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The Top 7 Best Things To Do For Free in Monteverde Costa Rica

Cerro Amigos

Over the last few years, dozens of people have contacted me for advice on what they can do for free in Monteverde. The free things that locals do for fun you know. So, in this post, I will share my favorite free things to do in Monteverde, places I still visit today, and you should also check out during your visit to Monteverde. Let’s dive in.

The following are the best free things to do in Monteverde: 

  • Watching the sunset from Cerro Plano
  • Hiking up to Cerro Amigos
  • Viewing the San Luis Valley
  • Visiting the Hummingbird Gallery
  • Crossing the Ficus Root Bridge
  • Visiting Monteverde’s Local Market
  • Exploring Santa Elena Town
  • Seeing Arenal from San Gerardo

Keep scrolling for tips and directions to get to these spots. I will explain what those activities or places entail and the best time to visit or do those things. I will also recommend how to get to each location and what to bring if necessary. 

1. Cerro Plano Sunset Viewpoint

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Cerro Plano Sunset View

Stopping to see the sunset from the Cerro Plano Viewpoint is one of the best free things to do in Monteverde. Watching how the sun touches the ocean miles away from this viewpoint is incredible, especially during summertime from December through April, when the view is clear.

During the rainy season from May through November, you will not see the sun touch the ocean except on a few days if you are lucky and the sky is clear of clouds. However, during those times, the shadows become beautifully colorful as the sun sets behind them unless it’s raining heavily, in which case, I don’t recommend it.

Even though this viewpoint’s real highlight is the sunset, you may visit it earlier during the day, and the views will be unique. On a clear day, you will see the Gulf of Nicoya wrapping the ocean with Chira Island in the middle.

How to Get There: The Cerro Plano Viewpoint is sideways on the main road from Santa Elena to Monteverde, right in front of the CPI Spanish School.

Google Map: Click here to open Google Maps to get there.  

What to Bring: The Cerro Plano Viewpoint is windy from December through April and rainy from May through November, so you should wear warm clothing or rain jackets accordingly. 

Tip: The Cerro Plano Viewpoint is on the road on a curve, so it is tricky to find where to park. If you can walk from your hotel or Airbnb, try doing that. Otherwise, drive up where the road is straight, next to Hotel Montaña. Walking from there to the viewpoint will take you less than a minute. 

Bonus Tip: You will want to walk further towards Monteverde past the “official” viewpoint, with two benches. Keep walking for about a minute, and you will cross a small bridge and reach a platform with another seat.

This platform extends the main viewpoint with a much more private lookout, but you will want to arrive early because this spot is usually in high demand. Since the sun usually sets between 5 PM and 6 PM in Monteverde, I recommend you get here at around 4:30 PM to get your seat. 

2. Hiking up to Cerro Amigos

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Cerro Amigos

The next on the list of free things to do in Monteverde is hiking up to Cerro Amigos, which is not far from Cerro Plano’s viewpoint. This place is hands-down the best viewpoint from Monteverde.

Hiking to Cerro Amigos to see the sunrise can easily be one of the highlights of your Monteverde trip, but it can also prove to be a super challenging task. We, locals, also refer to Cerro Amigos as Las Torres (“the towers”) because there are a series of telecommunication towers there.

Cerro Amigos represents one of the most critical areas for the telco industry, as these towers power the signal for the entire Tilaran Mountain Range region. Situated at 1,850 meters (6,069 feet) above sea level, Cerro Amigos is the highest elevation point on Monteverde.

Get ready for an epic hike. From the gas station where the road starts to Cerro Amigos, the distance is 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) each way which is not huge if you are an avid hiker, but the elevation gain is 400 meters (1,312 feet). The climb is crazy steep, with an impressive slope of 19.9%, and it is just as challenging to go up as it is to come back down. Thus, this hike is only for those who are physically fit.

How to Get There: Cerro Amigos is uphill from the Monteverde gas station through the Hotel Belmar’s Road. I do not have a Google link to get to Cerro Amigos because this is a dead-end road, but you can use this Google Maps link to get to the gas station. Once there, follow the only road that goes up.

