San Gerardo de Dota: Cloud Forest and Birdwatching Paradise

San Gerardo de Dota is a remote cloud forest village. It is a popular bird-watching destination

san gerardo de Dota

The San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica Vibes

San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica is a hidden gem in the woods about 1.5 hours away from the city of San Jose.

If you are looking for a quiet cloud forest getaway, this place is a must-visit. It’s a great place for birding, hiking, fishing and relaxing.

If you are interested in bird watching and the words “Resplendent Quetzals” actually mean something to you, this is the place you should visit.

We love this spot as an alternative cloud forest to Monteverde because it just feels so cozy and it is so close to San Jose.

Background Info About San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose

Popular Things to Do

birdwatching, hiking, relaxing

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, walking in the downtown area

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April but even then you might experience rain

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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.

We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.

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san gerardo de dota succulents
san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota map

Map Of San Gerardo de Dota

San Gerardo is located in the central part of the country. It is easy to get here from the San Jose area or Dominical/ Uvita on the Pacific coast. 

Driving to San Gerardo de Dota

The best way to get to San Gerardo is from San Jose. If flying into the San Jose airport it will take you less than two hours to drive to San Gerardo de Dota.

For flight booking we suggest Skyscanner. They are our go-to flight booking site for great rates.

There is no easy way to get here by public bus, so you will need to rent a car.

You can rent a car from close to the airport (but free transportation to the rental car office is provided from the airport).

We suggest using Adobe for car rentals because they are the most trustworthy company in this country and we have a 10% discount for you! You can read more about renting a car here.

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San Gerardo de Dota: Cloud Forest and Birdwatching Paradise

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The start of the drive involves driving through some of the San Jose city traffic. This can be very overwhelming if it is your first time driving in Costa Rica. People drive like maniacs in San Jose.

After getting through San Jose you will be on a well-maintained road up into the mountains (it’s about a 7,500 feet elevation). It is pretty curvy in spots, but absolutely beautiful. Once you turn off onto the road to San Gerardo, you will hit an unpaved road which is super steep in some parts.

We definitely recommend renting a 4×4 if going to San Gerardo de Dota.

It is also possible to visit San Gerardo on your way to or from the Manuel Antonio,  Uvita, Dominical area on your way back to San Jose.

You will have to drive on the highway next to the Talamanca Mountain range and Cerro de la Muerta mountain. It is steep and curvy in parts, but it is typically fine with a 4×4 in dry season.

Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private shuttle is always a great option. Find out more here.


car rental

The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  





san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view

Transportation In San Gerardo de Dota

San Gerardo is really small. A car is definitely helpful to get to various restaurants and hiking trails. It is not a very walkable town due to the narrow steep roads. But, if you don’t have a car I’m sure you will be able to make do.

Just note, the main national park is on the main road and not in the tiny town portion of San Gerardo de Dota. If you would like to visit the national park you will need a rental car or another transportation option.

san gerardo de dota road

San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica Weather

This is a tropical cloud forest and it can get really cold here. We visited once in September, during the rainy season,  and it was only about 55°F during the day and got down to about 50°F at night. Once you live in Costa Rica that is like winter jacket weather. 

Although it’s much colder than other parts of Costa Rica, I think that just adds to the charm of this place. A lot of hotels have fireplaces that are always going, heavy quilts on the beds, and hot tubs.

There is also a lot of rain in this area. It is a cloud forest after all!

However, in our experience, it is usually not torrential downpours. It is usually just an ongoing mist.

Things to Do in San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica

Hike to a Waterfall

We absolutely loved the hike to Rio Savegre Waterfall.

It is definitely intense in spots (there are random stairs missing and stuff) but it was so fun! Plus the waterfall is pretty cool. 


Visit Los Quetzals National Park

The national park is located out of the downtown area on the main road. This is a great day trip spot for hiking, bird watching, and enjoying the pure natural beauty.

Hike at Hotel Savegre 

We hiked the trails behind Hotel Savegre Lodge and saw a lot of bird species. If you are not staying at that hotel you can pay $10 for entry or they will allow you free entry if you eat a meal there (and their food is tasty).


Go Fishing

Last time we were here Thomas was on a serious mission to fly fish some trout. We talked to some locals and they told us that it is technically illegal to go trout fishing in the Savegre River.

However, you can visit Los Cataratas Lodge and fish in their small stocked pond. They will then cook up the trout for you with some side dishes. 

Go to the Spa

Sometimes you just need a massage. The whole atmosphere in San Gerardo is so relaxing and cozy that I feel like a massage here just fits in perfectly with the overall feeling of the area.

There is a nice spa called Del Rio Spa on the Hotel Savegre property.

san gerardo de dota view
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San Gerardo de Dota Restaurants

You have to eat some trout while here! I don’t know who trained everyone in San Gerardo in service, but every place we ate was exceptionally tasty and the staff was better than any place we’ve ever seen in Costa Rica.

Cafe Kahawa – This place is amazing. You can sit outside on their nice wooden deck and enjoy tasty food while looking for birds in the trees. They make trout in a million great ways, but I recommend trying one of their dishes with smoked trout.

