Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s top eco-tourism and outdoor adventure destinations. Nestled in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, this small town is quite unlike anywhere else in the country.
Thanks to the high elevation and daily rainfall, it’s pleasantly cool here and gloriously green all year round. The famous cloud forests provide the perfect setting for hikers, bird spotters and high-adrenaline junkies.
The days start early here, while the birds begin chattering with the rising sun and people make the most of the bright mornings before the usual afternoon downpour.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is the most popular site here and an important environmental conservation project.
Located around a 20 minute drive from the town of Santa Elena, or a couple of hours walking if you’re feeling athletic, the terrain is hilly and the views are magnificent.
Also known as downtown Monteverde, Santa Elena is popular for travelers staying overnight due to its choice of restaurants, cafes, shops and affordable hotels. Here are some of the best restaurants in Monteverde:
Soda La Amistad
Wherever you go to in Costa Rica, sodas (local restaurants, usually family-run serving traditional food) will provide the best value meals you can find. In Monteverde, the one to look out for is Soda La Amistad.
This small unassuming typical Tico restaurant on a quiet road in Santa Elena has only a few indoor tables – very much needed in this town where it so regularly rains (and heavily!). It’s often filled with travelers looking for a filling and tasty meal on a budget after a tiring day of outdoor activities. The staff are welcoming and the homey atmosphere is overseen by a friendly resident cat.
Tree House Restaurante
If you’re looking for something a little different, try the Tree House Restaurante. This place certainly lives up to its name. The building is literally built below, around and in a huge Ficus tree. From their tree house tables, diners can enjoy dinner and drinks on the central street of Santa Elena.
This is a unique restaurant which is slightly higher-end than others in Monteverde, offering a range of international dishes. The evening menu includes pizzas, pastas, seafood and steaks.
Whilst being quite meat-heavy, select vegetarian options are available. Alongside the food, there is an extensive wine and cocktail list.
Although the food is good quality, perhaps the most important feature of the Tree House Restaurante is the setting.
After a nature filled day exploring the Cloud Forest, visitors can continue the vibe in this unique place.
Having spent your day walking amongst the trees, you can spend your evening eating in one!
Regular live music nights also make this the perfect choice for an evening out with friends.
Restaurante Sabor Tico
Upstairs at the small shopping center in Santa Elena – where the public buses drop off travelers from across Costa Rica – you can find Restaurante Sabor Tico.
This restaurant is ideal for sitting outside at a balcony table to watch the sunset as the afternoon’s rain clears.
As well as the usual Costa Rican staples of casados and rice dishes with seafood, you can try something different from their Tico specialties section of the menu.
The chifritico is their take on the classic chifrijo (crispy pork and beans) served in a kind of broth. The restaurant is also suitable for families with children.
La Cuchara de la Abuela
On the way out of Santa Elena heading towards the Cloud Forest Reserve is the CASEM Cooperative building.
CASEM (Cooperative of Artisans of Santa Elena and Monteverde) promotes and sells artisanal products made by local women.
By supporting women to develop skills and receive a fair income for their work, they capitalize on the tourist market by providing alternative, more authentic souvenirs whilst promoting social responsibility and conservation of natural resources.
This is a wonderful place to spend your money and pick up something beautifully made to take home.
You can also support the cooperative’s work by enjoying lunch at their own restaurant, La Cuchara de la Abuela.
Found at the back of the store, they serve typical Costa Rican dishes at bargain prices. The menu written on boards behind the counter are all in Spanish here.
The large tortilla with chicken in sauce is especially recommended and more than filling enough for lunch.
This is a must visit for hungry hikers and discerning souvenir shoppers alike.
Taco Taco Taqueria
For something with a bit more spice than your typical Costa Rican cuisine, you could try Taco Taco Taqueria.
Located right next to the main street in the center of Santa Elena, this Mexican restaurant has a cool sociable vibe and is popular with younger travelers.
Serving freshly made meat, fish and veggie tacos and burritos, there’s something for everyone to enjoy alongside a margarita or a beer.
Ristorante e Pizzería Tramonti
This Italian restaurant is located off the main road in between Santa Elena and the Cloud Forest Reserve.
If you’re craving pizza, Ristorante e Pizzería Tramonti is the place. Cooked in a wood-fired oven, the pizzas are wonderful and include plenty of vegetarian options. Other than pizza, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the long list of pasta, meat and seafood dishes.
This is a stunning spot to enjoy some fantastic Italian food amongst the trees.
The high glass walls and outdoor balcony area up on stilts provide the perfect view of the surrounding nature which is so beautiful in this area.
Monteverde attracts visitors from around the world looking for an outdoor adventure.
Your stop here is likely to center around exploring the Cloud Forest Reserve or taking advantage of the many local nature trails and tours.
You will certainly work up an appetite with these early starts and action packed days.
Therefore, you’ll be glad to know that Monteverde boasts a range of great spots where you can relax and watch the misty rainfall as you refuel before another day on the trail.
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