Monteverde, Costa Rica: Complete Cloud Forest Visitors Guide

Monteverde, Costa Rica is a dense cloud forest town with zip lining, hanging bridges, and plenty of wildlife!

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Monteverde, Costa Rica is a unique cloud forest destination filled with lush green mountains and a cloudy moody feel.

This area is great for hiking, wildlife viewing, zip lining, and more!

Downtown Monteverde is small and has some nice restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops that we enjoy. Just make sure you get out of the downtown and really explore.

You’ll be happy you did!

Monteverde Background Info

Nearest International Airport

Both the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and Liberia International Airport are semi-easy to get to

zip lining, hiking in the nature preserves, wildlife night tours

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, tours with transportation included, walking in the downtown area

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April but, it is hard to predict when the best weather will be here. We actually like the rainy season here more than the dry season.

Grocery Stores

We like the Mega Super in the middle of Santa Elena town


There is a Banco Nacional located in the downtown area.

Gas Stations

There aren’t any gas stations in the center of town. The nearest one is 606 Gas Station located just south of town.

(keep in mind all gas stations here are full service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).

monteverde map

Map Of Monteverde

Monteverde is located in the mountains. At first glance, it is not too far from La Fortuna.

However, to get between the two locations you’ll have to drive around Lake Areal which takes a few hours.

Also, when planning your visit, keep in mind that Monteverde is the area. The downtown is called Santa Elena.

Monteverde Weather

monteverde sunset

Monteverde Costa Rica is located in a cloud forest, but the area still somewhat follows the normal weather patterns of Costa Rica.

There is a dry season from mid-December until mid-April. In Monteverde you can expect occasional rains (but not often) and windy weather.

From April onward the rainy season is in full swing here. There are frequent cloudy days and a somewhat constant drizzle of rain.

Later in the year (usually August through November) the rain can be a lot heavier and more consistent.

So, with Monteverde, I wouldn’t say there is really a “best time” to visit. Both the rainy and dry season have their charms.

I think I almost prefer the rainy season here because you at least really get that cloud forest experience. 

What Exactly Is a Cloud Forest?

If you are wondering what exactly a cloud forest is, let me explain.

Cloud forests are different from other forests because they have a lot of moisture in the air.  This then creates a special environment for flora and fauna to live. 

Basically, the clouds bring moisture and water to the forest, so everything is very wet and lush. The trees and plants are covered in mosses, ferns, flowers etc.

One of the most amazing things about cloud forests is that they are home to lots of different species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. 

For example, in Monteverde, you can find colorful birds, such as hummingbirds and resplendent quetzals. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a colorful frog or a tiny, camouflaged insect hiding among the leaves.

They are widely studied by scientists and new animal species are often being discovered.

  • Sunrise: Between 5:20 am (December) and 5:50 am (June)
  • Sunset: Between 5:20 pm (June) and 6:00 pm (December)
  • Average Daytime Temperature: 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 °C)
  • Average Nighttime Temperature: 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 18 °C)

Check out our guide to Costa Rica Weather by Month for more info

Pro Tip: It is a good idea to always be prepared for rain here. You never know!

History of Monteverde

Monteverde as a town was founded in the 1950s by Quakers from the United States. The Quakers were pacifists and conscientious objectors who were attracted to the area’s cool climate and non-violent constitution. 

In Monteverde, they established dairy farming and preserving land for conservation. 

The land the Quakers preserved is what is now known as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

In the beginning, the Quakers were mostly known for their cheese production. They sold this cheese all around the country.

In the 1970’s they began to focus more on coffee production due to overgrazing from their cows. 

However, some families in this area still produce cheese and it is possible to buy Monteverde cheese throughout the country. 

It is possible to visit the Monteverde Cheese Factory while in the area. However, they don’t do tours anymore. This is something that stopped during COVID and I’m not sure if they will bring it back. But, you can still stop in to buy some cheese or get a scoop of ice cream!  

In 2007, Monteverde was recognized as one of Costa Rica’s Seven Wonders by popular vote, highlighting its natural beauty and attractions.

In recent years, Monteverde has sought to become its own canton. This legislation was approved in 202. Monteverde will have its first municipality and mayor after the 2024 local government elections.

The area has experienced a significant increase in tourism, with approximately 250,000 visitors per year. Infrastructure and services have improved to accommodate this influx. 

