Although Monteverde, Costa Rica may not be the first recommendation you come across when looking for destinations in Costa Rica, this fairytale-like location should be next for your travel-worthy destination in Costa Rica.
Monteverde has captured the heart of sustainable travelers globally with its cloud forest in Costa Rica filled with flora, fauna, and incredible wildlife.
Why Monteverde, Costa Rica is Worth a Visit
You will be in awe during your visit to Monteverde surrounded by wildlife, flora, and fauna with over 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 species of mammals, over 400 species of birds, and over 1,000 species of orchids alone!
Although you may spend days or weeks in the Cloud Forest Reserves and tropical rainforests, there are so many things to do in the town of Monteverde itself!
You could learn more about sustainable farms, chocolate and coffee making, and wildlife via nature tours. If you want more adventure and child-like wonder, you may immerse yourself in nature by exploring world-famous hanging bridges, or zip lining and bungee jumping in the middle of the rainforest.
Monteverde, Costa Rica is absolutely one of the most beautiful, safest, and magical destinations in Costa Rica.
Looking for things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica? This sustainable travel guide has you covered.
Before You Visit Monteverde, Costa Rica
The average visit to Monteverde is about 3 days, but I stayed for 3 weeks and found more than enough to do.
Monteverde is definitely slow travel friendly! The Cloud Forest Reserve of Monteverde and the rainforest throughout Santa Elena make this a sustainable destination in Costa Rica that you don't want to rush!
Before you visit Monteverde, there are some things you want to know.
Getting to Monteverde
Monteverde is located about two and a half hours from San Jose, Costa Rica International Airport. Although you may drive to Monteverde, there are more adventurous ways to arrive!
One of the best-kept secrets (and the most fun and cheapest) to get to Monteverde is by taxi-boat-taxi from La Fortuna!
This is how I traveled from La Fortuna: a shuttle bus picked me up in front of my Airbnb, I hopped on a boat over Lake Arenal with views of Arenal Volcano, a shuttle bus picked me up on the other side of the Lake and dropped me off in front of my Monteverde Cabin.
It is not only an incredible adventure but cheaper too! You may find the tour option via Monteverde Tours, and Arenal Net.
Best Time to Visit Monteverde
What may surprise you about Monteverde is the weather! There is a reason this lush rainforest is so verde (green), so be prepared for at least one day to be cool, most days to have a little mist or rain for a short time, and during the rainy season (June to October) at least one day of torrential downpour. It's an incredible thing to witness actually, so I hope you get to have at least one!
Monteverde gets over 100 inches of rain every year. That is over 5 feet of rain annually! So, even though there is a dry and rainy season, be prepared for rain. Make sure to pack a raincoat!
Temperatures are pretty stable year-round at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It does cool down at night, so make sure to pack warmer clothes. I even used a heater my first week in Monteverde and blankets!
An interesting phenomenon in Monteverde is the “pelo de gato” (cat hair), a misty light rain that happens even when the sun is shining. The result is often the most stunning rainbow you will lay eyes on.
How Long Should You Stay in Monteverde?
On average, travelers visit Monteverde for two to three days. If all you have is a chance to visit for a short time, two to three days is definitely worth it. You will have time to visit Monteverde Cloud Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Reserve, Stella’s Cafe, a restaurant with a mission, and the Monteverde Orchid Garden for sure.
I recommend staying at least a week. If you are working and traveling, I recommend slow traveling as I did to Monteverde for 3 weeks.
What to Pack and Wear in Monteverde
Monteverde is unlike any other destination in Costa Rica. It isn't your bathing suit and beach towel kind of place, but full of unique ways to see Costa Rica.
Monteverde, Costa Rica Sustainable Packing List
When you travel to Monteverde, what to pack may surprise you with jeans, long sleeves, sweatpants, hiking boots, and a raincoat!
During my three weeks in Monteverde, I wore mostly these items, as well as pants, and carried layers with me at all times. The weather may change in a heartbeat from morning to night.
Where to Stay in Monteverde, Costa Rica
There are incredible places to stay in Monteverde. In comparison to many other destinations around the world, I found sustainability at the forefront in Monteverde.
While I stayed at Casa Balbi, Monteverde Cabins adjacent to a reserve, there are numerous places for you to stay in Monteverde.
Hotel Belmar is an upscale hotel located directly in the Cloud Forest Reserve in the mountains of Monteverde. Award-winning for 5 levels of sustainability, the history of the hotel boasts over 30 years of implementing sustainable practices.
On the grounds of the hotel, you will find 3 hour guided hikes, wellness activities including a spa, and Restaurant Celajes.
For more information, visit Hotel Belmar.
Monteverde Lodge and Gardens
It is definitely hard to know where to stay in Costa Rica’s famous Monteverde mountain region because of the vast amount of choice.
Nestled in the lush cloud forest, Monteverde Lodge & Gardens is one of our favorite eco lodges.
