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Monteverde, Costa Rica is one of those magical places that allows you to really slow down and be present to the diverse nature, hiking and adventure opportunities you can experience. Our Monteverde Travel Guide has all the best Costa Rica Travel tips for this “Green Mountain” region. So you can easily plan your trip amongst the clouds.
Whether you want serene early morning hikes in a cloud forest, or heart racing adrenaline activities there are many reasons why it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica.
Monteverde has an interesting history. Quakers moved here in the 1950’s to escape the draft in the USA and purchased 1500 acres to continue farming. They now own a dairy farm, and the Monteverde Cheese Factory. 300 acres of their protected forest became the Monteverde Cloud Reserve in the 1970’s.
I loved my trip to Monteverde. I found it quite peaceful and restful. While it can get crowded during the most popular months the town and region has such a laid back feel, you won’t even mind.
Read on for the complete Monteverde guide; when to go, where to stay, things to do, how to get around, budget and more.
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MONTEVERDE TRAVEL GUIDE
Best Time to Visit Monteverde
The best time to visit Monteverde is January to April, as there is less rain. March and April are the warmest months with highs of 19C at night, and highs of 29C during the days.
If you are looking at cost, the cheaper months tend to be the off season months of May, June, September, October and Early November.
Monteverde does experience the typical rainy and drier seasons like the rest of Costa RIca. However due to its high elevation, you may get rain any time of year, and cooler nights. Make sure to bring a sweater and a rain jacket.
Rainy season runs Mid-May to Mid December, and the dry season starts Mid- December and runs until the beginning of May.
Where to Stay – Monteverde Lodging
In Monteverde you can rest your head for the night at everything from backpacker hostels and budget inns, to a handful of more high quality eco-lodges, and everything in between.
Luxury hotels are pretty non-existent. However, there are a few more luxurious eco-lodges in the area that focus on quality and sustainability.
We’ve put together some of our favourite fun, clean, and well regarded Monteverde lodging ideas.
Luxury – Senda Monteverde
Senda Monteverde is a luxurious & sustainable mountain lodge tucked into the hills of Monteverde. Only a 15 minute walk to town, this revamped Costa Rican Hotel features local cuisine, and art. Enjoy their restaurant, lounge/ bar, yoga studio and stunning sunsets.
Villa – La Macadamia
La Macadamia’s terraced villas with gorgeous mountain views are an oasis from the bustle of Santa Elena. These two bedroom villas are family friendly, with kitchens, washer & dryers, BBQ and modern facilities.
Mid-Range – Arco Iris Lodge
Arcos Iris Lodge is a gem close to the centre of town, but still surrounded by nature. Their separate bungalows and cabins are perfect for families, staggered amongst the gardens, with tropical birds singing in the trees. Close to restaurants, the grocery store, and town amenities. Guests love their breakfasts (Try the homemade passion fruit jam)
Hostels and Budget Accommodations
The Casa Terreza is a sweet budget friendly cabin on a farm in the mountains. Close to the Santa Elena Cloud Reserve and only a 15 to 20 minute walk to the Monteverde Brewing Company. Sit out on the deck with your morning coffee
How To Get to Monteverde
Monteverde is about a 3-4 hour drive from San Jose and about 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Liberia, though if taking a shuttle, this may take longer.
Many accommodations in Monteverde can arrange an airport shuttle for you to drive directly to Monteverde.
Options for ground transfers include:
- Shared Shuttle Bus – Best for solo travelers and couples. Usually have set departure times, often 1-2 times a day (one in the am, one in the afternoon / evening), which you share with strangers.
- From San Jose it’s around $55 – $70 for adults, cheaper for kids and apporximately a 4.5 hour ride. Book in advance.
- Private Transfer – Great for groups of 3-4 or more people. You can usually pick your departure time. and it takes about 3-4 hours. While travel is often straight through, you have more flexibility to ask for stops a long the way.
- From San Jose it’s around $200. Book in advance.
- Car Rental – $300- $450 week, or $40 – $60 day. Offers the most flexibility if you are comfortable driving in another country. Mapache Rent A Car has a good reputation for being reliable.
- Download Waze before you go. It’s the most popular and accurate GPS traffic system used in Costa Rica. You’ll need internet to use it.
- PRO TIP: Research your routes before you go, don’t just rely on GPS apps. The Apps may lead you to the shortest route, but smaller roads can be confusing, and you may need a 4×4 for them.
