Despite not being the most well-known desitnation, Monteverde, Costa Rica, still lands on many traveler’s itineraries. As a budget traveler, I’ve culminated a list of all the free (or cheap) activities I did while in Monteverde. Also, since we’re living in the digital nomad era, I’ve included some places I think have good potential for photographers.
**Please note a lot of my photos are really grainy, and I’m not entirely sure why (may have been the lighting). I’m really not a photographer (not yet, anyway), so my apologies!
Transportation: It may sound crazy, but we walked everywhere (except to activities which included transportation). We stayed in downtown Santa Elena. It is doable, but keep in mind the area is tons of steep hills, so it’s not for those who need accessibility.
Accommodations: We stayed at Hostel Sloth. I’ll link you to their Tripadvisor page (which also happens to have my review on it).
Climate: We visited in mid-August, and much to our surprise (more like, we didn’t research), Monteverde was chilly and windy! To quote some other backpackers at our hostel: “I packed for Hawaii, not Anarctica!” It’s true, you will need a pair of long pants and a windbreaker/rain jacket while here. It’s not objectively cold, but it’s much cooler than you’d expect.
Note: Location links will be in Google Maps.
Hiking/Cloud Forrest Access
Cerro Amigos: Cerro Amigos (location link) is the most recommended free thing to do in Monteverde. It’s advertised as a free hike, and it is free, but I’ll warn you that this hike is no joke. There are two small parts of the hike that are relatively flat, but other than that, it’s an hour and a half of steep uphill death.
The *REAL* reason to hike up here is the trails off the peak that give you free access to the cloud forest. Everywhere else you have to pay. Also note, the view is best on clear days.
Directions: Go to Hotel Belmar. Follow the signs for “Cerro Amigos”
Free Cloud Forest Access: As I mentioned, there are trails off the back of Cerro Amigos. You can ask the tower watchman (pretty sure his name is Carlos but don’t quote me) about the trails, though some Spanish may be needed. Or check out this blog.
If you want amazing one-of-a-kind jewelry, then you’ll have to hike Cerro Amigos! The watchtower man (again, I think his name is Carlos) makes really unique pieces and he sells them for insanely REASONABLE prices. These were 8 USD and 15 USD. I didn’t see anything else like this the whole trip.
Edit: I swear there was a Google Listing for this little shop, but I cannot find it! So I assume he’s still there and maybe it’s because I’m no longer in CR that I can’t find it.
Climb the Fiscus Tree
Everyone has talked about this place so I won’t go into too much detail, instead I’ll link you here to That Wanderlust. It’s a type of vine (strangler fig) that kills the tree and hollows out the inside. We climbed to the top! It’s marked on google maps as Fiscus Tree Climbing.
The Fiscus Tree bridge…maybe: I am conflicted about sharing this – it’s a beautiful attraction, but it’s on private property, according to That Wanderlust (same link as before). You can get some ideas on how to find it on the linked blog.
If you do happen to find the one little trail leading to the bridge, follow the “Espacio Natural Protegido” sign, don’t go the other way. You can get on to the bridge from a hill on the side, don’t try to climb it vertically. Don’t litter. Don’t break anything. Don’t give people a reason to close this place off. Don’t be THAT tourist. PLEASSEEE.
Free Views LINK
Free viewpoint: If you can’t hike Cerro Amigos (also, the view is different up there) just stop at this road side vista if you’re on foot. It’s across the street from the Cloud Forest Santuary. Also, it has a hand painted map of what you can see! There’s also two benches, so you could eat lunch here. There’s also one just down the road…
Second free viewpoint: It’s not far from the other one, it’s just further down the road. It’s got a bigger bench. Cute place to sit and eat? NEEDS LINK
We live in an Instagram digital nomad era, so I’m sure many people are interested in places to take some cool photos. Here are a few that I ran into. I’m sure a better photographer could get some really awesome shots from these places.
Off the steep dirt road of Cerro Amigos: an abandoned structure. May or may not belong to somebody? It’s super trashed though, so it doesn’t look like anybody particularly cares about this structure. I like the path to this place, it’s got a cool atmosphere. It’s near the bottom of the hill, if you’re paying attention you’ll spot the stone steps off the side of the trail.
Abandoned kitchen/venue: Diagonally across the street from the Art House. I mean this is awesome, no?
Graffiti corner: There wasn’t a “No Tresspassing” sign, but use good judgement. Also, watch out for broken glass. It’s around here. Maybe don’t be a destructive tourist? Thanks.
These steps: Travelers seem to be obsessed with sets of stairs. Here’s some for you. It’s near the “grafitti corner.” I didn’t pose on these, but I’m sure you could get a nice shot. Also be respectful, this is a residential area not a tourist area. We were trying to get to the Ropa Americana (listed later in this post).
CASEM or Cooperative of Artisans Santa Elena Monteverde: I didn’t go inside, but there’s cute animal statues here. Fun place for families to take pictures.
Art House, but not for art: If you’ve been looking at things to do in Monteverde, you’ve probably seen the Art House. I’d go to linger around the cute little footpaths and mosaic footbridges. This could be another cute place to take pictures! I wasn’t particularly impressed with the stuff they were selling, it was very expensive and I found a lot of similar stuff in La Fortuna (for cheaper).
Foresta Art Local: I recommend this place. I bought adorable cat earrings made from recycled tire for 14 USD. And the woman at the counter was beyond friendly. I think the prices here were more reasonable. PICC
Bat Jungle LINK
Not free, but I have a tip for you! The guided tours are 11 USD each, but an unguided tour was about 5 USD (or something) each. I’d take that option! The guy who was there was beyond friendly, and he was up to answer any questions we had, so there’s no reason to get the tour unless you really need it (or if you want to contribute more money to the place).
Bonus points because the grounds are beautiful. You can see many hummingbirds here. Also, there’s a place to eat upstairs that sells chocolate. Mmmm!
Orchid Gardens LINK
This isn’t free (maybe not even cheap?) It’s 12 per person, so it’s better for small groups. My mind was blown about what REAL orchids are like, which is why it’s on the list. Plus you can roam around as long as you want after the tour.
Thrifting, CR style: Ropa Americana. LINK
Whenever I travel I have to see what the “thrift” stores are like. In Costa Rica, they have Ropas/Ropa Americana. FYI The women that was there didn’t speak much English. (Side note: I don’t expect people to speak English). If you need an article of clothing fast (like if it’s much chillier than you expected) and don’t want to spend lots of money – check out Ropas. I think there’s a few others but they don’t locations on Google Maps.
And that’s a wrap! Anything to add? Comments? Questions? Clarifications? Please let me know down below. Stay tuned because next post I’ll be discussing free/cheap places in La Fortuna! Also, I’m in the process of creating a Costa Rica page, but don’t anticipate that until the end of the month. Finals are kicking my butt right now!