The remarkable cloud forests, suspension bridges, adventurous canopy tours and the incredible wildlife made Monteverde a great destination during my backpacking in Costa Rica. In this article I share my best travel tips for Monteverde.
Monteverde is a nice village in the province of Puntarenas with Santa Elena as the adjacent city (where most of the hotels are). The climate is a bit cooler than the coastal towns, so bringing a vest and long trousers is recommended.
In Monteverde it rains (in April / May at least) almost every day around noon. That’s why it’s useful to plan as many activities in the morning as possible, then it’s almost guaranteed dry.
There are many great tours to book in Monteverde. We booked everything through our hostel and the journey there was often arranged for us.
Bird lovers have come to the right place in Monteverde; because Monteverde is at an altitude of 900 to 1850 meters, birds are found here that occur in few other places.
Check out the top 5 most beautiful national parks in Costa Rica.
Sights in Monteverde
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
This beautiful national park is shrouded in mist, hence the name ‘Cloud Forest’. Due to the height and the special climate, different animal species and plants occur here that do not occur anywhere else in Costa Rica.
Walking around this reserve is a great experience. There’re so many special birds that can hardly be spotted without a guide! A guide costs $ 20 for 2 hours and is well worth the money. Without our guide, we wouldn’t have spotted half as many animals. With a large telescope he shows you the special birds and snakes.
One of the most beautiful birds to be seen in the reserve is the Quetzal bird. These birds are beautifully colored blue and red and the males have a very long, colorful tail and a crest. The Quetzal is also the national bird of Guatemala and is also printed on their bank notes. The tour-guides try to lure the birds with a kind of whistle they have taught themselves. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!
A hummingbird garden is located near the entrance to the reserve. You can visit this for free. Everywhere there are trays filled with sweets for the birds. If you stand there for a few minutes you have already seen a number of different species of hummingbirds.
Our guide told us that hummingbirds are actually quite dominant and they regularly chase each other away from the feeders. We indeed saw that they tried to chase each other away with a lot of noise.
The entrance fee to the reserve is 11,412 Colon. You receive a discount as a student.
Buses to the reserve leave at 6:15, 7:30, 13:20, and 3:00 PM from Banco National in Santa Elena. Buses return at 6:45 AM, 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM. A ride costs 600 columns. Take changed departure times into account, because these change regularly in Costa Rica.
Monteverde Night tour
A night tour in Monteverde is highly recommended. At night there’re many other animals active that you won’t easily spot during the day. Think of special insects, tarantulas, snakes, scorpions, colorful frogs, owls and a number of mammals, such as sloths and the special kinkajoe. The kinkajoe is a brown predator that’s active in the trees at night. They are quite difficult to spot because they move very fast. Yet we saw two kinkajoes during the night tour!
During the night tour we also had the “luck” that there’re hundreds of beetles that continuously bumped into us and got stuck in our clothes and hair, gross! The night tour costs 11,200 Colon per person. Put on long pants and closed shoes. A raincoat can also be useful.
In the Selvatura Park you’ll find the famous suspension bridges spread over a path of three kilometers. The bridges have different lengths and different heights. From the bridges you have a beautiful view over the jungle. It’s also possible to spot animals in this area, but it’s not nearly as easy as in the other parks. We’ve spotted some beautiful birds, including the Quetzal and a green toucan. The paths are easily accessible with normal shoes.
We also booked this tour at our hostel. Entrance to the park is 17,070 Colon (€ 26.50) including transfer to and from the hostel.
Ziplining through the Cloud Forest was very cool! There are 12 cables with the longest being more than 1500 meters, the longest in Latin America. There’re also two superman cables that make you seem to fly. The view from the longer cables is really great. You fly so high and you can see very far. Finally, you’ve the option to do the Tarzan Swing. You drop yourself from a 45 meter high platform and then swing back and forth a few times, awesome! The photos can be purchased afterwards for $ 10 per CD.
After Monteverde it was unfortunately time to go back to our cold little country. We took the bus to Alajuela to go to the airport from there the next day. At least, that was the plan .. The bus driver only told us halfway (!!) that it wouldn’t drive past Alajuela, but instead directly to San Jose. Fortunately they’ve taxis in San Jose and the surrounding area that we could take to Alajuela. So you see again that the buses don’t always run as they say to.
At Raulito’s Pollo you can eat tasty and cheap. Join the bar and enjoy a delicious chicken dish. Most dishes cost 2000 Colon (€ 3) and are very filling.
For lunch you can get something cheap at the Bakery & Coffee shop under restaurant Mar & Tierra. From noon there are well-filled pizzas in the display case, for only 1250 Colon (€ 2). They also have super tasty cakes.
How do you get to Monteverde?
Monteverde can be reached by bus from San José. The bus journey takes about 4.5 hours. This bus leaves twice a day. At 6:30 am and 2:30 pm. A bus ticket costs 2800 Colones.
It’s also possible to take a shared shuttle bus if you are not traveling from San José. To save time we took a shared shuttle bus from Quepos / Manuel Antonio to Monteverde. This is quite pricey at $ 50, but well worth it if you have a tight travel schedule.
Most of the journey was on paved roads. The last 18 kilometers were on unpaved roads with beautiful mountain views and lots of hairpin bends.