Looking for the perfect Monteverde Itinerary? I’ll share all the best things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica from zip-lining through the cloud forest, night wildlife viewing, finding the elusive quetzal in Curi Cancha Reserve in Monteverde to shopping at CASEM–Cooperative of Artisans Santa Elena Monteverde. It’s the perfect mix of adventure tours and relaxing during your 3-day itinerary in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Where is Monteverde in Costa Rica?
Monteverde is located in the cloud forest of the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range. It is one of the major ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica and is well known for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve as well as many other parks to explore with hanging bridges, zip lining, wildlife viewing and rare plants located only in the cloud forest in this region.
Monteverde is a 3 hours drive from the popular area of La Fortuna/Arenal or 3 hours from Manuel Antonio/Quepos. Monteverde is located just south of the well known Lake Arenal. It has been voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica with close proximity to popular attractions such as Rio Celeste and Viento Fresco.
Check out the map of Monteverde, Costa Rica below.
- Where is Monteverde in Costa Rica?
- 3 Day Monteverde Itinerary
- Things to do in Monteverde Costa Rica
- 1. Sky Adventures: Monteverde, Costa Rica Zip Line
- 2. Night Tour in Curi Cancha Reserve
- 3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Hike
- 4. Go shopping at CASEM–Cooperative of Artisans Santa Elena Monteverde
- 5. Take a Guided Tour of Curi Cancha to search for Quetzals
- 6. Enjoy the Various Restaurants in Monteverde
- 7. Viento Fresco Waterfalls
- Monteverde, Costa Rica weather
3 Day Monteverde Itinerary
Not sure how many days to spend in Monteverde? Here is my suggested Monteverde itinerary for making the most of the area. I suggest spending 3 nights and 2 full days (with the days before and after for transfers).
- DAY ONE: Arrival from the airport or another city nearby. Monteverde is over 3 hours from La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, which are also popular places to visit. Monteverde is 2.5 hours from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia. Settle into your hotel or B&B.
- DAY TWO: On your 1st full day, plan a fun adventure. Go ziplining with Sky Adventures and then do some shopping at CASEM. Have lunch at the COOP soda before your night tour at Curi Cancha Reserve. Enjoy a late-night dinner at the Treehouse Restaurant.
- DAY THREE: On your 2nd full day, Book a guided birdwatching tour in Curi Cancha in the morning and then after a delicious lunch, head over to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to explore the hanging bridges and continental divide. Grab dinner at Taco Taco Taqueria.
- DAY FOUR: Pair this transfer day with a visit to Viento Fresco Waterfalls if you are headed north. Located a quick hours drive, it is a beautiful area and not frequently visited by tourists.
Things to do in Monteverde Costa Rica
Planning a trip to Monteverde, but you aren’t sure how to fill your days? I’ll include our favorite things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica to give you some ideas. The cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica is unique and offers some incredible adventures including zip-lining from mountain range to mountain range, going on a night hike to find nocturnal animals, hiking up to the continental divide and exploring hanging bridges for a unique view from above.
Nearby, you’ll discover Rio Celeste and Viento Fresco waterfalls, which make the perfect stops to or from Arenal/La Fortuna.
1. Sky Adventures: Monteverde, Costa Rica Zip Line
If you like a sense of adventure, check out Sky Adventures! They offer multiple activities at their Monteverde location for zip-lining, tree climbing, a sky tram, hanging bridges and more. I highly recommend booking an afternoon zip line adventure.
Kids as young as the age of five can harness up and fly across multiple zip lines that traverse the mountain range. Guests will enjoy speeds up to 60 mph while flying high above the cloud forest below. The guides made it easy to enjoy the adventure because they do all the work for you! No need to worry about breaking or clipping on and off the cables.
Why book with Sky Adventures for their Monteverde, Costa Rica zip line trip? They are one of the few companies that don’t require you to hand break during your zip line cable runs. They have an automatic braking system, so you can lay back and check out the views before coasting into the platform. They also have a fun ending, but I won’t spoil the fun.
If you want to read more about what zip lining is really like with Sky Adventures, click the button below to read my full review.
2. Night Tour in Curi Cancha Reserve
Curi Cancha Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the many beautiful forest reserves near Monteverde, Costa Rica. One of the tours they offer is a night walk and it is something I would highly recommend. With a smaller network of trails and a variety of landscapes including a pond (great for frogs), open grasslands and forest trails, it is one of the best places for a night tour.
The cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica is a great place to book a night tour. After reading plenty of reviews, I picked Curi Cancha due to its open trails and a high chance of finding a variety of wildlife.
You can book a tour directly through the Curi Cancha website, or arrange a private guide to tour with you through the reserve. We chose to book through the Curi Cancha Reserve website. The tour lasts 2 hours and runs from 5:30 PM till 7:30 PM. A regular tour will run you $20 per person. Children under the age of 7 are free.