Tip: You may leave your car at the gas station if you buy from them, so plan to refill your tank here. You can also start your hike from your hotel or Airbnb to make it more challenging if you deem it appropriate. 

What to Bring: The entire adventure hiking up to Cerro Amigos will probably take you a couple of hours, so I recommend you bring food and drinks as you deem appropriate, depending on your personal needs. Likewise, when going up, you want to limit your weight to a minimum, so I recommend you aim to find a balance between taking enough, not more, or less. A small to medium Camelback with hydrant, energy bars, and a banana or two will suffice. 

Warning: You can technically drive up there during summer, but I do not recommend doing this. It can be hazardous, both going up and especially coming back down. The road is very narrow, and if you make a small mistake or the terrain is slippery due to recent rain, you can potentially get into a fatal accident. Hiking is fine, but driving is a no-no.

3. San Luis Lookout

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - San Luis Lookout

Another fantastic thing to do for free in Monteverde is to visit the San Luis Lookout, which overlooks the San Luis Valley on the right, and the San Luis Waterfall to the left, though you will need binoculars to see that one closely.

Featuring a small cozy spot with a couple of benches, the San Luis Lookout is a fantastic place to get lost in your thoughts, away from the crowds. However, the site is tiny and can only host a few couples, so I recommend you visit it at sunrise, between 5 AM to 7 AM, when there is usually no one there.

How to Get There: The San Luis Viewpoint is about a 10-minute drive from Santa Elena downtown. The road to get there is pretty steep, so you will probably prefer to bring a 4D vehicle.

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get there

Tip: Rather than turning back and heading straight to Monteverde, I prefer to jump back in the car and keep driving down to San Luis after I spend some time at the viewpoint. I head to the San Luis soccer field, and I turn right.

Then I follow that road to the end, crossing a couple of small creeks and going up a very steep climb to finally reach road 606, which brings me back to Monteverde. This loop takes about 30 minutes, and the ride is fantastic. The scenery of the side road from the soccer field until you reach road 606 is beautiful. The only caveat is that you need a 4D vehicle for this ride.

4. Hummingbird Gallery

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Monteverde Hummingbird Garden

I think the best thing to do for free in Monteverde is to visit the Monteverde Hummingbird Garden, next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Equipped with feeders and endemic plants, this magical place attracts hundreds of hummingbirds, and you can see them flying by up close, allowing you to contemplate or photograph many of them. And you can easily spot up to five species, which is extremely hard to do elsewhere.

Contrary to what some people believe, you do not need to pay the entrance fee of the Monteverde Reserve to see the hummingbird gallery. The place belongs to the owners of a small coffee shop called Cafe Colibri, a highly rated, tasty place to visit.

They do not require an entrance fee, but they have drinks and pastries, and it is nice to from them since the garden is on their property.

Here at Monteverde Tours, we offer a Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour, which includes a visit to this beautiful place led by one of our professional local tour guides.



How to Get There: The Hummingbird Garden is next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve’s entrance.

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get there.  

What to Bring: The Hummingbird Garden is a great place to take many pictures of hummingbirds, so you should carry a camera or a smartphone. Just make sure the flashlight is off to avoid damaging hummingbirds. 

5. Ficus Root Bridge

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Ficus Root Bridge

The Ficus Root Bridge, known by the locals as “Ficus La Raiz,” is a fascinating natural phenomenon. A Ficus tree grew up and eventually fell over next to a small creek. The roots kept growing sideways, and the stream “washed” the terrain underneath those roots over decades, exposing its skeleton and forming a bridge, giving it its name.

Locals visit this place to climb the bridge and hang out there. You can see this place year-round. Just be aware that if it is raining, you will need to be extra careful when going down the trail, and you should probably skip climbing the tree because it will likely be slippery. 

How to Get There: The Ficus Root Bridge is on a trail downtown in Santa Elena. The terrain is uneven, so this place is not for those with ankle or knee problems. Please note that there are two paths to access the Ficus Tree Bridge.

