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!
Also, just to note when planning hotels, restaurants, things to do etc. Santa Elena is the name of the downtown area of Monteverde.
We have gotten a lot of questions from people wanting to know if Santa Elena Costa Rica is an OK place to stay if visiting Monteverde. The answer is yes!!
OK, now on to the Monteverde Costa Rica travel guide!
Monteverde is a cloud forest. It is not unusual to have rain all year round. Even if you are visiting when it is dry season in the rest of the country, we still suggest packing that rain jacket. You never really know here!
We have visited in July and had an amazing weather with very little rain. We have also visited in August and had nonstop rain.
It is also a bit 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.
Monteverde 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.
The best option to get to Monteverde 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. You can find out more about renting a car here.
The drive from Liberia or San Jose is not too bad for the first half. The highways are well maintained. Things get a little crazy during the last part of the drive, though.
You will be driving on somewhat steep and curvy roads that are not paved in many parts. I would definitely recommend a 4×4 or at a minimum, all wheel drive.
Also, please don’t drive it at night. We made that mistake recently and because you are in the cloud forest you sometimes can’t see even a few feet in front of you.
The car we were driving did not have fog lights, so we literally couldn’t see anything. We had to wait for a truck to pass and follow them closely to get to Monteverde. NEVER AGAIN!
If you don’t feel comfortable driving that distance on your own (I know, I’m not really selling it as a fun drive, but it’s not bad during the day), the cheapest option is to take the public bus. 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). The problem with taking the bus is that it does not leave from near the airport. You will need to take an Uber (don’t take a taxi they are crazy expensive) to the bus terminal in downtown San Jose in order to catch the bus.
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 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.
If you are coming from Liberia and would like a more comfortable and stress free ride, we suggest our favorite go-to shuttle company, Caribe Shuttle.
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 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 definitely suggest if going to more off the beaten path activities) we personally 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.
Visit the crazy ficus tree: I have to preface this by saying, we took a friend of ours all around the country for two weeks, showed him a lot of amazing things, and this is the thing he loved most in this entire country.
Basically, this is a large ficus tree that you can climb up from the inside. We didn’t make it too far up, because Thomas and I both got a little freaked out, but our friend went all the way to the top. He said the view was amazing!
To get here, just put “Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge” into your GPS. Park your car on the side of the road opposite the lodge and you will see a few trails going into the woods.
Just follow one of the trails and they all converge at the amazing tree.
Go to the butterfly garden: For $15 this place is totally worth it. You get to see so many cool butterflies and the guides are extremely knowledgeable. Find out more here.
Take a coffee tour: There are several great coffee tours in Monteverde, but we suggest going to Cafe de Monteverde. We like this place because they are very eco-friendly.
Go hiking in the cloud forest: There are several reserves you can go hiking in Monteverde. We like the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. The cloud forest is beautiful and something everyone can enjoy. Another option is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Take a night tour: There are multiple companies in Monteverde that offer wildlife night tours. We have a complete guide to Monteverde night tours for all the details.
Go ziplining: If you plan on doing any zip lining while in Costa Rica, Monteverde is the place to do it! There is a full guide to Monteverde forest canopy tours here.
Walk some hanging bridges– Monteverde is home to many suspension bridge parks. At these parks, it is possible to fully enjoy the cloud forest from above.
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 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.
Greemount Hotel: The owners here are the sweetest. The perfect place for budget private accommodations.
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 weird 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 went to a treehouse restaurant?
Restaurante Thomas & Thiago– Delicious restaurant with a bit of everything on their menu.
Sabor Tico: Great typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.
Taco Taco– Super tasty Tex-Mex style tacos at a good price. Plus they have a really good selection of craft beers. Go here! It’s my favorite lunch place in Monteverde.
– 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.
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