We lucked out with finding a wide variety of animals including frogs, a scorpion, tarantula, sleeping birds and a kinkajou climbing through the trees (which was a highlight).
3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Hike
No visit to Monteverde is complete without exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. It is the largest reserve in Monteverde and is visited by over 70,000 guests per year. It features 6.5 miles of trails on eight different trails and one 300 foot suspended bridge. It is suggested that you spend 3-4 hours exploring the reserve.
If you are traveling during the low season, skip the large parking lot and continue to the entrance where you can park along the road. As always, secure your belongings. There is a nice cafe just up the stairs on the left. Grab a coffee and a sweet treat before you venture into the cloud forest or there is a restaurant located just before the entrance on the right.
The entrance fee is $25 per adult and $12 for children (6-12 years old).
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve also offers tours including bird watching (6 am), Natural History (7:30, 11:30 and 1:30 pm) as well as a Night Hike (5:45 pm). You can arrange a tour on their website or book a privately guided tour on your own.
Buy tickets at the entrance and then start your adventure. The ticket sales can help you pick which trails you’d like to hike and which path they recommend. We took a counter-clockwise approach, heading to the right to hike towards the continental divide. On the return trip, we crossed the suspended bridge before returning to the entrance. You can also add on a short hike to the waterfall, but our family had done enough hiking for the day.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve does a great job of educating their guests about the history of the area and they have informational text along the Sendero Bosque Nuboso trail to help guide visitors about what they are seeing.
Note: The trails can get really muddy during the rainy season. We visited during early November (end of the rainy season) and some of the trails were really muddy. Be sure to bring proper footwear.
If you are trying to decide what to do in Monteverde, don’t miss hiking in the reserve!
4. Go shopping at CASEM–Cooperative of Artisans Santa Elena Monteverde
CASEM is truly a gem in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Founded by eight women in 1982, it has grown to over 90 women and five men who create a wide variety of items including jewelry, woodworking, notebooks, cards, jewelry, clothing, tablecloths, candy and more. The majority of the products in their store are handmade by locals who live in the area and use materials indigenous to the area.
We selected a few items to remember our time in Costa Rica and as gifts to family and friends back home. One of the items we selected was a little tic tac toe game featuring a sloth and ocelot. The lady who made the bag and the game was located upstairs. The lady at the checkout counter called up to her and she came downstairs to say thank you and give us a big hug. It was a really sweet moment.
So enjoy shopping and support the local community at the same time! If all the shopping has worked up an appetite, there is a fabulous “soda” located in the back.
A “soda” is local dining joint that features delicious food for really good prices.
5. Take a Guided Tour of Curi Cancha to search for Quetzals
As you read above, we spent an evening enjoying a night hike in Curi Cancha. We returned the following morning to take a guided hike to see all the animals that call this reserve their home. Curi Cancha is a bird lovers paradise with a huge variety of birds within the borders of the park. In addition, the park features monkeys, sloths, small mammals including the kinkajou and ocelot.
Curi Cancha only allows 50 visitors into its park at a time, allowing you to enjoy the park with a moderate amount of guests. You can either choose to do a self-guided or a tour. We chose a tour since we wanted to spot a quetzal bird and the chances weren’t very high since November isn’t a time when they are frequently spotted.
The entrance fees are $15 per adult and $10 for children aged 7-20 years. If you do a night tour in addition to a day tour, they will offer you a discount on their entrance fees.
We really enjoyed our three-hour tour of the park with our guide Christian. Our group only had five guests (including the three of us) and our guide was passionate about wildlife and making sure we enjoyed our visit to Curi Cancha.
Looking to book a private or group tour with a fabulous guide? Check out Christian Mena and tell him I sent you!
During our visit, we were able to spot a variety of animals including parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, an owl, and the elusive quetzal. It was a real treat. The other couple was really interested in birds, Christian helped the gentleman check off the majority of the birds on his list and even followed up with an email detailing the birds and information about them. Talk about personalization!
The trails were easy to hike with very little incline. There are restrooms located in the center of the park as well as a nice picnic spot. It was one of our favorite things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Tips for kids: Budding bird watchers will enjoy the hummingbird feeders (located near the restrooms). Sit at one of the tables and watch the hummingbird’s buzz just past your head as they drink up the nectar. Kids will also enjoy the Strangler Fig tree where you can walk inside the center of the tree and lookup.
6. Enjoy the Various Restaurants in Monteverde
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts about traveling is getting to enjoy new and different cuisine. Monteverde has many restaurants that cater to your palate and have some unique restaurants to enjoy. I’ll share a few of our favorite places to eat while visiting Monteverde.
- Tree House Restaurant– Enjoy dining in an open-air restaurant with a huge Higuerón tree growing in and around the three floors of the restaurant. Open every day from 11 am to 10 pm.
