Teeming with wildlife and cooled by mist clinging to the treetops, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is a must-see destination for nature lovers. On our Costa Rica tours, you’ll walk through the canopy high above the forest floor, search for the rare (and colorful) quetzal, soak in natural hot springs at the foot of a volcano, and explore the forest’s rich biodiversity. Read on for our team’s expert suggestions for things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and see why it’s a nature lover’s paradise—then discover even more recommendations for your next trip.
1. You can search for the elusive quetzal
From toucans to hummingbirds, Costa Rica’s cloud forest boasts over 400 bird species—and one of the best ways to spot them is on a hiking tour of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, included on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour. A walk through this misty forest and its rare ecosystem gives the opportunity to spy Costa Rica’s largest hummingbird, the violet sabrewing; brilliantly colored flycatchers; and the rare, resplendent quetzal found only in the region’s cloud forests. Stunningly colorful and shy, quetzals were considered gods by the ancient Aztecs.
Getting the chance to spot a quetzal earns the Monteverde Cloud Forest a top spot in our Travel Guide to Costa Rica. But, there are even more winged wonders to be found in other parts of the country. Our Costa Rica tour also stops at the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San José, where you’ll learn about the company’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release Costa Rican wildlife.
Check out all the opportunities to explore Costa Rica’s biodiversity on tour →
2. You can take an eco-tour of coffee, chocolate, and sugarcane plantations
Eco-tourism plays an essential role in Costa Rica’s work to protect its rainforests for future generations. Our visits help promote the country’s eco-tourism and allow travelers to see those efforts firsthand.
You’ll visit an eco-friendly, organic pineapple farm and learn how the fruit is grown using compost fertilization, natural herbicides, and crop rotation; tour a ranch that became the country’s first carbon-negative company by using sustainable farming practices; and visit plantations producing coffee, cocoa, and sugarcane. Plus, you’ll get to sample fresh-off-the-farm goods!
Discover more eco-friendly things to do in Monteverde, Costa Rica, on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour →
3. You can explore the cloud forest’s teeming nightlife
“The nights we spent in the rainforest were spectacular!” said traveler Julie. “Every day was a new experience and we saw many interesting creatures.” Because nearly all the animals that inhabit the Monteverde Cloud Forest are nocturnal, nighttime is when things really come alive in the cloud forest.
On our Monteverde Cloud Forest Nighttime Wildlife Walk excursion, a naturalist will lead you through the forest to view the animals that are just waking up. With a flashlight in hand, you’ll marvel at the sight of kinkajous, sloths, olingos, and monkeys. And with the help of your guide, you’ll search out bioluminescent fungi and species of snakes, tarantulas, and frogs that can only be viewed at night. “It was fascinating,” said traveler Erin. “I would never have been able to spot anything, and the guide pointed everything out.”
See where the wild things are on a nighttime walk during our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour →
4. You can walk through the clouds on hanging bridges
If you keep your feet on the ground, you’ll miss much of what the Monteverde Cloud Forest offers. Its canopy layer is full of life, but until recently, it was difficult for travelers to enter. The Sky Walk excursion on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour will take you on a one-of-a-kind hike across a series of suspended bridges (including one of Costa Rica’s longest hanging bridges) through the treetops and high above the forest floor.
While the low-hanging cloud cover may sometimes obscure your view of the wildlife, you’ll hear the amazing sounds of the rainforest, from the loud howls of monkeys to the chorus of frogs and the calls of Monteverde rainforest birds. “Waking up to howler monkeys, walking across bridges way above the trees, even seeing a tarantula in its den ... it’s hard to pick my favorite activity!” said traveler Jesslyn.
Walk high above the Monteverde Cloud Forest on our Costa Rica tours →
5. You’ll thrill to the ribbit and brilliant color of Costa Rican frogs
Over 150 species of frogs and toads have been identified in Costa Rica, and you can encounter many of them (with the help of a nature guide) on a hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Here, tree frogs are plentiful, but are often camouflaged under tree leaves. The red-eyed tree frog, with its intense eyes and brilliantly colored body, is the most easily identifiable—but one thing you’re sure to experience, day or night, is the choir of frog voices.
