Monteverde, Costa Rica: A Forest in the Clouds

Last Updated: August 31, 2019

Located in the country’s northwestern mountains and straddling the Continental Divide is one of Costa Rica’s top ecotourism destinations, Monteverde. Translating to Green Mountain, this small town, originally founded by Quakers, really lives up to its name. Here, trees are covered in layers of thick moss and plants grow on top of one another due to a constant haze of clouds and filtered sun. This unique habitat, called the cloud forest, is home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife. In this post, we’ll share all the information you need to plan your visit to Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds - Destination Guide

Orientation

Monteverde lies inland from Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, high in the Tilaran Mountain Range (Cordillera de Tilaran). While remote, it is only about three hours from each of Costa Rica’s international airports in San Jose and Liberia. Monteverde is also a popular pass-through destination for people going from La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano to points along the Pacific coast and vice versa.

The Monteverde area is actually made up of two separate towns. One, of course, is Monteverde and the other is Santa Elena. Santa Elena is the first town you come to when arriving and has a busy, but small, downtown with shops, restaurants, a few attractions, and some hotels. Many people visiting without a car choose to stay here for the convenience. From Santa Elena, one road connects to Monteverde and eventually dead-ends at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Monteverde itself doesn’t have a defined downtown. Instead, things are spread out along the road or nestled into the forest on smaller side roads.

Tip: There is a lot packed into the main roads and side streets, but finding everything can be a challenge. We recommend keeping a map of the local area handy. Here is a link to an awesome one that we found.

Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds - View of Downtown Santa Elena
View of downtown Santa Elena from above

Getting There

Getting to Monteverde, Costa Rica is often a topic of concern for first-time travelers. Indeed, some of the roads leading to this remote destination can be treacherous at times, but with the right vehicle, they are fine most of the year. We have a post about the two main driving routes to Monteverde and included some video footage of the road conditions to give you an idea.

Keep in mind that you don’t absolutely need a car in Monteverde. While attractions are spread out, most tours include transportation for free or a small fee. If you do decide to have a rental car, we recommend an SUV with higher clearance and 4×4 if possible. Check out our Rental Car Discount page to save 10% and get free extras.

If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, shared or private shuttle vans are a popular choice. Many people are also intrigued by the Jeep-Boat-Jeep option that goes between the La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano area and Monteverde. This is a shared shuttle van service with a nice boat ride across Lake Arenal in the middle. Lastly, public buses can take you to and from Monteverde, though they tend to be slower and may require connections.  

If you would like help arranging a shared or private shuttle or the Jeep-Boat-Jeep option, please contact us through our Shuttle Booking page. 

How Much Time to Spend in Monteverde – Can You Visit as a Day Trip?

Many people look at the map and figure that they can do Monteverde on a day trip from La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano and even parts of Guanacaste. Although Monteverde may seem close, as we mentioned, the roads and mountainous conditions make for at least a three hour drive no matter where you’re coming from. While possible, driving to Monteverde as a day trip makes for a long, exhausting day.

We recommend staying for at least a couple of nights to make the trip worthwhile. Two nights is the minimum amount of time to see the major attractions. If you prefer to travel at a slower pace or have more must-sees on your list, staying three or four nights is best. You still won’t run out of things to do and great places to eat.

Activities in Monteverde

You would never guess that Monteverde is a small town based on the long list of activities available. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, bird-watching, gardens, and wildlife exhibits, while adventurous types can do heart-pumping activities like zip lining and whitewater rafting. With all to choose from, here is a narrowed-down list of some things you won’t want to miss. 

See the Booking a Tour section below for information on how we can help you arrange your activities in Monteverde.

Hiking

Hiking through the cloud forest is the most popular activity in Monteverde. There are several protected areas to choose from, but the most visited is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This reserve gives an excellent cloud forest experience and has trails for all levels, but can get busy during peak tourist months like December and January. Less crowded options include the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which is higher altitude, and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, the largest private reserve in Costa Rica. There are also many smaller reserves. Curi-Cancha is one, and we found it to have some of the best bird-watching because of its varied habitat.

We highly recommend getting a naturalist guide for your hike through the cloud forest. Birds and animals are often hiding in the thick canopy, making many visitors leave disappointed that they didn’t see much. We work with a company in Monteverde with excellent, knowledgeable guides who our clients have loved in the past. See below for how to book through the company that we work with. Guided hikes of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are around $85 per person. And guided hikes of Curi Cancha are $75 per person.

Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds - Hiking Curi Cancha Reserve
Enjoying the trails (almost) all to ourselves at Curi-Cancha Reserve

Night Tours

Most of the reserves also offer guided night tours. These tours allow you to see different types of wildlife that might not be active during the day and are fun because, well, it’s dark. Usually the terrain is fairly flat so these kinds of tours are good for just about everyone, seniors and kids included. Prices are around $30 per person. See below for how to book a night tour in Monteverde through the highly recommended operator we use.

Zip Lining and Hanging Bridges

Monteverde has numerous zip-line operators and hanging bridge facilities. Not many people know this, but Monteverde is where zip lining was first developed for tourism back in the 1990s. While zip lines are now found throughout Costa Rica, cruising through the clouds is a unique experience to just Monteverde. Hanging bridges offer another way to enjoy the cloud forest canopy (see cover photo, above). Strolling through the treetops, you can see lots of birds and occasionally other wildlife like monkeys. We’ve done lots of hanging bridges around Costa Rica, but Monteverde’s are some of the best. 

There are several operators in town that offer combo tours where you can do both zip lining and hanging bridges. Prices are around $105 per person. See below for how to book a tour at one of the facilities we recommend.

Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds - Zip Lining through the Cloud Forest
View of a zip liner from one of Monteverde’s hanging bridge parks

Gardens and Wildlife Exhibits

Monteverde is known as being one of the most biodiverse places in Costa Rica, with hundreds of different plants, animals, and birds. Seeing wildlife or specific plants in the cloud forest, though, can be difficult since the foliage is so thick and cloud cover so dense.

To supplement what you will see on the trail, it’s fun to check out the many nature exhibits around town. These really showcase how much life can be found in the area. Some are attached to other attractions (a hanging bridge company might have a hummingbird garden), but many are stand-alone like the Monteverde Orchid Garden, Monteverde Butterfly Garden, Serpentario, Bat Jungle, and Hummingbird Gallery. These places are great to visit if you have extra time between tours or need to duck away during a passing rain shower.

Coffee and Chocolate Tours

Before Monteverde became a popular tourist spot, farming was how most locals made a living. Today, many families still work the fertile land. Coffee, along with sugar cane and chocolate, is the most prominent crop in the area. You will see the shiny green leaves of this important plant lining the steep hills on your drive into town.

Several different coffee tours are available in Monteverde. Some are larger, more commercial operations, while others feature small, organic farms. Tours may include a ride in a traditional ox-cart, sugar-cane demonstration, or chocolate-making component. See below for how to get more information about the different tour options or to make a booking.

Ficus Tree

One of the coolest things we have done in Monteverde was climb a giant ficus tree. Certain ficus species compete for light in the cloud forest by wrapping around larger trees and winding their way to the top. Eventually, the host tree gets strangled out and rots away. What’s left is a one-of-a-kind lattice that is hollow in the middle—basically a ladder into the canopy. You can climb several of these trees around Monteverde, usually as part of a tour. One you can visit on your own is located directly across from the entrance to the Original Canopy Tour (view location on this map). Look for a small trailhead and follow it down and to the left for about 5-10 minutes. Of course, climb this at your own risk as it goes up at least 50 feet!  

Climbing the ficus tree in Monteverde
Climbing the giant ficus tree!

Booking a Tour

We have been booking tours for people visiting the Monteverde area for several years and work with some excellent companies that offer guided hikes through the cloud forest, night tours, zip lining, hanging bridges, and coffee tours. If you’d like to book one of these or another activity in Monteverde, please contact us through our Tour Booking Service page or send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. We will then get back to you with more information. We just need your preferred date, the number of people in your party (adults and children), and pickup location if you need transportation. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!

Restaurant Recommendations in Monteverde

The Monteverde area has an abundance of eateries to please all palates, many using locally grown ingredients from small farms and dairies. A lot of international restaurants are popular for dinner, including Italian and fusion offerings, while cafes, bakeries, and sodas (traditional Costa Rican restaurants) are available for lunch. Here’s a list of some that we have enjoyed.

Green Restaurant

For an elegant dinner in Santa Elena, head to the Green Restaurant. This farm-to-table restaurant features chicken, steak, fish, and pasta entrees paired with interesting sauces. Many of the ingredients come from the owner’s own family farm. Located in Plaza Monteverde (near the Mega Super grocery store) on the second floor.

Restaurant Guide Monteverde, Costa Rica - Green Restaurant
Tagliatelle Alfredo with shrimp at Green Restaurant

Tramonti

One of the most popular options in town, this charming Italian eatery has delicious homemade pasta, brick-oven pizza, and tasty desserts like Tiramisu. The atmosphere at Tramonti is romantic for dinner and warm and welcoming for lunch, especially after hiking in the cool cloud forest. Located just before the CASEM art cooperative on the road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Cafe Cabure

Offering a large menu that ranges from sandwiches and wraps to chicken, fish, beef, or pasta, Cafe Cabure cooks up eclectic food with an Argentinian flare. Be sure to save room for dessert as they make their own chocolates (including truffles). Located next to Bat Jungle on the road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Note: We loved the food here but were given a terrible exchange rate on our bill. Be sure to ask for the check in local Colones so this doesn’t happen to you.

Restaurant Guide to Monteverde, Costa Rica - Cafe Cabure
Sea Bass with almonds at Cafe Cabure

Sabor Tico

A staple in town, Sabor Tico serves up typical Costa Rican cuisine and is the best spot to catch a soccer game on TV or have a beer. This place can get crowded with locals and visitors alike because the food is really good, so be sure to bring your patience. Has two locations in Santa Elena: one in Plaza Monteverde (near the Mega Super grocery store) on the second floor, and another across the street from the soccer field.  

Orchid Garden Cafe

This well-loved hangout right in downtown Santa Elena offers a wide selection of coffees and drinks, both hot and cold. They also have a huge food menu with everything from waffles and crepes to wraps, salads, and dinner entrees. Free Wifi and a nice outdoor deck keep patrons here for hours so make sure to grab a table when you can. Open for all three meals, with breakfast served all day.

Where to Eat in Monteverde, Costa Rica - Orchid Garden Cafe
Delicious crepe at the Orchid Cafe

Soda Abuela at the CASEM Gift Shop

Hidden in the back corner of the CASEM art collaborative building is Soda Abuela. If you are looking for an authentic dining experience in Costa Rica, this is your place. Dishes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), casados (lunch plates), and traditional soups are carefully prepared on a woodstove by local woman who know what they are doing. As a bonus, while eating here you can explore the CASEM gift shop, which has a decent selection of artwork and crafts made by locals.

Eating local in Monteverde, Costa Rica at Soda Abuela
Wood stove at Soda Abuela where all the magic happens

Stella’s Bakery

We first discovered this cafe after giving the owner’s elderly father a ride into town from the countryside. He recommended we stop by and we are happy we did. Stella’s is a comfortable lunch spot that offers many soups and sandwiches. They also have homemade baked goods like giant cinnamon buns, empanadas, and carrot cake. Located across the street from CASEM on the road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Beso Espresso

The hippest place around to grab a coffee, espresso, or latte is Beso Espresso. This tiny coffee shop in downtown Santa Elena will give you just the jolt you need to get your day started or keep you going for the afternoon. While there are quite a few coffee shops to choose from in Monteverde, Beso Espresso is one of the best. Located around the corner from the church in Santa Elena.  

Local coffee at Beso Espresso in Monteverde
A rich cappuccino at Beso Espresso

Hotels in Monteverde

Below are a few of our favorite hotels and lodges in the Monteverde area. For a full list in all price ranges, read our separate post, Monteverde Hotel Guide. This guide gives our complete recommendations for everything from family-friendly cabins and affordable inns to romantic lodges with cloud-forest views. It also gives essential tips on what to look for in lodging.

Hotel Belmar

With gorgeous architecture that compliments the breathtaking views, Hotel Belmar is best described as a luxury lodge. Nestled in the cloud forest, this boutique hotel has well-appointed rooms and brilliant wood finishes throughout. Its restaurant embodies the hotel’s focus on sustainability by offering farm-to-table cuisine, homemade mixers, and craft beer that is brewed onsite. We have had several clients stay here in the past, all with rave reviews. Located right outside downtown Santa Elena off the main road to Monteverde. $160-600/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Monteverde Destination Guide - Where to Stay - Hotel Belmar
A view of the cloud forest at Hotel Belmar

Los Pinos Cabanas

A good mid-range option, especially for those who like privacy, is Los Pinos Cabanas. Stand-alone cabins are spaced out on the wooded property with forest and trails in between. The various-sized cottages accommodate everyone from couples to larger families and offer fully equipped kitchens that allow you to dine in if you want. There’s even a free-use veggie garden. Located on the main road between Santa Elena and Monteverde. $100-200/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Monteverde Destination Guide - Where to Stay - Los Pinos Cabinas
One of the standalone cabins at Los Pinos Cabanas

Monteverde Inn

While many budget options are in downtown Santa Elena, the Monteverde Inn sits within secluded cloud forest. Various room setups accommodate solo travelers, couples, and families. Trails through their private reserve are free for guests, and the property is known for having a wide variety of birds and animals. Located next to the Monteverde Butterfly Garden on a side road between Santa Elena and Monteverde. $50-85/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here.

Monteverde Destination Guide - Where to Stay - Monteverde Inn
Rooms are close to the trailhead of the private reserve at Monteverde Inn

For one of Costa Rica’s more remote destinations, Monteverde certainly has a lot to offer. Whether you’re looking for a quiet escape, thrilling adventure, or something in between, you can find the perfect mix here in the green, misty cloud forests. We’ve enjoyed each trip we’ve taken to Monteverde and can’t wait to return again to discover more.

Last Updated: August 31, 2019

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

Have a question about your upcoming trip to Monteverde? Post your comment below.

Looking for more information to help you plan? Check out these posts:

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – Learn about the Reserve’s Quaker history and what to expect for trail conditions and wildlife. 

Best Hotels Near SJO Airport – If you’re flying in or out of San Jose, don’t settle for a bland airport hotel. See our picks that will make your first or last travel days memorable.

Destinations Summary Guide – Where to after Monteverde? This summary guide gives an overview of Costa Rica’s many unique destinations and links to our detailed articles so you can learn more. 

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91 Comments

  1. We were in Costa Rica a few years ago and almost made it to Monteverde – there’s just not enough time to see everything that amazing country has to offer. Every time I ask Dan where he wants to go next he says “back to Costa Rica!” haha. I think one day we’ll end up there almost full-time. We ended up visiting Rio Celeste, Arenal and Cano Negro before heading off for some beach time on that trip. Great shots of Monteverde! I’ll have to venture there next time for sure.

    1. Hi Katie, sounds like you saw some pretty awesome spots when you were here. The Rio Celeste is one of our all time favorite places in CR- that blue water, I could stare at it all day! I fully support you ending up here almost full time 🙂 Let us know if you get serious about it!

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

        Have you visited the Rio Celeste in July? I read that during rainy season, it will likely be muddy rather than that pretty blue. I know there are no guarantees but just curious. Thanks.

        1. Hi Lila, We have not been to the Rio Celeste in July. July is rainy season and the Bijagua area of Costa Rica does receive quite a bit of rain so it is hard to say how it will be. What we usually recommend if you’re traveling during the rainy season is to spend more time in a destination to increase your odds of having one dry day. Keeping your schedule flexible also helps so that if it’s rainy one day but not the next, you have time to do the waterfall on the clear day.

  2. If somebody told me to picture a “tropical paradise” this is EXACTLY what I’d have in mind. The photographs are just stunning! I never knew Costa Rica would be a place I have to visit, but I’m so adding it to my bucket list based on this post 🙂 Thanks a lot for sharing.

    1. Costa Rica is definitely worth a visit. You can go from cool cloud forest to lush jungle and steamy beach in just a few hours. The people are super nice too!

  3. I have not been to Costa Rica yet, but I always hear about how amazing it is. I have a friend from Australia who will be going there later this year, and while I’m sure she’s already discovered Monteverde in her research I’ll have to pass this post on to her!

  4. Hi,

    Heading to Costa Rica in a couple weeks and planning to spend two nights in the monteverde area. Do you have any recommendations on where to stay?

