If you’re wondering where to go in Costa Rica, apart from the amazing beaches, the country’s lushly forested interior should not be missed. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and is renowned for its orchids – there are over 500 identified species here, the most in any one place!
Monteverde has several reserves that immerse visitors in the region’s dense forest. One of the most popular is the eponymous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which offers 9 miles of hiking trails surrounded by indigenous wildlife. Adrenaline addicts won’t want to miss the area’s adventure parks like Selvatura Park, Sky Adventures Monteverde Park, or 100% Aventura, which pair natural beauty with exciting activities like zipline courses, tarzan swings and bungee jumping.
What is there to do in Monteverde for free?
Hike Cerro Amigo Mountain
While many travelers head to the areas most well-known reserves, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest, their entrance fees are over $20 per person. If you’re on a budget, or have already experienced the paid reserves, the area’s highest cloud forest is completely free! The hike up Cerro Amigo Mountain takes about 1.5 hours, and while not quite as immersive as the cloud forest reserves, you’re still surrounded by dense forest, and get some amazing views from the top – even when the world is shrouded in clouds.
Visit the Monteverde Cheese Factory and store
While Monteverde is known for its lush forest, this wasn’t always the case. In the 1950s, Quakers from the US moved to this remote area to establish dairy farms, and in doing so, introduced dairy products to Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cheese Factory is one of the original factories set up by the Quakers, and still makes a variety of cheeses and ice cream. Completely free to visit, you can see the production process from behind glass walls, and learn more about the Quakers’ role in introducing dairy to the country. Of course, there’s also a shop where you can buy some of their products for yourself!
Learn about sustainability at Instituto Monteverde
Next door to the Monteverde Cheese Factory is the Monteverde Institute, a local initiative dedicated to promoting sustainability through education, research, and local outreach.
Along with learning more about the institute’s work and local ecology, you can also volunteer at the Monteverde Institute to help with their reforestation project. Another reason to visit is the Monteverde Institutes offers access to a patch of protected cloud forest (see below).
Hike the Kaplan Reserve
Accessed from Monteverde Institute, the Kaplan Reserve might be small, but it is the only protected forest in the area that’s free! Like at the paid cloud forest reserves, you can wander the hiking trails looking for indigenous wildlife. Coatis, coatimundis and armadillos are common sightings!
Sample Local Products
Just up the road is a small plaza which houses an artist’s co-operative, Whole Foods (not that whole food though), and coffee roaster. At Whole Foods there are usually free samples of goods like peanut butter, tahini, almond butter, while the coffee roasters also offer free coffee samples, so you can try before you buy (or not!). Be sure to also pop by the Cooperative of Artists of Santa Elena Monteverde to see local art and handicrafts.
Learn about the Children’s Eternal Rainforest
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is the largest protected cloud forest in Costa Rica, and amazingly, it was entirely funded by school children from around the world! Begun in the 1970s, the Children’s Cloud Forest is larger than all the other protected forests combined, and their office shares the project’s work, history, and future plans with visitors. Of course, from here you can also head into the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, which is relatively cheap at $12 compared to some of the area’s other cloud forest reserves.
Is Monteverde Cloud Forest worth visiting?
If you’re on the fence, it is absolutely worth visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Not only can you hike through the lush jungle, but many of the private reserves offer exciting activities like zipline canopy tours, Tarzan swings, and bungee jumping! This is a completely different experience from surfing or sunbathing at Costa Rica’s amazing beaches, and shouldn’t be missed, especially by nature lovers!
What is Monteverde Costa Rica known for?
Monteverde Costa Rica is famous for its high altitude cloud forests and their rich biodiversity. Home to thousands of species of plants and animals, the area boasts the highest variety of orchids in the world! Plus, this is the habitat of the reclusive but stunning Resplendent Quetzal! Along with the stunning natural scenery, Monteverde’s cool, damp weather is ideal for coffee farming, and the area is filled with coffee plantations and roasters you can visit.