Lauraceas Restaurante Cafeteria– Our go-to choice for a nice dinner. The food is great! Try their avocado ice cream.

Comidas Tipicas Miriam Tasty typical Costa Rican food with the area’s specialty, trout!

Pizzeria & Restaurante los Calibries – If you are tired of trout, head here for delicious pizza! Actually, even if you aren’t tired of trout, we suggest going here. The pizza is really good. 

san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view

San Gerardo de Dota Hotels

High-End Hotels

Dantica Cloud Forest LodgeThis place is cozy and cute. All bungalows have a hot tub and breakfast included.

Mid-Range Hotels

Hotel SavegreThis hotel is super nice. There is a restaurant, cozy bar, spa, and hiking trails on the property.

Hotel de Montana Suria: Really nice rustic rooms with great scenery at a reasonable price. Breakfast is included in your stay and there is an on-site restaurant.

Lauraceas LodgeThis hotel has simple but modern rooms. There is a restaurant on the property and breakfast is included in your stay.

Budget Hotels

Las Cataratas LodgeVery simple accommodations. You can also fish your own trout in the small pond here and they will cook it up for you in the restaurant. 

san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view

Vacation Rentals in San Gerardo de Dota

If you don’t want to stay at a hotel you could always rent a house. There aren’t that many options here (because it is so small).

Our number one choice (and place we have stayed in the past) is:

The Unicorn LodgeA cozy home with two bedrooms. There is also a nice back wooden deck for relaxing and listening to the river flow. 

san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view
san gerardo de dota view

Group Tours to the San Gerardo de Dota Area

Take the planning, stress, and guess work out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Costa Rica Wildlife Tour

Spend 15 days visiting some lesser known Costa Rica destinations for tons of wildlife spotting. This tour is mostly in the jungle but don’t worry there is some beach exploration as well.

Costa Rica: See & Do it ALL

An interesting and unique way to see the country…by bike! Visit Manuel Antonio, Osa Peninsula, San Gerardo, Cahuita, Tortuguero, and the La Fortuna area.

Book Now

San Gerardo de Dota Travel Tips

– I have never felt safer in Costa Rica than in San Gerardo de Dota. Of course, use caution as always, but you will likely feel completely at ease here.

– This is one of my (Sarah) absolute favorite places in Costa Rica.

That being said, if you are only coming to the country for a very short time I don’t know if I would suggest visiting here. You probably want sunnier/ warmer destinations.

If you are traveling for three weeks or more, definitely visit!

I think that the cold weather is part of the appeal to me. Sometimes I need a break from the constant hot days (I know…you have zero sympathy for me). 

Packing for San Gerardo de Dota

This is one of the coolest places in the country. Layers will be your best friend here.It also is a cloud forest so rain is really common. 

I have the Venture rain jacket from Northface and highly recommend it.

Also, if you are here you probably want to do some bird watching. Don’t forget those pocket binoculars!

Check out our San Gerardo Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials. 

San Gerardo de Dota Costa Rica FAQ

Is it worth visiting San Gerardo de Dota?

Yes, definitely. It is a cozy cloud forest that is completely unique. However, most people do not come here when they visit Costa Rica because it is so remote.

How many days do I need in San Gerardo de Dota?

I think two or three nights is enough time to soak in the feeling and do everything you need to.

Can I see a resplendent quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota?

Hopefully! The resplendent quetzal lives in san Gerardo de Dota and you might see one. The best way to guarantee this is by taking a birdwatching tour.

Is it cold in San Gerardo de Dota?

Yes! Typically it can get very cold here. Bring a lot of layers and warm clothes for sleeping.

Articles About San Gerardo de Dota

You Might Also Like Visiting

Alajuela: A bustling city next to the San Jose Airport and a great jumping-off point for so many fun activities.

San Jose: The bustling capital city in the country’s center filled with museums, restaurants, and culture.

Cartago: An area of coffee farms, beautiful views, and volcanoes

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Central Valley for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

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  1. Are there any other options (private company etc) for getting to San Gerardo De Dota? We will be renting a car to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio for the first part of our trip, but it seems like a bit of a waste to keep it for over a week in San Gerardo De Dota when we probably won’t use it much. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Jamie. I agree with you! Unfortunately, I dont know of any companies that do transfers from Manuel Antonio to San Gerardo but I bet if you ask your hotel in Manuel Antonio they could help you out. Sorry that I cant be of more help on this.

      1. Jamie Fowler says:

        Is it likely that I could find an Uber from cartago to SGDD if I drop the car off there?

  2. Stephen Harvey says:

    How difficult are the trails at SAN GERARDO DE DOTA? I have a knee problem and am limited in steepness and distance.

    1. Hi Stephen,
      They are probably not the best for you. This area is in the mountains so most of the trails are rather steep. Also, a few are filled with staircases. As far as distance, you could make them as long or short as you like. Some are loop trails, but some are just in and back. Hope that helps! 🙂