- Public Bus – ₡2840 ($4USD). The bus ride takes about 5 to 6 hours. You aren’t guaranteed a seat by booking online, so you may end up standing the whole way. Call the office (Spanish speaking only) to see if you are likely to get an actual seat before booking. San Jose (506) 2519-9950 Monteverde (506) 2645-7447.
- Leaves San Jose Bus Terminal 7-10 at 2:30pm every day, and 6:30am Sat, Sun, Mon & Fri.
- Leaves Monteverde for San Jose every day at 5:30am and 2:30pm Thurs to Sunday.
- Confirm the bus schedule to be sure. You don’t want to miss your chance
Monteverde is quite steep and hilly to walk around, and a lot of the activities sit on the edges of town. You’ll need to either rent a car, or take a taxi, local bus or private shuttle to get to your activities, unless you love a good hilly walk.
Downtown Santa Elena is in the shape of a triangle (Road 606 North, Road 606 South, and Road 620).
Taxis – You can grab an official red taxi at Monteverde’s taxi stop located on the northwest side of the triangle. They can take you wherever you need to go in the Monteverde area.
Parking – It is recommended to park at the Centro Comercial Monteverde, across from the Herpetarium Adventures Monteverde, rather than on the narrow side streets.
Bus – Buses leave from downtown Santa Elena along the triangle to Monteverde Cloud Forest. Buses heading to the reserve leave from the Banco Nacional in Santa Elena at 6:15 AM, 7:20 AM, and 1:15 PM. Return buses leave the reserve at 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM. Double check timing. $1 / one way.
Shuttle – Book the shuttle in advance that runs from Santa Elena to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest around 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.; $2 / one way. Their phone # is 2645-6332.
MONTEVERDE THINGS TO DO
Go hiking in a Cloud Forest
Shrouded in mist, hiking through the cloud forest and bird watching are a couple of the main reasons people come to Monteverde.
Cool fact: The Monteverde Cloud Preserve makes up 2.5% of the world’s and 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity.
There are four main cloud forests in the Monteverde Region to explore:
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve – Monteverde is the largest and most popular reserve. Home to the world’s largest orchid collection, the elusive Quetzal Bird, and thousands of plant and insect species.15 minute drive from Santa Elena. Open 7am to 4pm daily year round. $25 USD for adults, $12 USD for kids
- Curi Cancha – The Curi Cancha Reserve is a bird watcher’s paradise with over 200 species. Also home to mammals such as the oati, agouti, kinkajou, ocelot, two-toed sloths and monkeys. Its 83 acres protect old and new growth rainforest and pastureland and 7km of trails. Adults $20 Kids $12. They also offer Night Tours, Natural History and Birdwatching Tours.
- Santa Elena Cloud Forest Preserve – Santa Elena neighbours Monteverde, and is generally less crowded, and smaller than Monteverde Preserve. Thirteen kms (8 miles) of trails to explore. Check out their Orchid Gardens. They offer special sunrise and sunset tours, as well as guided walks. Adults $16 Kids $7.
- Bosque Eterno de los Ninos – The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica created with donations by children from 44 countries. The unique forest of the Reserva Bajo del Tigre is drier, so the plant and animal species are 40% different than the cloud forest. Open 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM daily. Adults $16, Kids $11
Monteverde is just one of the the many fun adventure destinations in Central America to visit.
Enjoy A Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour
Taking your own self-guided tour through the cloud forest is completely doable, as the trails are well marked.
If you’d like to learn more about the natural history then a Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour is an excellent idea. A guide can help you find the resplendant Quetzel, as well as agouti, monkeys, toucans and other Costa Rican birds.
Take a Coffee Tour
Learn all about how your coffee is grown, harvested and processed sustainably, with a coffee tour. End up taste testing some of the best coffee you’ve ever had.
Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate and Sugar Cane Tours is one of the most popular coffee tours. Their paths are paved so perfect for kids in strollers, wheelchairs and people with mobility issues.
Learn the processes of all 3 and of course taste test at the end.
We recommend the Cafe San Luis coffee tour if you are looking for a coffee tour, with a small group focus. This one is a gem in the small nearby town of San Luis.
Interact with the family and be part of the process from the planting to the tasting of a cup of coffee.
Enjoy a Night Walk
Looking to spot nocturnal animals and creatures of the night? Don’t worry there’s no vampires. Just the coolest insects, bats and mammals around. Watch the forest awaken as the sun sets.
