Bird-Watching & Hiking
You’ll find ample bird-watching and hiking opportunities outside the reserve boundaries. Avoid the crowds at Monteverde by heading 5km (3 miles) north from the village of Santa Elena to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve ★★ (tel. 2645-5390; www.reservasantaelena.org). This 310-hectare (765-acre) reserve has a maximum elevation of 1,680m (5,510 ft.), making it the highest cloud forest in the Monteverde area. The reserve has 13km (8 miles) of hiking trails, as well as an information center. Because it borders the Monteverde Reserve, a similar richness of flora and fauna is found here, although quetzals are not nearly as common. The $14 entry fee at this reserve goes directly to support a variety of good causes, including conservation and improving the local schools. The reserve is open daily from 7am to 5pm. Three-hour guided tours are available for $15 per person, not including the entrance fee. (Call the number above to make a reservation for the tour.)
Located just before the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and sharing many of the same ecosystems and habitats, the Curicancha Reserve ★★★ (tel. 2645-6915; www.reservacuricancha.com) is an excellent alternative, especially for folks looking to avoid some of the crowds and confusion that can sometimes be found at the area’s namesake attraction. The reserve covers some 86 hectares (240 acres), of which almost half is primary cloud forest. The trails here are rich in flora and fauna, and quetzals are frequently spotted here. The reserve is open daily from 7am to 3pm and again from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Entrance is $14 per person, and a 3- to 4-hour guided hike can be arranged for an additional $15 per person.
Sky Walk ★★ (tel. 2645-5238; www.skyadventures.travel) is a network of forest paths and suspension bridges that provides visitors with a view previously reserved for birds, monkeys, and the much more adventurous traveler. The bridges reach 39m (128 ft.) above the ground at their highest point, so acrophobia could be an issue. The Sky Walk and its sister attraction, Sky Trek, are about 3.5km (2 1/4 miles) outside the town of Santa Elena, on the road to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. The Sky Walk is open daily from 7am to 4pm; admission is $35, which includes a knowledgeable guide. For $71 per person, you can do the Sky Trek canopy tour and Sky Tram, and then walk the trails and bridges of the Sky Walk. Reservations are recommended; round-trip transportation from Santa Elena is just $7 per person.
To learn even more about Monteverde, stop in at the Monteverde Conservation League (tel. 2645-5003; www.acmcr.org), which administers the 22,000-hectare (54,000-acre) private reserve Bosque Eterno de Los Niños (Children’s Eternal Forest), as well as the Bajo del Tigre Trail. The Conservation League has an information center and small gift shop at the trail head/entrance to the Bajo del Tigre Trail. In addition to being a good source for information, it also sells books, T-shirts, and cards, and all proceeds go to purchase more land for the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños. The Bajo del Tigre Trail ★ is a 3.5km (2.3-mile) trail that’s home to several different bird species not usually found within the reserve. You can take several different loops, lasting anywhere from 1 hour to several hours. The trail starts a little past the CASEM artisans’ shop and is open daily from 8am to 4pm. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for students and children under 12. These folks also do a 2-hour night hike that departs at 5:30pm, and costs $22 per adult, and $19 per student. All of this is free for children 6 and under.
Finally, you can walk the trails and grounds of the Ecological Sanctuary ★★ (tel. 2645-5305; www.santuarioecologico.com), a family-run wildlife refuge and private reserve located down the Cerro Plano road. This place has four main trails through a variety of ecosystems, and wildlife-viewing is often quite good. A couple of pretty waterfalls are off the trails. It’s open daily from 8am to 7:30pm; admission is $12 for self-guided hiking on the trails, $28 during the day for a 2-hour guided tour, and $22 for the 2-hour guided night tour at 5:30pm.
Canopy & Canyoning Tours
100% Aventura ★★★ (www.aventuracanopytour.com; tel. 2645-6388; daily 8am–3pm), claims to have Latin America’s longest zipline, at 1,590m (64 ft. short of a mile)—a “Superman flight” in which you fly facedown between two mountains with a spectacular valley far below. If that didn’t scare you enough, try the terrifying (and optional) Tarzan swing at the end of the canopy tour ($45).