So come visit! Monteverde is happy to welcome you.

Monteverde Transportation

monteverde costa rica view

Flights to Monteverde

Monteverde Costa Rica is great because it is pretty centrally located between the Liberia International Airport and the San Jose International Airport.

It will take you about two and a half hours to drive from either location.

More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.

Check out our guides:

Transportation to Monteverde

From either the San Jose or Liberia Airport, there are a few different ways you can get here.

We suggest renting your car with our favorite Costa Rica rental car company, Adobe. They have an office at the Liberia Airport and at the San Jose International Airport. 

We suggest them because they are upfront with their prices, have excellent customer service, and are just overall a great local company.

They have kindly given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you. 

⤷ Book Your Rental Car with Adobe

The roads are mostly well-maintained. You do not need a 4×4 to visit here. However, if you plan to visit Monteverde after La Fortuna you may want a 4×4.

We suggest renting at least an SUV with decent clearance for the curvy and hilly roads.

Note: A lot of accommodation options are located on unpaved side roads. I suggest checking exactly where your hotel is located to help you decide the right car for you.

Our #1 Car Rental Choice

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free second driver
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Excellent customer service
  • New fleet of well-maintained vehicles

Driving to Monteverde from San Jose International Airport

From the San Jose area take Route 27 in the direction of Puntarenas. This is a toll road. Both US dollars and colones are accepted at the toll stations. In total it will be about $7. 

Once you get to the Puntarenas area (after about 33 miles) you will get onto Route 1 heading north. Route 1 has been under construction for a few years now, so you may hit some traffic. 

Stay on Route 1 for 10 miles and then turn right onto Route 606 to Monteverde.

I believe there is a sign indicating the turn, but it is still best to always use a GPS.

Follow Route 606 all the way to Monteverde.

Again, the road is a bit crazy and it is sometimes hard to follow so definitely keep your GPS on. You might hit one or two dead zones, but in general you shouldn’t have any problems.

Also, do not do this drive at night. The fog can be really bad and make it very hard to see the road (cloud forest problems).

This road is very steep in parts. If possible a 4×4 is best, but not absolutely necessary. You will at least need an SUV though.

Driving to Monteverde from Liberia Airport

From the Liberia International Airport head north on Route 21 towards Liberia. This is only a few miles. Once you get to Liberia, turn right on Route 1.

Route 1 is a main highway and the nicest road in the country in our opinion.

Just keep in mind that although this is a highway, there are random crosswalks, traffic lights, and roundabouts. So, try to stick to the speed limit (even though it is hard to stick to it on such a nice road). 

You will stay on Route 1 for about 50 miles until you turn left on Route 145.

Just before your turn on Route 145 you will go through a large roundabout at the town of Limonal. If you need gas or a bathroom, there is a gas station on the right side of the road. If you need a quick meal there is a KFC and Subway on the left side of the road.  

Once on Route 145, you will stay straight all the way to Monteverde.

Although I say you will stay on Route 145 the whole way, in reality, you will need a GPS. The road goes through several towns and sometimes it is hard to tell where the road actually continues. So, keep an eye on your GPS.

This last half of the drive is mostly paved, but some of the roads are a bit crazy. We do not suggest doing this at night.

In total, this trip should take under three hours.

Driving to Monteverde from La Fortuna

Although Monteverde and La Fortuna appear to be close together, it actually takes almost three hours to drive between the two locations. 

You will need to drive all the way around Lake Arenal.

This drive consistently always makes me really car sick, so just be warned that you may want to load up on motion sickness meds.

Anyway, you will stay on Route 142 for about 1.5 hours until you reach the town of Tilaron. Here you will get on Route 145 to Monteverde. I believe there are signs in Tilaron directing you to Monteverde, but I’m not positive. 

Either way, it is best to use some sort of GPS.

This drive is mostly all paved, but it is good to have a 4×4 or something with decent clearance because it is hilly.

Although I’m really not hyping up the drive, it is actually beautiful. You get nice views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano in several spots along the first half of the drive. 

From San Jose

The cheapest transportation option is to take the public bus from downtown San Jose. The bus leaves from San Jose every day at 6:30am and 2:30pm.

It will take you about five hours to get to Monteverde (the bus stops a lot). 

From Liberia

From Liberia there is no direct bus. You will have to take the bus from Liberia to Puntarenas and then Puntarenas to Monteverde.

The bus from Liberia to Puntarenas leaves every day at 5:00am, 7:45am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30. It will take about three hours to get to Puntarenas.

The bus from Puntarenas to Monteverde Costa Rica leaves at 8:30am, 1:30pm, and 2:15pm. This also takes about three hours.

It’s not the most comfortable ride, but it’s cheap (under $10 per person). Definitely get there early before the departure time because once all the seats are taken you may be left standing for a long ride.

When planning your bus route we suggest looking at TheBusSchedule

Shared Shuttle

A shared shuttle to Monteverde is an easy way to get to the cloud forest town from another area of the country or either international airport. This alleviates the stress of driving and typically costs less than a private shuttle.

We always have the best luck finding convenient shuttles on the website Bookaway.

🚐 Reserve Your Shared Shuttle to Monteverde 🚐

If you are coming from La Fortuna, we suggest booking a boat transfer.

You will be taken by van from your La Fortuna area hotel to Lake Arenal.

Here you will get in a boat with an experienced guide to be transferred to the other side of the lake.

On the other side, you will get in another van and be dropped off at your hotel in Monteverde. 

⤷ Book Your Transfer to Monteverde by Boat

Private Transfer

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private transfer is always a good option. Adobe Car Rental now provides an excellent transfer service.

A trusted driver will take you from any place in the country directly to your place of choice in Monteverde. 

This is a good transportation option if you are traveling with a large group of friends or family.

You pay one set price for the whole shuttle, so with a big group, it can be more cost-effective than a shared transfer.

Get a Private Transfer Price Quote to Monteverde

Transportation in Monteverde


We like having a car while in Monteverde because it gives you the flexibility to do a lot of off-the-beaten-path activities without day tours.

However, I will say that a lot of activities in this town are good about providing transportation to and from your hotel.

If you do opt to rent a car (which we suggest) we love Adobe Rent a Car.

We have partnered with them to bring you a 10% discount.

Unfortunately, Adobe does not have a rental car office in Monteverde at this time.

This means that if you would like to drive while in Monteverde and would like to rent with Adobe, you will need to rent a car near the airport and make the drive yourself rather than taking the bus.

⤷ Book Your Rental Car with Adobe and Save 10%

You won’t need a car if….

  • You are staying at a resort and don’t plan to leave much.
  • You are staying right in the downtown area and plan on booking all activities with transportation included. There are plenty of restaurants in the downtown area that you can walk to. 

So, all in all, we like the flexibility of having a car. However, we understand that it can be scary driving in a foreign country. 

Monteverde also has taxis if you need to get around for short drives.

Just always make sure that you always take a registered Costa Rican taxi so you are not overcharged.

You can recognize a legal taxi because it is red with a yellow triangle on the driver’s and passenger’s side door.

Downtown Monteverde

downtown monteverde

Monteverde is actually the name for the overall area. The main town is called Santa Elena.

This is where you should stay if you would like easy access to restaurants, grocery stores, souvenir shops, and a central jumping-off point for most activities.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde, Costa Rica: Complete Cloud Forest Visitors Guide

The main draw of this area is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. This is a great place to go hiking in the dense cloud forest, see a wide variety of wildlife, and enjoy this cool hanging bridge.

It is possible to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve on your own or take a guided tour.

Check out the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for details on how to visit

Zip Lining in Monteverde

If you plan on doing any zip lining while in Costa Rica, Monteverde is the place to do it! There are several companies that offer various tours in the area. 

Just note, when looking for a tour, zip lining is also called a “canopy tour” here.

Check Out Our Monteverde Forest Canopy Complete Guide

Wildlife Night Tour

A guided wildlife night tour is the perfect way to see night active animals that you would likely never spot on your own. On your tour you might see snakes, brightly colored frogs, sloths, spiders, and more!

Check out our complete guide to Monteverde Night Tours

This type of tour is not offered in most other parts of Costa Rica, so if you are interested in this, we definitely suggest Monteverde as the place to do it. 

Our favorite tour includes transportation from your Monteverde area hotel, flashlights and an experienced bilingual naturalist guide. 

Book Our Favorite Monteverde Wildlife Night Tour

Other Things to Do in Monteverde

There are so many things to do in the surrounding area. A few of our favorite activities are:

Enjoy a Coffee, Chocolate, and Sugarcane Tour

On this tour, a guide will walk you through the process of producing these three products from bean to final treat. You will then have the chance to enjoy tons of delicious samples. 

