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The Monteverde Cloud Forest is an incredible biological reserve and one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. It’s one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, which means that you can spot some incredible wildlife here. As such, it’s no surprise that visiting this cloud forest is one of the top things to do in Monteverde.
We’re huge wildlife lovers, so we’ve visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest many times while living in Costa Rica. You are allowed to visit without a tour, but we do recommend going with a guide for your first time. It’s the best way to get the most out of your time here and spot as many creatures as possible. After all, there are over 100 species of mammals and 400 types of birds here, so you might need a guide to help you identify them!
We’ve put together this guide to the best tours of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. After all of our visits, we know what makes a good tour of the park and which companies you can rely on. Keep reading to learn about each one and find a tour that calls your name.
Don’t have time to read the full article? Here’s a list of our absolute favorite tours of the Monteverde Cloud Forest:
- Book this walking tour with a local company to learn about the forest’s wildlife from a knowledgeable guide.
- This combo zipline and forest tour lets you combine thrills with your nature experience.
- Book this early morning birdwatching tour to look for some of the rarest birds in Costa Rica with the help of an expert guide.
Best Monteverde Cloud Forest Tours
1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour (Self Drive)
This is a self-drive tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, so it’s perfect if you have your own car. It’s also easy to get here via a taxi from Santa Elena if you don’t have a rental. And once you arrive, the local guide will greet you at the front desk before showing you all around. He really is a wealth of knowledge, and his passion for wildlife is seriously contagious!
You can choose between a private or a shared group tour. There’s a maximum of 9 people on the group option, so it’s still a nice, close-knit experience.
You’ll be guided by a local, Roy, who runs his own small tour company and knows the Monteverde Cloud Forest like the back of his hand. He’ll teach you all about the epic wildlife in the reserve and help you spot resplendent quetzals, poison dart frogs, capybaras, hummingbirds, and so much more. You get to use a spotting scope for even closer views of the wildlife that’s high up in the trees. Plus, Roy will take photos of your experience and send them to you after the tour.
This tour is top-rated, and booking it is a great way to support a local tour operator. It costs $35 USD per person for the group experience or $120 USD per person for the private tour, which includes private transportation if you’d like. It lasts for 2-3 hours, and you can go at 7:30 am or 1 pm. Also, note that the $25 USD entry fee to Monteverde Cloud Forest is not included in the price.
For the quintessential cloud forest experience, book this self-drive tour online here.
Related read: Need somewhere to eat before or after your tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest? We have an entire guide to the best restaurants in Monteverde.
2. Guided walk Monteverde Biological Reserve
If you want to spot as much wildlife as you can in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, this tour is a gentle guided walk through the forest. It’s run by a local company that operates small group tours, so there’ll be a maximum of 12 people in your group. This means you get to learn lots about wildlife and hear interesting facts from your guide.
You’ll not only be spotting fascinating plants and creatures from afar, but your guide will have Swarovski telescopes that you can use to look at them close up. I had never used this type of telescope and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of detail you can see!
This tour is available daily, making it super easy to fit into your Monteverde itinerary. You can choose to do this tour during the day at either 7 am or 1 pm. However, you can also go at 5:30 pm to walk through the cloud forest after dark.
I think the evening experience is really cool because this is when big cats, like jaguars and ocelots, come out. You get to see a whole host of different creatures at night! It’s one of my favorite night tours in Monteverde!
The guided tour lasts 2.5 hours and doesn’t cover transport, but it’s really easy to get to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. If you have a rental car, you can easily drive there yourself. If not, you can take a taxi from Santa Elena. The tour costs $35 USD per person, not including the forest’s entry fee ($25 USD).
Want to experience this magical forest during the day (or night!)? Reserve this guided tour of Monteverde Cloud Forest here.
3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Hanging Bridges
If you want your Monteverde Cloud Forest tour to include transport, then this one is perfect. They’ll pick you up and drop you off from Santa Elena hotels, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. For those who want to explore the cloud forest independently, there’s a self-guided option. Or, you can opt for a guided experience if you want to learn even more about the wildlife here.
Whichever option you choose, you’ll get 2 hours to explore the reserve and spot animals. We do recommend choosing the guided option because you get to find wildlife hotspots you may not have discovered on your own. Your guide will even take you into a cave to see bats and tarantulas!
The self-guided experience costs $55 USD per person, or you can join the guided walk for $150 USD. There’s a maximum of 12 people in the guided group. The price for both tours also includes entry to the cloud forest reserve, which is a nice bonus.
If you don’t want to worry about transport, reserve the Monteverde Cloud Forest Hanging Bridges Tour here.
4. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Morning Walk
The early morning is the perfect time to take a walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It’s one of the best times of the day to spot wildlife, and on this morning walking tour, you’ll have a naturalist guide to help you spot as many creatures as possible. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend your morning!
Your guide will have a laser pointer with you to make sure that you don’t miss anything. Plus, you’ll be able to use ultra-HD spotting scopes and adapters that you can connect to your phone. This allows you to take super up-close photos on your device with ease!
You’ll learn a lot about the flora and fauna that you see along the way. Plus, you’ll be in a small group of no more than 12 people, so this is a friendly, personalized experience.
Tours start at 7 am, so it does mean getting up early, but it’s totally worth it. You’ll need to meet your group at the reception of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. From there, you’ll begin the leisurely, 2-3 hour walk. The guided tour costs $35 USD per person and requires a minimum of two per booking – so grab your bestie or travel partner!
Ready to start your day off right? Book the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Morning Walk here.
5. Zipline and Hanging Bridges Combo Tour in Monteverde Cloud Forest
If you’re looking for a more adventurous experience in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, you can’t beat this full-day tour! The tour combines two of the best things to do in Costa Rica – ziplining and spotting wildlife.
You’ll get to tackle the reserve’s amazing 15-cable zipline course. We always love ziplining, but doing it in one of the most biodiverse forests in the world really takes it to the next level. Plus, one of these ziplines in Monteverde is 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long – in fact, it’s the longest one in the whole of Costa Rica. There’s also a giant Tarzan swing you can ride!
After your thrilling zipline adventure, you get a typical Costa Rican lunch inside the reserve. Then, in the afternoon, your guide will take you on a tour of the park’s suspension bridges, some of the best hanging bridges in Monteverde. You get to enjoy some fantastic views while your guide helps you spot amazing creatures like resplendent quetzals, anteaters, kinkajous, and red-eyed tree frogs.
There are 3 different options for this tour. Regardless of which you choose, all the activities we mentioned, lunch, and national park fees are included. You should also expect a full day since this tour lasts about 12 hours.
Whether you require transport from Santa Elena or want to drive yourself, the tour costs $160 USD per person. Santa Elena pick-up starts around 9:30 am. Those driving themselves need to meet at the cloud forest by 10 am.
However, if you’re coming from Guanacaste, you can get roundtrip transportation from your hotel. This brings the price of the tour to $210 USD per person, and you’ll leave your hotel around 5:30 am. If you want a private experience with transport from Guanacaste, it costs $350 USD per person.
Related Read: Ziplining is one of the best things to do in Tamarindo as well!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
6. Monteverde Cloud Forest + Curi-Cancha Reserve + Night Hike
If you love wildlife, then this private tour promises an epic full-day experience. I love that you get to see the forest at all times of day since it feels so different in the morning and at night.
You’ll start at around 7:30 am with an early morning walk through Monteverde Cloud Forest. I loved exploring the suspension bridges as the animals woke up – the whole place really felt alive at this time of day.
You’ll have a chance to buy lunch at a local restaurant, or you can bring your own packed lunch. After you’ve eaten, you’ll head to the Curi-Cancha Reserve. This is an amazing place to go bird-watching, and it tends to be way less crowded than Monteverde Cloud Forest, especially during peak tourist season. It’s actually a bit of a local hidden gem, and you can spot some of Costa Rica’s famous birds.
There are nine trails to explore at Curi-Cancha Reserve. They’re all pretty short, and none of them are too strenuous. Your guide will help you spot lots of amazing birds along the way, including coppery-headed emeralds, white-eared ground sparrows, and of course, Costa Rica’s famous resplendent quetzals.
It gets dark between 5:20-6 pm in Costa Rica year-round, so once night falls, you’ll head to Monteverde Wildlife Refuge for a night tour. This is a chance to see a totally different set of animals and birds from the ones you can spot during the daytime, including owls, ocelots, snakes, and so much more.
This tour costs $225 USD per person, not including lunch or reserve entry fees, which should add up to an extra $45 USD or so. However, it does include roundtrip transportation and a private guide. You also get to use equipment to help you spot all of the animals, such as telescopes and flashlights for the night hike. The tour itself lasts for about 8 hours, so I’d bring some snacks and water in case you get hungry.
Overall, we think it’s a great way to spend the day immersing yourself in the incredible wildlife that Monteverde has to offer! You can book the Monteverde Cloud Forest + Curci-Cancha Reserve + Night Hike Tour here.
7. Private Natural History Walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest
This private walking tour is top-rated, thanks to the amazing guides! On this nature walk, you’ll explore the Cloud Forest with an expert guide who has spent years studying the natural world. Since it’s a private tour, you get lots of personal attention from your guide, and you also get to choose which trails you’d like to explore.