Monteverde Extremo ★★★ (www.monteverdeextremo.com; tel. 2645-6058 or 2645-6981) offers Costa Rica’s only bungee-jumping ($60)—the most extreme adventure possible in this adventure-rich place—as well as Tarzan swings, Superman flights, and ordinary ziplines. If you thrive on adrenaline, just jump off the aerial tram suspended 143m (469 feet) above the ground, attached to either a bungee cord or a Tarzan swing.
Selvatura Park ★★ (tel. 2645-5929; www.selvatura.com), located close to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, is the best one-stop shop for various adventures and attractions in the area. In addition to an extensive canopy tour, with 13 cables connecting 15 platforms, they also have a network of trails and suspended bridges, a huge butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden, a snake exhibit, and a wonderful insect display and museum. Prices vary depending upon how much you want to see and do. Individually, the canopy tour costs $45; the walkways and bridges, $30; the snake and reptile exhibit, the butterfly garden, and the insect museum, $15 each. Packages to combine the various exhibits are available, although it’s definitely confusing, and somewhat annoying, to pick the perfect package. For $132, you get the run of the entire joint, including the tours, lunch, and round-trip transportation from your Monteverde hotel. It’s open daily from 7am to 4:30pm.
Another popular option is offered by the folks at Sky Adventures ★★ (tel. 2479-4100; www.skyadventures.travel), which is part of a large complex of aerial adventures and hiking trails. This is one of the more extensive canopy tours in the country, and begins with a cable car ride (or Sky Tram) up into the cloud forest, where their zip-line canopy tour commences. This tour features 10 zip-line cables. The longest of these is some 770m (2,525 ft.) long, high above the forest floor. There are no rappel descents here, and you brake using the pulley system for friction. Nearby, their Sky Walk ★★ operation is a network of forest paths and suspension bridges that provides visitors with a view previously reserved for birds, monkeys, and the much more adventurous traveler. The bridges reach 39m (128 ft.) above the ground at their highest point, so acrophobia could be an issue. These folks have also added a serpentarium and hummingbird garden to their list of attractions. This place is about 3.5km (2 1/4 miles) outside the town of Santa Elena, on the road to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. The Sky Walk is open daily from 7am to 1pm; admission is $35, which includes a knowledgeable guide. For $89 per person, you can do the Sky Trek canopy tour and Sky Tram, and then walk the trails and bridges of the Sky Walk. Reservations are recommended; round-trip transportation from Santa Elena is $7.50 per person.
One of the oldest canopy tours in the country is run by the Original Canopy Tour ★ (tel. 2291-4465; www.canopytour.com). This is one of the more interesting canopy tours in Costa Rica because the initial ascent is made by climbing up the hollowed-out interior of a giant strangler fig. The tour has 13 platforms and one rappel. The 2- to 2 1/2-hour tours run tree times daily and cost $45 for adults, $35 for students, and $25 for children 12 and under.
Finally, if you want to add a bit more excitement to your adventure, and definitely more water, try the Finca Modelo Canyoning Tour ★★ (tel. 2645-5581; www.familiabrenestours.com). This tour involves a mix of hiking and then rappelling down the face of a series of forest waterfalls. The tallest of these waterfalls is around 39m (130 ft.). You will get wet on this tour. The cost is $70.
Anybody in average physical condition can do any of the adventure tours in Monteverde, but they’re not for the fainthearted or acrophobic. Try to book directly with the companies listed above or through your hotel. Beware of touts on the streets of Monteverde, who make a small commission and frequently try to steer tourists to the operator paying the highest percentage.
Monteverde has excellent terrain for horseback riding. Horse Trek Monteverde ★ ((tel) 2645-5874; www.costaricahorsebackridingvacations.com) and Sabine’s Smiling Horses ★ (tel. 2645-6894; www.smilinghorses.com) are the most established operators, offering guided rides for around $20 to $23 per hour. Horseback/boat trips link Monteverde/Santa Elena with La Fortuna.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.