There are many options for a Night Tour in Monteverde, from private tours with a naturalist, to group tours organized by the Cloud Forest organizations themselves.
Get Your Heart Racing with a Canopy Tour
For the more adventurous who aren’t afraid of heights, go on a zipline canopy tour in the trees. Get up close with nature and see the cloud forest from old-growth to new-growth.
Looking to make an adventurous day of it? Then the Combo Tour at Selvatura Park is the best option.
Fly, hike, and swing through Monteverde’s cloud forest on a combo zipline and hanging bridge tour at Selvatura Park. Then visit their hummingbird and butterfly gardens. Includes hotel pick up and drop off.
Visit the Bat Jungle
Learn all about the fascinating lives of bats at the Bat Jungle with their 45 minute tour. Check out the cool sonar microphone that allows visitors to hear the echolocation.
See Butterflies Float Around
Selvatura is home to 30 unique species of butterflies in their large Butterfly Garden. Wander around the flower filled gardens, as guides explain the life cycle and evolution of these fanciful creatures.
Their Eco Adventure Tour is a fun option where you can walk their hanging bridges, visit the butterfly gardens, and watch hummingbirds zoom around the gardens outside.
Swim at a Waterfall
A swim at the vibrant blue 330-foot San Luis waterfall, will be well worth the 3 hour hike in. To get there you’ll hike a section of the lush rainforest around the Santa Elena Reserve.
Other options include riding a horse along the scenic trail, or taking a taxi to the San Luis Research Station then hiking 45 minutes to the falls. It’s on a private property, so there’s an entrance fee of $10 for adults and $8 for students and kids .
MONTEVERDE TRAVEL COSTS
Costa Rica is one of the more expensive Central American countries to visit, and as it gets more popular the prices continue to increase.
We’ve included tips for traveling to Monteverde on budget as well as options for larger budgets.
The currency in Costa Rica is the CRC or Costa Rican colón (colones for plural). A colón is divided into one hundred céntimos. The exchange rate fluctuates, but at the time of writing:
- $100 USD = ₡ 68,300
- $100 CAD = ₡ 52,700
- $100 Euro = ₡ 72,100
Almost everywhere will take US dollars, but you may get your change back in colones. Be sure to bring denominations of $20 and smaller, as larger bills may not be accepted.
The following averages are in USD unless otherwise noted.
You can rest your head for the night at everything from budget hostels to a handful of more high quality eco-lodges, and everything in between.
Luxury hotels as most are accustomed to are non-existent, but there are a few more luxurious eco-lodges. Prices tend to be higher in the peak season.
The further away from downtown, the better the quality of accommodations.
- Hostels – For backpackers, the cheapest options are the dorm rooms at hostels for around $10 to $20 USD a night including breakfast in the high season. Free wifi is usually included, and access to kitchens is typical. Hostels and smaller Inns will also have small private rooms available from about $20 to $50USD/night.
- Budget – $60 – $100 a night on average for a simple, clean and comfortable room, and VRBO’s or AirBnB’s.
- Mid-Range Hotels – Expect to pay $100 – $150 a night on average for a clean and comfortable room that usually includes breakfast. You’ll find some eco-lodges, and cabins in this range as well.
- Higher end Eco Lodges, Villas, Cabins – Can pay $150+ on up to $500+ a night
Costa Rican food centers around rice and beans, with some meat (pork, beef, chicken) and plantains or potatoes.
Eating at the local “sodas’ offering delicious authentic Costa Rican cuisine is the cheapest way to go. A traditional casado (rice, beans, veggies, and meat) will set you back around $5-9 USD depending where you go.
An average meal at a more touristy place will cost about $8-$15 and more formal dinners $15 – $45+. Drinks are extra, and cost around $3 a beer, $2 a cup of coffee, and $2 a bottle of water.
Highly recommended restaurants to try:
- Soda La Amistad – $4 – $8 Delicious fresh traditional casados, empanadas, & Aztec Soup
- Farm to Table Escondido – $9 – $15 Entree. Delicious pizza, burgers, farm raised tilapia and gorgeous sunsets
- El Sapo Restaurant & Bar – $14 – $30 Main course. Hyper-local and honest cuisine, that combines modern Costa Rican flavours, with upscale pasta, steak & catch of the day. There’s vegetarian / vegan menu & kids menu. Must make Reservations.
