Monteverde, North Puntarenas

Plan the Ultimate Vacation to Monteverde Costa Rica

As one of the most visited places in Costa Rica, Monteverde in North Puntarenas is teeming with fun new experiences the whole family will enjoy!

Monteverde is Spanish for “green mountain,” and you’ll see that name makes a lot of sense. Be sure to stop and admire the views of rolling green hills and communities that stretch out below as you travel to this little village.

Explore and learn at the museums, visit restaurants and bakeries for a taste of the local culture, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in nature in a way you’ve never seen before.

Monteverde’s biggest draw is its unique habitat known as the cloud forest, which is named after the mist that is pervasive throughout the rainforest. It is one of the rarest habitats on Earth, and it boasts an impressive range of flora and fauna that you can learn about in museums and see in its natural habitat on a hike. Visit the cloud forest reserves in both Monteverde and Santa Elena.

In addition to the forest, Monteverde has plenty of other opportunities for fun and adventure at its many attractions. Learn about the area’s history, get up close and personal with some butterflies, and dine at some of the most iconic restaurants in all of Costa Rica.

You can also take a detour to the Costa Rican coastline. Spend the afternoon or a few days at Playa Samara or Tamarindo, both of which are very popular among tourists looking for the perfect getaway, or travel to the gorgeous beaches in Manuel Antonio.

You’ll want to stay in Monteverde for a few days to see everything it has to offer, so be sure to make arrangements to spend a night or two at a nearby hotel. There are plenty of incredible choices such as the Monteverde Lodge & Gardens, a rustic locale located in the forest with a peaceful atmosphere, or the Hotel Montaña Monteverde, which features cozy rooms and a jaw-dropping view.

At Monteverde, you can do it all, but be prepared to make travel plans. The cloud forest is about 135 km from the San José International Airport and similarly far from Liberia International Airport now known as Guanacaste Airport, meaning you’ll be driving a little over four hours before you reach the city.

Consider taking a bus or shuttle so you can enjoy the scenery during the ride, and perhaps even making a detour to the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna.

The Best Things to Do in Monteverde, Costa Rica

From the sprawling forests to the exciting attractions, there are more than enough fun things to do in Monteverde to make this an amazing vacation spot you won’t want to miss!

Looking over the canopy of Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve
Looking over the canopy of Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

No trip to Monteverde is complete without taking advantage of its main draw and going hiking in the cloud forest at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve!

This is an experience like no other, in part due to the incredible variety of wildlife. The 26,000 acre forest is home to eight distinct biological zones and thousands of animal and plant species that range from captivating to creepy and everything in between.

Birdwatchers will find a lot to love here, as over 500 species can be found in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Notable species include the green and red resplendent quetzal, the blue-throated toucanet, and the distinct three-wattled bellbird.

It’s not uncommon to spot a jaguar or puma stalking through the brush, alongside other tropical animals such as monkeys, sloths, snakes, and of course, a wide variety of frogs. Costa Rica’s famous red-eyed tree frog can be found if you look carefully, and the forest was once home to the elusive golden toad, now thought to be extinct.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is also home to a unique type of fungus that is known to infect ants and wasps!

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, more commonly known as the “zombie ant fungus,” gets its name because of the way it takes over the nervous system of small insects. The fungus instructs the insects to climb up to the highest possible point, then kills them and then spores so it can drift with the wind to find their next host. Humans can’t be infected by this fungus, but you just might be able to observe it if you pay close attention.

As you hike the trails, take a moment to appreciate the plant life as well. There are over 200 fern species and 420 kinds of orchids among the towering trees that make up the rainforest canopy.

If Monteverde is a little too crowded for your liking, try the nearby Santa Elena cloud forest reserve instead, which contains much of the same flora and fauna but much less visited.

Amazing Santa Elena zip line, Monteverde
Amazing Santa Elena zip line, Monteverde

Canopy Tours and Trails

If you don’t want to hike through Monteverde alone, you can also go on a guided tour of the area. With over 13 km of trails, it’s a good idea to hire a professional guide who will lead you to all the best spots with the most amazing views and inform you all about the life in the forests. You will have the greatest opportunity to see the wildlife with a guide as they know where to look. Tour guides can also arrange for accessibility accommodations where possible.

If you want a truly unique experience, book a night tour, which usually begins in the early evening. The many nocturnal animals that live in the forest come alive, so keep your eyes peeled for armadillos, spiders, pacas, ocelots, owls, snakes and more.

Exciting zip line tour in Costa Rica
Exciting zip line tour in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Costa Rica Sky Adventures offers a totally new view of the cloud forest. Here, you can take a sky tram, which is a sightseeing tour above the canopy that’s perfect for birdwatching enthusiasts. If you’d prefer a more guided experience, try the sky walk, where you can cross over suspension bridges and look out at the forest beneath you.

Other features at Sky Adventures Monteverde Park include the sky trek zip lining adventure, a zip line tour for brave visitors, and the Serpentario, an indoor guided tour of the various reptilian species of the forest. The Sky Adventures offer an incredible, unique way to experience Monteverde Costa Rica that helps to make your vacation a memorable one.

El Trapiche Tour

The El Trapiche Tour lets you step back through history to when Costa Rica was first settled. This is a guided tour that spans two hours, with plenty of opportunities for interaction that makes it especially great for families.

Walk through the farm to learn about traditional cultivation methods and locally grown crops. Follow the process of making coffee from the bean to the cup. Ride the ox carts out to the sugar fields. The El Trapiche Tour is fun and educational for all ages, helping to tell the story of Monteverde to visitors from all around the world.

