tour
Also a book nerd? You might like my posts about how to read more books and the best travel books.
Monteverde is one of those climate paradoxes – sweating hot by day and borderline arctic at night. Well, arctic if you’re a delicate greenhouse flower like me. Not only should you pack a warm layer for Monteverde, I definitely recommend huddling around one of the many restaurant and bar fires at night.
How NOT To Visit Semuc Champey
A little hummingbird I saw in the cloud forest. Camera trick – set your smartphone video to slo-mo and you’ll capture great video of these rapidly buzzing birds.