One of the best ways to explore Costa Rica’s unique cloud forest environment is by walking along hanging bridges. These suspension bridges literally bring you through the treetops where you can fully enjoy the surrounding ecosystem. In this post, we’ll tell you about the hanging bridges at Selvatura Park in Monteverde. These bridges are a fairly easy hike and good for all sorts of travelers.
Selvatura Park is located in one of Costa Rica’s most famous mountain destinations, Monteverde.
Monteverde is made up of two towns, Santa Elena and Monteverde itself. Santa Elena is where many of the restaurants, hotels, and attractions are located, while Monteverde is famous for its cloud forest reserve.
For more information about the area, including hotels and other activities, read our post Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds.
Selvatura Park is about 20 minutes outside Santa Elena, down a gravel road. The park borders the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and Children’s Eternal Rainforest.
While Selvatura Park does provide transportation for its guided tours, many people visiting the area choose to have a rental car since things are spread out.
Immersed in 850 acres (344 hectares) of cloud forest habitat, Selvatura Park is a sea of green.
In the thick forest, you’ll find both secondary and primary trees (some hundreds of years old), broad leafed plants, and giant ferns. An abundance of mosses and vines stick to everything—a signature of the cloud forest.
In addition to the hanging bridges walk, the park has other activities that you can combine. There is zip lining, a butterfly garden, sloth sanctuary, and reptile and amphibian exhibit.
The lodge-style reception area has a gift shop, bathrooms, and waiting area. Parking is free for visitors.
For those who do spend the day, an onsite restaurant is available.
Restaurante El Jardin (the Garden Restaurant) serves typical Costa Rican cuisine as well as some fast-food items like hamburgers and sandwiches. There is also coffee, tea, and desserts. The prices are a bit higher but there are no other restaurants close by.
Selvatura’s Hanging Bridges
At Selvatura Park, you will find eight hanging bridges spread out along a 2-mile (3 km) trail. The trail is fairly flat and well maintained. As you walk, you’ll wind through the cloud forest to see all kinds of trees and plants. If you’re lucky, you may even see some cool birds and animals (read What You’ll See section, below).
At eight spots along the path, you’ll come to the various hanging bridges. These stretch long distances from one high point in the forest to another. Each of the suspension bridges has a different length and height off the ground.
The shortest bridge is 170 feet long (51 meters), and the longest is 560 feet long (170 meters).
The highest bridge is 190 feet (60 meters) off the ground!
Those with a little hesitation should know that these are not Indiana Jones-style bridges. There are no rickety wood planks or frayed ropes. The bridges at Selvatura Park are structurally engineered, made with metal cables, bridge-like trellises, and have stable walking paths and handrails.
While there is some movement as you cross, you will not be swaying all over the place. Walking slowly, in the middle of the bridge, also helps reduce movement.
Guided or Self-Guided Options
One question people often ask is if they really need a guide when visiting the hanging bridges. After all, the guided option is more expensive.
We have visited both with a guide and without. Our first visit was without a guide, and while we did enjoy the hike, we left feeling like we didn’t see a whole lot (besides the cool bridges, of course).
In the cloud forest, many of the animals are hidden. There are thick layers of plants on top of other plants. Combine that with the misty, cloud-forest weather conditions and you can really have a tough time spotting anything.
The Value of a Guide
On a guided tour, our experience was much different. Our guide, Jose, was so knowledgeable. He pointed out lots of interesting plants, insects, birds, and even found some animals.
Jose also explained the basics of how the cloud forest works.
He showed us how all the plants were competing for sunlight. Each species was climbing and growing as high into the canopy as possible. This made the treetops the center of life in the cloud forest. Jose even told us that a recent study found more than 7,000 plants living on just one medium sized tree!
Jose went on to explain that these trees can get too heavy and eventually fall from the weight of all those plants. And when a giant 100-year-old tree falls, it can cause a giant scar in the forest. But as he showed us, that fallen tree also gives new plants an opportunity to grow as a new area of the forest is exposed to the sun.
It was this type of knowledge and insight that we would have missed out on if we hadn’t had a guide. We would have walked by that giant fallen tree and thought little of it.
What You’ll See
As we mentioned, seeing a lot in the cloud forest can be challenging. However, with the help of our guide, we had some great highlights.
For birds, we were able to spot the Chestnut-capped Brush Finch, Common Bush Tanager, Red-faced Spiny Tail, Black-breasted Wood-Quail, Black-faced Solitaire, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, and Spotted Woodcreeper. We would not have been able to find most of these without Jose’s help and especially his scope.
While we all thought the birds were cool, our kids were most intrigued by some bats that had made a home in a hollowed-out log. Jose was very patient, using his phone’s flashlight and scope to let us see far inside the log.
Near the bats there was also something growing on a tree that Jose wanted to show us. It was one of the smallest orchid species in the world. A type of lepantes species with a flower no bigger than the tip of a pencil. Interestingly, the pollinator of this tiny flower happens to be the mosquito.
From one of the smallest things, we then got to see Costa Rica’s biggest tarantula species, the orange-kneed tarantula. Well, at least we got to see its legs deep inside the den.
Overall, we were able to see much more with the guide and really got to appreciate the plants and trees we were passing by with all the knowledge he shared.
Selvatura Park’s hanging bridges are not handicap accessible. However, the trail is not steep and has concrete walking paths without many bumps or inclines. For the suspension bridges, each one is 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide, with a handrail about 4 feet (1.2 meters) high.
Additionally, Selvatura has some of the best hanging bridges for young children because the sides are completely closed.
Planning Your Visit to Selvatura Hanging Bridges
We recommend making your plans ahead of time for the hanging bridges to ensure there is space, especially if you would like a guide. You can book directly through Selvatura’s website.
Self-Guided Hanging Bridges
$39 per person adults
$33 per person students up to age 18 (ID required)
$27.50 per person children ages 4-12
Free for children under 4
Guided Hanging Bridges Tour (Natural History Walk)
$61 per person adults
$55 per person students up to age 18 (ID required)
$43 per person children ages 4-12
Free for children under 4
*All rates plus tax.
Guided hanging bridge tours are offered every day (including holidays) at 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
What to Bring
Closed toe shoes, pants, light rain jacket, insect repellent, sunscreen, and water. If you’re into birding, binoculars are also handy.
If you are looking to explore Monteverde’s cloud forest, the hanging bridges at Selvatura Park is a great option. As you walk through the treetops, you’ll have fantastic views of this unique habitat. And on a guided tour, we’re sure that you’ll learn some interesting facts too.
Have a question about visiting Selvatura Park Hanging Bridges or have you been? Leave a comment below.
Looking for more information to help you plan your trip? Check out these posts:
Driving to Monteverde: Best Routes and Road Conditions – The roads to Monteverde are some of the worst in Costa Rica; however, there have been big improvements. Find the best route for your trip with this post.
Monteverde Hotel Guide: 10 of our favorite places to stay near the cloud forest. Includes options for high-end hotels, mid-range hotels, and budget hotels.
The Famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Looking for another fun hike? Learn about Monteverde’s most visited reserve.