Car rentals in Costa Rica on average during high season will run you about $ 40-$70 /day for a non 4×4 sedan on up to $70-$120/day for a large 4×4 SUV.
If you haven’t rented a car, then factor in taxis, private shuttles or the local bus.
Taxis – Taxis have a set price per car (fits up to 5 people). Ask at your hotel what the price should be, and usually taxis will have a list of prices. Confirm this before getting in. Fare examples:
- It’s about $10 to go from downtown Santa Elena to the Monteverde Cloud Forest
- $13 – Santa Elena downtown to Santa Elena Cloud Forest
- $3 – Santa Elena downtown to Cerro Plano
Local Bus / Shuttle Bus – There are buses that run from downtown to Monteverde Cloud Forest for 700 CRC / $1 one way) and a shuttle bus to Santa Elena Reserve for $2USD one way.
Attractions vary in price. Typically they cost more for adults and tourists, than for Costa Ricans and children. Here are some examples of costs I found:
- Monteverde Cloud Forest: $25 adult, $12 child
- Santa Elena Cloud Forest: $16 adult, $7 child
- Canopy Tour (Ziplining): $85
- Selvatura Park – All Day $169 adult, Students $158, Kids 4-12 $ 141 includes Canopy Tour, Treetop Walkways, Sloth Sanctuary, Butterfly Garden, Reptile & Amphibian Exhibit & Lunch
- Coffee Tours – $35/adult $10/Child
- Guided Cloud Forest Tours – $30-$85 per person (depends on type, size & length of tour)
- Night Walk – $23/person
If you are traveling to Costa Rica, the following budgets will give you an estimate of how much it would cost per day in Monteverde, per type of budget averaged over a few days. Some days you will spend more, some days less.
This doesn’t include airfare, or traveling between destinations.
Also if you are planning on doing activities like zip lining, canopy tours or horseback riding, those will set you back $50- $90 each, so you’ll need to up your attraction budget.
If you have a family, then your expenses will cost extra for each person traveling. The exceptions may be if you rent a car / take taxis, or stay in only one room.
Depending on the types of accommodations, and tours or activities you want to do as a family, the cost per day could increase considerably.
If you are traveling with 2 or more people, you can split the hotel & transportation costs to reduce the per day amount per person.
Overall Budget Estimates Per Day / Per Person
|BUDGET||Hotels||Food||Transport.||Attractions||Total / Day|
A backpacker budget of around $55 – $65/ day will get you stays in a shared hostel dorm room, meals at cheaper local sodas, and home cooked meals, a trip to the cloud forest and use of local buses. If you plan on drinking add extra.
A Small Budget
A budget of around $135/day will get you a simple private hotel room or VRBO / Air BNB, meals at cheaper sodas, or home made, a visit to the cloud forest, local buses & the occasional taxi.
Mid Range Budget
A mid-range budget of around $210/day will get a choice of a private hotel room, VRBO / Air BNB, or some lodges, meals at cheaper sodas & an occasional restaurant. Plus allow a guided tour, a visit to the cloud forest, local buses & the occasional taxi.
A luxury budget of around $350-$400 / day will give you the most flexibility. You may stay at an eco-lodge, rent a car or take taxis, eat the occasional formal meal, and take more expensive tours / activities.
Money Saving Tips – Monteverde on a budget
- Choose to visit in the non-peak or shoulder seasons. Accommodations will be cheaper, and as a bonus there will be fewer crowds.
- Combine cheaper or free activities along with expensive tours. Or skip the tours altogether. You can hike around the forests without a guide. As a family we choose one bigger activity per destination / town we visit, and budget the cost accordingly.
- Eat local food at small family run “sodas.” I like to check out places the locals eat at. They’re usually much cheaper and delicious.
- Stay at a place where breakfast is included, as long as it fits your budget.
- Skip the alcohol and fancy drinks. Hey, I know you are on vacation, but alcoholic drinks can quickly add up and push you over your budget. Or save up a drink or two for a special occasion.
- Pack a water bottle with a purifier. Generally water in Costa RIca is ok to drink, but to be on the safe side a water purifier is a good idea.
- Bring Student ID – Some places offer student discounts
- Team up with fellow travelers and share taxis, private shuttles and rooms.
- Renting a car with extra space? Charge fellow travelers a reasonable price for you to drive them to your next destination.
Conclusion: Monteverde Travel Guide
We love Monteverde, Costa Rica, and hope this travel guide will help you plan an amazing trip to this lush area above the clouds.
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