Also, the paths are paved, so if you have small children or trouble walking, you should be fine here.

⤷ Check Rates and Availability of the Coffee, Chocolate, Sugarcane Tour

Climb a Giant Ficus Tree

This is a fun FREE activity you can do on your own. Head to this spot on Google Maps and walk into the woods until you see this massive ficus tree. 

In the past you were able to climb all the way to the top, but I guess it is a bit of a safety risk. Now you can only climb up a bit and they blocked the rest with concrete. 

But, it is still a really cool spot to check out!

Visit El Tigre Waterfall

El Tigre Waterfall is located about 30 minutes north of downtown Monteverde. This impressive area has several hiking trails and four amazing waterfalls. 

The most affordable way to visit is by arranging directly through the El Tigre Waterfall website.

Try Rappelling Down a Waterfall

Are you ready to go canyoning down the cliffside of a waterfall? This is one of the most absolutely thrilling adventures that you can do in Monteverde.

Some of the zip-lining companies offer rappelling as part of their zip-lining package, but these are not down a waterfall face. 

To do this down a waterfall we suggest booking a tour through Finca Modelo. 

⤷ Check Rates and Availability of the Rapeling Tour

Check Out Our Complete Guide to the 25 Best Things to Do in Monteverde for More Ideas

Monteverde Hotels

High-End Hotels

  • Koora Monteverde: This hotel is located directly downtown in Santa Elena, but it still feels like a secluded retreat. There is also an excellent restaurant on the property.
  • Chira Glamping: It is hard to describe this place because it is just so unique. Picture your own private yurt-like dome with a private bathroom and a beautiful jungle view. They also have the best romantic restaurant in the area.

Mid Range Hotels

  • Casitas del Bosque Monteverde: Rustic (but nice) cabinas and double rooms.
  • Rainbow Valley Lodge: Beautiful place with a variety of room options. You can stay in a suite with a hot tub, an economy double room, a bungalow, and more.
  • Camino Verde B&B: This place features modern rooms and a huge terrace where you can enjoy the impressive views.

Budget-Friendly Hotels and Hostels

  • Hostel Cattleya: Nice hostel with private rooms and shared dorms. There is also a shared kitchen for guests.
  • Lidia’s Mountain View: A simple but nice place that consists of apartments and houses. There is a small playground for kids and great views.

Check out for amazing hotels in the Monteverde area

Monteverde Vacation Rentals

monteverde sunset

We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.

Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.

  • Casa Terraza: A modern studio apartment with kitchen. A great spot for a couple.
  • Star House Monteverde: A two-bedroom house that can sleep 4 guests. This is a good spot for a small family.
  • Casa Ira Rosa: A 3-bedroom home that can sleep 5 guests. The home has a rustic modern feel. We love the design and how secluded it feels.
  • Casa Guarumo: A four-bedroom home that can sleep up to 12 guests. This home is just so cool. You need to look at this pictures to see what I mean. It’s the perfect place for a group of friends. 

Check VRBO for more amazing house rentals in the Monteverde area

Monteverde Vacation Packages

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

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Natural Highlights of Costa Rica National Geographic Journeys

⭐️ RATING: 4.9/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  9 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • Learn how to prepare traditional Costa Rican dishes with a local family
  • Hike through the dense cloud forest in Monteverde
  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park and see wildlife

Costa Rica Adventure

⭐️ RATING: 4.9/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  16 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • Zip line over the dense Monteverde cloud forest
  • Soak in thermal hot springs with a view of Arenal Volcano
  • Kayak through the wildlife-filled canals in Tortuguero

Restaurants in Monteverde

craft beer monteverde brewing

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants in Monteverde, but no matter what your budget or food interest you will be able to find something here.

A lot of restaurants in Costa Rica do not have websites, so the best way to find places is through TripAdvisor.

Fine Dining

  • San Lucas Tree Top Dining: This is one of those not to miss dining experiences. This restaurant is located in the trees and each table has its own private little area. The food is also incredible.
  • Restaurant Celajas: Amazingly fresh food served with a view. A great date spot.


