The Ultimate Travel Guide to Monteverde

Monteverde is a world-renowned destination. Whether you’re talking to foreigners or locals about Costa Rica, Monteverde is sure to be one of the first places they recommend. People from all over the world flock to the town of Santa Elena to experience the Costa Rican rainforest and the myriad of adventurous activities you can find here.

From zip-lining between two mountains (literally) to spotting exotic wildlife on the rainforest trails, Monteverde is chalk-full of show-stopping attractions. In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know to plan the perfect escape to this natural wonderland.

Looking for an itinerary for Monteverde? Find one here, with a complete guide to the best activities to do in Monteverde.

What is Monteverde, Costa Rica known for?

Monteverde is in the charming town of Santa Elena on the top of a mountain. It’s found along the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range in Costa Rica. The high elevation makes it very unique from other Costa Rican destinations. It is one of the only towns that brings the Costa Rican rainforest right up to the backdoor of your hotel room! Because of that, this area offers incredibly diverse activities and attractions.

People come from all over the world to experience a Monteverde Canopy Tour.

Monteverde is very well known for its biodiversity. Here you can see an impressive range of flora and fauna; brightly colored insects, unique plants that we only find in nurseries, and exotic animals like monkeys, toucans, and sloths just hanging out in the trees.

Lastly, Monteverde is a major destination for those seeking adventure. Here you’ll find the longest zip line in all of Latin America! Thrill seekers and naturalists alike also go hiking in the cloud forest. The hanging bridges let you experience a different perspective, from the treetops of the rainforest.

When is the best time to visit Monteverde?

Monteverde is a must-see no matter what time of year it is. It’s very distinct from the rest of Costa Rica and part of its appeal is its cooler weather and misty climate, no matter the time of year.

The rainy season in Costa Rica generally runs from May to mid-December. During this time it usually rains in the afternoon or nighttime. Since Monteverde is a more rainy place in general (it is the rainforest after all!) it’s no problem to visit Monteverde during these months. You can still enjoy the same activities, you’ll just have to take advantage of the mornings and pack some warmer clothes and rain gear! You can also and plan indoor activities for the afternoon.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The rainy season also gives Monteverde a different kind of charm. There’s nothing more relaxing then getting cuddled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee and listening to the rain fall. Since moving to Costa Rica, I’ve really come to look forward to the rain in a way that I never thought possible!

Visiting the other months of the year (mid-December to April) gives you more flexibility when it comes to activities. But you’ll still be thankful you packed leggings and light jacket to be comfortable in the cooler, misty climate.

What to Do in Monteverde

For a complete overview of the best activities to do in Monteverde, check out the 6 Best Things to Do in Monteverde!

Adventure Zip Lining

Monteverde is believed to be the place where zip lining (also known as a canopy tour) was invented way back in 1979! Today, zip lining is still one of Monteverde’s major claims to fame.

There are several canopy tours in Monteverde, but the most popular options are 100% Aventura, Selvatura Park, and Original Canopy.

Explore the Cloud Forest

A cloud forest is a kind of rainforest with a higher altitude, which causes dense condensation in the air. The trees here form a kind of canopy, letting little light pass through. You’ll find different plants that thrive in this dense, shady environment. It looks and feels like you’re walking through low hanging clouds.

Visit the Hanging Bridges

Many people come to the Monteverde area to experience the hanging bridges. These tall bridges snake through the rainforest, which lets you get up close and personal with flora and fauna along the trail.

Go on a Coffee Tour!

In Costa Rica, coffee is not just a hot drink that people enjoy in the morning. It’s part of the Tico culture and something that’s enjoyed multiple times a day. A coffee tour gives you insight into just how important this crop is to the country’s history and traditions.

Exploring the Hanging Bridges are a must-do in Costa Rica!

Wildlife Spotting

My all-time favorite thing about Monteverde is its biodiversity! Given the many different ecosystems that are found in this area, there are so many opportunities to see wildlife.

Monteverde is one of the best places to see Resplendent Quetzals.

Going on a guided bird watching tour is a great way to see the amazing resplendent quetzals, as Monteverde is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see them!

Going on a night walk is another awesome opportunity in Monteverde. A night walk is a guided hike through the rainforest after dark!

The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens provides an impression exhibition of butterflies, insects, and arachnids in Costa Rica

If you are limited on time, a horse back riding tour through the cloud forest with Horse Trek Monteverde could be a wonderful option.

Wondering what you can do for free in Monteverde? Learn about several free activities here.

Where to Stay in Monteverde

Monteverde has many beautiful and unique places to stay. There are a variety of hotels, hostels, and AirBnBs available, enabling you to find the perfect place that matches your needs and your traveling budget. Below I’ve found three options that are particularly enticing: a budget travel option, a charming boutique hotel, and a luxury hotel.

Budget/Hostel Travelers: Sloth Backpackers Hostel

This hostel is a game changer. It has the fun, backpacker feel, but with tidy, secure rooms, an awesome free breakfast, and a very attractive outdoor area! Mixed dorm rooms start at $14 and there is a fully equipped kitchen available to you! Outside the rooms there are hammock chairs and tables, making it very easy to meet other travelers. Staying in hostels and getting to know people from other countries has always been one of my favorite parts of traveling. If you’re looking for a budget friendly option and looking for a cultural exchange, check out Sloth Backpackers Hostel and Bed & Breakfast!

