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La Fortuna or Monteverde, Costa Rica? Which is Best to Visit

Are you trying to decide if La Fortuna or Monteverde is best for your vacation to Costa Rica?

Both towns offer several amazing things to do, epic views, great restaurants, and nice hotels. Deciding between the two towns can be difficult!

We are a couple from the United States and Germany who have lived in Costa Rica for several years. We have spent a lot of time in both Monteverde and La Fortuna and love both towns. There are so many pros and cons of each place! 

This guide to La Fortuna or Monteverde goes through what you can expect in each town, the pros and cons, which is better depending on the time of year, and more great advice.

Let’s get to it!

Where are La Fortuna and Monteverde? 

La Fortuna or Monteverde, Costa Rica? Which is Best to Visit

La Fortuna and Monteverde are located in the Northern Mountain region of Costa Rica. Both towns are located somewhat centrally between the San Jose International Airport and the Liberia Airport

These are the two most popular destinations to visit in Costa Rica for those seeking a jungle experience. 

Overview of La Fortuna

la fortuna

La Fortuna is a lush rainforest town and home to the impressive Arenal Volcano, the La Fortuna waterfall, hot springs, and many fun jungle activities. 

This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It is also our “go-to” place to suggest as a jungle town for your vacation. 

Best Things to Do

Here are the best activities in La Fortuna. 

Relax in a Hot Spring

la fortuna hot spring

In La Fortuna, you can relax in one of the many volcanic hot springs. There are places for all budgets and interests including adult-only places and budget places with charcoal grills.

Check out our guide to La Fortuna hot springs for all the details.

Hike to the La Fortuna Waterfall

la fortuna waterfall

The La Fortuna waterfall is an impressive waterfall that you can hike to. Just be warned, the hike here involves a lot of steps!

Find out more in our La Fortuna waterfall guide. 

Hike on Hanging Bridges

arenal hanging bridge

The best-hanging bridges in La Fortuna are at Mistico Park. Here you can walk along several bridges, see a waterfall, and enjoy volcano views.

It is the perfect fun activity!

Take a Cacao Tour

cacao

A cacao tour at Rainforest Chocolates is one of our favorite things to do in the town of La Fortuna.

This activity is suitable for all ages and involves learning the process of making chocolate from bean to delicious treat.

Plus, it involves eating all the chocolate you could ever want!

Find out more and reserve your chocolate tour here.

Enjoy an Arenal Volcano Hike

La Fortuna or Monteverde, Costa Rica? Which is Best to Visit

Arenal Volcano is an active volcano that is seriously impressive! Because this is an active volcano, it is not possible to hike to the top.

However, there are several hikes around the base that offer excellent views.

Check out our guide to Arenal Volcano National Park for all the details. 

Take a Day Trip to Rio Celeste

rio celeste

Rio Celeste is a bright blue river and waterfall located within Tenorio National Park. This activity is best enjoyed during the dry season when the color is at its best.

This is about an hour away from La Fortuna, but the road conditions are good and I think it is 100% worth the drive. 

Check out our guide to Rio Celeste for all the details on visiting

Best Hotels

View of Arenal volcano from a porch with hammock

There are so many hotel and vacation rental options in La Fortuna! Our favorite hotels in the area are:

Check out all the best hotels in La Fortuna

Best Restaurants

Check out our guide to all the best La Fortuna Restaurants here

​Typical Weather

Between December and mid-April, La Fortuna has dry and hot weather. This is the dry season in Costa Rica and you will have the best chance of clear volcano views.

During the rest of the year, the weather is unpredictable. We have visited and had perfect weather every day. We have also visited and had a lot of rain and no views of the volcano.

The average daytime temperature throughout the year is between 68 F to 78 F. So, bring layers because it’s hard to say how it will be.

Not sure about La Fortuna? Check out our complete guide to the La Fortuna area to get a better overview. This guide includes tour options, detailed info on the town, other activity ideas, and more!

Overview of Monteverde

monteverde

Monteverde is a cloud forest town that is known for its moody, rainy climate coupled with an abundance of nature and wildlife. It is such a unique place and I’m sure you will love visiting here.

Best Things to Do

Here are some great things to do in the Monteverde region. 

Hike a Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

monteverde hanging bridge

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is one of the most popular places to visit in Monteverde.

