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.
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.
We also like it here because you won’t deal with the crowds of tourists that you sometimes get in other parts of Costa Rica.
It can get really cold here. We visited once in September 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.
Getting Around in San Gerardo
San Gerardo is really small. We only used our car once or twice while we were there last time and that was only to drive down the street to get dinner. If you stay at Hotel Savegre or Suenos del Bosque you will likely do the same. The hiking trails are so close that you can just walk to them.
Either way, you still need a rental car because it is the only easy way to get to this location.
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. You can also enjoy hiking at the Quetzals national park.
Go birding: Most people who visit San Gerardo de Dota are there to try to see the famous quetzal. Bring your binoculars and set out for a hike. We hiked the trails behind Hotel Savegre and saw a lot of birds. 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 although it is technically illegal to fish the trout in the streams there, you can try to do it secretly. If you have your fishing pole with you, head to the river, find a good hiding spot and do some fishing, but shhh, you didn’t hear it from us. 😉
Go to the spa: Sometimes you just have to splurge and get 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.
Hotel Savegre: This hotel is super nice. We haven’t actually stayed here, but we’ve eaten dinner here (which was excellent), hiked their trails, and communicated extensively with their staff. Everything is completely top notch here.
Suenos del Bosque: We loved these cute cozy cabins. The staff is also amazing and breakfast is included. Definitely eat a nice fish dinner here one night. it is super tasty and very fairly priced.
Hotel de Montana Suria: Really nice rooms with great scenery at a reasonable price.
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
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 amazing ways, but I recommend trying one of their dishes with smoked trout. It’s to die for.
Comidas Tipicas Miriam: Tasty typical food with the area’s specialty, trout!
– I have never felt safer in Costa Rica than I did in San Gerardo de Dota. It is just an all-around pleasant place.
– Our number one piece of advice is to just remember to bring warm clothes. Layers were our best friend here.
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