In 1983, a National Geographic article described Monteverde (which means Green Mountain) as the perfect place to see the Resplendent Quetzal, a beautiful and rare bird of paradise. From that moment on, hordes of eco-tourists descended on this small village in Costa Rica, ready to take in its birdwatching attractions and famous Cloud Forest.
Now, this town is one of the mains centers of tourism in the country. Everyone comes to visit Monteverde. I loved visiting this town even it was a little crowded with people. The cloud forest is beautiful (and, if you avoid the birders, you can find many paths to yourself), there’s a lot of wildlife, delicious restaurants in the area (local produce is super fresh thanks to the quality of the soil), a famous zip line, and some interesting evening hikes by flashlight.
Monteverde is one of my favorite places in Costa Rica. I still dream of the coffee I had here – it was like drinking liquid chocolate. Mmmmm.
This travel guide to Monteverde will give you the low down on everything you need to know to plan your visit!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Monteverde
1. Visit the Cloud Forest Reserve
2. Take a coffee tour
3. Take a canopy tour
4. Experience the rain forest by night
5. See the butterfly garden
Other Things to See and Do in Monteverde
1. Go hiking in the Santa Elena Reserve
For a less crowded trek, head to the nearby Santa Elena Reserve. It’s also a cloud forest, and there are more than eight miles (13 kilometers) of trails available with varying difficulty. The Santa Elena Reserve offers better views of the Arenal Volcano (especially on the Youth Challenge Trail) and attracts more birds to its sunnier spots. The aptly named Enchanted Trail, which straddles both the Pacific and Caribbean, is a likely spot for spotting three-wattled bellbirds and howler monkeys. The park entry is 9,315 CRC ($16 USD).
2. Take a coffee & sugar tour
There are several tour options for those looking for a glimpse into the practices and processes of harvesting coffee and sugar cane in the region, with the El Trapiche tour being amongst the best. You’ll get a ride in an ox-drawn cart, and depending on the season, you may even get to pick a bushel of raw coffee beans. The coffee in this region is like chocolate. It’s delicious! I hate coffee, and this made me a convert. Tours cost around 19,210 CRC ($33 USD) and last a few hours.
3. Visit the Monteverde Serpentarium
Located in the Cloud Forest, this place is home to over 40 species (including venomous and non-venomous snakes, poisonous frogs, toads, lizards, and turtles). The entrance fee is 6,985 CRC ($12 USD) per person and includes a guided tour. Self-guided entrance is only 5,239 CRC ($9 USD), with discounts available for students.
4. Visit the Bat Jungle
The Bat Jungle in Monteverde offers an informative look at the world and habits of these nocturnal creatures in a controlled (simulated) rainforest environment. One of the neatest features is a sonar microphone that allows visitors to listen live to the bats as they’re using their echolocation. Admission is 7,568 CRC ($13 USD).
5. Swim at San Luis Waterfall
To get to the epic 330-foot San Luis Waterfall, you’ll have to hike three hours through a section of the rainforest around Santa Elena. The trail can be muddy and slippery, so make sure you have good hiking or walking shoes. The waterfall at the end is a vivid blue, and the pool at the bottom is perfect for a swim (even though the water can be pretty cold). You’ll have to pay the Santa Elena Reserve fee to get there (9,315 CRC/$16 USD).
6. Watch the sunset from Cerro Plano View Point
At the top of the Tilaran mountain range, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean from the Cerro Plano View Point. This is one of the best places to see the sun set behind the mountains with the islands in the distance, and with the sky lit up in vivid pinks and oranges. It’s free, but you’ll have to get there by car or taxi, however.
Monteverde Travel Costs
Hostel prices – During peak season, dorm beds cost about 5,820 CRC ($10 USD) per night. Off-season, prices tend to be about the same, though you can sometimes find beds as cheap as 4,655 CRC ($8 USD) per night.
A basic twin or double private room with a shared bathroom costs about 17,465 CRC ($30 USD) per night in peak season. In the off-season, the same rooms will go for about 14,555 CRC ($25 USD).
You can’t camp in the reserves. However, a lot of people ask guesthouses or hostels if they can pitch a tent on their property for a small price (about 5,820 CRC/$10 USD per person), and it often works!
Budget hotel prices – Nightly rates for a budget two-star hotel room with a private ensuite bathroom start at about 37,840 CRC ($65 USD) in peak season. In the off-season, budget rooms start from 35,115 CRC ($60 USD).
There are lots of Airbnb options around Monteverde. A shared room (like a bed in a dorm) averages about 6,405 CRC ($11 USD) per night, while a private room averages about 21,540 CRC ($37 USD) per night. A full apartment averages about 44,825 CRC ($77 USD) per night.
Average cost of food – The small sodas and other family-owned restaurants sell the cheapest food here, and you’ll have no problem finding traditional casado (rice, beans, veggies, and meat) for less than 3,000 CRC ($5 USD). Light snacks like fruit juice or plates of fried plantain are less than 1,745 CRC ($3 USD). Burgers go for as little as 1,500 CRC ($2.60 USD).
Coffee is king here, so grab a frappe at Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop for 2,200 CRC ($3.80 USD) or a regular coffee for 1,400 CRC ($2.40 USD). At mid-range restaurants, you’ll find pizza and wraps for about 4,900 CRC ($8.40 USD). Filling plates of traditional food like meat and rice are about 3,700 CRC ($6.35 USD).
Higher-end restaurants will have appetizers like ceviche starting from 3,490 CRC ($6 USD) and seafood entrees like a fish filet starting from 7,990 CRC ($14 USD). Compared to a small family-owned place, casado at a high-end spot will cost about 6,990 CRC ($12 USD). A rib-eye steak is from 11,990 CRC ($20 USD).
If you cook for yourself, you can spend as little as 15,000-20,000 CRC ($25-35 USD) on groceries per week, which would include some meat, bread, eggs, cheese, some veggies, and fruit.
Backpacking Monteverde Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Monteverde, expect to spend about 32,015 CRC ($55 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, public buses, street food, cheap local sodas, and park entry to the cloud reserves.
A mid-range budget of about 52,390 CRC ($90 USD) will cover staying in a private hostel or Airbnb room, eating out for all of your meals, some tours, and park admissions, taking the public bus everywhere, and some drinks.
On a luxury budget of about 107,695 CRC ($185 USD) or more per day, you can get an excellent four-star hotel and anything else you want here. The sky is the limit.
If you come in the off season, you can lower this by about $5-10 a day.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Monteverde Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Monteverde is pretty touristy and its prices reflect that. It’s not the most expensive destination in the country but it can get pretty pricey during peak season. Here are some suggested ways to save money in Monteverde:
- Avoid tour activities – There are a lot of great but expensive group activities and tours in the area. Skip them, and do the free activities such as hiking (although you might have to pay refuge fees, depending on where you want to go).
- Eat at the sodas – “Sodas” are small family run restaurants which specialize in inexpensive local meals, usually costing around 2,926 CRC ($5 USD) including a drink. These hole-in-the-wall restaurants offer the best value in the country.
- Go camping – Most of the resorts and hostels in many places will let you camp. This is the best way to keep your accommodation costs down.
- Student discounts – As in most parts of the country, tourist attractions offer student discounts if you show them a valid student ID when paying.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will help you save money and thousands of plastic bottles by purifying the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).
Where To Stay in Monteverde
Despite being a small place, Monteverde has lots of budget-friendly options for backpackers. Here are some of my suggested places to stay in Monteverde:
How to Get Around Monteverde
Bus – The bus is the most economical way to get around Monteverde. There’s one bus that runs between downtown Santa Elena, the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Curi-Cancha Reserve several times a day for 582 CRC ($1 USD) each way. You can get picked up anywhere in downtown Santa Elena.
There’s also a private shuttle service that will pick you up at your accommodations and take you the Santa Elena Reserve for 1,165 CRC ($2 USD). Just ask your hotel/hostel to call them!
Bicycle – The roads can be quite dangerous around Monteverde, so for that reason, we don’t recommend renting a bicycle (there’s only one place that rents mountain bikes anyway). If you’re an experienced mountain biker, then check out Ciclo Monteverde.
Taxi – You can get taxis anywhere in Santa Elena and Monteverde. The prices are set, and you’ll be able to see the list of prices when you’re in the taxi. For example, from downtown Santa Elena to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, it’s 5,820 CRC ($10 USD). Downtown Santa Elena to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest is about 7,568 CRC ($13 USD).
When to Go to Monteverde
Because most of the area is covered in cloud forest, the weather isn’t great year-round. It’s windy, misty, and rainy, with an average daily temperature between 61-64° F (16-18°C). Good weather isn’t really the reason you come to Monteverde, though. Plus, all that humidity gives the area the significant biodiversity it’s known for!
It’s the rainiest from May to October. Be prepared for downpours all night, but followed up with sunny mornings. The “dry” season starts in mid December and lasts until the beginning of May. The peak months are between December and March, when northerners come here to escape winter conditions. It does still rain (lightly) during this time, however, so at least bring a small rain jacket with you.
If you’re visiting Monteverde specifically to see the Resplendent Quetzals, come in March, which is their breeding season.
How to Stay Safe in Monteverde
While Costa Rica is one of the safest countries for traveling and backpacking in Central America, you’ll still need to exercise some level of caution.
Petty theft (including bag snatching) is one of the most common types of crime here. The city is pretty small but still be careful at night. Leave your passport and valuables at your accommodations.
If you plan on hiking, stick to the designated trails or hire a guide. It’s way to easy to get lost in the jungle (plus you don’t want to disturb any delicate animal habitat).
Although taxis technically have set charges, clarify the price with the driver before your journey begins. This will give him or her little opportunity to overcharge you.
If you’re worried about travel scams, read about these 14 major travel scams to avoid.
For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Costa Rica, check out this post we wrote that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.
Remember: always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
And be sure to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Monteverde Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Costa Rica. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Costa Rica, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
Monteverde Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Monteverde Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica, by Jack Ewing
This book gives a fascinating overview of how animals, plants, and people interact with one another in Costa Rica’s rainforests. It’s written by Jack Ewing, a naturalist and natural born storyteller. Here, he shares a treasure trove of observations and stories gathered for more than 30 years of living in the country. Chances are, you’re coming to Costa Rica to discover some of the country’s amazing ecosystems. This book will get you excited about it.
In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer’s Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road, by Allan Weisbecker
In 1996, Allan Weisbecker sold all his worldly possessions and set out in search of his long-time surfing friend, Patrick, who had went missing somewhere in Central America. Traveling with only his dog, his surfboards, and his truck, Allan’s journey from Mexico to Costa Rica is a memorable one, filled with scarier moments (like evading bandits) and warmer ones (like befriending the locals). It’s really the tale of ultimate friendship.
Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week, by Nadine Hays Pisani
It’s the classic travel tale – overworked professional realizes that the 9-5 to grind isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and sets out to seek greener pastures. This witty tale comes from Nadine Pisani, who shares her story of quitting her job to forge a new life in sunny Costa Rica. This is a nice, light read for when you’re just flaking out on the beach or by the pool. But along the way you’ll learn why Costa Rica is one of the happiest places on earth.
Monteverde Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Costa Rica travel and continue planning your trip: