From San Jose downtown and from San Jose Airport to Monteverde Cloud Forest, we have Collective Shared Shuttles, Private Services. and most Wanted Tours from Monteverde. We are including some Fantastic Videos of the area as well.
Please find right below complete information. You will be able to make reservations and pay online right away by clicking on the "BOOK NOW" button or if you have questions and comments please send them all by clicking on the "INQUIRE" button.
Special Low Rate: $49 per adult / $30 per child
Morning Departure: 8:00am
Afternoon Departure: 2:30pm
Service Description: (Shuttle San Jose to Monteverde)
Shared Collective Shuttles have 2 departures per day, in the morning and in the afternoon from San Jose to Monteverde Cloud Fores. This is a 4.5 hours drive from San Jose Airport area to Monteverde.
Private VIP Service: (departing any time of your election)
Private VIP Service Rate:
$220 for the service from 1 up to 6 passengers / 4hrs drive
Service Description: (Private Service San Jose to Monteverde)
This is a private service with your own driver and own vehicle door to door. At the time of your election our driver will go to the location of your preference to pick you up from there you will be assisted. If needed we will stop in a restaurant, supermarket or drugstore.
Rate for the service, not person. from 1 up to 6 passengers. Rates vary depending on your drop off location and if the service is operated between 6pm and 6am.
You will be drop off directly at the location of your preference. Advance reservations required
- Guided Hike Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve:
$83 per person / 7:00am
- Monteverde Night Tour:
$40 per person / 6:00pm and 8:00pm
Don Juan Coffee & Chocolate Tour:
$40 per person / 8am, 10am, 1pm, 3pm.
- Selvatura Ziplining Canopy Tour:
$55 per person. 8:30am, 11am, 1pm, 2:30pm
- Bungee Jumping:
$80 per person / 8am, 10:30am, 12:00pm, 2pm
- Curi-Cancha Refuge Cloud Forest Guided Hike:
Other Popular Routes from San Jose:
Other Popular Routes from Monteverde:
Monteverde to San Jose Airport
Monteverde to Monteverde
Monteverde to Jaco
Monteverde to Tamarindo
Monteverde to Liberia
Monteverde to Monteverde
Monteverde to Santa Teresa
Monteverde to Montezuma
Monteverde to Papagayo
MONTEVERDE & AROUND
Monteverde & Santa Elena
Strung between two lovingly preserved cloud forests, this slim corridor of civilization consists of the Tico (Costa Rican) village of Santa Elena and the Quaker settlement of Monteverde, each with an eponymous cloud-forest reserve. A 1983 feature article in National Geographic described this unique landscape and subsequently billed the area as the place to view one of Central America’s most famous birds, the resplendent quetzal. Suddenly, hordes of tourists armed with tripods and telephoto lenses started braving Monteverde’s notoriously awful roads, which came as a huge shock to the then-established Quaker community. In an effort to stem the tourist flow, local communities lobbied to stop developers from paving the roads.
It worked – for a while. But the towns grew anyway, attracting tourists as well as new European and North American residents. Eventually, the lobby to spur development bested the lobby to limit development. With the paving of the main access road, this precious experiment in sustainable ecotourism will undergo a new set of trials.
The cloud forests around Monteverde and Santa Elena are among Costa Rica’s premier destinations for everyone from budget backpackers to well-heeled retirees. On a good day, Monteverde is a place where you can be inspired about the possibility of a world in which organic farming and alternative energy sources are the norm. On a bad day, Monteverde can feel like Disneyland in Birkenstocks. Take heart in the fact that the local community continues to fight the good fight to maintain the fragile balance of nature and commerce.
Butterfly Garden Zoo (Jardín de Mariposas; Tel 2645-5512; www.monteverdebutterflygarden.com; adult/student/child US$15/10/5; h 8:30am-4pm) everything you ever wanted to know about butterflies, with four gardens representing different habitats and home to more than 40 species. Up-close observation cases allow you to witness the butterflies as they emerge from the chrysalis (if your timing is right). Other exhibits feature the industrious leafcutter ant. Explore on your own or take advantage of the knowledgeable naturalist guides.
Monteverde Theme Park Zoo (Monteverde Frog Pond; Tel 2645-6320; per attraction $13-17, canopy $35; h 9am-8pm) formerly known as the Ranario, or Frog Pond, this place has recently added a butterfly garden and canopy tour – hence, it’s now a theme park. The frogs are still the highlight: about 25 species reside in transparent enclosures lining the winding indoor jungle paths.
Sharp-eyed guides lead informative tours in English or Spanish, pointing out frogs, eggs and tadpoles with flashlights. Your ticket entitles you to two visits, so come back in the evening to see the nocturnal species. Combined tickets are available.
Bat Jungle Zoo (Tel 2645-7701; www.batjungle.com; adult/child US$12/10; h9am-7:30pm) Learn about echolocation, bat-wing aerodynamics and other amazing flying-mammal facts. The so-called Bat Jungle is small but informative, with good bilingual educational displays and a free-flying bat habitat housing almost 100 bats.
Serpentarium Zoo (Herpentario; Tel 2645-6002; adult/student/child US$13/11/8; h9am-8pm) a guide will show you around and introduce you to some 40 species of slithery snakes, plus a fair number of frogs, lizards, turtles and other coldblooded critters.
Jardín de Orquídeas Gardens (orchid Garden; Tel 2645-5308; www.monteverdeorchidgarden.net; adult/child US$10/free; h8am5pm) This sweet-smelling garden has shady trails winding past more than 400 types of orchid organized into taxonomic groups. On your guided tour, you’ll see such rarities as Platystele jungermannioides, the world’s smallest orchid. If you have orchids at home, here’s your chance to get tips from the experts on how to keep them beautiful and blooming.
Bosque Eterno de los Niños Hiking (Children’s Eternal Forest, BEN; Tel 2645-5003; www.acmcr.org; adult/student US$12/6, guided night hike US$20/17, Estación Biológica San Gerardo all-inclusive US$52; h7:30am-5:30pm, night hike 5:30pm) what became of the efforts of a group of schoolchildren to save the rainforest? Only this enormous 220-sq-km reserve – the largest private reserve in the country. It is mostly inaccessible to tourists, with the exception of the well-marked 3.5km Sendero Bajo del Tigre (Jaguar Canyon Trail), which is actually a series of shorter trails. At the entrance there’s an education center for children and a fabulous vista over the reserve.
Make reservations in advance for the popular two-hour night hikes. The Estación Biológica San Gerardo, reachable from a rather gnarly 21⁄2-hour trail from Reserva Santa Elena, is managed by BEN and has dorm beds for researchers and students, but you may be able to stay overnight with prior arrangements.
Curi-Cancha Reserve Hiking (www.curi-cancha.com; admission US$12, guided hike US$15; h 7am-3:30pm, guided hike 7:30am & 5:30pm) Bordering Monteverde but without the crowds, this lovely private reserve on the banks of the Cuecha River is popular among birders. There are about 10km of well-marked trails, a hummingbird garden and a view of the Continental Divide.
Santuario Ecológico Hiking (Ecological Sanctuary; Tel 2645-5869; www.santuarioecologico.com; adult/student/child US$10/8/6, guided night tour US$15/12/10; h 7am-5:30pm, guided night tours 5:30-7:30pm) Offering hikes of varying lengths, Santuario Ecológico has four loop trails through private property comprising premontane and secondary forest, coffee and banana plantations, and past a couple of waterfalls and lookout points. Coatis, agoutis and sloths are commonly sighted, as are monkeys, porcupines and other animals. Birders have a good chance of spotting hummingbirds, hawks and toucans
Hidden Valley Hiking (Valle Escondido; Tel 2645-6601; www.monteverdenighttour.com; day use US$8, guided hike incl lunch US$40, night tour adult/child US$25/15; h7am-4pm, night walk 5:30pm) this trail begins behind Pensión Monteverde Inn and slowly winds its way through a deep canyon into an 11-hectare reserve. During the day, Valle Escondido is quiet and relatively under-touristic, so it’s a good trail for birding and wildlife watching. The two-hour guided night tour is popular, so reserve in advance.