    Thanks,

    Rob

    1. Note (9/21/2016): We’ve since updated this post to include a few hotel suggestions. We’ve also written a more comprehensive Monteverde Hotel Guide for those that are looking for additional recommendations.

      Hi Rob,

      There are lots of great options for places to stay in Monteverde. Here are some ideas (listed in order of price):

      Savegre Inn– Hostel located in the center of Santa Elena (good option if you’re not renting a car because restaurants are close by). Family run, simple rooms. Both dorm beds ($15) and private rooms available (starting at $40).
      Hotel El Viandante– Great budget option located a short walk from downtown Santa Elena. Simple but clean rooms. Owners are very friendly and helpful. Rooms are $45-75.
      Cabinas Eddy B&B– Popular option about 5 min. to downtown Santa Elena. Staff is very hospitable; good breakfast. Rooms start at $70.
      Hotel Fonda Vela– Solid mid-range option. Comfortable, rustic rooms. Opt for a Junior Suite if you can. A little outside town but fine if you have a car. Rooms start at $120.
      Monteverde Lodge and Garden– Nice, well-appointed rooms; beautifully landscaped gardens and pool area. They also have a butterfly enclosure and some trails on site. Rooms start at $200.

  5. Went to Monteverde on Sat. Ride up was nice except road is under major construction. Give yourself enough time to get there. You may sit for quite sometime while road construction is going on. And on the way back, beware of your garmin if you use one, Took us back a 2Hr ride through some of the worse driving I ever experienced and double our trip to 5 hrs travel time. But….the trip up was worth it. We had a tremendous guide, Roberto Saenz, who also is a local and takes his daughter to the Reserve. We saw numerous flora and fauna as well as mammals and the elusive Quetzal. We actually saw 3. A pair as well as a lone female. We got some awesome pictures of all 3 getting 20 yds. of a female. One female was searching for a potential nesting site. There was also a different male in the entrance to the reserve,but that didn’t count. It is a very spiritual place. And don’t forget to visit the hummingbird garden and the photos and art on display from the local artist.

    1. Hi Fred,
      Around this time of year (beginning of the rainy season) they re-grade a lot of Costa Rica’s dirt roads so that might be what you experienced. Otherwise there is periodically construction to fix the washouts and such. We’ve been lost on some of those roads too because many are not well marked and GPS or Google maps has a hard time finding your true location. But you’re right it is totally worth the trip and is a magical place. That’s great that you saw Quetzals too, thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi,
    Do you think a 4×2 would be bad for the itinerary San Jose – Alajuela – Guacanaste – San Jose? Is there a NEED for 4×4 cars or with a 4×2 we’ll be fine?
    Thanks, love your site!

    1. Hi Isadora, Do you mean city of Alajuela near San Jose? If so, 4×2 should be fine for there and the beach areas of Guanacaste. If you’re visiting other towns in Alajuela Province, though, you might need 4×4 depending on where you’re going (you would for Monteverde, etc.). Be sure to check out our rental car discount as you’re shopping around. You can check rates on this page of our site: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/costa-rica-rental-car-discount/. We also have more info on that page about places in Costa Rica where you need 4×4.

  7. Hi There,
    My husband and 3 kids 14, 11, and 6 are visiting CR for the first time in June for a week. We are flying into Liberia. We are wanting to visit a national park that has the beautiful jungles, waterfalls and wildlife. Where do you suggest for us to go? We would like to stay overnight, then drive to a beach in Guanacaste and stay there for the remaining of the trip. I understand there can be a lot of driving involved if not planned properly. Would love to hear your suggestions!

    1. Hi Charlotte, We have a Family itinerary in our new book that might work for you. The 1-week itinerary starts in La Fortuna, which has jungle, waterfalls, and wildlife, and then goes to Nosara in Guanacaste for some awesome beach time and more wildlife. The book helps you figure out how to split up your time based on drive times and also has lots of info on activities that are good for kids (and adults) in each of these places. You can find the book on Amazon.

  8. I am having a hard time deciding if I should visit Monteverde or Manual Antonio. We’re already doing Arenal, Tamarindo, Santa Maria/Montezuma. Is the zip lining and hanging bridges better in Monteverde then Arenal?

    1. Hi Ashley, You’ll be getting a lot of beach time in Tamarindo and Montezuma, so we’d suggest Monteverde over Manuel Antonio so that you can experience the cloud forest. Monteverde is unique in terms of climate but also the overall feel of the town because it’s mountainous and more rural. Both Arenal and Monteverde have awesome zip lines and hanging bridges, but we slightly prefer the ones in Monteverde because of the cloud forest.

    1. Hi Yehuda, It will be rainy season so be sure to pack rain gear and an umbrella. We have a detailed list of what to bring for the rainy weather in our Packing post. Other than that, just be flexible with your plans. You might not want to plan everything ahead of time so that you can rearrange things if it is really rainy one day. This shouldn’t be a problem since it won’t be very busy and you can book tours more last minute. Have a great trip!

        1. They are both good options. Which is better depends on what else you are doing in each place. In Monteverde, we always recommend either zip lining or hanging bridges because being high up gives you a really cool perspective of the cloud forest. The hanging bridges in Arenal are nice too, but if you’re already hiking there, you can probably skip them. Note also that Monteverde has a couple of different options for hanging bridge parks. What we think of as the “Monteverde Hanging Bridge” is the single red one in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which mostly has hiking trails.

          1. Ok thanks! We are not planning on spending much time in either place. Besides an over night in La Fortuna and visiting the La Fortuna waterfall we were only heading that direction for the Arenal Hanging Bridges at SkyAdventures. Should we do the Monteverde sky walk instead?