To better understand why the country’s frog population is declining and which conservation efforts are being undertaken to save them, visit the Monteverde Frog Pond in Santa Elena, where 25 different species are on display.
See the rainforest’s coolest frogs by hopping on a tour of Monteverde, Costa Rica →
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6. You can hike (and capture great photos) in Monteverde Cloud Forest
Known for its biodiversity and near-constant, cooling mist, the Costa Rican cloud forest makes for great hikes and spectacular photo opportunities. There are over 3,000 species found here—including 755 types of trees—and during a guided nature walk, local guides will help you spot animals and plants you might miss on your own. Your best bet is to start your hike early in the morning: The hiking trails are less crowded, and you’ll have great light for photographing the wildlife.
“From howler monkeys to macaws, frogs, and so much more, this trip was a photographer's dream,” said traveler Deb of her time on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour.
Get up close to fauna and flora while hiking through the Monteverde Cloud Forest on our guided tours of Costa Rica →
7. You’ll discover a colorful world of orchids
The Monteverde Cloud Forest’s climate nourishes habitats you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and those habitats create a rich environment for unique flora to thrive in. An integral cog in the lush forest’s ecosystem is the epiphyte, which lives on host trees but doesn’t feed off them.
Orchids are one of the largest families of epiphytes in the Costa Rican cloud forest—there are over 500 species in Monteverde! You’ll encounter the delicate beauty of miniature orchids (best admired through a magnifying glass) and the stunning purple hues of the Guaria Morada, Costa Rica’s national flower. Orchid lovers can take a guided tour of over 400 types, and learn how to grow their own, at the Monteverde Orchid Garden in Santa Elena.
Explore the unique flora of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve on our trips to Costa Rica →
8. You can help Costa Rica’s reforestation effort by planting a tree
You’ll find numerous initiatives throughout Costa Rica focused on ensuring its sustainable future. As a visitor, you’re encouraged to participate in this goal while you experience the country’s unmatched natural beauty. All of our Costa Rica tours visit Monteverde’s Heliconia Ranch, where you’ll learn about reforestation and plant one of three types of native trees: sirri, cucaracho, or tubú.
There are countless benefits to revitalizing forests, including enriching the soil and providing shelter for wildlife—both of which are critical to keeping Costa Rica naturally verdant. As a traveler, planting even a single tree can reduce your trip’s carbon footprint, and it’s just one way to travel responsibly as we work toward a more sustainable world.
“Costa Rica is stunning, absolutely one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said traveler Charday. “It’s move to a more eco-friendly world is incredible, and I cannot wait to go again.”
Plant a tree on our Highlights of Central America: Costa Rica & Panama tour →
9. You can hop on a zipline for a bird’s-eye view of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Get an adrenaline high by strapping in and soaring over the treetops of the Monteverde Cloud Forest at speeds up to 40 mph. The cloud forest is where modern-day ziplining was invented, and there are a number of professional companies that provide a safe and exhilarating ride. If you’re really up for adventure during your free time on tour, look for a company that offers superman-style rides, where you zip headfirst while lying flat on your stomach.
“From waking up at 4:30am to howler monkeys in the middle of the rainforest to ziplining through the cloud forest, every day was an epic adventure,” said traveler Katja after her experience on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour.
Check out all the thrills in the Monteverde Cloud Forest on our tours of Costa Rica →
10. You’ll hike to one of the most active volcanos in the world
The mighty, mile-high Arenal Volcano, one of the most active in the world, rises majestically through the Sierra de Tilarán mountain range. Its near-perfect conical shape is so symmetrical that you could be convinced it’s the backdrop for a jungle movie set. You’ll take it all in on a guided hiking tour of Arenal Volcano National Park, where you’ll search for exotic wildlife and old lava flows. Your reward for a day of adventuring? A soak in the natural hot springs at the foot of the volcano.
“From the ocean to the volcanoes to the cloud forests, the views and diversity of life were amazing,” said traveler Dennis of our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour. “This was not a sit-by-the-pool-and-read-a-book vacation. If you love nature, this is your tour!”
Ready to explore the landscapes of the Monteverde Cloud Forest? Check out our Costa Rica tours →