Monteverde Costa Rica Tours and Activities
Monteverde Costa Rica is a world apart from the other coastal towns of Costa Rica. Monteverde sits on top of Costa Rica’s continental divide.
Monteverde is home to many Cloud Forest Tours, Coffee Plantation Tours, eclectic restaurants, and folk artisan shopping areas.
Monteverde sits 4,662 feet above sea level which creates a wonderful opportunity for clouds to form, which then provides moisture to the lifeforms below. There is an ever-present fog that supports the ecosystem of the Monteverde region.
Monteverde is home to over 100 species of mammals, 400 different types of birds, tens of thousands of insects, and 2,500 different types of plants.
In 2007, Costa Ricans voted Monteverde one of Costa Rica’s 7 Wonders. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is indeed a leading attraction for Costa Rica travelers, especially for ecotourists.
Hiking through this lush green garden of mosses, ferns, flowers, and epiphytes is a wonderful experience. As clouds drift in and out, the air around you is filled with the chirps, twitters, and songs of birds, the scurrying of small mammals, and the distant roar of a howler monkey from the canopy above. Horseback riding tours and mountain biking are two other ways to fully take in the jungle on the ground floor. The sights and sounds are even more magical at the canopy level. Zip lines and suspension bridges are just two of the offerings of the many canopy tours found here.
With six distinct ecological zones, the reserve hosts an abundance and diversity of birds, insects, butterflies, and plants that make the Monteverde Cloud Forest one of the most famous ecotourism orientated communities in Central America. Much of this flora and fauna is found nowhere else on Earth. Adjacent to Monteverde is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest with its own attractions. These two reserves straddle the Continental Divide at 4662 feet.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Activities and Attractions
If during your Costa Rica vacation you have the opportunity to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest be sure to take a canopy tour. Whether across the suspension bridges, on an aerial tram, or via one of Costa Rica’s famously fun ziplines, the canopy of Monteverde is not to miss. Half of its flora and fauna live in the canopy, and many of these species are unique to the area.
The four Costa Rica operators that offer canopy tours in Monteverde are Aventura Canopy Tour, Extreme Canopy Tour, Selvatura Canopy Tour, and Sky Trek Canopy Tour. Here are a few of the differences in the offerings:
Zip Lines – Sky Trek offers the fastest (55 mph), longest (770 meters), and highest (150 meters) zip line rides. On Sky Trek’s zipline, the braking is mechanical so you don’t need to worry about braking. Two of their cables are from tree platforms, and the other nine are from the ground and large towers.
Tarzan Swing – Aventura Canopy, Extreme Canopy, and Selvatura Canopy let you play Tarzan. Your climbing harness is hooked to a rope, and then you leap from a tower into a free fall, swinging over the valley to a tree platform. Be sure someone has a camera ready!
Suspension Bridges – Selvatura, Aventura, and Sky Trek all have a series of suspension bridges that lead you through the forest canopy in a 3-kilometer loop. Only Sky Trek and Selvatura have bridges (and zip lines) in primary Cloud Forest. Sky Trek’s Sky Walk includes six suspended bridges (the longest of which is about 800 feet (243 meters), high up in the canopy crossing deep canyons.
Additionally, there are many other activities Costa Rica that travelers enjoy in the Monteverde Cloud Forest such as:
- Horseback riding
- Mountain biking
- Hiking (self-guided or on a guided tour)
- Night tours of the jungle
- Wildlife viewing and bird watching
The main attraction of these Costa Rica tours, through the Monte Verde Cloud Forest, is of course the flora and fauna that thrive here. Costa Rica bird watching and wildlife viewing is exceptional. The cloud forest features 400 species of birds, more than 100 species of mammals including 5 species of cats, over 400 species of birds including 30 kinds of hummingbirds and the Resplendent Quetzal, tens of thousands of insect species (over 5000 species of moths), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 of Costa Rica’s orchid species, with most in the trees).
For this reason, many of the canopy tours, even ziplines, allow you to stop along the way to observe and take photos – after all, the Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding wildlife refuges in the New World Tropics.
San Luis Waterfalls
Approximately a three-hour hike from downtown Santa Elena and nestled deep in a valley is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive waterfalls. The waters drop over 100 meters, and a hike to the falls is an adventure in itself, but do prepare for slippery trails and insects. Riding by horseback is another way to visit the falls. It goes without saying – make sure you bring your camera.
A Costa Rica conservation area in Monteverde Cloud Forest protecting 850 acres, this area is host to the Selvatura canopy tours mentioned above as well as a butterfly garden, educational center, Hummingbird Garden and Reptile and Amphibian Exhibition. Within the last few years, there has been a great surge of interest in these and other zoological attractions as Costa Rica ecotourism continues to attract more and more visitors.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest
This 765-acre cloud forest borders the Monteverde Conservation area and offers 7 miles (12 km) of trails and a canopy observation tower. From here you can view the very active Arenal Volcano, as well as Lake Arenal if visibility is good. The Santa Elena Cloud Forest offers similar habitat and wildlife to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, but the hiking trails here are less populated with humans. Guided tours and night jungle tours are available. The Santa Elena Cloud Forest is at a slightly higher elevation than the Monteverde Cloud Forest, meaning more mist and moisture.
Costa Rica travelers may encounter more than 400 bird species, 121 mammal species, 140 reptiles and amphibians, and more than 2000 vascular plants in the Santa Elena Reserve. This cloud forest is best known for the three-wattled bellbird, resplendent quetzal, black-faced solitares, howler monkeys, and hummingbirds (feeders line the entry path). Quetzals are best viewed in the Santa Elena Reserve from December to July.
While the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is not a national park, it is one of the first community administered reserves in the country and is under the protection of the Arenal Conservation Area. The town of Santa Elena, just 6 kilometers from the Santa Elena Cloud Forest is a great place to stop after working up appetite from hiking. Here you’ll find a great selection of restaurants, offering everything from regional cuisine to pizza.
Monteverde Cheese Factory Tour
This tour allows you to learn about the history of the Monteverde Quaker community, as well as their booming dairy industry. In the 1950’s Quaker families escaping the Korean war draft settled in this peace-loving country. Monteverde was chosen by these dairy farmers for its cool climate. Over half a century later the Quaker traditions continue and the resulting bilingual culture of progressive Monteverde is strength in serving the nature-loving Costa Rica tourists who visit the area.
The Quakers influenced the preservation of the Monteverde Cloud Forest by donating the land that now makes up most of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde, a non-profit reserve and major Costa Rica attraction. The rise in tourism created jobs that were filled by many Costa Ricans who then moved to the area. Today Quakers and Costa Ricans make up most of the region’s population, and the area features both North American and Costa Rican culture.
There is so much to do in the Monteverde area that it is advisable to plan on spending at least a few days to be able to take it all in. Temperatures in Monteverde range from 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 22 degrees Celsius), and annual rainfall averages around 117 inches (3,000 mm). Bird watching is wonderful throughout the year, but the best time is during March through April nesting season.
When packing for a Costa Rica vacation that includes the Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forests, be sure to bring pants, good walking shoes, and a light jacket or sweater. It would also be wise to bring sunscreen, a rain poncho, binoculars, and a camera. Because the canopy tours keep group sizes low, it’s best to book in advance, especially if you plan to travel to Costa Rica in July, August, and from December till May.