Costa Rica's iconic mountain town of Monteverde attracts both wildlife and adventure enthusiasts - and there's so much to do in Monteverde you'll be hard-pressed to squeeze it all in.
We spent a week exploring the scenic Monteverde and it quickly became our favorite place in Costa Rica.
While it isn't the cheapest town, there are still plenty of free things to do in Monteverde too.
So, whether you visit for the sloths, the birds, or adventure, there are plenty of things to do in Monteverde that you'll leave wanting more.
When to visit Monteverde
Nestled among the cloudy mountains, it's no surprise Monteverde's weather is frequently misty, overcast, and can get a little wet.
The mild-humid temperature doesn't fluctuate much in Monteverde, so it's a year-round destination.
However, between December - April is often considered the best time to visit Monteverde.
Costa Rica COVID19 travel restrictions
Obviously, the COVID19 pandemic has affected travel worldwide.
However, Costa Rica's borders are again open for tourism.
No COVID test is required, but tourists do need to provide health insurance on entry.
We wrote exactly how to get the cheapest local travel insurance in this post.
Where to stay in Monteverde
We stayed in two very different accommodation options and highly recommend both.
Chira Glamping Monteverde
We splurged on our first accommodation choice and it ended up being our favorite experience in Monteverde.
Monteverde is one of the rare places in the world where you can glamping on the side of a mountain.
As Chira was an expense, we spent our two days enjoying the accommodation and moving to more affordable accommodation for the days we wanted to explore the Cloud Forest, town and sites.
We chose to move to Selina due to its walking distance from the Cloud Forest.
Selina has a modern vibe to it and has lots of self-contained facilities including a kitchen, hot tubs, coworking space and restaurant.
Top things to do in Monteverde
1. Climb inside the web of Monteverde's iconic ficus tree
Hidden a short way from Santa Elena is a humongous ficus tree, which is so large and hollow you can climb inside right to the top.
To find this tree, you'll need to head up the big hill where Chira Glamping is located. As we were staying here, it was only a short 5-minute walk north up the hill from there. If you're leaving from Santa Elena town, it'll take about 20-30 minutes walking due to the steep hills.
There's a small opening in the forest and a path that leads down to the tree. It's a little hidden, but well worth the time finding this.
Tip: Go early. In the afternoons, more people arrive and you'll have to wait in line to climb the tree. We went before midday and had it to ourselves.
2. Spend a day hiking in the clouds
The most popular attraction in Monteverde is, of course, the cloud forest.
There are a number of different hikes ranging from 1-4 hours long depending on which paths you take.
The weather definitely impacts what you'll see on the hike. We experienced lots of dampness and rain, which added to a mysterious feel, but the views were cloudy (in a cloud forest, go figure!).
The price was a little steep at $25 per person, but still a great little day out.
Tip: Cabs can be expensive from Santa Elena to the cloud forest. We booked accommodation close to the cloud forest at Selina for the days we were visiting so we could easily walk in.
3. Enjoy a once in a lifetime 'glamping' experience
This isn't your typical experience, but if you're looking for something different we highly recommend a glamping experience.
We stayed at Chira Glamping Monteverde, where we stayed in a luxury secluded tent overlooking the town. We had a hot tub, a fully equipped kitchen, and the most aesthetic outdoor shower we've ever seen.
We wrote a full review of our glamping experience here.
4. Find the giant root tree bridge
Probably our favorite free thing to do in Monteverde is visiting the insanely huge exposed root of a tree.
You can walk across the root, but be careful, as it's not exactly an even surface.
This tree is more of a secret and isn't signposted, so you need to know where to look. Luckily, we know exactly how you can find it - just keep it on the down-low so it doesn't get busy.
Getting there: Locate the big red rock at Felix Rooms. There is a small pathway down that leads to a stream of water. When you get to the stream head right, and follow the water edge for 5 minutes. You won't miss it when you arrive.
5. Take a night tour
In Monteverde, 60% of wildlife is nocturnal. So, it's no surprise night walks are a popular choice for wildlife-lovers here.
What is surprising, is these tours are pretty affordable, with most ranging at $20 per person including hotel pick-ups and drop-offs and night walk equipment like flashlights.
There are plenty of places to book night tours in Monteverde, but if you want to get an idea, Monteverde Info has some you can book online.
6. Get caffeinated on a coffee tour
Of course, you can't visit Costa Rica without indulging in the famous local coffee.
And what better way to do it than taking a coffee tour where you will learn and see where and how coffee is harvested in Costa Rica.
Monteverde has a few coffee tours available, and you can often explore sugar cane and chocolate too.
7. Zipline through the jungle
If you're looking for more thrill on your trip to Monteverde, you can take a canopy tour and actually zip line through the Cloud Forest.
Selvatura Park is a well-known tour operator that runs ziplining tours in Monteverde.
8. Walk the famous hanging bridges
If you Google Monteverde, you'll no doubt see lots of photos of the famous hanging bridges.
Unfortunately for us, the hanging bridge we headed out to was closed off due to a fallen tree. However, we still managed to find some other bridges in the Cloud Forest.
9. Eat Costa Rica's tasty local dish
Costa Rica has some delicious local meals.
The most commonly found meal in Monteverde is Casado, which often comes with fried plantains, beans, rice, avocado and veggies.
The flavors are incredible and the meal is often naturally cheap, vegan and healthy.
We highly recommend the Casado at Orchid Cafe.
10. Spot a quetzal
People travel from all around the world to spot the famous resplendent quetzal birds in Monteverde's Cloud Forest.
The beautifully colored birds and their little mohawks are well-known for their stunning features.
While spotting them isn't guaranteed, you can definitely increase your chances by hiring a local guide.
We passed a local guide who pointed one out to us - and we definitely wouldn't have spotted it on our own.
11. Visit the hummingbird sanctuary
Located right outside the Cloud Forest is a small hummingbird sanctuary that might surprise you.
It might not sound that exciting, but this hummingbird sanctuary has dozens of hummingbirds fluttering freely around you.
You'll get almost too close to these wonderful birds.
12. Visit Santa Elena's local stores
The largest albeit small and quaint town of Santa Elena has lots of locally owned shops.
The stores are loaded with unique handmade products, which are ideal for gifts or souvenirs to remember this wonderful town.
13. Rent an e-bike
Monteverde is an exciting place to explore by bike - and e-bike (electrical bike) rentals are a popular choice.
While we didn't indulge in this experience, we did see e-bike rentals at our accommodation at Selina, near the Cloud Forest.
14. Relax with a delicious hot chocolate at Choco Cafe
After a long day of hiking, a steaming cup of hot chocolate is the perfect way to relax.
Chocco Cafe is an aesthetic cafe in the center of Santa Elena.
The cafe also offers plant-based milk too.
15. Explore Santa Elena's incredible street art
If you haven't had enough walking yet, take to the town instead of the forest to explore the incredible street art in Santa Elena.
You won't even need to plan where you go because the entire town is full of breathtaking art.
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