Here you can hike on your own through the many trails.

There is a nice hanging bridge here that you can walk on, trails for all skill levels, a waterfall, and an abundance of wildlife.

Check out our guide to the Monteverde Reserve for all the details. 

Go Zip Lining

monteverde cloud forest

I definitely suggest going zip-lining while in Monteverde. This is a fun way to experience the cloud forest from above.

There are a few different companies that offer this fun adventure.

You can check them out in our Montevrde zip-lining guide. 

Take a Wildlife Night Tour

monteverde night tour frog

A wildlife night tour is a guided walk through a reserve in the evening. These walks are usually done at 6 or 8pm.

You can often see bright-colored frogs, spiders, sloths, and more! 

Find out more in our Monteverde Night Walk Guide

Best Hotels

Best Restaurants

​Typical Weather

During the dry season (from December until April) you will likely experience no rain in Monteverde. Instead, you can expect cooler temperatures due to the higher elevation and strong winds. Occasionally there might be some rain, but it is not very frequent.

The Monteverde area tends to switch to the rainy season a little sooner than the rest of the country. This is usually sometime around early to mid-April. 

During the rainy season, you can expect gray cloudy days with a somewhat nonstop drizzling of rain. 

In late August the weather tends to become worse. You will likely experience some days of heavy non-stop rains.

In our opinion, April through July are the very best times to visit here. I think the rain gives this area its charm and actually transforms it into a cloud forest. During the dry season, it is of course nice to visit, but it doesn’t have the same vibe. 

The average daytime temperature throughout the year is about 68 F.

No matter what time of year you visit, always pack layers and a rain jacket. 

Not sure about Monteverde? Check out our complete guide to the Monteverde area to get a better overview. This guide includes tour options, detailed info on the town, other activity ideas, and more!

Pros and Cons of Each Town

la fortuna or Monteverde

Here are all the best and worst parts of both La Fortuna and Monteverde.

Pros of La Fortuna

Here are all the very best things about La Fortuna. 

Easily Accessible

La Fortuna is easily accessible from both the San Jose International Airport and the Liberia International Airport. Both drives will take about 3 hours. 

So Many Things to Do

You will never run out of things to do here! There are just so many options for all budgets and interests.

 We have been coming here at least once a year (usually more often) since 2016 and there are still things we haven’t had a chance to do yet.

I still have some hot springs I would like to try out and some other adventures I want to try. 

Check out our guide to things to do in La Fortuna for all the options.

Variety of Hotel and Restaurant Options

There are TONS of hotel and restaurant options. I suggest also checking VRBO for places to stay.

There are a lot of house and apartment vacation rentals in La Fortuna. 

The Views Are Insane

The Arenal Volcano is such an impressive backdrop to have for a town.

When the volcano is clear you can view it from almost anywhere you are in the downtown area. 

Cons of La Fortuna

Here are the negative parts of La Fortuna. 

Always Busy and Popular

This is a really popular place to visit so no matter what time of year you go.

That being said, it is still possible to avoid the crowds by staying slightly out of the downtown area and participating in off-the-beaten-path activities.

Higher Prices

Because it is such a popular tourist destination the prices for activities, food, hotels, etc. are higher than some other places in Costa Rica.

Pros of Monteverde

Here are all the best part of Monteverde. 

Abundance of Wildlife

Here you can see a ton of wildlife including; monkeys, coatis, hummingbirds, quetzals, agoutis, various frogs, and much more!

The Cloud Forest

Exploring the cloud forest is such a unique experience that you can’t have in most places. 

More Affordable

I find that typically the hotels in Monteverde are some of the most affordable in the country. It is usually very possible to get a decent room at under $60 a night. 

Quaint Town

The downtown area is a bit busy, but it is still very walkable. You can easily explore all the souvenir shops, go to the grocery store, and check out some restaurants while on foot. 

Outside of the downtown area, you can expect winding woodsy roads dotted with hotels and restaurants. 

Cons of Monteverde

Here are the negative points of visiting Monteverde. 

It Can Be Cold and Rainy

I guess that could be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it.

This is a cloud forest, so the cooler climate should be somewhat expected.

But, it can actually get cold here. You will need layers.

We usually end up wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts with a fleece while here.

Granted, we’ve lived in Costa Rica long enough that we can barely handle any cold weather anymore. 

Driving is an Adventure

The roads getting here are not the best. Most roads are paved, but there are still some dirt roads as well.

This won’t be too much of a problem during the dry season, but it can be an issue during the rainy season. 

The main downtown area of Monteverde is paved. The surrounding areas are not all paved. 

If you are renting a car and plan to visit Monteverde we suggest a 4×4, especially during rainy season. From December until early May, you should be OK with just an SUV. 

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La Fortuna or Monteverde, Costa Rica? Which is Best to Visit

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Also, please do not try to drive far distances at night around here. We made that mistake one time in a vehicle that didn’t have fog lights.

I am pretty sure we almost drove off the side of a mountain. 

August Through Late November Are Wash Outs

This time of year is the peak rainy season throughout the country, and Monteverde is no exception to that.

Because this is a cloud forest you might experience full days of non-stop rain during the autumn season. 

La Fortuna is Best For….

road la fortuna

Adventure Lovers

If you are looking for non-stop adrenaline and adventure outdoor activities, La Fortuna has more to offer.

Families

We think La Fortuna is a great place for families because there are tons of activities that all ages will enjoy.

We especially recommend visiting a hot spring, taking a cacao tour, or going on a zip-lining adventure. 

Romantic Getaways

If you are seeking a romantic getaway or honeymoon destination, La Fortuna is the best option.

There are several nice jungle resorts including places that are exclusively for adults. There are also several hot springs that are geared towards relaxation and romantic vibes. 

People Seeking Good Weather

Overall, the weather in La Fortuna will be a bit warmer and far less rainy than in Monteverde.

People Wanting to Stay in One Location for Several Days

If you want to just stay in one spot and not have to constantly be driving to a new location and new hotel, La Fortuna is a good base. With so many activities, you can spend a long time here.

Monteverde is Best For….

monteverde sunset

Wildlife Enthusiasts

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, Monteverde is better. You can go hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Hike at Santa Elena, take a guided bird-watching tour, and take a wildlife night walk. 

Peaceful Vibes

The moody cloud forest and small town make Monteverde a really peaceful place. If you are looking for cozy vibes we suggest staying a bit out of the downtown area

Nature Lovers

If you are interested in a completely unique environment, Monteverde is one of the best places in Costa Rica to visit. Cloud forests are such an unusual thing to experience.

Just make sure you visit during the rainy season when it is actually rainy and cloudy.

Want to Try and Visit Both Towns?

monteverde or la fortuna

If you are still undecided on which place to visit, you could always try to go to both towns. We suggest 3 or more nights in La Fortuna and at least 2 nights in Monteverde, but we get it if you really want to try to see it all!

People often think that because La Fortuna and Monteverde look close together on the map then it must not take long to get between each place.

Unfortunately, because of Lake Arenal and the volcano, the travel time to drive between the two locations is usually about 3 hours. 

This drive around Arenal Lake is really pretty, but I will say it is the one route in the country that without fail makes me car sick every time. 

If you do not have rental car, the best way to get between the two towns is with a fun transfer experience.

This involves taking a boat across Lake Arenal. This is definitely the quickest way to get between each location.

This unique experience involves a comfortable van, a boat ride across Lake Arenal, and then another van ride. 

Book Your Transfer with Boat Ride

If you decide to visit both locations and want to go zip lining, I suggest Monteverde for your experience.

I like the feel of soaring over the cloud forest tree tops versus the La Fortuna experience (which is still amazing).

A lot of the places in La Fortuna feature volcano views. This is great, but when you are ziplining so fast you won’t really get to soak in the view that much. I just think the cloud forest is more unique.

For hanging bridges, I love the Mistico hanging bridge park in La Fortuna on days when the volcano is clear. The views are just so epic and you can get some really amazing pictures.

The Monteverde hanging bridges are great as well, but you will get similar views while just hiking or zip-lining here. 

Conclusion: Monteverde or La Fortuna

In conclusion, both Monteverde and La Fortuna are unique destinations in Costa Rica that I’m sure you will enjoy visiting. Really, you can’t go wrong with either place. Each town has its own unique set of charms.

If you are still unsure about which town to visit, just leave your questions in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out with your Costa Rica trip planning!

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🚗 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 also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ 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 Booking.com 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

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 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.