          2. We always recommend more than one night in both La Fortuna and Monteverde due to drive times, but if that’s your schedule, I would probably save the hanging bridges for Monteverde. Sky Walk is nice and we really like Selvatura too. We work with both of these companies so let us know if you want any help with the booking. If you have a group, we may be able to get you a discount.

  9. Lovely article. We will be staying in Monteverde for a week and then making the journey to Puerto Viejo for the last leg of our trip. Does anyone know how long to expect the drive to take? I saw google maps had estimated it to take 8 hours but know to expect longer due to the road conditions.

    1. Hi Jackie, Whatever Google says will give you a pretty good estimate. Some of it will depend on road conditions going out of Monteverde (if you’re traveling during the rainy season, it will be slower). We just did this drive a few months ago and wrote a post about what it was like: Driving to Monteverde: Best Routes and Road Conditions. Around San Jose there is always traffic, which will slow you down, unless you’re traveling on the weekend when it is much lighter. We’re actually working on a post now about road conditions on the different routes in Costa Rica if you want more detailed information. Check back on our website mid next week or you can subscribe to our blog (click here) to get it sent to your email.

  10. Really useful article! I was wondering if I absolutely need a tour guide to walk on the hanging bridges? I will be staying at Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast. I will be booking the zip lining tour through Camin Verde Tours, but I’m not sure if I need a guide for the hanging bridges.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Karla, You definitely don’t need a guide for the hanging bridges. One of the companies in Monteverde that has the bridges, Sky Adventures, provides a guide as part of the tour, which can be nice because you’ll learn a little about the flora and fauna of the area. They also know where to look for wildlife so you might see more birds and animals too. That said, it’s easy to do the bridges on your own and if you go slowly, you can still see a lot. We have done the bridges at Selvatura self guided before and saw quite a few birds… plus the scenery is fantastic and you don’t need a guide to enjoy that! The bridges at Selvatura are really well maintained and the path is very easy to follow so no issues there either. Hope you have a great visit!

  11. Hola Jenn and Matt, very informative website.
    We’re staying in Monteverde for a few days during our 2 week (early December) trip from the UK.
    Great to see there’s plenty to see and do in the area.
    My wife is very hopeful and excited to see humming birds. It wouid be more thrilling to see them in their natural enviroment, any tips would be great.
    Also, we are both veggies, are there any restaurants you could suggest for vegetarian options?
    Pura vida,
    Luke and Gemma.

    1. Hi Luke and Gemma, You can easily see hummingbirds in the wild in Monteverde. Curi Cancha Reserve is a good spot. It has hiking trails through the forest but one area in a clearing has a few hummingbird feeders that draw in the birds. The Hummingbird Gallery also has tons of feeders set up- it feels less wild because they’re all set up outside a shop, but all the birds are wild so it’s a very easy way to see a lot of different species.

      Monteverde has many vegetarian-friendly restaurants so you shouldn’t have any problems. From my memory of the menus, Tramonti and Orchid Garden Cafe are two options. Also, typical Costa Rican food is vegetarian friendly. I bet that Sabor Tico has a vegetarian Casado. Have a great visit!

  12. Great website, it has really helped plan our trip in a few weeks. Question though: Monteverde Cloud forest or Santa Elena- heard mixed reports MV really busy but better whereas SE quieter and peaceful?! Really scared of snakes so do we need a guide? Only there for the one day before heading to Jaco so any advice would be fab!

    1. Hi Lauren, Yes, that is true in general, although the Monteverde Reserve isn’t busy at all times of year so it depends on when you’re visiting. Rainy season (May through November) is slower. There are also trails off the main trails that are less crowded but these require more time to hike. We actually just came out with a post about the Monteverde Reserve. Here’s the link.

      Santa Elena is quieter but personally we like the Monteverde Reserve a little better because of the hanging bridge and lookout to the Continental Divide. Curi Cancha is another really good option especially if you don’t have much time. They limit the number of visitors per day so it is never crowded.

      You probably won’t see any snakes but it’s a good idea to get a guide for your first visit to the cloud forest anyway because you will see more birds and wildlife. The trails at all the reserves are well maintained and marked though if you don’t want one.

  13. Great article and resources! We’ll be visiting CR for 10 days in April. Flying into Liberia, renting a car, heading to the coast for a couple of days, then over to La Fortuna for three or four, then finish things off in Monteverde. We would prefer to return the car in La Fortuna, take the shuttle-boat-shuttle to Monteverde and spend three nights there. Yes, we could do the drive…we just don’t really want to deal with it. Is it reasonable to be in Monteverde for three nights without a car? We’re totally fine walking here, there and everywhere…but understand the area is a bit spread out. Are there alternatives modes of travel pretty readily available for the car-less (bus, cabs…easily walkable area?) Thanks!

    1. Hi LaNae, Yes, Monteverde without a car is totally possible. If you stay near the main area of town in Santa Elena that will be easiest because there are a lot of restaurants, stores, etc. within walking distance. Even if you stay outside town, though, you could easily take a cab. The bus also runs several times a day from downtown Santa Elena all the way to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. There’s another private shuttle that connects Santa Elena in the other direction to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve for only a few dollars if you want to do that hike (I think you have to make a reservation for this one). We have some recommendations for hotels that are closer to downtown Santa Elena in our Monteverde Hotel Guide post. Hope that helps!

  14. Thanks, it does! We’ll likely hit both reserves. Question about the transfer from La Fortuna to Monteverde: is there a specific company that you recommend? Desafio offers the van boat van, as do a number of other companies. Also, will it be an issue that we’ll each be lugging a suitcase and a backpack on those transfers? And, if we just tell them to pick us up at the Adobe rent a car place in La Fortuna will know what we’re talking about? (Thanks for that discount, by the way!!)

