Life In the Big Green Jolly

Embrace local. Explore often.

Embrace local.  Explore often.

Night Walk in Monteverde

Red eyed tree frog

The fastest way to learn all the ways a rain forest is out-to-get naive tourists?

Take a guided night walk in the Monteverde area during your visit to Costa Rica.

At nearly a mile high in elevation, a night tour in the region of Monteverde provides some different species than what is found on a tour in the coastal areas.

Based on our experience, I’d recommend a guided night walk with Kinkajou Tours. A budget-friendly tour quickly becomes an eye-opening experience once the guide explains all the reasons for the mandate “don’t touch the trees!”.

How to book a Kinkajou Night Walk

Kinkajou Tours operates in Santa Elena, Costa Rica.

The easiest method for booking tours in Costa Rica is to have the front desk staff at your hostel or hotel arrange the tour. The tourist suppliers in Costa Rica have a phenomenal collaborative network to ensure supply meets the demand. Plus, the lodging staff coordinates with the tour van drivers to ensure you are picked up.

You can also book directly on the website for Kinkajou Tours.

What to expect on a night tour

“I’m not sure I needed to know snakes are ABOVE my head” – exclaimed on a night tour as we peered up at a pit viper.

Green pit viper in tree
Pit Viper – above our heads

I took the 8:15 pm night tour with Kinkajou Tours.  They offer three different time slots each evening. The cost (in 2019) is $25 a person.

From downtown Santa Elena, it is a 10-minute free shuttle from your hotel to their location.  The shuttle bus will drop you off at the main operations center for Kinkajou Tours.

The scene is disorganized chaos.

The first step – sign a waiver form and either pay for the tour or hand over the voucher provided by your hotel staff.

Next, you are asked for your primary language and assigned to a tour guide. Each tour guide leads a group size of 8 to 10 people.

The tour guide greets each person in their native language. A Russian hello in Costa Rica – why not?

Now, you are handed a torch (flashlight) with specific instructions on testing that it operates and directions its use.

Directions on using a flashlight? Yep.

Obvious tips such as use it when you are walking to avoid tripping and don’t point it in your buddy’s face.

The most useful tip? Let the guide shine the light on animals. The guides have the strongest lights and too many lights on one animal tend to scare the critter away.

The trails are shared by other tour guides and their groups. Initially, it seems there are too many people running about for any animals to be spotted. Not to worry, Kinkajou Tours have their logistics down to a science so it is easy to share the same space.  

In addition to the tour guides, there are also ‘spotters’ on the trails looking for animals. The tour guides and the spotters communicate animal locations via walkie-talkie.

After your guide leads your small group to the location of an animal, each member of the group is given a chance to see the animal and take a photo. Then the guide tells the story – why touching this frog will kill you, how this snake survives at altitude, and why possums are important to the region.

The guides know the environment and passionately share their knowledge. We did our best to stump the guides with questions. They always had an answer. Now whether it was a correct answer, who knows?

Tips for your night walk:

  • I recommend bringing your own headlamp or flashlight as a backup. A rain forest in the dark without a working flashlight isn’t any fun.
  • When the guide says ‘Give me your phone. I take good pictures.” hand your phone over.  They really do take the best pictures.
  • When the guide says “Vamos!” or “Hurry, quickly!”, hustle to keep up.  They are trying to get you to a spot before the animal moves. Of course, I did wonder sometimes if we were actually running away from something instead.  🙂

Critters spotted

Animals spotted on our night walk:

  • Two sleeping birds – an emerald Toucan and a green Motmot.
  • Green yellow-striped pit viper.  In a tree.
    • One guest quipped “I’m not sure I needed to know snakes are ABOVE my head”.  
    • These are one of the few snakes found in the Monteverde area given the altitude of nearly 5000 feet.
  • Tarantula.  Did you know female tarantulas can live to be 20 years old?
  • Scorpion.  Fun fact – scorpions glow under a black light.
Scorpion glowing in the dark
Scropions glow in the dark
  • Red-eyed tree frog
  • Possum. Our guide laughed when he told us as a child he was paid by farmers to sling-shot possums to chase them away from crops. Now he is a guide working to protect possums and their habitat.
  • Porcupine
  • 10-inch walking stick

For more ideas of fun things to do in the Monteverde area, check out our Experience Monteverde guide. Or add on to your visit using our Costa Rica 2-week Itinerary.

Map of location of Santa Elena Costa Rica