- Taco Taco Taqueria– This place is a MUST! Make reservations if you are traveling during the high season because even in the low season, the restaurant was packed. It’s a local joint serving up Mexican food with a unique Costa Rican twist. Open every day from 11 am to 10 pm.
- Restaurante Sabor Tico– We weren’t overly impressed with this restaurant. It is located on the 2nd floor of a shopping center and the food was a bit lackluster, but it was recommended to us, so perhaps it was just an off day. Open every day from 7 am to 10 pm.
- Choco Café Don Juan– Grab a seat on the porch to enjoy a delicious coffee or light fare (sandwiches, soups, salads). Don’t forget to end your visit with one of their delectable treats from the bakery. Highly recommend the Tres Leches. Open every day from 8 am to 8 pm.
- CASEM Coop Restaurant– Located in the back of the CASEM shop, this hidden gem is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious lunch at affordable prices. With close proximity to Curi Cancha and the Cloud Forest Reserve, it pairs perfectly with a hike. With homemade food with fresh ingredients and friendly staff, what’s not to love? Open every day from 7:30 am to 6 pm.
7. Viento Fresco Waterfalls
Located about 1.5 hours from the center of Monteverde or 2 hours from Arenal, Viento Fresco can be a day trip or combined with a transfer to Arenal/La Fortuna. The waterfalls were a highlight for us during our trip to Costa Rica, so if you can, try to fit them into your trip plans.
Located off Route 145 on a dirt road, they are off the beaten path and not as crowded as other more popular waterfalls (Arenal and Rio Celeste). During early November, we only encountered 6 people during our two-hour visit. We had the majority of the waterfalls all to ourselves.
The map below will take you to the restaurant/ticket office. A nice gentleman (who only speaks Spanish) will sell you tickets ($16 per adult) to visit. You’ll be given instructions on where to park and the various waterfalls that you’ll be visiting on the 0.8-mile trail.
The road to the parking areas is dirt and bumpy. We were happy to have a 4 x 4 vehicle and I suggest you have the same. If you don’t, add the 1 km hike to the start of the trail and back, don’t attempt to drive the road.
At the bottom of the road, you’ll see a nice parking area with signs to the start of the trail. The views are stunning! We enjoyed watching a rancher high up in the hills tending to his cattle.
From the parking lot, you’ll descend hundreds of stairs (around 500), breaking off the trail to view the four different waterfalls before returning back to the trail. I suggest just walking all the way to the bottom, that was our original plan, but our son had other plans, so we started at the top and worked our way down. Let’s just say that Dad gave him a ride back up to the top!
You can swim and venture in and around the waterfalls at all four locations. So bring your swimsuits, towels and water shoes. There are changing facilities located at the first and the third waterfall.
If you don’t want to walk all the way down to the waterfalls, you can arrange a horseback tour. Our son was too young for this option, but it sounds like a wonderful way to enjoy the waterfalls.
Our favorite waterfall was the third, Rainbow Waterfall. It is the largest and most scenic with stairs leading down to the falls and nice grassy areas to sunbathe or enjoy the beauty of the falls. We played in the area for quite a while watching the wildlife surrounding the falls. You can even arrange to camp here!
Now you can see why Viento Fresco Waterfalls should be on your list during your visit to Costa Rica. Want to read a detailed post about our visit? Check it out here.
Monteverde, Costa Rica weather
Wondering what to expect during your visit to Monteverde? The weather for Monteverde, Costa Rica is pretty consistent with low temperatures in the upper 70’s and high temperatures in the mid 80’s. April is the warmest month and the coldest months are June-January.
Monteverde receives rain almost year-round, but the dry season is from January till April. The wet season is from May till December. The wet season is longer than other regions in Costa Rica due to its location in the mountains.
We visited in early November and had periods of rain, high winds and nice sunny days with very little rain during our three-night stay, so the weather is a bit unpredictable.
Monteverde is a bit off the beaten path and takes more effort to visit, but it is worth the visit. I recommend spending at least 2 nights, but 3 nights would be ideal to visit all the various attractions and do some adventure tours. Monteverde has a laid back vibe with plenty of hotels and restaurants to make it a comfortable place to stay. In addition, they are working on paving the road leading up the mountains, which will make Monteverde accessible to vehicles. Currently, you need a 4 x 4 to drive up into the mountains.
Do you have a favorite activity in Monteverde? Feel free to leave a comment or find me on Facebook or Instagram. I created this travel blog to help other families to explore the world with their kids and I hope I’ve inspired you. Want to read more about Costa Rica? Check out my posts below on the various regions in Costa Rica. Is Manuel Antonio or Quepos a part of your journey? Here is my post for our favorite activities in Manuel Antonio. Or head over to my destinations page and explore my interactive map, it’s pretty fun. Until next time!
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