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!
The Monteverde Costa Rica Vibes
Monteverde Costa Rica is home to 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!
Background Info About Monteverde Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and Liberia Airport are semi-easy to get to
Popular Things to Do
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.
We like the Mega Super in the middle of Santa Elena town
There is a Banco Nacional located in the downtown area.
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).
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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.
Map Of Monteverde Costa Rica
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.
History of Monteverde Costa Rica
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.
What is a Cloud Forest?
Monteverde Costa Rica is located in 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.
Here 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.
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.
They are widely studied by scientists and new animal species are often being discovered.
Flights to Costa Rica
Monteverde Costa Rica is great because it is pretty centrally located between the Liberia airport and the San Jose 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.
Driving to Monteverde
The best option to get to Monteverde Costa Rica is to rent a car. If coming from San Jose or from Liberia 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 because they are the most trustworthy rental car company in this country and we have partnered with them to get a 10% discount for you on your rental car.
Also, for GPS we suggest using the free app Waze. It is by far the best way to get around in this country.
Driving to Monteverde from San Jose
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.
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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
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.
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Boat Transfer to Monteverde from La Fortuna
If you plan to visit Monteverde after La Fortuna and do not have a rental car, we suggest a transfer across Lake Arenal.
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.
I will admit, the one ride in the country that always make me car sick is the drive between La Fortuna and Monteverde, so being able to cut out the worst of the curvy roads and take a boat instead is so nice.
Private Shuttle to Monteverde
If you do not feel comfortable driving to Monteverde Costa Rica, you can always take a shuttle. We recommend a private shuttle to small or large groups of friends or families.
Adobe Rent-A-Car now has a private shuttle service and they can transport you from almost anywhere in Costa Rica safely to your hotel in Monteverde.
You can get a quote from our go-to private shuttle company here.
Public Bus to Monteverde Costa Rica
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 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.
You can find out more and check out the current bus schedule here.
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 and not have to depend on day tours.
However, I will say that a lot of companies within Monteverde Costa Rica are really good about providing free transportation to and from your hotel. As I mentioned before, it is a popular backpacking destination and companies in Monteverde realize that.
If you do opt to rent a car (which we suggest if going to more off-the-beaten-path activities) we love Adobe Rent a Car.
We have partnered with them to bring you a 10% discount because, in a country where a lot of people will try to rip you off, Adobe is extremely trustworthy.
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.
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Monteverde Costa Rica Weather
Monteverde is a cloud forest. That means it has completely different weather than most of Costa Rica.
During the dry season (late December through late April), Monteverde is usually dry as well. But, there can sometimes be really strong winds here.
Once the rainy season hits you can expect a pretty constant rainy experience, but it is still so hard to predict.
We have visited in July and had amazing weather with very little rain. We have also visited in August and had nonstop rain.
It is also cooler here than most of the country. I usually always wear long pants and at least bring a long sleeve shirt when visiting this area.
Typically you can expect daytime temperatures in the low 70s°F (20-22°C) during the day and temperatures in the mid-60s°F (15-18°C) at night.
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.
But, the dry season is also beautiful!
I know, I am zero help.
Things to Do in Monteverde Costa Rica
Walk Some Hanging Bridges
Monteverde Costa Rica is home to many suspension bridge parks. At these parks, it is possible to fully enjoy the cloud forest mountain range from above.
I suggest combining this with your zip-lining adventure. A lot of the zip-lining parks offer a hanging bridge add-on option.
Go Bungee Jumping
We haven’t actually done this, because we are wimpy, but a friend of ours went last year and had such a great time.
If you think that bungee jumping with cloud forest views sounds like your kind of thrill, book your bungee jumping trip here.
Note that this tour includes transportation from your Monteverde area hotel.
Take a Night Tour
Taking a night tour in Monteverde is the perfect way to see night active wildlife with an experienced guide. We have a complete guide to Monteverde night tours for all the details.
And we suggest booking your tour with Johnny here. Just note that this tour does not include transportation.
If you would like a tour with transportation, we suggest this one.
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.
I suggest checking out our Monteverde forest canopy tours guide for all the details of what each company offers so you can choose the best one for you.
Just note, when looking for a tour, zip lining is also called a “canopy tour” here.
