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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.
It can get really cold here. We visited once in September, during the rainy season, and it was only about 55 degrees during the day and got down to about 50 degrees 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 and heavy quilts on the beds.
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.
Getting to San Gerardo
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. 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.
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 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.
You will have to drive on the highway next to the Talamanca Mountain range. It is steep and curvy in parts, but it is fine with a 4×4.
Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private shuttle is always a great option. Find out more here.
Getting Around in San Gerardo
San Gerardo is really small. However, you will need a car to get to various restaurants and hiking trails. It is not a very walkable town due to the narrow steep roads.
Hike to a nice 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 bird watching.
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 fish some trout. We talked to some locals and they told us that it is technically illegal to fish the trout 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.
Dantica Cloud Forest Lodge– This place is cozy and cute. All bungalows have a hot tub and breakfast included.
Hotel Savegre– This 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 Lodge– This hotel has simple but modern rooms. There is a restaurant on the property and breakfast is included in your stay.
Las Cataratas Lodge– Very 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.
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. It’s to die for.
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 food with the area’s specialty, trout!
Pizzeria & Restaurante los calibries If you are tired of trout, head here for delicious pizza!
– I have never felt safer in Costa Rica than I do in San Gerardo de Dota. It is just an all-around pleasant place.
– Our number one piece of advice for visiting San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica is to just remember to bring warm clothes. Layers were our best friend here.
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