The daytime tour starts at Monteverde Cloud Forest, although you could choose to do it at Curi-Cancha, Santa Elena Reserve, or the SkyWalk series of hanging bridges. However, there’s also a day and night version of this tour that includes a guided walk through two of these parks.
If you opt for the nighttime tour, you’ll get to see even more wildlife because a lot of Monteverde’s most fascinating creatures are nocturnal! Plus, this option includes private transportation, entry fees, and a snack break.
Since this is a private tour, start times are flexible, and prices depend on your group size (max 8 people). The daytime tour costs $26-$158 USD per person, while the day and night combo option costs $127-$384 USD. The daytime-only tour doesn’t include reserve entry fees, but the nighttime version does.
For a flexible, private experience, book the Private Natural History Walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest here.
8. Day and Night Tour Combo by Pasión Costa Rica
This private tour allows you to experience the very best of Monteverde’s incredible wildlife by taking you on two guided walks: one in the afternoon and one after darkness falls. That way, you get to see both the daytime and the nocturnal animals that call Monteverde Cloud Forest their home.
You’ll take your afternoon walk through the Cloud Forest, which is always an amazing experience. After, you can enjoy a light local meal while you wait for sunset. Then, you’ll begin your night walk as the nocturnal animals are beginning to stir, to maximize your chances of spotting them.
When we went, some of the creatures we saw included armadillos, howler monkeys, viper snakes, tree frogs, and centipedes … and those are just a few examples! You might even spot some sloths hanging about.
This tour starts at 1:30 pm, lasting 6.5 hours. Prices depend on group size, and you’ll get a better deal with more people – so the more the merrier! If you’re a couple, it’s $238 USD per person. However, if there are 6 people in your group, it’s $140 USD per person.
It is a little bit pricey, but we think it’s worth it because it’s a private tour, and it includes transportation, entry fees, use of equipment, and a light local meal to keep you going between guided walks. Plus, you get to see so much wildlife, which is what visiting Monteverde is all about!
Two wildlife walks with authentic Costa Rican cuisine in between? If your answer is yes, reserve the Day and Night Tour Combo here!
9. Bird Watching Tour in Monteverde
Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to around 450 species of birds, so it really is a bird lover’s paradise!
The early morning is the best time to go bird watching in Monteverde Cloud Forest since it’s when the birdlife is most active. That’s exactly why this bird-watching tour has an early start, and the guides do a great job of helping you see as many birds as possible!
This 4-hour tour will pick you up around 6 am to ensure that you’re ready to enter Monteverde Cloud Forest as soon as it opens at 7 am. Then, you’ll follow your expert guide through the reserve on a 2.5-hour guided walk to spot some of the rarest and most fascinating birds that Costa Rica has to offer!
You’ll have a spotting scope to help you get close-up views of the treetops, but you’ll also see lots of interesting mammals along the way, including coatis and deer.
This is a perfect bird-watching tour for keen birdwatchers. But it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time, as the guides are super helpful. Ultimately, this tour is designed for bird watchers of all abilities, from complete beginners to total pros.
One thing that we love about this tour is that you’ll be in a really small group of no more than 6 people, so you’ll get a personal experience and tons of attention from your guide. This is especially awesome if you’re a beginner or a recreational birder because your guide will be on hand to help you identify all of the new species you see! Plus, they can take lots of pictures for you, so that you can concentrate on enjoying your tour.
The tour costs $75 USD per person, including hotel pickup and dropoff, and there’s a minimum of 2 people per booking.
Grab a friend and book this incredible Bird Watching Tour in Monteverde here.
10. Sky Walk – Sky Tram and Sky Trek Zipline
This Sky Walk tour doesn’t actually take place in Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve, but you will still be exploring within the forest. Treetopia Park (previously Sky Adventures Park) is a separate park within the same forest, but it’s more focused on adventurous experiences than nature walks – although don’t worry, you’ll still see tons of wildlife here! So if you love a good adrenaline rush (like us!), this is the tour for you.
First, you will explore the hanging bridges, and then you’ll climb aboard the Sky Tram to glide over the forest in an open-air gondola. This is an awesome way to spot wildlife and get beautiful views of the forest canopy (with no effort required on your part). At times, you’ll also be able to spot several of Costa Rica’s volcanoes in the distance, as well as the Nicoya Gulf and the Guanacaste Plain. Basically, you get views for days!
Then, you get to tackle the Sky Trek zipline course, which is so much fun. There are seven different cables to zoom along, the longest of which is 750 meters (2,460 feet) long. We love the fact that this tour includes a zipline course because we’ve been ziplining all over Costa Rica, and Monteverde is definitely one of the best places to do it.
