The Top Things to Do and See in Monteverde, Costa Rica

There are plenty of opportunities to go hiking in Costa Rica
There are plenty of opportunities to go hiking in Costa Rica | © Galyna Andrushko / Alamy Stock Photo
Jenn Parker

Cloud forests are rare ecosystems that occur in tropical and subtropical mountainous areas, and the atmospheric conditions in Monteverde, Costa Rica, allow for this unique region to be consistently covered by clouds, blanketing everything with dew. It’s this wet blanket that promotes astonishing biodiversity, especially within the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Curi-Cancha Reserve.

If you’d like to experience Costa Rica, including a night-time tour of the cloud forest in Monteverde, join Culture Trip’s specially curated nine-day Costa Rica tour with a local guide for a hassle-free trip shared with like-minded travelers.

Go birdwatching

Monteverde is home to 400 species of birds, and the best place to go on a birdwatching tour is the Curi-Cancha Reserve. On a professionally guided tour, you will have the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful birds in Costa Rica, including the keel-billed toucan, resplendent quetzal, orange-bellied trogon and the blue-crowned motmot, as well as a variety of hummingbirds and other species.

Costa Rica is home to a variety of hummingbirds

Take a hike

While there are tons of great activities to do in Monteverde, just going for a simple hike through the cloud forest is spectacular in itself. There are numerous well-maintained and easy-to-walk trails throughout each of the reserves. Most trails range from 1mi to 3mi (1km to 5km), and there are both self-guided and guided hiking tours available. Walking through the cloud forest is a magical experience.

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde has some easy walking trails the whole family will enjoy

Visit the Frog Pond

Frog and toad populations are on a worldwide decline. The Monteverde Frog Pond is an educational tour where you will get to see 25 different species of amphibians that are native to Costa Rica. You will learn all about their habitats, behaviors, diet, reproduction and factors that threaten their population. A portion of the proceeds from your tour will go towards very necessary frog and toad research and conservation. The best time to take this tour is in the evening when the frogs and other amphibians are more active and vocal.

Take an evening tour of the Frog Pond for a chance to see a lemur frog

Spend time in a butterfly garden

The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens are a popular attraction located between the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. There are four different climate-controlled butterfly gardens, a medicinal plant garden, a biodiversity center and a leaf-cutter ant terrarium. There are more than 50 species of butterflies from different areas and ecosystems in Costa Rica. The gardens offer a volunteer program for those looking for a more hands-on experience with the butterflies.

You’ll see all sorts of butterflies, including the glass-winged butterfly, in Costa Rica

Admire the orchids

There are more than 1,400 species of orchids growing in Costa Rica, and 500 of those can be found in Monteverde. The Monteverde Orchid House has 426 species of orchids growing and on display. You can take a 30- to 60-minute tour through the gardens and learn all about the different species, where they are from, how they are cultivated and how to grow your own at home. Being surrounded by so many beautiful orchids is something very special and memorable.

Costa Rica is home to more than 1,400 species of orchids

Walk through the treetops

Walking the Selvatura treetop suspension bridges is an incredible way to experience the cloud forest. There are eight suspension bridges that are connected by walking trails. This bird’s-eye view opportunity is a great way to see monkeys, sloths, birds and beautiful plant life from above. This two-and-a-half-hour leisurely nature walk is like walking through a beautiful forest fantasy. You will experience every shade of green and breathe in the cleanest and freshest air.

For beautiful views and some of the freshest air, take a walk through the Selvatura treetop hanging bridges

Ride through the cloud forest

While horseback riding is not permitted in any of the reserves in Monteverde, there are plenty of great trails and tours through the cloud forest that falls outside the protected reserves. This is a gentle and peaceful way to experience the green mountain forests while having the opportunity to see all kinds of wildlife and plant life. This guided tour will be informative, fun and awe-inspiringly beautiful.

Go horseback riding on the outskirts of the reserves

Bask in the beauty of a giant waterfall

The San Luis Waterfall is on the outskirts of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. There are several ways to get to this 330ft-high (100m) waterfall: you can hike (about three hours), ride a horse or take a taxi to the San Luis research station and hike the final 45 minutes down. Once you make it to the waterfall, you can take a refreshing dip in the cold waterfall pool, have a picnic or just admire the immense beauty of the falls and surrounding forest.

Take a dip at the bottom of the San Luis Waterfall

Venture into the forest at night

Around 80 percent of the animals in Monteverde are nocturnal. For this reason, a cloud forest night walk is an incredible way to experience the wonderful wildlife of the region. You will walk through the cloud forest with a professional guide who will point out all sorts of wildlife. Experiencing the forest this way offers a totally unique perspective. It is likely that you will see wildlife that you have never seen before and would not have the chance to see during the day.

A night-time walk through the cloud forest allows you see things you wouldn’t see during the day, such as bioluminescent fungi

Take a coffee, chocolate and sugarcane tour

The Don Juan coffee, chocolate, and sugarcane tour is a delicious way to spend some time in Monteverde. On this tour, you will learn all about Costa Rican coffee, Costa Rican chocolate and sugarcane harvesting and the traditional way sugar is extracted from the sugarcane. You will also get to try a glass of sweet sugarcane juice and a cup of freshly brewed coffee from the plantation.

If you love coffee, don’t miss out on a coffee tour

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