🌳 Monteverde, Costa Rica Travel Guide: 5 Great Things To Do + 2-Day Itinerary

The blog author standing next to the end of a big rainbow.

Famous for its cloud forests teeming with wildlife, Monteverde (which means “Green Mountain” in Spanish) is one of Costa Rica’s most visited destinations.

Here, I share practical tips on how to get around and what to do in Monteverde. I also share a 2-day itinerary, a map with all recommended places and my trip’s $507 cost breakdown.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Quick Travel Facts for Monteverde

⭐ Known for: Monteverde is known for its cloud forests, which are tropical rainforests that have a persistent cloud cover at the canopy level, giving the forest a mystical look.

🌳 Vibe: Monteverde’s town is on a hill and the weather is often misty, so with less people walking around, it can feel more secluded than it actually is. You will be taken directly to most attractions, so you won’t necessarily walk around much of Monteverde.

📍 Location: Sitting at 4,600+ feet above sea level on a mountain range, Monteverde is ~2.5 hours away from both country’s international airports: Juan Santamaria Airport in San José (80 miles south) and Guanacaste Airport in Liberia (80 miles west).

A map of Costa Rica with red pins highlighting key towns and an airplane showing the two international airports.
Monteverde is located in between Costa Rica’s two international airports.

☀️ When to visit: The most popular times to visit Monteverde are during Costa Rica’s dry season, which runs from December to April. I visited in March and Monteverde still had intermittent rain.

Due to its location on a mountain, Monteverde is known to be colder and rainier than other areas (e.g., dipping into high 50°F when almost everywhere else in Costa Rica is 70°F or above). Make sure to pack some light warm layers and a light rain jacket, especially if you want to visit a cloud forest or go zip lining.

⏳ How long to visit: Most people recommend spending 2-3 days in Monteverde. I spent 2 days and I thought it was sufficient to do a lot of Monteverde’s top attractions. Given how rainy and cold the weather was compared to the rest of Costa Rica, 2 days felt like enough time.

This Costa Rica travel guide has more general tips and basics on the country.

Top Costa Rica Destinations: Monteverde vs. La Fortuna

Monteverde and La Fortuna are often on lists of top destinations to visit in Costa Rica. I traveled to both locations and think they’re different enough to each warrant a visit, but if you’re deciding between the two, here are some of their differences:

  • Weather: La Fortuna’s weather is what you would expect from Costa Rica: warm and humid. Monteverde has a colder and rainier climate, so make sure to pack some warm clothes if you’re visiting it.
  • Town area: La Fortuna has a bigger and livelier town area that feels like a center. Monteverde’s town is on a hill and doesn’t have a clear “center”, per se. There’s a small section of the town that has more tourist shops and restaurants, but the town is on a long, winding road.
Two maps comparing the town shape of La Fortuna's and Monteverde's.
The shape of La Fortuna’s vs. Monteverde’s town areas differ.
  • Activities: While you’ll find some overlap in activities offered (e.g., zip lining, sloth sanctuary, coffee tours), the two towns offer different experiences for the same activities (i.e., zip lining over Monteverde’s cloud forest is different than zip lining over La Fortuna).

This La Fortuna travel guide shows some of the differences between La Fortuna and Monteverde.

Monteverde Transportation

Getting to Monteverde

After flying into one of Costa Rica’s international airports (Juan Santamaria Airport in San José or Guanacaste Airport in Liberia), you can get to Monteverde in several ways:

  • Rental car. Both international airports are ~2.5 hours away from Monteverde by car. Given the road conditions around Monteverde, a 4×4 rental is recommended when getting there by car.
  • Shuttle. There are several companies that offer daily shared or private shuttles to get to Monteverde from different locations. I came from Nosara (which is 93 miles away, approximately a 3.5 hour drive) through a Tropical Tours private shuttle and it cost $120.

When taking private shuttles in Costa Rica, you can request to make a stop along the way. I stopped in Nicoya, one of the 5 so-called “Blue zones” to buy fresh fruits.

  • Public bus. You can take a bus to Monteverde from San José, Liberia or La Fortuna. Taking the bus is the budget option and will be the most inconvenient.
  • Taxi and boat. If you’re coming from La Fortuna, you can take a boat-taxi-boat ride for the most direct road to Monteverde. I took a shared van-boat-van (or shuttle-boat-shuttle) to La Fortuna for $30.

Getting Around Monteverde

Once you’re in Monteverde, you can get around by:

  • Rental car
  • Walking. Monteverde’s town is relatively walkable, although a bit hilly and if you stay a bit outside the town like I did, note that sidewalks aren’t available everywhere. However, most top attractions in Monteverde are not within walking distance.
  • Taxi. All official taxis in Costa Rica are red and have a yellow triangle on its side. Given that it’s a popular tourist town, taxis will be readily available around Monteverde.
  • Tour transportation. Almost all tours offered in Monteverde will include pick-up and drop-off transportations, usually by taxi or shuttle.

