Family Friendly Monteverde
Children stare wide-eyed in Monteverde, a cloud forest wonderland filled with engaging sights like colorful frogs, lackadaisical sloths, towering trees, and lightning-fast hummingbirds. Adding to the fun, a variety of hands-on activities include horseback rides, butterfly and bat exhibits, and numerous trips to the country’s finest ice cream shops.
Monteverde is all about the outdoors, and you and your children will find yourselves smitten with its natural delights. On our last trip there, my family enjoyed a variety of adventure and educational tours. After a mandatory zip-line experience to get our hearts racing, the kids were animal detectives as we ventured through cloud forest in search of sloths with our patient naturalist guide. From interactive learning experiences to outdoor fun, these activities are sure to keep your children entertained.
Cloud Forest Explorations
One of my favorite reserves is the Children’s Eternal Forest, a unique conservation project created and sponsored by children all over the world. Kids are VIP’s here, and everything is geared toward young minds: exhibits sit low to the ground, and coloring books bring the jungle right to your children’s fingertips. The park encompasses rainforest, cloud forest and evergreen forest, and naturalist guides will ignite imaginations and engage your children in their surroundings.
Animal Encounters at the Frog Pond
If bugs and small creatures fascinate your little ones, a visit to the Monteverde Frog Pond is a must. Begin in back, where a small butterfly farm houses hundreds of butterflies amid beautiful gardens. If you’re there at the right time, you’ll have the chance to hold caterpillars and watch butterflies emerge from their cocoons. Next, visit the frog pond, home to 28 frog species and two kinds of toads. Kids are fascinated by the multicolored amphibians, and will remember some of the amazing animals they meet. They’ll learn which frog can hold its breath for 30 minutes, what toad can weigh up to five pounds, and which Superman-like frog can jump 50 feet in a single bound.
A night hike is one of Monteverde’s unique treats, and this tops my list of area recommendations. On our trek through the dark cloud forest, my family spotted colorful tufts of feathers that represented sleeping birds, the glowing larvae of a soon-to-be lightening bug, and a coatimundi scrounging for food on the forest floor. Most exciting of all, our guide climbed inside a towering strangler fig, aiming his flashlight into the air to point out a baby porcupine sound asleep – talk about a memorable hike! Since the sun typically sets by 6:30 p.m., these nightly excursions are held early in the evening, making them accessible to even the youngest visitors.
If your kids are game, children as young as eight years old can enjoy Monteverde’s canopy tours, which range from mostly tame to absolutely extreme. As you glide above the treetops you’ll spot the sparkling Nicoya Gulf in the distance and get a bird’s eye perspective of the forest below. Highly trained guides will go tandem with smaller children, ensuring a safe experience for everyone.
Saddle up for a ride to the San Luis Waterfall, a gurgling cascade of clear, cool water. Seasoned horseback operators will choose a horse that’s just right for your child’s skill level, and kids will enjoy bonding with their equine friends. The whole family will love taking a dip at one of the fall’s several swimming holes, followed by a delicious picnic lunch.
If your time is limited, the Selvatura park is a great all-in-one: enjoy a canopy tour, hiking trails, hanging bridges, insect collection, butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, reptile and amphibian exhibits. Kids will have a blast on the hanging bridges, where they’ll be face-to-face with animals that live in the forest canopy. Adventurous souls should jump on the canopy tour – it’s tamer than other local zip-lines, so it’s a great choice for children under 12.
Adventure or learning experience? Your kids won’t know the difference on Monteverde’s one-of-a-kind trainforest railroad, a small passenger train that winds through the emerald forest. The four-mile journey passes over four bridges and features spectacular views, but best of all, the old-fashioned train looks like it was taken straight out of a storybook. The conductors, who double as naturalist guides, will fill your children with wonder as they explain the sights and sounds around you.