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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 one of those tourist destinations that I think you should go to just for the experience. The food isn’t the cheapest or the best, but we suggest going just for a drink.
After all, when else can you go to a treehouse restaurant?
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.
Monteverde Costa Rica Hotels
Monteverde Lodge & Gardens– Beautiful rooms in a unique jungle setting. There is a restaurant and the staff are happy to organize day tours for guests.
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. There is a shared kitchen on-site for guests to use.
Camino Verde Bed and Breakfast: This place is newly done and looks beautiful. Breakfast is included and there is a communal kitchen that guests can use.
Los Pinos Lodge & Gardens– Every cottage has a private kitchen and balcony. The property is great for exploring.
Casa Campo Verde-Simple hotel surrounded by lush gardens. The owners here are so nice and helpful.
Hostel Cattleya– Nice hostel with private rooms and shared dorms. There is also a shared kitchen for guests.
Backpackers Hakuna Matata– Nice hostel with dorms and private rooms. There is a shared kitchen and tour desk on the property.
Greenmount Hotel: The owners here are the sweetest. The perfect place for budget private accommodations.
Monteverde Vacation Rentals
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.
Modern Stay House – 5 bedroom/ 5 bath home that sleeps 12. This home is modern and peaceful. We love the large yard area.
Million Dollar View Eco-Villa – A modern oasis that sleeps six guests in two bedrooms. The views here are amazing.
Casa Guarumo – A four bedroom home that can sleep up to 12 guests. This home is just straight up cool. You need to look at this pictures to see what I mean. It’s the perfect place for a group of friends.
Casa Ira Rosa – A 3 bedroom home that can sleep 5 guests. The home has a rustic modern feel. We love how secluded it feels here.
STAR HOUSE MONTEVERDE – A two bedroom house that can sleep 7 guests. This is a good spot for a family.
Casa Terraza – A modern studio apartment with kitchen. A great spot for a couple.
Group Tours to the Monteverde Area
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.
Costa Rica Adventure
A 16 day tour around the country that is jam-packed with fun adventure! Visit Quepos, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Tortuguero, and more!
Essential Costa Rica
A 10 day tour that combines Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, Monteverde, and La Fortuna’s Arenal Volcano National Park.
Eco Adventure Costa Rica
Get ready for adventure like zip lining and white water rafting. This tour goes to Monteverde, Samara, La Fortuna, and more fun spots.
Monteverde Travel Tips
– In general the internet is usually ok, but it’s always a good idea to ask about the internet speed before booking a place. Plus, this is a cloud forest which means that sometimes heavy rains can cause connectivity problems.
– If you are interested in the whole cloud forest thing but want a more peaceful experience, check out San Gerardo de Dota.
– We have always felt safe in Monteverde. However, please don’t carry large amounts of cash on you and never leave anything of value in your car.
Packing for Monteverde Costa Rica
This is a cloud forest so it is almost always rainy. Don’t forget your rain gear and plenty of changes of clothes.
We love having a waterproof backpack for hikes here. We also suggest lot of layers because it can be cold.
Check out our Monteverde Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
Monteverde Costa Rica FAQ
Where should I stay in Monteverde Costa Rica?
Where you opt to stay in Monteverde depends on your budget and interests. If you would like to stay in the downtown area, look for places in “Santa Elena.” If you would like a more remote experience, the Monteverde Lodge & Gardens is really nice.
How far is Monteverde from San Jose Costa Rica?
The drive to Monteverde from San Jose Costa Rica will take approximately three hours. Keep in mind that this could take much longer if you get stuck behind slow trucks.
What is so special about Monteverde Costa Rica?
Monteverde Costa Rica is special because it is a cloud forest. Only 1% of all woodlands in the world are considered cloud forests, so it is a unique treat to experience this.
How many days should you stay in Monteverde Costa Rica?
I think that 2 or 3 days is enough time in Monteverde. This will allow you to spend one day enjoying a zip-lining/ hanging bridge adventure and one day hiking in the reserve/focusing on seeing wildlife.
What is the best month to visit Monteverde Costa Rica?
To really experience the rainy cloud forest, May through July are great months to visit. If you would like to visit without any rain, late December through late April are the best months.
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