This tour cost $148 USD including pickup and dropoff from nearby hotels, a guide, and entry to the Treetopia Park (previously Sky Adventures). It’s such a fun day out and is perfect for adventurous travelers or families with children over 7, as kids will love the zipline and gondola ride!
The experience lasts for around 5 hours in total, with multiple starting times between 8 am and 12:30 pm. Although it doesn’t include lunch, you can buy food and drinks at the park restaurant.
Ready to get that adrenaline pumping in the forest? Book the Sky Tram & Sky Trek Zipline tour here.
Other EPIC Activities to do in Monteverde
While enjoying the Monteverde Cloud Forest is definitely a must-do, don’t forget to explore the rest of this area. There are so many fun activities in Monteverde that you could spend your entire vacation here! These are just a few of our favorites:
- Take a coffee tour – Costa Rica is famous for its coffee, and Monteverde is actually one of the best places to do a coffee tour. The Don Juan plantation is our favorite spot to learn about the coffee-making process and taste loads of samples, and you can book their coffee tour easily online.
- Selvatura Park – Selvatura Park is a nature and adventure park located inside 850 acres of protected rainforest. This park has a network of hanging bridges above the tree canopy that give you incredible aerial views of the rainforest. Get the chance to explore all the bridges and the surrounding trail with the Selvatura Park Hanging Bridge Tour. This gives you two hours to explore and enjoy the forest from unique viewpoints.
- Go bungy jumping – Bungy jumping is one of the fun Monteverde attractions you have to try … if you’re brave enough! The Extreme Bungee Jumping in Monteverde Tour has a daring jump from over 460 feet/140 meters. That’s the highest in Costa Rica and all of Central America!
- Horseback riding – If you want a completely different way to explore Monteverde, try horseback riding! This Monteverde Cloud Forest horseback riding tour lets you cover a lot of ground as you trek through farmland and the surrounding landscape in Monteverde. Keep an eye out for toucans, parrots, monkeys, and other critters as you experience the rural side of Costa Rica, far from any crowds or traffic.
- Enjoy local cuisine – We love Costa Rican food and were happy to learn that Monteverde has some great restaurants! Our personal favorite restaurant in Monteverde/Santa Elena is Taco Taco Taqueria. And the San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience reminds me of a fancy treehouse paired with an amazing meal.
Where to Stay in Monteverde
With exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest now on your agenda, you’ll need a place to stay! Monteverde may be a small tourist town, but there are a surprisingly large number of great hotels in all budget ranges in Monteverde.
Chira Glamping Monteverde – $$$
If you’re a luxury traveler, I highly suggest choosing what we call a “destination hotel”. These hotels are an attraction in themselves because of the unique experience they offer. In Monteverde, one of the best is Chira Glamping Monteverde which offers luxury camping with the option to have your own private hot tub surrounded by nature. Now that’s what I call glamping!
The view from the property is incredible! Rates begin at $375 USD/night. You can check availability and book a spot on Booking.com.
Camino Verde B&B Monteverde – $$
If you’re looking for something in the mid-range category, I love Camino Verde B&B Monteverde Costa Rica. This boutique hotel has beautiful rooms, a deck with magnificent views, and includes breakfast. It’s a comfortable hotel that comes at a great price.
Rates begin at $176 USD/night. You can check availability and book a room on Booking.com.
Selina Monteverde – $
If you’re a budget traveler or backpacker, there are lots of nice hostels in Monteverde. If you like modern features and outstanding facilities, Selina Monteverde is the best option. The hostel is beautiful, has great reviews, and has lots of activities, including yoga.
Getting Around Costa Rica
How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level.
Renting a Car
Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.
One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.
Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.
Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.
You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.
If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.
Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)
To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway!
You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.
Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!
The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!
It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.
Invest in Travel Insurance
Paying out of pocket for trip interruptions or medical treatment will add to what might already be a stressful situation. We always travel with SafetyWing travel medical insurance.
The best part is that it costs only a fraction of what most insurance policies charge, which makes it perfect for digital nomads, long-term travelers (like us), and budget travelers. It only costs $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country. We usually purchase it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada from Colombia before the border closed!
Taking a tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest absolutely deserves a spot on your Costa Rica itinerary! Whether you want a tranquil afternoon birdwatching or want to combine your visit with a thrilling zipline adventure, you now know all the best options.
If you liked this post, make sure you check out the rest of our blog full of ideas and inspiration for traveling around Costa Rica. The country captured my heart while living here and visiting often, so I want to make sure you get to enjoy it as much as I do!