A Quick summary

Accessible – Monteverde is accessible from both San Jose and Liberia airports and it’s an easy destination if you’re driving!

Adventure – Excellent variety of adventure sports, from ziplining to ATV biking to canyoning to rafting.

Cloud Forests– Known for it’s unique high altitude rainforests with thick, dense fog covering the canopies and trails.

Coffee – this area is known for its coffee plantations and is one of the best places to learn more about Costa Rican coffee.

Streams along our hike in Monteverde

Top Things to Do

1. Hike at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

When exploring Monteverde, a must-try experience is visiting the cloud forest ecosystem. The region is famed for its elevated cloud-covered rainforests, and the most popular choice for exploration is this particular reserve. Inside, you’ll find numerous hiking trails to discover. The primary Nubioso trail guides you to the continental divide between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, offering a breathtaking spectacle of dense clouds floating over the verdant landscape.

Tip: Buy tickets a day in advance to avoid queuing to enter the reserve as there’s a strict limit on numbers.

Cost: $25

Timings: 7am-4pm

2. Experience the cloud forests at Santa Elena Cloud Forest

A great alternative and much less popular to the Monteverde Cloud Forest is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Here, you’ll find hiking trails reminiscent of Monteverde, yet Santa Elena boasts a higher altitude, transforming the paths into a mossy wonderland straight out of a fairy tale. The trails are slightly longer than the ones at Monteverde, so you could easily spend the day here!

Cost: $16

Timings: 7am-3pm

Tip: Early morning is the best time to go bird watching at one of the many reserves in Monteverde. Don’t forget to look out for the Resplendent Quetzal – a native of this region!

The infamous cloudforests of Monteverde

3. Take a night tour

Many visitors flock to Costa Rica for the incredible wildlife experiences it offers. In Monteverde, immerse yourself in a nocturnal tour and explore the abundant wildlife Monteverde has to offer. Encounter an array of fascinating creatures, from snakes and spiders to the iconic sloths, as the forests come alive with activity after dark.

Cost: $25

Timings: 5.30pm

4. Take a coffee tour at Café de Monteverde

In Monteverde, a visit to the coffee plantations is a must, given its status as one of Costa Rica’s primary coffee-growing regions. Indulge in the Coffee Tour at Café Monteverde, a personal favourite. This comprehensive experience delves into the entire coffee-making process, from cultivation and harvesting to the final roasting on their farm. With multiple tours offered daily—typically two in the morning and one in the afternoon—lasting around 3 hours each, concluded with the sampling of some exquisite Costa Rican coffee.

Cost: $40

Timings: 8.30 am, 9.30 am and 2pm

Spotted a tarantula during our night tour

5. Explore El Tigre Waterfalls

If you’re after a wild hiking adventure in the jungle, where muddy hiking trails lead to gushing waterfalls, I recommend visiting El Tigre Waterfalls, a short drive from Santa Elena. There is the main hiking trail that takes you through 6-7 waterfalls; some are accessible for a swim or a quick bite along the rocky edges. The rope hanging bridges also add to the allure of the landscape and provide stunning views! Remember to bring a swimsuit, comfortable closed shoes, a towel and change of clothes- the water is icy cold!

Most of the hike is relatively flat with the last 30 minutes being the steepest. If you prefer to avoid the uphill trek, there’s a convenient option to opt for a 4×4 ride or a horseback journey. The entire hike spans approximately 8 kilometres and typically takes around 3-4 hours, factoring in stops at the various waterfalls and maybe a refreshing swim along the way.

Cost: $33 for entrance and additional $33 if you’re doing the full package. The ticket includes free drinks at the restaurant.

One of many waterfalls in El Tigre Waterfalls

6. Try Ziplining

Costa Rica is known to be an adventure destination and Monteverde has a lot to offer in terms of adventure sports. Ziplining is a popular activity in the area and provides a unique view of the rainforests from above. There are many companies you can book with and each offers a different experience.

Cost: around $60

7. Explore Santa Elena

Santa Elena is a small, charming mountain town where most hotels, attractions, and restaurants are based. It’s highly probable that your accommodation will be in Santa Elena, given its proximity to key attractions and lively atmosphere. While not necessarily unique, the town exudes a distinct vibe compared to other towns in Costa Rica. There’s a plethora of activities to enjoy—from indulging in brunch at one of the many cafes to exploring souvenir shops in the main square.