This sustainable eco lodge ranks high for us because of its awesome tours and its genuine commitment to preserving Costa Rica’s natural and cultural treasures.
For more information, visit Monteverde Lodge.
Casa Balbi is a unique property situated at a farm with cows, fruits, and vegetables in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica. They offer vacation home rentals for travelers looking for alternative options.
I stayed in an incredible Casa Terraza cabin for 3 weeks at Casa Balbi. I loved the sounds of the forest, wildlife, and hospitality provided by Larry and his team.
They have quite the local and international team. Larry moved to Costa Rica from California, his son works with him, and his team is both local and international.
Larry’s team consists of his family; Grethen, who helps with keeping the cabins clean, and owns a sustainable farm and restaurant offering farm, orchid, and night tours; and Diego, a property manager from Chile.
The local sustainable farm offers incredible sunset views with cows, pigs, plants, and a pretty cool night tour! Grethen’s daughter, Alison, helps out and is an incredible bird watcher. At 11 years old, she already knows that is what she wants to spend her life doing!
How to Get Around in Monteverde
Monteverde and Santa Elena are walkable from many places. Depending on where you stay, you may easily be able to walk to the center of town. I did it several times.
If you have a rental car, you may end up using it to visit the reserves or other adventures around Monteverde. I did not have a rental car for 3 weeks, and easily got taxis arranged.
What It Costs to Visit Monteverde
Visiting Monteverde, Costa Rica can be perfectly affordable for all budgets, especially if you pursue volunteering opportunities, eat locally, and use public transportation.
Make sure you check COVID Requirements and Regulations in Costa Rica before you travel. The requirements have changed twice in the last 7 months alone. For non-vaccinated travelers, Costa Rica does require travel insurance (which is a great idea anyway!). You may want to check out World Nomads as an option.
All told, daily costs can range from $50 USD to $75 USD on average.
At the same time, there are ways to reduce expenses with budget stays, negotiating discounts, long term stays, press trips, and volunteering overseas to name a few ideas!
Fun Fact: You may find Casa Balbi on WorkAway Platform to Volunteer for Farm Life and Digital Marketing!
No matter where you are traveling from in the world, I recommend using sites like Kiwi and SkyScanner and booking 2+ weeks in advance.
With travel to 28+ countries, I have found this is a great strategy to lower flight costs.
Additionally, Hidden Lemur recommends buying carbon offsets for every flight you take, through services like Wren and Terrapass.
Depending on your travel style, you may either choose to get a rental car, take a tour, or go by taxi-boat-taxi for about $30 USD to Monteverde.
Within Monteverde, I found walking an easy option. When I did take taxis to go to the cloud forest reserve, they were about $10-$15 USD depending on which one. Depending on the status of the pandemic, there are shuttles that run to the reserves from town so definitely check on those. Within town or in between Monteverde and Santa Elena, I usually paid about $7 USD one way.
Food costs will depend on the type of traveler you are and your stay. For example, if you stay at a place where there isn’t access to cook, you will likely spend more on food. Alternatively, if you don’t like to cook at all while you travel, then this may not be factored into your decision making.
Some of my favorite food places in Monteverde included Orchid Cafe, Stellas Cafe, and Choco Cafe. On average at each place, I spent about $7-$15 USD for food and either juice or a coffee.
In my opinion, Stella’s Cafe is the absolute best for bird watching, animal siting, and french toast! In one morning alone, I saw 4+ Toucans, Toucansillos, and a Coati within 2 feet from me!
Top Things to Do in Monteverde, Costa Rica
There are so many things to do in Monteverde. Monteverde has something for everyone.
Whether you love immersing yourself in nature, wildlife, and/or adventure, you will find so many things to experience. Likely, you will not have enough time to do it all.
1. Walking on Hanging Bridges
2. Visiting Cloud Forest Reserves
3. Watching Wildlife and Eating at Stella’s Cafe
4. Giving back at CASEM – Women's Cooperative
5. Visiting a Sustainable Farm
6. Learning more about Orchids
7. Exploring on a Night Tour
8. Volunteering While You Travel
Walking on Hanging Bridges
You may have seen pictures of hanging bridges and envisioned walking across them. It is time to turn these visions into reality.
So, what are hanging bridges? They are suspension bridges that get you up to the highest heights in the middle of the forest. On my visit, I saw birds and monkeys within feet of me!
There are numerous options to visit Hanging Bridges whether you go on a self-guided tour on your own with Sky Walk or Selvatura Park, or as part of an adventure tour including zip lining via local recommendations, and online sites.
I visited the treetops in Selvatura Park consisting of 1.9 miles of trails where you will encounter eight bridges soaring in the sky in the forest canopy with some as long as 500+ feet!
Visiting Cloud Forest Reserves
While most people visit Monteverde Cloud Reserve, there are other options in Monteverde. Before visiting Monteverde, I found Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Reserve, as well as the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.
The reserves and rainforest are typically open from 7 am to 4 pm for regular day visits, and added hours for night tours.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
In 1992, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve was established protecting 765+ acres of cloud forest land. It neighbors Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
As you walk through, you feel like you are in a real-life fairy tale.