  15. We’ll also be looking to book private transport from Monteverde back to liberia. Perhaps the same as we use to get to Monteverde? I mentioned desafio above, but they seem more expensive than some of the others…so I’m open to suggestions. Thanks again!

    1. Hi LaNae, We will email you with info about booking shuttles. We know of a good company for the Monteverde to Liberia leg and can help with the Jeep-Boat-Jeep too. Look for an email soon, probably tomorrow morning.

  16. What tour companies do you recommend to go zip lining, hanging bridges, horseback riding, etc. in Monte Verde and La Fortuna? Do they all provide transportation from the hotels?

    1. Hi Lisa, Most of those tours do have an option for transportation. Sometimes it is free and sometimes there is a charge. We can help you with your bookings if you would like and set you up with our recommended tour operators. We don’t charge anything extra for this. Just reply to this message if you’re interested and we can send you an email with more details.

  17. Hi ! Great info on your sites!!Thank you both for sharing so honestly…My husband and I are leaving in 3 days to an all-inclusive(Villas Sol Hotel and Resort) near Playa Hermosa Guanacaste. Overall, we will only be in CR for about 4 days and 1 will be partly used up for a time share presentation. We had not planned on any car rental. I feel that after traveling so far, it would be a shame not to see Arenal or Monteverde, but since we are at an all-inclusive, you kind of hate to pay for another place to stay. Also after reading much, either seems far and more than a day trip. Although visiting CR again and adding those places would be great, we are not sure we would be able to add it to our future travels. We are older(not ancient) and have many travel plans on our “list” already! 🙂 Any feedback or suggestions from you on ways to go to either in 1 day? or by any other transportation? I would be willing to cajole hubby into staying 1 nite if needed;) Thanks! Sandra

    1. Hi Sandra, We hear you about wanting to see those places while you’re here, but if you’re only coming for four days, it’s better to just stay in the Guanacaste area and enjoy it as much as possible. If you haven’t seen it yet, we have a post on Playa Hermosa, which includes activities in the area. Some of the things you can do out of Hermosa will show you something very different from what you will find at the beach (e.g. Rincon de la Vieja, Llanos de Cortes Waterfall) so that you can have a more dynamic travel experience.

      If you really want to see Monteverde or La Fortuna, your best option is to drive and stay overnight. It is a long trip to either for only one night, but it is possible and people do it. Hope you and your husband have a great visit!

  18. Hi Jenn & Matt, after reading your blog for quite a number of weeks we’ve finally booked our trip for mid-May for 10 days. So excited now. Thanks for all your amazing tips and advice! Although we have a rough outline of places we want to visit, I am wondering if we should change our plan to miss La Fortuna and head for Monteverde from San Jose instead? I just wonder at that time of year its risky to go to Monteverde due to the weather and play it safe with La Fortuna. I know it’s personal choice of course but value any advice you might be able to give! After Monteverde / La Fortuna we are heading to Playa Hermosa for 3 nights, Manuel Antonio for 3 nights and then heading back to San Jose to fly home. Thanks!

    1. Hi Emma, If you really want to see Monteverde, then you should go there. In mid-May, it shouldn’t be too terribly rainy. We were there last year at the end of April and didn’t see any rain. Even if it does rain a little, that’s all part of the experience there since the climate is a lot cooler/wetter than the rest of the country. The rest of your itinerary sounds great too!

  19. Hi Matt & Jenn, great posts! Thanks a lot for sharing useful information. Very helpful! We are planning to go to Costa Rica in a week. The plan is to stay at Monteverde for 3 days and then at Tamarindo for 3 days as well. Could you please answer a few questions:
    1) What are the options to get to Monteverde from Liberia airport without a car? And how long will it take?
    2) Is it possible to get from Monteverde to Arenal Volcano park? Are there organized tours? How long will it take if we rent a car?
    3) How difficult will it be to get a car at Monteverde without pre-booking?
    4) Do we need to do currency exchange before coming to Monteverde? Are credit cards accepted there?
    5) If the forecasted weather at the Cloud Rainforest is 91/71 with thunderstorms, will it be really raining the whole day or just during short periods? Does it become slippery and dangerous on the trails during/after the thunderstorms?

    Thanks a lot!

    Kind regards,
    Alina

    1. Hi Alina, (1) If you’re not renting a car, you can either take a shared or private shuttle van to get from LIR to Monteverde. The trip is about 3 hrs private and longer shared, depending on which company you go with. Shared is cheaper at around $45 pp. Private is around $180. If you want help booking something, just let us know. We work with one of the major shared shuttle companies and can get you a discount if you book multiple trips through us (more info on our Costa Rica Discounts page) and we know of a very reputable private shuttle company too.

      (2) We don’t recommend doing Arenal on a day trip from Monteverde because it’s such a long ride due to rough roads and you would spend a large chunk of the day in a van/car. Better to spend your three days exploring Monteverde, which has a ton to do.

      (3) We don’t know of any rental car agencies in Monteverde, unfortunately, so you would have to take a shuttle or do what’s called the Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer across Lake Arenal.

      (4) Yes, credit cards are accepted at most places in Monteverde. Read our Money Matters post for info on exchanging currency. There are banks and ATMs in Monteverde.

      (5) Monteverde is rainier than other areas of Costa Rica because it’s the cloud forest. But right now it’s the dry season when it rains a lot less and usually in brief bursts. Read our Packing post, which has specific tips for travel to Monteverde. Wear good gripping footwear like hiking boots or sneakers and you will be fine on the trail.

  20. In your opinion, is it worth it to go to Monteverde for just one night? I have planned a stop there between the Arenal area and Manuel Antonio. I would leave Arenal early in the morning to have as much time as possible in Monteverde. Thanks for your insight.

