Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most popular attractions in the country, but visitors might be surprised at how much there is to see and do outside the forest preserve. Bird watching, hiking, canopy tours, canyon adventures, horseback riding, and more draw thousands of visitors to the area around Monteverde Cloud Forest year after year.
One way to avoid the crowds at Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is to head three miles north of Monteverde to the city of Santa Elena and the smaller, but equally diverse Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Open from 7 AM to 4 PM, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve offers excellent hiking and bird watching. Guided tours cost around $15 USD and the $7 entrance fee goes entirely to support local schools.
The Sky Walk and the companion Sky Trek are aslo popular attractions. Located just two and a half miles outside of the city of Santa Elena and just north of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the Sky Walk is a series of trails and suspension bridges that meander through the forest and the forest canopy, giving visitors a view of birds and wildlife that is not normally available on a standard tour.
The Sky Trek canopy tour and access to the Sky Walk trails will set runs about $45 USD per person. Reservations are definitely recommended. Travelers with a fear of heights might find brief portions of the tour difficult.
Many other canopy tours of differing intensity levels are available in the general area, however. To shop for the right canopy tour, stop by Selvatura Park (www.selvatura.com ) and browse the available adventures.
Horseback riding excursions between the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Santa Elena, and La Fortuna are another popular option. Most horseback riding tours cost around $10 USD per hour, but ask around before choosing a guide, since a few complaints have been lodged about the condition of some of the horses.
Other popular attractions near the Monteverde Cloud Forest include the Butterfly Garden, located near the Pension Monteverde Inn; the Monteverde Serpentarium (www.snaketour.com); and the Frog Pond of Monteverde.
Admission to all these popular attractions runs between $6 and $8 USD, with discounts rates for children and students. Children will especially enjoy the newest animal attraction, The World of Insects, which features seven different terrariums filled with all kinds of bugs and beetles.
Art lovers should check out Monteverde’s Galleria Exstasis, which exhibits and sells the wood sculptures of artist Marco Tulio Brenes, and the Casa de Art, which sells a variety of crafts and artistic works in various media.
Last but not least, check out the Monteverde Cheese Factory at the end of your exploration of the area in and around the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Located on the main road about half way between Santa Elena and the Monterverde Cloud Forest entrance, the Cheese Factory sells homemade ice cream and some of the finest cheeses in Costa Rica.
Visitors can even watch the cheese being made!
The Monteverde Cheese Factory is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM, and on Sunday from 7:30 AM to noon.