There are five hiking trails including Sendrero Mundo Joven, Cano Negro, Del Bajo, Encantado, and Youth Challenge. Depending on your time, you may adjust which paths you want to go on.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
In an effort to preserve one of Costa Rica's most important natural resources, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established in 1972. It is a protected rainforest covering 35,000+ acres rich in biodiversity and wildlife.
Before you enter, there are feeders for Hummingbirds. You will see and hear the buzzing all around you! There is a beautiful gift shop for souvenirs as well.
Children’s Eternal Rainforest
Often overlooked, and well worth the visit, the rainforest here is beautiful and warmer with lower elevation.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest started with a biologist visiting Sweden to share the story of the tropical rainforests and biodiversity in Costa Rica. The Swedish students fell in love with the rainforest and protecting the wildlife. They started raising money years ago for the rainforests, and now 44+ countries and millions of dollars are donated to support the efforts.
This is a beautiful tribute to the difference anyone can make in the world.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is walking distance from Stella’s Café and CASEM, the Women’s Cooperative.
Watching Wildlife and Eating at Stella’s Cafe
An example of a great place to see wildlife is a once-in-a-lifetime experience like Stella’s, where you may sit and watch countless birds and animals as you enjoy your breakfast! It is a great spot for digital nomads to work from too!
Giving Back at CASEM – Women's Cooperative
The Cooperative of Artisans of Santa Elena and Monteverde is right across the street from Stella's Café. The Cooperative includes crafts from entrepreneurs all around the Monteverde and Santa Elena region.
I found incredible options for souvenirs for friends and family including bracelets, wooden carvings, and journals.
By purchasing souvenirs from the Women’s Cooperative, you are giving back directly to the local women entrepreneurs.
They have a great spot in the back for lunch for typical Costa Rican Casado, Cuchara de Abuela (Grandma’s Spoon).
Visiting a Sustainable Farm
One of the best things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica is visit a sustainable farm belonging to a Monteverde local, Grethen and her family that may be accessed while staying at Casa Balbi.
During my visit to the farm, I saw baby pigs for the first time ever, spotted wildlife, ate fruits and vegetables directly in the forest, and climbed a hollow tree!!!
Learning More about Orchids
I adore orchids. One of the many reasons I wanted to visit Monteverde is the over 1,000 species of orchids. Did you know that many species of orchids are much smaller than the traditional ones we see outside the rainforest?
The ones we buy in stores are manufactured in order to last longer in the home.
Those are some of the incredible things I learned both on the farm and with Monteverde Orchid Garden shared her passion and love of orchids.
Depending on how much time you spend in Monteverde, I highly recommend either or both experiences.
Exploring on a Night Tour
You didn’t think I left the wildlife lovers out, did you? One of my favorite experiences in Monteverde is a night tour. No matter how long you stay in Monteverde, a night tour is one of the best things to do.
The country of Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 species of animals making it one of the top 20 most biodiverse countries in the world.
As the sun sets in Costa Rica, Monteverde comes alive. The sounds of thousands of animals, large and small, create a vibrant hum that surrounds you and immerses you in the true natural wonder of this country.
You'll see some incredible creatures that you would otherwise miss during the day. If you're lucky you are likely to see different species of frogs, various sizes of spiders and snakes, kinkajou, sleeping toucans and quetzals, sloths and monkeys.
On my night tour, the invaluable guide helped me spot frogs, rats, spiders, and a Kinkajou!
Likely, you are wondering what in the world is a Kinkajou. That was my first question when the guide pointed the animal out for the grand finale of our night tour experience. The kinkajou is a tropical rainforest mammal related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, and the ringtail and cacomistle.
In case you are curious about sloths in Monteverde, there are only 2-fingered sloths living in the reserve due to the cold climate. They are mostly nocturnal making it harder to spot them. I saw sloths in Costa Rica in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, but not in Monteverde.
To give you an idea, I saw over 8 sloths in La Fortuna on a one day tour, over 3 sloths without a guide in Manuel Antonio National Park, and none in Monteverde during the entire three weeks.
No matter how long you stay in Monteverde, a night tour is one of the best tours to do!
Volunteering While You Travel
One of the most enriching experiences to have with sustainable travel includes volunteering.
There are countless platforms to find experiences including WorkAway, Travel Massive, Earthwatch, and Matador Network.
Fun Fact: Casa Balbi where I stayed for three weeks, now lists volunteer opportunities for you to apply via WorkAway for farming and digital marketing!
Monteverde, Costa Rica Travel 2021
Now that you are ready to travel to Monteverde, it is time to book your flight and accommodations.
What are you most excited about to experience in Monteverde?
Is it the Cloud Forest Reserves, seeing wildlife at home in its lush rainforest environment, hanging out on bridges suspended high above the forest, or the night tour?
No matter what you choose during your trip to Monteverde, it will be incredible!