Boutique Hotel Charm: Casitas del Bosque Monteverde

Casitas del Bosque Monteverde is you envision when you think of a mountain getaway—a cozy, wood paneled bungalow with a patio overlooking a tropical garden. This is the perfect location to see wildlife right outside of your hotel room. The $64 a night includes a daily breakfast and every room has a flatscreen TV.

Luxury Hotel Goers: Chira Glamping Monteverde

If glamping has always been on your list, I don’t think there is a more fitting place to go than in Monteverde. This is by far the most memorable boutique hotel that I’ve come across. For $310 a night, you’ll get you’re own bungalow that is outfitted with cozy lights, beautiful windows, and an amazing view. Each bungalow overlooks the mountain and has a pristine bathroom. Depending on your bungalow choice you could even get a patio with sings and a slide or an enticing jacuzzi. There is also an amazing restaurant on site. For a hotel experience you’ll never forget, look no further than Chira Glamping.

Where to Eat in Monteverde

Restaurante Morpho’s is a striking building you can’t miss when driving around Santa Elena. The name comes from the striking blue butterfly that has come to symbolize the rainforest which are painted on the side of the restaurant. This restaurant specializes in Costa Rican food like the hearty casado meal, sopa de mariscos (seafood soup), and different arroces (rice dishes paired with a tasty protein). There are also more international options like hamburgers and some Asian dishes. Don’t leave without trying one of the desserts such as coconut flan or the tres leches cake. On Mondays you’ll even enjoy live music while you dine.

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, check out the Tree House Restaurant and Cafe! You’ll find a full menu with Peruvian influence, bringing in great seafood and fabulous cuts of meat. They also have more international fare like hamburgers, pizza and pasta, and some Mexican dishes. Dining beneath the ficus tree, that comes up through the floor of the restaurant, makes for a fun night out.

If you’re looking for a more upscale atmosphere Restaurante Celajes in Hotel Belmar is a must try in Monteverde. They have unique menus for each meal of the day with perfect pairings of drinks. The chefs use fresh, seasonal ingredients to make one-of-a-kind dishes such as grilled octopus and pork rib with tamarind sauce. You will not be disappointed the the decadent plates and the amazing views from the balcony.

Safety in Monteverde

Two-fingered sloths are one of the many animals that you can see in Monteverde.

As far as security, Monteverde is one the safest tourist destinations in Costa Rica. However, it is important to take normal travel precautions when in Santa Elena, as well as in any town.

The best place to leave personal belongings is usually in your locked hotel room, but if you need to leave your things in your car it’s best to leave them in the trunk, where they are not visible from the outside of the vehicle.

As in any city, you should avoid walking long distances when it is dark out. If you are taking a bus, take care of your belongings. Many Costa Ricans caution against putting their bags in the overhead compartments. Be sure to stay on trails when exploring the rainforest, to avoid unwanted interaction with wildlife. Lastly, stick to labeled taxis and Ubers when traveling.

How to Get to Monteverde

Google Maps routes Monteverde about 3 hours from San José. If you’re There are two main routes to arrive at the charming little town of Santa Elena: Route 145 and Route 606. Either of these routes lend themselves just fine to a two-wheel drive vehicle, however if you are planning on getting a bit off the beaten path at all, I would suggest renting a 4×4 car.

Where to Head Next After Monteverde?

Monteverde has a pretty central location, a bit farther north than San José. Whether you are looking for a day drive or searching for your next stay, there are several breathtaking destinations nearby.

From Monteverde, you are a short three hours from the beaches of Guanacaste, where you can experience a completely different part of Costa Rica. Here you’ll find some of the beach beaches (and best weather) in Costa Rica, as well as a unique glance at the Guanacaste culture.

La Fortuna is less than three hours from Monteverde and is home to the famous Volcano Arenal. If you haven’t quite gotten your fix of mountain weather yet, Arenal has plenty of activities that are unique from the ones you would enjoy in Monteverde. Here you’ll find natural hot springs and water activities that you can enjoy on the beautiful Lake Arenal.

The stunning Conchal Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, where you can find one of the most famous national parks of Costa Rica and a gorgeous beach, is about 4-4.5 hours from Monteverde. It is another wonderful option to get up close and personal with wildlife and enjoy some impressive beaches you won’t forget.

Final Thoughts on Monteverde

Is Monteverde really worth visiting?

Monteverde is a destination that is set apart form every other in Costa Rica. It is one of the only places in the world that has a cloud forest. It also is an incredible place to experience the biodiversity of a rainforest. Here you can see the rare bird, resplendent quetzals, toucans, monkeys, exotic mammals, frogs, lizards, and snakes.

Besides the biodiversity, Monteverde is also sought out by adventure seekers. You’ll find the longest zip line in Latin America right in Monteverde! You’ll fly from mountain to mountain taking in some of the greenest views in all of Costa Rica. An adventurer’s haven and a nature lover’s paradise, this tiny mountain-top town is one that you will never forget.

Have you planned to see a volcano yet? Arenal is less than three hours away!

Check out the Ultimate Guide to La Fortuna/Arenal.

Wondering what other destinations you should visit when in Costa Rica?

Check out the 10 Must-See Places in Costa Rica.

Interested in learning Spanish before your trip to Costa Rica?

Click here for a comprehensive guide.

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