Tip: Santa Elena is the main town and base for exploring Monteverde. Most restaurants and hotels lie here and in fact, most attractions are a short drive from Santa Elena. If you’re not driving and dependent on tours, I recommend basing yourself in Santa Elena.

The rope hanging bridges in El Tigre Waterfalls

Day Trips from Monteverde

1. Rio Celeste (Volcan Tenorio National Park)

About a 1.5-2 hour drive from Monteverde lies the Tenorio Volcano national park, home to the mesmerising Rio Celeste. This river and its namesake waterfall are famed for their vivid blue hues.  The journey to the waterfall is an easy 30 minute walk from the entrance, involving a descent down a series of stairs. Beyond, you can continue hiking into the untamed and less developed sections of the park, tracing the soothing sound of the stream until you reach a tranquil lagoon. The complete hike, leading you through the park’s diverse landscapes, spans around 3 hours.

Rio Celeste Waterfalls at Volcan Tenorio national park

How to Get to and Around Monteverde

The best way to get in and around Monteverde is by driving. The roads are relatively well paved but some mountain roads are quite steep and have a lot of potholes so having a 4×4 may be more convenient but not necessary.

Tip: A 4×4 is generally not required for Monteverde but I recommend renting a car with high clearance as there are several roads with potholes. It is always worth asking the hotel/ host you’re staying with if access to the property requires a 4×4- in most cases it does not.

From La Fortuna: If you’re travelling from La Fortuna, driving is the best option, which takes about 3-4 hours. You’ll take Ruta 142 which is well paved but windy and as you get into Monteverde, you’ll take Ruta 606 which is a steep and curvy mountain road with some potholes. Alternatively, you could opt for a shared shuttle service that costs around $35 and takes about the same time. There are usually 2 departures per day. Private transfers tend to be the most expensive option and cost around $200-300.

Tip: If you’re planning to drive in Costa Rica, it’s advisable to commence your journey as early as possible, ensuring you travel during daylight hours. Rica. Driving in the evening or night in Costa Rica poses safety concerns, primarily due to potholed roads and the presence of many narrow, winding routes, often shared with numerous trucks.

There’s also the option of a shared shuttle with boat that crosses La Fortuna via Lake Arenal to get to Santa Elena. Prices for this usually start from around $35 depending on where you are based as it is a door-to-door service. This is a great way to get between the two towns if you’re not planning to drive and want to turn your journey into an activity.

The cheapest way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde is by public bus which costs around $10. You’ll need to catch a bus from La Fortuna to Tilaran and then separately from Tilaran to Santa Elena. The schedule is quite scattered (around 3 departures per day) so you’ll need to plan in advance and aim for the earliest bus. This will take approximately 5-8 hours depending on when you leave and which connecting bus you take.

Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s coffee growing regions

From San Jose: The most convenient way to get to Monteverde from San Jose is by car- the drive takes around 3-4 hours and is well paved except for a few potholed roads as you enter Monteverde.The most economical way to get to Monteverde from San Jose is by public bus which costs around $6. There are generally two departures each day- one in the morning and one in the afternoon and the service is run by a company called Transmonteverde. The journey takes around 3-4 hours. Shared shuttles are also available and this cost around $50-$60. Private transfers are also on offer so a more elevated price range of $100-$250.

Tip: While Ruta 606 may be known for its bumpy roads in Monteverde, it also offers some of the most scenic views of Costa Rica’s lush landscapes. When it’s safe to do so, don’t forget to stop somewhere safe (away from the curves) and capture some photos.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Best Time to Visit

Monteverde lies on the Pacific side of the country and experiences drier weather from December to April and the rainier “green” season from May to November. There is always a chance of experiencing rainfall during the drier months, but these are generally the best months to visit. Due to its high altitude, the temperatures are relatively low for most of the year- usually mid- late teens (Celsius) and during the day in the early twenties. Don’t forget to carry a light jacket or sweater as the nights can get cold!

Sample Itineraries for Monteverde

1 day – If you have 24 hours to spend in Monteverde, start with a hike or bird watching tour at the Monteverde Cloud Forest in the morning. Follow this with a coffee tour at Café de Monteverde in the afternoon. Conclude your day with a night tour at the Children’s Eternal Forest.

2 days – Follow the above plan for day 1 and reserve your second day in Monteverde to hike El Tigre Waterfalls.  

3 days – If you have more time in Monteverde, follow the above and leave the third day either for a day trip to Volcan Tenorio national park or an adventure based activity like ziplining or ATV biking with exploring Santa Elena for the rest of the day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *