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5 Absolute Best Things to Do in Monteverde, Costa Rica

5 Absolute Best Things to Do in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde is one of the most unique travel destinations in Costa Rica. Located high in the mountains and literally touching the sky, it’s best known for its cloud forest reserve and an array of activities related to it. From zipline canopy tours and bird-spotting to spectacular vistas and waterfalls, there is so much to experience in Monteverde!

But choosing between the sheer number of things to do in Monteverde can be overwhelming. Especially if you read lists of 28 or 47 ‘best’ things to do in Monteverde and you only have a day or two in the area… Plus, so many places offer very similar activities which makes it even more difficult to decide what is worth your time and money the most.

So in this article, we feature only the VERY BEST things to do in Monteverde. This list is based on our personal experience and all the insights gathered after reading countless travel guides, blogs, internet forums, and Facebook groups.

Before our trip, we spent days (!) researching what to see and do in Monteverde and constantly had a feeling that if we chose one place over the other, we would miss out on something else. No other place in Costa Rica required so much research and nowhere else we had so much FOMO as planning a visit to Monteverde…

In the end, we had a great time here and Monteverde became one of our favorite places in Costa Rica. So I want to save you time and share only our absolute favorite places and activities in Monteverde that we recommend the most. I hope that this guide helps you plan a truly memorable trip without wasting more time researching something than actually doing it.

Find out!

Hiking at El Tigre Waterfalls - top places in Monteverde Costa Rica
Hiking at El Tigre Waterfalls.

Before we get to the list of top things to do in Monteverde, here are some things you may want to know:

First, most roads around Monteverde are in really bad condition. From what I understood, they kind of prefer to keep it that way to combat mass tourism. So you will need a 4×4 to reach many of the best attractions in Monteverde. If you don’t have a car, you can easily book tours that include round-trip transfers from Monteverde/Santa Elena accommodations.

Second, Monteverde attractions are very expensive. On the other hand, there is a lot of overlap, so you really don’t need to go ziplining at three different places and the cloud forest is just as impressive everywhere. In other words, you won’t miss much by simply focusing on a few attractions, one per activity type.

TIP: Our best advice is to visit one of the nature reserves, do one canopy zipline tour, and visit the most spectacular waterfalls. In addition, you can opt for 2-3 extra activities such as animal spotting at night or a coffee/chocolate tour, based on your interests, time, and budget.

Below, you can find our selection of the best activities in Monteverde with some tips and information on which ones to choose and why.

What to do in Monteverde - top places to see and best activities not to miss

Here are the best things to do in Monteverde:

1. El Tigre Waterfalls

Let’s start with my personal favorite place in Monteverde – El Tigre Waterfalls.

El Tigre Waterfalls is a private nature reserve with hiking trails and hanging bridges that give you access to a series of waterfalls. There are 4 big waterfalls and a few smaller ones, and it takes about 2-3 hours to see them all. Depending on the weather, you can also go swimming at the waterfalls.

The scenery on this hike is amazing! Also, the views from their restaurant are nothing short of spectacular (and lunch is included with most tours).

The hike goes mostly downhill (with a few steeper uphill sections) which means that you have to get back up to the starting point. If you are an avid hiker, you can opt to hike, but they also have horses or 4×4 vehicles available to bring you back up the hill (highly recommended since it’s very steep with little to no shade).

El Tigre Waterfalls - best things to do in Monteverde
One of the many waterfalls at El Tigre in Monteverde.

Good to know: El Tigre Waterfalls are located a bit outside of town and the road to get there is quite steep and not in the best condition. If you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle, it’s best to book a tour that includes transfers.

Otherwise, you can simply drive there and visit on your own, but make sure to make a reservation online before you go.

TIP: We recommend the all-in experience with a waterfalls hike, a horseback ride, as well as lunch (+ hotel pick-up/drop-off). This is the option we chose and it was a perfect mix of amazing scenery and fun activities, plus good food.

Monteverde mountain scenery, Costa Rica
Monteverde scenery – views from El Tigre Waterfalls restaurant.
Horse riding at El Tigre Waterfalls in Monteverde
Horse riding at the end of the El Tigre Waterfalls hike.

2. Zip-lining Canopy Tours

If there is one activity that is considered a must-do in Monteverde, it’s a zip lining canopy tour. While there are many places in Costa Rica where you can go zip lining, none of them offers the same experience as the cloud forest of Monteverde. You are literally flying through the clouds here!

When I was writing an article about the best, bucket list experiences in Costa Rica, my family voted zip lining in Monteverde as #1. Before the trip, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted/dared to go and one of our children is afraid of heights… But we all did it and we all LOVED it.

The difficult part for us was deciding where to go zip lining in Monteverde. This is where I spent hours and hours researching and comparing different options.

The number of zip lines is different, their length, the scenery… Plus, some places include Superman and Tarzan experiences while others charge extra for these thrills. Furthermore, most places where you can go zip-lining also offer other experiences such as a treetop walk on hanging bridges (with or without a guide) etc.

Our choice: After all the research, we booked this jungle zip line tour at 100% Aventura. We chose this experience because it offered the best price/quality ratio for zip lining, including a Superman ride, and Tarzan swing.

Below, you can read a bit more about other options we considered, with some explanation of what they offer.

Zipline canopy tours - must do in Monteverde Costa Rica
Zip-lining is a must-do in Monteverde!

In addition to zip-lining at 100% Aventura, there are several other good places where you can also have a similar experience. Here you can find some additional info on the most popular options:

  • Selvatura Park offers stunning scenery and all kinds of experiences (including sloths, butterflies, reptiles, etc.) and not just zip-lining. We visited here for their amazing hanging bridges. Purely for zip-lining, it’s more expensive than 100% Aventura and you have to pay extra for a Superman ride. On their website, you can find all the different tour combinations they offer (it’s overwhelming). On Viator, you can also book some of their most popular combo tours that include hotel transfers.
  • Treetopia is somewhat similar to Selvatura but is located at a lower elevation. It stands out from the other places with its mountain gondola ride. This highly-rated combo tour includes the Sky Tram (gondola), Sky Trek (hanging bridges), and zip-lining, as well as hotel transfers. For more options, see their website.
  • Extremo Park is best for those looking for a more extreme zip lining. With 16 ziplines, including a Tarzan swing, and two Superman rides, it’s the best-value option for the biggest thrill seekers. This tour includes all of the experiences offering great value.
Zip lining Superman ride in Monteverde cloud forest Costa Rica
Superman zip-line at 100% Aventura
Zip lining at 100% Aventura - best things to do in Monteverde
Zip-lining at 100% Aventura.

3. Cloud Forest Nature Reserves & Treetop Walks

A cloud forest is what makes Monteverde unique, so no visit would be complete without a treetop walk in the clouds. In all honesty, whether you will actually walk in the clouds or not will depend on the weather and on the exact place you visit (= its elevation).

But the ecosystem of a cloud forest is so different than in the rain forests that you will visit at lower elevations all over Costa Rica. So it’s well worth seeing it. That said, you don’t have to visit five different places in order to enjoy it.

There are several nature reserves that you can visit in Monteverde. Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve is the ‘official’ park that was established to preserve the cloud forest and focuses on biodiversity research and education. This park has several hiking trails and one suspension bridge and is quite budget-friendly for Monteverde standards. However, if you want to see birds and other wildlife, do yourself a favor and go with a guide (this applies to all nature reserves).

Good to know: They only allow 250 people inside the park at any given time. So you have to reserve a time slot on their website or be prepared to wait (it can be a few minutes or an hour, and in the high season even longer). Plus, the parking lot is about 0.6 miles (1 km) away from the entrance, so you need to account for extra time to walk or take a shuttle to the entrance.

Hiking in Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Alternatively, you can also visit one of the smaller reserves that border the cloud forest. For example, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, Curi-Cancha Reserve, or the earlier-mentioned private attraction parks like Selvatura Park or Treetopia.

Our choice: Based on (way too many) hours of research and recommendations from the locals, we chose the treetop walk in Selvatura. The main reason for this choice was the scenery, higher elevation, and the fact that they have 8 hanging bridges. Here, we could literally walk in the clouds, and that was what we were looking for. We also saw quite some birds.

As already mentioned, Selvatura also offers ziplining, plus a sloth sanctuary, butterfly garden, reptiles, etc. So if your time in Monteverde is limited and you want to see as much as possible in one place, you can also simply book one of their combo deals.

Monteverde hanging bridges - Selvatura treetop walk
Selvatura treetop walk.
Selvatura treetop walk - best things to do in Monteverde
Selvatura treetop walk.

4. Night Tours

No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without doing at least one night tour and seeing its nocturnal animals. You will find night tours all over the country, also in Monteverde.

Even if you do a night tour in Manuel Antonio or La Fortuna, we highly recommend a night tour in Monteverde as well. This is because of the difference in altitude, meaning you can see different types of animals in Monteverde.

You can expect to spot tarantulas, scorpions, different types of frogs, snakes, and insects. Monteverde is also home to nocturnal animals like kinkajous, olingos, armadillos, etc. You may also see some birds, like toucans or owls.

Good to know: The sun sets quite early in Costa Rica, so night tours usually have two starting times – one around 6 pm and one around 8 pm.

There are several well-rated night tours in Monteverde and they are all quite similar. Below, you can find more info about the best options and the one we chose.

Monteverde night tour - red eyed frog
This red-eyed frog is just of the many animals we saw on our night tour in Monteverde.

Our experience: We opted for this night tour at Wildlife Refuge Monteverde. It’s a bit more expensive because it doesn’t include transfers and a private reserve entry fee which you have to pay on the spot. But they limit the number of people to 6 per group and so by booking it for our family of 5 we got a private experience at a much lower price this way.

At the moment of writing, this Kinkajou Forest Night Walking Tour offers the best value for your money for group tours. Their group sizes are capped at 8 people.

It’s always a matter of luck of which animals you get to see, but night tours are always great fun. Our teenagers had a great time as well. We saw so many interesting and unique creatures and made great memories. Highly recommended!

Sunset in Monteverde Costa Rica
Sunset in Monteverde.
Tarantula seen on Monteverde night tour

5. Coffee and Chocolate Tours

When looking for things to do in Monteverde, you will stumble upon many other attractions. One more activity that we recommend considering is a coffee and/or chocolate tour.

The Monteverde area has several coffee plantations so you can find several places that offer coffee tours. Please note that some tours are indeed only about coffee!

The most famous of them all is Don Juan Tours Monteverde. They offer two different 3-in-1 tours: a coffee + chocolate + sugar cane tour (during the day) or a coffee + chocolate + night animal-watching tour (in the evening).

If your time in Monteverde is limited, you may want to consider this coffee/chocolate/night tour instead of ‘a regular’ night tour.

Cacao beans plant - Monteverde Costa Rica
Cacao beans.

Our experience: We opted for the daytime tour and it was very interesting and educational. We learned about the process of making chocolate and even made some of it ourselves – from cocoa beans to actual chocolate. Afterward, we could squeeze sugar cane and try an amazing lemonade our guide made for us. And finally, we learned about coffee and different types of beans and could drink as much locally brewed coffee as we wanted.

They also have a big gift shop if you want to buy some locally-made coffee, chocolate, or souvenirs.

We did this tour with our teenagers and they thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t their favorite activity in Monteverde, but it’s difficult to compete with zip-lining or spotting tarantulas at night ;).

Good to know: If you don’t have a car, you can book the same tour with transportation included.

Don Juan chocolate tour in Monteverde Costa Rica
Freshly-made chocolate.
Traditional oxcart - Don Juan coffee tour in Monteverde
Traditional oxcart filled with sugar cane.

This sums up our favorite things to do in Monteverde.

In addition, you may want to know that the little towns of Monteverde and Santa Elena are quite nice as well. You will find hip art galleries, cozy cafes, and tons of good restaurants, some with stunning views.

And yes, there is a lot more to do in Monteverde than the most popular places and attractions mentioned in this guide. But if this is your first visit and you only have a day or two, this guide should help you experience the very best that Monteverde has to offer.

Have a great trip!

READ ALSO: Costa Rica Packing List (All Essentials + What Not to Pack)

More travel inspiration and destination guides for Costa Rica:

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Best places to visit and things to do in Monteverde Costa Rica

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Saturday 6th of July 2024

This is exactly what I was looking for! We will be in Monteverde for two nights and will follow all your suggestions.


Saturday 6th of July 2024

Have a wonderful trip, Jenny!

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