  21. If you stay till after sunset at the ficus tree -you will see the fireflies all around. Amazing experience, combined with the tree!

  22. We are planning a trip to CR for 2 adults and 2 boys 15 and 12 in end of july/beg of august. Plan to fly into SJ and then to LF for 3-4 nights then MV for 3 nights and to Uvita for 4-5 nights. After researching I am wondering if we should consider San Gerado de Dota instead? Looks easier to get to.

    1. Hi Kelly, With the construction around Monteverde, it is easier to get to San Gerardo right now. But don’t let that deter you if you prefer the looks of Monteverde. It’s a somewhat long drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde but incredibly beautiful as well. You only have the construction to deal with for the departure trip from Monteverde to Uvita, and we have been hearing from people that the alternate route (145) isn’t bad at all (see our post Driving to Monteverde). San Gerardo is nice too but has a completely different feel because it’s really small and has a lot less to do.

  23. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    First, thanks for the great site and books!
    How difficult or easy is it getting around Monteverde without a rental car?

    Doug

    1. Hi Doug, If you stay near town (Santa Elena), you will be within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and a few things to do. (See our Monteverde Hotel Guide for some good options near Santa Elena). Most attractions are outside town but the area isn’t too spread out so taxis are affordable. There’s also the bus and a shuttle that runs several times a day, which you can take for a couple of dollars. A lot of times tours include transportation as well.

  24. Hi Matt & Jenn – Thanks so much for the information! I will be referring to your site often as we continue to plan our trip. One question… We have decided to travel from Tortuguero to Arenal to Monteverde. The Tortuguero shuttle is able to drop us off in Guapiles (rather than driving all the way back to San Jose). We have been advised to take a private transfer from Guapiles to Arenal. Would you recommend getting a car in Arenal and keeping it until drop-off at the airport? Or do you think it would be better to get a car for our time in Arenal, take the jeep-boat-jeep shuttle to Monteverde, and then get a car for the last few days in Monteverde? The jeep-boat-jeep option sounds like it would be so much fun for our 12 and 14 year old boys, but I’m not sure if that will be too challenging logistically. Thanks for your advice!

    1. Hi Stephanie, With that itinerary, we would recommend getting the car in Guapiles to avoid the somewhat costly private shuttle trip (we just looked into this for a client). The drive from Guapiles to La Fortuna isn’t bad at all. The rental car company we work with, Adobe, can deliver the car for you in Guapiles for free (see our Rental Car Discount). Then you can have the car in Arenal, which will be good since that area is more spread out. Unfortunately, there are no rental car offices in Monteverde so if you want it for after that to get back to the airport, you’ll need to keep it the entire time. You could always do a tour on Lake Arenal to make up for not being able to do the Van-Boat-Van. Kayak tours are available.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Since it has been a few years from the posting of this article, do you know if the roads are still only accessible via SUV/4X4? We’re planning to go in a Nissan Versa or similar, but aren’t sure of the condition of the roads..

    Thanks in advance!

    Best Regards,
    Isabel

    1. Hi Isabel, We try to keep our posts updated so whenever there is a major change to something like roads, we do updates even if the original post date is old. Anyway, yes, Monteverde is still only accessible with an SUV with higher clearance, 4×4 preferable (and required at certain times of year). You can read our post Driving to Monteverde for more details. See the comments for the most recent information about the construction on Route 606.

  26. Hi. Thanks for lots of great info. We will be in Monteverde for 2 nights. We were planning on getting a guide who would show us Curi-Cancha and Monteverde Cloud Forest on one day but it’s getting pricey and not giving us time to wander around town, see some of the artist galleries. What do you suggest? I’m concerned that if we skip MV we won’t get to see a cloud forest b/c Curi-Cancha apparently isn’t really one. Thoughts.
    p.s. We’re doing a coffee tour on the afternoon of arrival and zipline on the day we leave.

    1. Hi Tamar, With only two nights, we would recommend picking one of those two reserves. The experience is similar at both. Not sure what time of year you are visiting, but the Monteverde Reserve is busier during dry season (December through April). Curi Cancha is in Monteverde, not far from the MV Cloud Forest Reserve, and has a very similar environment/feel. The Monteverde Reserve is at the location of the Continental Divide so it may be cloudier there, but Curi Cancha and all of town gets misty too. A lot of it depends on the time of year and even time of day. If you just do one hike, this will give you time to check out town, art galleries, etc. Hope that helps!

  27. Hi Jenn & Matt,

    Is there a tour that you recommend for hanging bridges and ziplining? We are staying in Monteverde for 2 nights (coming from Bijagua and after spending 5 days in La Fortuna). We might not have time for hiking, but if we do, we might do the Cloud Forest Reserve.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Diana, Yes, we know of a great hanging bridges-zip line combo tour in Monteverde. This facility has some of the most elaborate hanging bridges in the country, and their zip line tour is really fun and safe. We’ll send you an email in a few minutes.

      1. Hi Jenn & Matt,

        Would you mind sending me an email about the combo ziplining and hanging bridges tour as well? I’ll be traveling with a group of 8-10 people on our way to a wedding and we heard Sky Adventures is “the best” and wondering if you have any relationship with them or know if they offer group discounts? I’m also curious if it would be possible if some of the group wanted to only do zip lining without the hanging bridges to have us all be in the same zip lining group?

          1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

            Would you mind sending me that email as well? I’ll be traveling to Monteverde during the end of August and I’m looking for a zipline/hanging bridge excursion as well!

      2. Hi Matt and Jenn,

        Please send me that info as well along with a guide to Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal. Volcano hike.