  • Orchid Coffee: Great place for an afternoon coffee and cake or dessert. Their baked goods are ridiculously good!
  • The Green Room: This is a great dinner spot. They do excellent burgers and steaks, but their menu has a variety of other options as well. 
  • Tree House Restaurant:  This is a restaurant in the center of Santa Elena with a giant tree in the middle. The food isn’t the cheapest or the best, but we suggest going just for a drink and the experience.
  • Restaurante Thomas & Thiago: Delicious restaurant with a bit of everything on their menu.


  • Taco Taco: Super tasty Tex-Mex style tacos at a good price. Plus they have a really good selection of craft beers.
  • Soda La Amistad: Great place for affordable typical Costa Rican cuisine.

Check out our guide to the 16 Best Restaurants in Monteverde for more ideas

Monteverde Safety Tips

I have always felt really safe in Monteverde. In all honesty, your biggest safety concerns should be more environmental (heavy rains, flooding, earthquakes etc.) rather than crime.

Your biggest safety concern should be petty theft. To combat that we suggest:

  • Keep your valuables secure and refrain from openly displaying expensive items. 
  • Don’t leave things in your rental car and always park in secure lots or at a spot with a guard.
  • Don’t walk alone at night.
  • A lot of restaurants are open-air. Don’t leave your cell phone out on the table or your purse just hanging on the back of your chair.
  • Dressing in a relaxed way will also help you blend in.

If something happens, the emergency number in Costa Rica is 9-1-1. You should be able to get a police officer who speaks English if you need.

Also, always purchase travel insurance. It doesn’t just cover injury but also helps if things get stolen. Our go-to travel insurance company for Costa Rica is a company called Heymondo. They are great!

Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage. 

↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Packing for Monteverde

Visiting Monteverde means packing a bit differently than for the rest of the country.

Your main focus here should be warm clothing (layers are always a good idea), rain protection, and moisture-wicking fabrics.

  • We suggest carrying your stuff in a large backpack instead of a suitcase if possible. The Osprey 55L is great if you are only bringing a carry-on (take the small bag part off for under your seat) and the Osprey 75L is our go-to for checking in a bag.
  • Pocket Binoculars: Great for spotting that hard to see wildlife.
  • Waterproof Day Bag: Our go-to day pack for keeping all of our stuff protected from the rain
  • Rain Jacket: I have had the North Face Venture jacket for a few years now and really like it. It is lightweight, protects from the rain, and has handy under armpit zippers for some ventilation on warm days.
  • Headlamp: The sun sets between 5:30pm and 6pm year round. It can be very dark here.
  • Long Sleeve Hiking Shirt: We suggest a breathable fabric that dries quickly
  • LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle: You can drink the tap water in Monteverde, but it is safer to buy bottled water. We like LifeStraw to filter out any extra bacteria or impurities.

Check out Our Complete Monteverde Packing List for all the essentials. 

Our Opinion on Monteverde

We love Monteverde! As people who live in Costa Rica, but are from places with distinct seasons, we find that sometimes we just crave cooler weather. When that happens, we head to Monteverde.

Thomas loves coming here for the wildlife and photo opportunities. I love coming here for the hiking options.

Monteverde Travel Tips

Monteverde, Costa Rica: Complete Cloud Forest Visitors Guide
  • The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people in Monteverde are used to tourists and speak at least some Spanish.
  • Some places here may not accept credit cards. It’s a good idea to carry cash in US dollars or Costa Rican colones.
  • Keep in mind that Monteverde is remote and a bit rustic. It is not unusual to find that you are not allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilets in hotels here. Instead, there will often be a small waste bin for paper.
  • We have noticed that sometimes tourists get frustrated in Monteverde because tours don’t begin on time and things aren’t always organized as you might be used to. Keep in mind that Costa Rica is the land of Pura Vida. People take everything in stride and relaxed. You might need to adopt a bit of that attitude while here. 
  • Monteverde is a good place to visit for everyone. Families, couples, groups of friends, and solo travelers will all find something to do here.
  • Don’t forget travel insurance! Heymondo travel insurance was designed with ease and flexibility in mind. ↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Articles About Monteverde

monteverde zip line

Costa Rica Zip Line – Adventure Guide

Zip lining in Costa Rica is a thrilling way to see the lush jungle canopy landscape of the country from a different perspective. Soar above cloud forests, enjoy volcano views, and more!

You Might Also Like Visiting

La Fortuna: A bustling adventure lovers town with the Arenal Volcano as a backdrop

Check out our Guide to the Northern Mountains for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount

☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?

Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!

We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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