Hanging Bridges at SelvaTura
Hanging Bridges at SelvaTura

Monteverde Butterfly Gardens

Local butterfly species abound in the cloud forest, so it’s no surprise that Monteverde has its very own butterfly garden as well. Surround yourself with dozens of vibrantly colored butterflies. If you’re still enough and very lucky, one might just land on you.

Species that can be found in the butterfly garden include the black and white striped zebra longwing, the bright blue morpho butterfly, the black and yellow thoas swallowtail, and the translucent glasswing.

Couple of bats sleeping at bat museum, MOnteverde
Couple of bats sleeping at bat museum, MOnteverde

Bat Jungle Museum

Ever wanted to learn more about bats? If so, make sure to stop into the Bat Jungle Museum in the morning, where you’ll find world class exhibits. The museum houses about 90 bats from eight different species, and you can observe them socializing and going about their lives right in front of your eyes.

Be sure to try out the ultrasonic microphone if you visit. This amazing tool lets you hear echolocation, which helps the bats find their way around their environments.

Restaurants and Bakeries

There’s no shortage of great places to eat in Monteverde!

Start your day at Stella’s Bakery, where you can grab a pasty and coffee to fuel up for your hike. If you visit the Bat Jungle Museum, head upstairs to Cabure, an excellent lunch place that also serves as a chocolatería. With some of the best homemade chocolate in Costa Rica!

When you’re hungry from a long day of hiking, make your way to Sabor Tico Restaurant for authentic Costa Rican cuisine. Try the local twist on tacos, or sample one of Costa Rica’s most iconic dishes, casados.

You can also eat dinner at Tramonti, a restaurant that blends local influences with classic Italian meals. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you can get it here!

Amazing sunset in El Establo, Monteverde
Amazing sunset in El Establo, Monteverde

A Little Monteverde History

From an early Quaker town to an internationally known tourist retreat, the history of Monteverde has helped to shape it in the present day.

The First Settlers

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a group of 44 pacifist Quakers left the United States looking to avoid being drafted into serving in the army. At the same time, the then-president of Costa Rica, Pepe Figueres, was inviting foreign visitors to assist in developing previously untouched parts of the country. Drawn in by Costa Rica’s temperate climate and volcanic soil, which was especially well-suited to farming, the group of Quakers headed for present-day San José.

The Quakers spent six months looking for a new location to build their community before finding the land that would later become Monteverde. At this time, they established a dairy farm and the Monteverde Cheese Plant as well as coffee plantations, with dairy farms remaining an important part of Monteverde’s economy to this day. Learn more about how the Quakers influenced Monteverde and the forest preservation in one of our blog articles.

Tourists volunteering in Monteverde
Tourists volunteering in Monteverde

Development and Conservation

Monteverde’s early settlers sought to live alongside nature and to protect the forests rather than chopping them down to make room for development. A few years later in the 1960s, biologists began to flock to the area to catalogue the cloud forest’s incredible biodiversity.

In the 1970s, the arrival of George and Harriet Powell, two biology postgrad students, led to the beginnings of dedicated conservation efforts. The Powells helped raise money and founded the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, protecting the land for decades to come.

Travellers Who Will Get the Most Out of Monteverde

Monteverde is a fun and exciting vacation spot for many different kinds of people. Whether you’re looking to learn something new, get back to nature, or spot animals in their natural habitats, you’re sure to enjoy your trip!

Happy to be hiking at Selvatura Park
Happy to be hiking at Selvatura Park

Nature Lovers

Monteverde is known for its connection to nature, which isn’t surprising given just how large the cloud forest is. With hundreds of animals and plants to discover, as well as a peaceful atmosphere that encourages visitors to relax and unwind, nature lovers are sure to enjoy this retreat.

Hiking Enthusiasts

Monteverde boasts many miles of trails, making it an incredible place to go on a hike. The trails are well maintained with plenty of variety, and most take about two hours to complete, providing a good challenge for moderate and experienced hikers. Hiking in the forest is also a great activity for children.


Families with young kids will be right at home in Monteverde.

In addition to the forest being perfect for animal loving kids, children can learn and play at the Bat Jungle Museum and El Trapiche. Both attractions are fun for the whole family.

Tips to Make Your Vacation Perfect

Ensure you’re properly prepared for your trip with these helpful tips.

How to Get to Monteverde

Reaching Monteverde can be a little challenging due to its isolated location, but it’s well worth the journey. Located about 150 km northwest of San José, you’ll have to make the drive or catch a bus to Santa Elena, just next to Monteverde.

Dress Appropriately

The forest is fairly high up in the Tilaran Mountain Range which can make the area a little chilly, so dress warm. A sweater or sweat jacket is usually all you need during the warmer months, but make sure to check the weather.

Also, long pants will not only keep you warm but help protect you against bug bites, as will bug spray.

Get an Authentic Costa Rica Restaurant Experience

Many people make the mistake of dining at chain restaurants on vacation, passing up on the opportunity to try out incredible local meals. Hit up local favorites if you want to truly get a taste of Costa Rican cuisine—you won’t get this opportunity anywhere else!

Around Beautiful Costa Rica Tour
10 Days / 9 Nights
Starting at $1,071 per person
Costa Rica Cloud Forest & Arenal Volcano Tour
6 Days / 5 Nights
Starting at $878 per person
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Distance: 79 miles / 127 km
Drive Time: 2 hr 24 min
Distance: 94 miles / 150 km
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Distance: 101 miles / 162 km
Drive Time: 3 hr
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