Unlike other tourist areas in Costa Rica, Monteverde does not have Uber.

5 Great Things To Do in Monteverde

After experiencing a packed itinerary in Monteverde, here is what I recommend doing in approximate order of priority.

This Google Map has all the Monteverde places mentioned in this list.

1. Zipline over a cloud forest

Why: Monteverde has the longest (almost 1 mile) and some of the most magical zip line experiences above its cloud forests in Costa Rica.

The blog author hanging on a zipline overlooking a misty rainforest.
Ziplining through one of Monteverde’s cloud forests.

Getting there: There are several tour operators in Monteverde. The longest zip line in Costa Rica is offered by 100% Aventura. I booked with Selvatura Adventure Park which has the only zipline inside Monterverde Cloud Forest transportation was provided, and they provided transportation.

Duration: Most zip line tours in Monteverde will last 2-3 hours. My zip line tour was from 2:30-5pm (2.5 hours) and included 12 cable lines and a Tarzan swing.

Cost: Most Monteverde zip line tours will cost $50-$60 for the basic package, and you can pay extra for upgraded zip line styles (e.g., the “Superman”-style where you are tied in head-first). I paid $93 for both a sloth sanctuary and zipline combo package.

My take: Zip lining over Monteverde’s cloud forest was one of my Costa Rica trip’s highlight. I’ve ziplined in other countries and in the neighboring La Fortuna town, but zip lining over a misty forest was fantastical and thrilling. The Tarzan swing was also super fun.

2. Walk through a cloud forest

Why: Monteverde is famous for its cloud forests and has three of them: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Santa Elena Cloud Forest and Bosque Eterno de los Niños, with the former being the most famous. Its cloud forests have hundreds of different bird (the quetzal being the most famous), reptile, mammal and amphibian species.

The blog author standing on a platform surrounded by lush rainforest.
Stopping at a viewing platform inside Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Getting there: You can visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest on a guided or non-guided walking tour. I did this informative guided tour, which included pick-up and drop-off transportations. If you’re visiting without a guide, the cloud forest is ~4 miles away (about a 20-minute drive) from the town area.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest has an attached cafe, Cafe Colibri, that attracts many hummingbirds to the patio area (”colibri” means hummingbird in Spanish).

Duration: You can spend 2-4 hours in the Monteverde Cloud Forest; the walking trail is about 8 miles long. My group tour was from 7:30-11am (3.5 hours) and that included time for transportation.

Cost: The entrance fee for the Monteverde Cloud Forest is $25. I paid $60 for a small-group guided tour and it included the entrance fee.

My take: I like walking and hiking in nature, but knowing more about the Monteverde Cloud Forest and being able to spot the wildlife is what makes it a unique experience so I recommend visiting with a guide.

3. See 20 sloths at the sloth sanctuary

Why: One of Costa Rica’s most iconic animals is the sloth and Monteverde has a sloth sanctuary that’s home to 20 of them.

A close-up of a sloth hanging upside down on tree branch while eating.
One of the 20 sloths at Monteverde’s sloth sanctuary.

Getting there: The sloth sanctuary in Monteverde is located inside the Selvatura Park, which is about 4.5 miles (~20-minute drive) away from the town area.

Duration: The sloth tour is exactly 1 hour and many visitors wish it was longer.

Cost: The sloth sanctuary tour and entrance fee varies from $40-$70 depending on when you go and if you combine it with other tour packages. I paid $93 for the sloth sanctuary and zipline combo package.

My take: The sloth sanctuary is a great way to see many sloths up close and learn about them. I visited the rainforest five times and sloth spotting was rare in the wild. They were often hidden and far away.

4. Go on a wildlife refuge night walk

Why: Monteverde is known for its biodiversity and wildlife, and since some animals become more active at night, a night walk gives you an increased opportunity to see them.

A close-up of a tucan at night.
Spotting a tucan during a Monteverde wildlife refuge night walk (photo taken through a scope).

Getting there: There are endless number of night tours offered in Monteverde and you can choose if you want a private or group tour, a specific location (there are several trail options), and even the focus of the tour (e.g., general, bird-watching focus). You can book on your preferred platform, or go through your hotel, which is what I did.

Duration: A night tour is typically 2 hours and after 7pm. My tour was from 7:30pm to 10pm.

Cost: Most Monteverde night tours will cost approximately $30. Mine was $32 with tip.

My take: I went on multiple rainforest tours in Costa Rica and I would have happily replaced any of them with a night tour if I had do. I didn’t necessarily see more animals than on a day tour, but walking through a forest at night time is a unique adventure.

5. Visit a butterfly garden, bat jungle or frog pond

Why: Monteverde is rich in biodiversity and wildlife, and some places have furthered specialized in giving informative tours around a specific type of animal.

The blog author holding a monarch butterfly.
Holding the butterfly I tried to release into the Monteverde butterfly garden.

Getting there: The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens, Bat Jungle and Frog Pond are all within a 5-minute drive from the town area. You can grab a taxi to the former two and walked to the latter one.

If you’re running on a tight schedule, consider asking your hotel to book your transportation to the Monteverde Butterfly Garden or Bat Jungle in advance. Taxis are not always readily available outside the immediate Monteverde town area. I had to wait 20 minutes for my taxi when leaving the garden.

Duration: I went to the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and easily spent 2 hours there.

Cost: The Monteverde Butterfly Garden has an $18 entrance fee, and the Bat Jungle and Frog Pond are $15 each.

My take: The butterfly garden was more delightful than I expected. The presentation section of the tour covered different insects with humor and the garden itself had a ton of butterflies, including Costa Rica’s most recognizable butterfly, the blue morpho. We also each got to release a butterfly into the garden and mine decided to stay on me almost the entire tour.

Other Activities in Monteverde

If you’re spending more than 2-3 days in Monteverde, here are other activities you can do there in no particular order and roughly how much you can expect to spend per activity:

  • Sugar cane, chocolate and coffee tours ($30-$40)
  • Canyoning tours ($50-$60)
  • Hike to El Tigre Waterfalls (here’s a highly-rated tour that has real hiking and horseback riding) ($30+)
  • Sky tram and sky walk tours ($70+)
  • Hanging bridges tour ($60+)

2-Day Itinerary for Monteverde

Below is how to spend 2 packed days in Monteverde while doing all the recommended activities mentioned above. For more downtime, you can do everything in 3 days.

This itinerary resembles how I spent my time in Monteverde while incorporating improvements. I’ve included some of my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence things.

Day 1☁️ Monteverde Cloud Forest tour (7:30am-11am)
🦥 Visit the sloth sanctuary (1pm-2pm)
🌳 Cloud forest zip lining (2:30pm-5pm)
Day 2🦋 Visit the Monteverde Butterfly Garden (12pm-2:30pm)
🚶🏻‍♀️ Explore the Monteverde town (3pm-5pm)
🦇 Go on a wildlife refuge night walk (7:30pm-10pm)

For other Costa Rica itineraries: here’s a 5-day itinerary for La Fortuna, a nearby town with an active volcano, and a 4-day itinerary for Nosara, one of Costa Rica’s top beach towns.

Where I Stayed in Monteverde

Here’s where I stayed and my thoughts on the hotel.

Factors to consider:

  • Proximity to the main town area. Monteverde’s main town area is located on a hill and the areas right outside of it don’t always have sidewalks. If you don’t plan to eat at your hotel everyday, you might want to stay closer to the town area since it has several good, authentic food options.
  • Hotel view. Monteverde is on a mountain so several hotels offer amazing views of the mountains.

Where I stayed:

Hotel: I stayed at Rainbow Valley Lodge, and paid ~$58/night/person. The hotel offers cabin-style lodging where each booking gets their own bare-bone cabins that has a bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms.

  • Pros: The staff was nice and helpful, but by far the biggest selling point of the Rainbow Valley Lodge is the view you get as most of their cabins are on the edge of a mountain.
  • Cons: The hotel is a 15-minute walk into the town area, which is usually very doable, but the colder climate and the lack of a consistent sidewalk made the trek into town for food inconvenient.
A giant rainbow against a sky over a valley.
A rainbow view from the Rainbow Valley Lodge.

My Monteverde Trip’s Cost Breakdown

I stayed in Monteverde for 2 days and spent $507 ($254/day).

I split expenses with one other person on most things. All expenses are in USD, converted from Costa Rican Colón ($1 USD = 631₡ at the time of writing).

Cost Breakdown

🏠 Lodging: $115 ($58/night)

🚗 Transportation: $129 ($65/day)

  • Private shuttle from Nosara to Monteverde: $120
  • Taxis to get around Monteverde: $9

🐠 Food: $60 ($30/day)

⭐ Activities and tours: $203 ($102/day)

  • Cloud forest zip line and sloth sanctuary combo package: $93
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest tour: $60
  • Wildfire refuge night walk: $32
  • Monteverde Butterfly garden: $18

All my Costa Rica travel expenses are broken down by location and category in this Costa Rica cost breakdown.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

error: I\'ve disabled right-clicking on my site.