Monteverde Costa Rica is home to an amazing cloud forest. This area is great for hiking, wildlife viewing, zip lining, and more!
The first time we visited Monteverde we weren’t overly impressed, but I think a lot of that is because of the hype surrounding this area. It seems to be a go-to backpacker destination, so we thought it must be something really special for every Costa Rica backpacker to visit here. In reality, the town is not anything exciting in our opinion.
However, when we visited a second time the area really grew on both of us. We’ve come to the conclusion that it is a beautiful area which we think is worth a visit if you do the right activities.
Downtown Monteverde is not a memorable place, but there are some nice restaurants and bars 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 budget 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.
Getting to Monteverde
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.
Getting Around 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 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 we 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. Their tour is the most detailed and interesting, in our opinion. We like this place because they are very eco-friendly and we love supporting small local businesses which are amazing.
Visit some art galleries: There are a ton of really cool art galleries in the Monteverde area. To start you off we suggest visiting Sarah’s Gallery. Sarah is absolutely the cutest and her art is amazing. It is a bit of a jjourney to get here, but you can walk the access road to her house from the Monteverde Cheese Factory. Ignore the map on TripAdvisor to Sarah’s Gallery. It’s completely wrong.
Take an archery lesson: Total off the beaten path fun activity. Still Water Journeys is a retreat center that also provides archery lessons. For $20 per person, you can take a 1.5-hour archery lesson which goes through the proper techniques of shooting. The property here is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend this activity. It’s unique, relaxing, and not filled with tourists.
Go hiking in the cloud forest: There are several reserves you can go hiking in Monteverde. We have only visited Reserve Bosque Nuboso Sante Elena, and we loved it. We paid $14 per person, which is a lot for a hike, but we took the time to hike pretty much every trail (we were there for about three hours) and I don’t regret paying the steep price. The cloud forest is seriously beautiful and something I think you’ll all enjoy experiencing.
Take a night tour: complete guideThere are multiple companies in Monteverde which offer wildlife night tours. We have a to this activity if you want all the details.
Go ziplining: OK, this is definitely not a budget activity, but we think it is a splurge-worthy activity for when you are in Monteverde. If you plan on doing any zip lining while in Costa Rica, Monteverde is the place to do it! We have gone zip lining at Selvatura and really enjoyed it. A bunch of friends went to Adventura and loved that as well. Both cost $50 per person. We suggest Selvatura if you are a bit nervous and it is your first time. If you are ready for action and adventure, head to Adventura.
Camino Verde Bed and Breakfast: This place is newly done and looks beautiful. You can expect to pay about $47 a night for a double room. Breakfast is included and there is a communal kitchen which you can use.
Manakin Lodge: Nice basic rooms. Some have amazing views of Monteverde. Breakfast is included. You can expect to pay about $35 a night for a double room here.
Casa Campo Verde: This place is amazing. The owners are the sweetest people ever and will help you out with whatever they can. For about $40 a night you can stay in a basic triple room.
Sarita’s Family Home: Perfect place if you want a whole house. Everything is nicely designed and you will have your own private kitchen. This place is a bit higher on the price scale. You can expect to pay about $60 a night.
Greemount Hotel: This place is the best. The owners are amazing people who are just trying to make their dreams come true (and we’re all about that). They are still working on making this place exactly how they want it (and are doing an amazing job at it). You can expect to pay about $35 a night here for a double room with breakfast included.
We definitely suggest checking out Airbnb as well. Sometimes you can get some really great accommodation deals at beautiful places on Airbnb. We like Airbnb because often you can get a place with a private kitchen. This definitely helps us to save some money so we are not constantly eating at restaurants. Also, often staying at an Airbnb will give you a more local experience.
Save $30 off your first Airbnb stay here
Orchid Coffee: Great place for an afternoon coffee and cake or dessert. Their baked goods are ridiculously good!
Beso Espresso: This is coffee snob heaven. I’ve never been to a place which is more knowledgeable about coffee than Beso Espresso. They have a few sandwiches and baked goods, but this is mostly just a coffee place (and it is perfect).
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 place in Monteverde.
Sabor Tico: Great typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.
The Green Room: This is a great dinner spot. It’s definitely not the cheapest (you’ll pay about $20 for dinner) but it’s really tasty.
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?
– 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, but we have heard that there are sometimes problems with petty crimes. Please don’t carry large amounts of cash on you and never leave anything of value in your car.