There is a trail next to an Airbnb called Felix Room (Google Map below), and there is another entrance next to a construction site. The construction site has a sign on the outside saying “Trail,” and they charge 1,000 Colones (roughly $2). This trail is more straightforward, and they also offer parking, but you need to pay this entrance fee. Whereas the trail next to Felix Room, has no place for parking, and the trail is a bit steeper, but it’s free.

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get there.  

What to Bring: As a general rule, Monteverde’s weather is very cool, except for a few days a year when it gets hot. Nonetheless, I recommend you bring a bottle of water on this trip to the Ficus Root Bridge to keep yourself properly hydrated.

6. Monteverde Local Market

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Monteverde Local Market

The Monteverde Agricultural Market is a local event sponsored by the Monteverde’s Agriculture Society, exhibiting fruits, vegetables, and other local foods for sale to the public. This is a place to visit if you want to engage with the local farming community.

They have their organic products for sale, usually at a much better price than you would find in a grocery store. Visiting the local market is a great way to engage with and support the community more intimately than you would otherwise do on tour. Visiting the Monteverde Agricultural Market is also a fantastic way to get a feel of the local life in Monteverde. 

How to Get There: The Monteverde Agricultural Market takes place every Friday from 3 PM to 6 PM and Saturdays from 8 AM to 12 middays at the Monteverde Shopping Center in Santa Elena, next to Banco Popular.

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get there.  

7. Exploring Santa Elena Town

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - Santa Elena Town

Exploring Santa Elena town can be a fun way to spend a couple of hours in the evening. Santa Elena is where you will find most of the shops and restaurants in the area. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the different souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants or just doing some groceries if you plan to cook at your Airbnb. 

How to Get There: Santa Elena is next to Monteverde, at a quick 5-minute drive. It can be pretty tricky to find where to park, but as a general rule, after 5 PM, you can park in the Banco Nacional’s parking lot.

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get there.  

8. (Bonus) San Gerardo Lookout

Free Things to Do in Monteverde - San Gerardo Lookout

Watching the Arenal volcano from San Gerardo, a region located north of Monteverde, is fantastic. There are other places in Monteverde where you can see the volcano, but San Gerardo’s viewpoint is the best. And the best spot is inside the San Gerardo Lodge.

There is no entrance fee, but they have a restaurant, so it is nice to buy from them or give them a tip to let you enjoy the magnificent views. There are other spots along the road to San Gerardo Lodge where you can park on the side and still get a great idea. We took the above picture from one of those spots on the road. 

Google Map: Click here to open up Google Maps to get to San Gerardo Lodge.

Warning: This place is a bit outside Monteverde, on a rough road, so I recommend having a 4D vehicle to get there. By the way, if you follow that road past the San Gerardo Lodge to the end, you will reach Arenal, near the lake.

However, the road can sometimes be hazardous, especially during rainy times. If you are going from Monteverde to Arenal and have a 4D vehicle, you can use that road, but ask your hotel or Airbnb before taking on this endeavor.

Riding this road down to Arenal can be an extraordinary adventure and super dangerous. Even locals avoid it. I have done it a couple of times when the road has been at its best, but it is not something I would generally recommend to anyone, especially to a foreigner who has never traveled through it with someone.

Only a couple of houses spread out through this road, and there is no phone signal, so potential help is negligible to non-existent. However, getting to San Gerardo Lodge is fine. It would be best to manage that ride if you have a 4D vehicle, have some experience riding on uneven terrain, and drive carefully. 

Support Our Community and Make A Difference!

We at Monteverde Tours are a small association with a mission to support our local community by promoting all the tours and things to do in Monteverde, connecting tourists with local tour operators. You make a difference when you participate in local excursions because these activities provide jobs to the families in our area. And in addition to supporting our community, you also support environmental conservation efforts. Tourism in Costa Rica is the driving force that helps preserve nature in rural communities like Monteverde. We encourage you to discover all the fantastic things to do in our area today!

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde holding a mountain bikeDaniel Lalinde

I am the founder of Monteverde Tours. I live in Monteverde and love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time outdoors and dining in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, coffee shop, or restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!

We love helping visitors, so reach out if you need help planning things to do in Monteverde. You may call us, chat with us or email us. Our contact info is at the bottom of this page.