Top 7 Things To Do For Free in Monteverde in 2021
Over the last few years, dozens of people have contacted me for advice on what things 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 activities to do in Monteverde, places I still visit today, and you should visit as well. Let’s dive in:
The following are the best activities to do in Monteverde for free:
- 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
Sunset from Cerro Plano Viewpoint, Tica Nature
Watching the sunset from the Cerro Plano Viewpoint is hands-down the best thing to do in Monteverde for free. 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 get to see the sun touch the ocean except on a few days if you are lucky and the sky is clear of clouds. Still, going to this place during the winter is worth most of the time, because the clouds become beautifully colorful as the sun sets behind them unless it is raining heavily, in which case it is better to avoid it. Alternatively, you can visit this place before the sunset because the views are amazing, overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya and Isla Chira. The real highlight of this viewpoint is the sunset, but if you cannot make it because you’re busy doing something else, like a night tour, you should still aim to visit this place at some other point during the day.
How to get there: The Cerro Plano Viewpoint is on a sideway on the main road from Santa Elena to Monteverde, right in front of the CPI Spanish School. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
What to bring: The Cerro Plano Viewpoint is super 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 AirB&B, try doing that. Otherwise, drive up to 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 is an extension of the main viewpoint with a much more private lookout. If you’re here to see the sunset, you will want to arrive early because this spot is usually the first one people visit. The sun usually sets between 5 pm and 6 pm in Monteverde, so I recommend that you get here at around 4:30 pm to get your seat.
Cerro Plano Secondary Viewpoint, Tica Nature
2. Hiking up to Cerro Amigos
Sunraise from Cerro Amigos, Tica Nature
The next on the list is 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. The locals also know Cerro Amigos as Las Torres (“the towers”) because a series of telecommunication towers are there. This place represents one of the most critical areas for the telco industry as these towers power the signal for the entire Tilaran Mountain Range region. Cerro Amigos is the highest elevation point on Monteverde, with 1,850 meters (6,069 feet) above sea level. 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), which is crazy steep, with an impressive slope of 19.9%. That is super steep, and it is just as challenging to go up as it is to come back down, so needless to say, this hike is only for those who are very physically fit. Getting there is just as rewarding, though, especially if you get there to see the sunrise.
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 where you can leave your car, and then you will follow the road. You can also start your hike from your hotel or AirB&B 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 the weight you carry to a minimum, so I recommend you consider this as well to find a balance on taking enough, not more, nor less. A small to medium Camelback with hydrant, energy bars, and a banana or two might do the trick.
Warning: You can technically drive up there during the summertime, but I do not recommend that you do this. It can be hazardous both going up but especially coming back down. The road is very narrow, and if you make a small mistake, or if the terrain is slippery for some reason, for example, if it rained during the previous night, you can potentially get into a fatal accident. Hiking is fine, but driving is a no-no if you have never traveled there before.
3. San Luis Viewpoint
San Luis Viewpoint, Tica Nature
Overlooking San Luis valley is the San Luis Viewpoint, a small cozy spot with a bench to get lost in your own, away from the crowds. The road to get there is pretty steep, so you will probably prefer to bring a 4D vehicle.
How to get there: The San Luis Viewpoint is about a 10-minute drive from Santa Elena downtown. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
Tip: The place is tiny, and it can only host one or two couples, so I recommend you visit it at sunrise, between 5 am to 7 am.
Bonus Tip: Rather than turning back and heading straight to Monteverde, after I spend some time at the viewpoint, I prefer to jump back in the car and keep driving down to San Luis. 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
Hummingbird Gallery Garden
Spotting up to 5 species of hummingbirds is something you can do in Monteverde for free at the Hummingbird Gallery, next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Hummingbird Gallery is a small cozy garden with feeders and endemic plants that draw dozens of hummingbirds. 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 and tasty coffee shop named Cafe Colibri. 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. The Hummingbird Gallery is also a great place to get drinks and recover from the Cloud Forest Tour.
How to get there: The Hummingbird Garden is right next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve’s entrance. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
What to bring: The Hummingbird Gallery is a great place to take lots of 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
Ficus Root Bridge, Tica Nature
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 pretty uneven, so this place is not for those with ankle or knee problems. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
What to bring: As a general rule, Monteverde’s weather is very cool, except 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.
Warning: Ficus Root Bridge is on a dangerous bend, next to a small AirB&B called Felix Room, and there is no place to park your car in there, so if you can, try walking from your hotel or AirB&B. Otherwise, find a place to leave your vehicle in Santa Elena town and walk from there. The walk from Santa Elena downtown to this should only take you around 15 minutes at a moderate speed.
6. Monteverde Local Market
Papaya for sale at the 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. The local market is a place to visit if you want to engage with the local farmer community. They have their organic products for sale, usually at a much better price than you would otherwise find in a grocery store. Visiting the local market is a great way to engage with and support the community in a more intimate way 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 midday, at the Monteverde Shopping Center in Santa Elena, next to Banco Popular. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
7. Exploring Santa Elena Town
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 around and trying the different souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants, or just doing some groceries if you plan to cook at your AirB&B.
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. You can use this Google Maps link to get there.
8. (Bonus) San Gerardo Viewpoint
San Gerardo Viewpoint, Tica Nature
Watching the Arenal volcano from San Gerardo is fantastic. There are other places in Monteverde from where you can see the volcano, but San Gerardo’s viewpoint is the best. The spot is inside 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 for letting 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 view. We took the above picture from one of those spots on the road.
How to get there: You can use this Google Maps link 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 be pretty hazardous at times, especially during the rainy months. If you are going from Monteverde to Arenal and have a 4D vehicle, you can potentially use that road, but ask your hotel or AirB&B before taking on this endeavor. Riding this road down to Arenal can be an extraordinary adventure, but it can also be 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. There are 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. That is a ride you should manage as long as you have a 4D vehicle, have some experience riding on uneven terrain, and drive carefully.
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Reach out for more information
These are the activities and places locals do and visit for free in Monteverde, and now that you have this information, I hope you will see them yourself. My final recommendation is to ask a local before getting to any of the above sites to have the latest information once you are here in Monteverde. You can also reach out to us at Monteverde Tours Online, and we will be happy to give you the latest updates on the above places or any other traditional tours in the Monteverde area.
I am the founder of Monteverde Tours Online. I live in Monteverde, and I love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time in the outdoors and dining out in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, no coffee shop, and no restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!
We love helping visitors, connecting them with the different tours and activities to have a memorable experience in Monteverde.
If you need help planning things to do in the area, send us a message, and we will happily assist you!