Visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, where the Caribbean climate brushes against the eastern face of the continental divide creating unequaled, lush, green cloud forest. Alternatively, visit the famous Monteverde Cloud Reserve and stand on a ridge looking out over both sides of the continental divide. Explore trails among towering, hundred year old trees ripe with moss and bromeliads while keeping an eye out for furry forest creatures like agoutis and coatis or feathered friends like the three-wattled bellbird and the quetzal.
But there's more to Monteverde than hiking. The canopy tours are unequaled; bigger, faster and longer than anywhere else in the country. Horseback riding and ATV tours take visitors through back country on muddy roads and dirt trails to some of the most difficult to access spots in the cloud forest.
Fling mud on your friends from the tires of your ATV as you ride the trails through the private and public roads around Monteverde. After a brief practice session, the Monteverde ATV tour sets out on a two-hour, 12.5-mile journey through winding muddy trails, across streams and narrow dirt paths.
Bird & Wildlife Watching
More than five percent of the world's bird species can be found in the cloud forest around Monteverde. Explore the area's reserves in search of the trogans, tanagers, three-wattled bellbirds, black guans, black-faced solitaites, hummingbirds, toucans and the world famous resplendent quetzal.
The Monteverde Cloud Reserve is only a small fraction of the largest collection of protected forest in all of Costa Rica known as the Children's Eternal Rain Forest. Within this collection of reserves, hide Costa Rica's few surviving jaguars as well as tapirs, agoutis, peccaries, sloths and 130 species of mammals, 60 species of bats, 700 species of butterflies and 5,000 species of moths.
Guided hikes offer the deepest insights into Monteverde's reserves as well as a finely-honed pair of eyes capable of seeing forest fauna that most visitors would never catch. The Monteverde Cloud Forest, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, Bajo del Tigre, Curi Cancha and the Children's Eternal Rainforest reserves have the best bird and wildlife watching tours.
Monteverde is the single best location in all of Costa Rica for zip lining with the highest, longest and fastest cables. Home to Costa Rica’s first canopy tour, today zip lines trace through cloud forest across the continental divide. Canopy tours come in all shapes in sizes – some are big on adrenaline, while others incorporate the landscape into the day’s events. Monteverde’s canopy tours range from 10 to 15 cables, the longest of which reaches more than 5,000 feet over a valley. Visitors can reach speeds well over 40 mph and, drop more than a hundred feet on rappel and swing through the air on Tarzan swing ranging from 30 to 200 feet high.
100 percent Aventura features the longest line (a superman cable nearly a mile long), SkyTrek boasts the highest cables suspended above the cloud forest, Selvatura leads guests through the greenest part of the cloud forest while Extremos takes guests on a three-hour tour that includes 15 different cables..
Join a coffee tour for a taste of Costa Rican culture and the bold, rich java that residents have spent the last hundred years growing in the fertile valleys surrounding Monteverde. Area coffee tours teach visitors about Costa Rican traditions in addition to the coffee growing and making processes following a red coffee fruit on its journey from the plant into the cup. No tour is complete until you try the farm's specialty roasted and brewed coffee.
After a long hike or a challenging canopy tour, your muscles may cry out for a bit of rest and relaxation. Several spas, in addition to a few on-site hotel spas, provide treatments like deep-tissue massages, mud masks and seaweed wraps.
Explore the different layers of the cloud forest on the hanging bridges. Three different tours are available leading guests from the forest floors up through the canopies; a unique habitat home to orchids, bromeliads, monkeys, birds, sloths and snakes. Trails include bridges of different heights and lengths– the highest reaches more than 300 feet and the longest stretches for more than 500 feet.
Hiking is the best way to traverse the cloud forest and no trip to Monteverde would be complete without trekking through at least one of the area's reserves.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has eight miles of groomed trails; a map is included in the entrance fee. For a comprehensive park overview, take the trail triangle – a link between the Cloud Forest Trail, The Road, and Swamp Trail – for three and a half miles of pretty waterfalls.
Not to be outdone, the Santa Elena Reserve has seven and a half miles of rugged trails, each with varying lengths and difficulty levels. The reserve also provides a few handicap-accessible trails. The park’s knowledgeable guides can find even the best-camouflaged animals hidden amid the cloud forest.
Located between the Santa Elena Reserve and the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the Children’s Eternal Forest dwarfs both in size: at 54,000 acres, it's the largest reserve in the area. The forest is crisscrossed with hiking trails ideal for day and night (guided only) walks. The two-mile Jaguar Canyon Trail is well suited to bird watching, and is an easy hike.
Several other reserves dot the Monteverde area, including the Cerro Plano Ecological Sanctuary, the Hidden Valley Trail and the Tranquil Path Reserve. Each offers trails through primary and secondary forest, and several pathways lead to scenic overlooks, waterfalls and impressive strangler fig trees.
Trot through the dusty back roads of Monteverde on noble steeds like the days of old or just enjoy a ride through the cloud forest, coffee fields and plains that drape the hills and mountains of Monteverde. Several established companies offer guided tours lasting anywhere from two to six hours.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Train
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Train rolls through meadows and cloud forest that carpet the Tilaran Mountains. An excellent alternative to hiking, the train takes visitors on a four-mile journey on a clear day, riders will also enjoy scenic vistas of Lake Arenal and the magnificent Arenal Volcano in the distance. 90-minute train tours depart every hour between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Night Hike Tours
See the other side of the rainforest as night settles on Monteverde and the other half of the rainforest wakes up. Keep your flashlight level with your eyes and scan the forest looking for the glinting eyes of sloths, porcupines, armadillos , kinkajous, frogs, snakes, owls and tarantulas stare back from the darkness. Each of Monteverde's large reserves offers night tours, starting at dusk and lasting around two hours.
An aerial tram tour is ideal for visitors that wish to experience the forest canopy at a slow pace, or for those who have trouble negotiating the cloud forest’s rugged trails. For a slower journey, one local tram travels almost one mile through forest canopy, offering both day and night tram tours. The cars hold up to two individuals and may be stopped at one’s pleasure. The area’s more thrilling tram trip offers a bit more adventure, fantastic views and a little less nature, traveling up to one mile high on almost 5,250 feet of cable.
Make your own toffee on the Trapiche tour. Built around an old sugar mill, this tour takes guests on through the sugar cane fields teaching them how sugar is processed. En route, guests will have the opportunity to chew on raw sugar cane, try a shot of distilled sugar-cane alcohol and work with freshly boiled molasses to make their own candy. In addition to sugar, guides give brief descriptions on coffee and cocoa production.