        Thank you!

      3. Hi Jenn and Matt,
        Can you send me an email for the zip line combo tour. We will be traveling in end of Nov and looking forward to doing those activities.
        Thank you
        Liya

  28. Hi there! Great info on your site. Thank you.

    I’m curious about the distance from downtown Santa Elena to the Monteverde reserve. We are considering going carless in the area and are big walkers anyway … so if it’s just a few miles, we may not mind.

    Also, is there a place to rent a bike? Could be another option for us. (We may opt to rent a house rather than book a hotel, so not sure if there will be bikes available.)

    Thanks for your insight, Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle, It’s a fairly long walk, about 5 km each way. There is a local bus you could take and also a shared van that runs a few times a day for a couple of dollars. If you stay at a hotel, they could help you with the van.

      We’ve never seen a place to rent bikes there but you never know. The terrain is hilly and there’s a lot of dirt roads so it’s not the most bike-friendly place, unfortunately.

  29. p.s. Also, I know December begins the dry season … what does that mean specifically for the first week of the month in the Monteverde area? Still kinda wet?

  30. Hi Jenn & Matt – Would you mind sending me the info for the company that does the hanging bridges/zip line combo tour that you mentioned in an above comment? We’ll be in Monteverde 3 nights (2 full days), staying in the Chira Glamping Pods in early November. Thinking of doing a day of hiking in the Cloud Forest and the hanging bridges/zip line the other day. We’ll have a 4WD rental car. Hopefully it won’t be too rainy to get it all in!

  31. Hi guys

    Your site is amazing.

    We are staying in Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo and then have 4 nights spare before we fly back from San Jose.

    I wanted to ask if you had any reccomendations, as we would love to visit monteverde. Just was wondering if 4 nights is too long and maybe if we should split the time between there and another place?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Ronal, Not sure which destination comes first, but Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero are both very far from Monteverde. It’s about an 8 hour drive due to sheer distance, as well as rough roads and traffic around San Jose. We’d recommend breaking up the drive by stopping somewhere for an overnight on the way. Casa Rio Blanco B&B is a good option, or you could look somewhere on the other side of San Jose like Atenas. Then you can spend the remaining 3 nights in Monteverde. Monteverde has a lot to do so that won’t be too much time. Hope that helps!

  32. Four of us are coming for our first visit in January 2019. We arrive in Lybiria airport on Jan. 8th. We are going to Santa Elena and have until the 12th (to much time?) Want to see the cloud forest, along with other attractions. I do wildlife photography, any tips.? then were off to the pacific coast for 6 days, then fly out on the 17th. Staying at the Hotel Claro De Luna for the first part on our vacation. Then at the Bahia del Sol Beach front Boutique Hotel for the rest of our trip. Any suggestions? We plan to drive ourselves.

    1. Hi Jim, We usually recommend 3 nights in Monteverde, but there is quite a bit to do to fill 4. Lots of photography opportunities. Make sure to go to the location of the Continental Divide at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for some cool pics. We’d hire a guide to see the most birds and wildlife in Monteverde. They’ll help you get some good shots. Let us know if you need a recommendation. For the second part of your trip in Playa Potrero, that area of the country doesn’t have a ton of wildlife, but it does have a good amount of birds. You can see some monkeys and iguanas too. A good place for wildlife photography you could do as a day trip is Las Pumas Rescue Center. Hope that gives you some ideas!

  33. Hi- thank you for your wealth of information, it has really helped plan our first trip to CR! We have a group of 9, staying in Playa Conchal for a week. We rented a van and would love to do a day trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest for a guided walk/hike and walk the bridges. Should we hire a guide before we go? Or will there be guides there to hire when we get there? Also do you recommend a particular guide?

    1. Hi Erin, With a large group like that, yes, we would definitely recommend arranging a guide in advance. We work with a great company that offers tours along hanging bridges or regular hikes and we may be able to get a group rate. Just send us a message through our tour booking service page with your preferred date and the number of people, adults and children, in your group and we can get back to you with more detailed information. Thanks!

  34. Hello,

    I’m wondering if you have any tour company recommendations for Monteverde and the Arsenal volcano? There’s so many companies and ads online that I find it overwhelming.

    Thanks for your help and great website!

    1. Hi Ellen, We’d be happy to help you book some tours for Monteverde and the Arenal area. We work with great operators in both locations. Please send us an email through our Tour Booking Service page with the things you’re interested in (zip lining, hanging bridges, hikes, coffee tours, whitewater rafting, etc.), and we can send some specific information.

  35. Hello Jenn and Matt:

    First of all really wanted to thank you for this amazing website – it has been tremendously helpful as I’m planning my first ever trip to Costa Rica with my brother this December!

    We’ll be spending a week at a surf camp in Nosara from Dec 14-20 (fixed dates). We’re then planning to head to Monteverde on Dec 21 morning and stay there until Dec 23. Then head off to La Fortuna on Dec 24 morning and stay through Dec 26. And finally fly out from Liberia on Dec 27.

    Do you think this would be a good pace? And would the key attractions be open during this period given it’s Christmas week? We were originally considering Manuel Antonio instead, but it sounds like that would be way too crowded during this week, so unfortunately might have to give it a miss.

    Thanks again for all the info!

    1. Hi James, Yes, that sounds like a good pace. It will be a little fast with just 2 nights in Monteverde and La Fortuna, but totally doable if you are okay with that.

      Key attractions and tours will all be open Christmas week. The only things that may be closed will be banks, government offices, etc. Let us know if you’d like any help booking tours for your trip. We offer a tour booking service or could also help you book just a tour or two, like zip lining, hanging bridges, etc.

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