Cerro Amigos Hiking Take a hike up to the highest peak in the area (1842m) for good views of the surrounding rainforest and, on a clear day, Volcán Arenal, 20km away to the northeast. The trail begins behind Hotel Belmar and ascends roughly 300m in 3km. From the hotel, take the dirt road going downhill, then the next left. Note that this trail does not connect to the trails in the Monteverde reserve.
Santa Maria Night Walk Walking (Tel 2645-6548; www.nightwalksantamarias.com; per person US$22; h tour 5:30pm) Night walks have become super popular, perhaps because 80Tel of the cloud-forest creatures are nocturnal. Expert guides point out all kinds of wildlife that are active in the evening, ranging from snakes and spiders to sloths and kinkajous. Flashlights are provided.
Sabine’s Smiling Horses Horse Riding (Tel 8385-2424, 2645-6894; www.smilinghorses.com; per person US$45-65) Conversant in four languages (in addition to equine), Sabine will make sure you are comfortable on your horse, whether you’re a novice rider or an experienced cowboy. Her long-standing operation in Monteverde offers a variety of treks including a popular waterfall tour (three hours). And yes, the horses really do smile.
Horse Trek Monteverde Horse Riding (Tel 8359-3485; www.horsetrekmonteverde.com; per person US$45-85) Owner and guide Marvin Anchia is a Santa Elena native, a professional horse trainer and an amateur naturalist who offers an excellent, intimate horse-riding experience. Tours range from scenic half-day rides in the cloud forest to all-day cowboy experiences to multiday treks. The horses are well cared for, well trained and a joy to ride.
SkyTram Scenic Ride (Tel 2645-5238; www.skyadventures.travel; adult/ child US$44/28) Owned by SkyTrek, SkyTram is a wheelchair-accessible cable car that floats gently over the cloud forest. On a clear day you can see from the volcanoes in the east to the Pacific in the west. Packages are available if you’re also interested in the SkyTrek (canopy tour) and SkyWalk (hanging bridges).
Monteverde Cloud Forest Train Scenic Ride (Tel 2645-5700; adult/child US$50/free; c ) This charming narrow-gauge train system travels 6.4km through the forest, penetrating one tunnel and crossing four bridges. The scenic railroad offers amazing views of Monteverde and Arenal Lake and volcano. This is a great option for families with young children who are loco for locos. It’s located 5km north of downtown Santa Elena; take the road toward Reserva Santa Elena and follow the signs.
Finca Modelo Ecologica outdoors (Tel 2645-5581; www.familiabrenestours.com; canyoning US$50, farm tours US$15-25; h tours 8am, 11am & 2pm) This 3000-acre family finca offers a number of diversions, including two-hour dairy tours and a similar perusal of its organic vegetable garden, but its raison d’être is a two-hour canyoning tour, which descends six glorious waterfalls, the largest of which is 40m. No experience necessary – just an adventurous spirit! Located 2km north of Santa Elena in the village of La Cruz.
Centro Panamericano de Idiomas Language Course (CPi; Tel 2265-6306; www.cpi-edu.com; week-long classes US$390; h 8am-5pm) Specializes in Spanish-language education, with courses geared toward families, teenagers, medical professionals and retirees. For fun: optional dance and cooking classes are included with your tuition.
Monteverde Institute Language Course (Tel 2645-5053; www.monteverde-institute.org; week-long courses US$360, homestay incl meals per day US$22) This nonprofit educational institute offers interdisciplinary courses in Spanish, as well as more specialized programs in tropical biology, conservation and sustainable development, among other topics. Courses are occasionally open to the public, as are volunteer opportunities in education and reforestation.
Wonder where the whole canopy-tour craze was born? Santa Elena is the site of Costa Rica’s first zip lines, today eclipsed in adrenaline by the nearly 100 imitators who have followed, some of which are right here in town. You won’t be spotting any quetzals or coatis as you whoosh your way over the canopy, but if you came to Costa Rica to fly, this is the absolute best place to do it. If you want to explore the treetops without the adrenaline rush, several of these outfits also have systems of hanging bridges. Transportation from your lodging is included in the price.
Keep in mind that Monteverde works on a commission-based system, so take all unsolicited advice with a degree of skepticism. When in doubt, it’s good to talk to the friendly, unbiased staff at Pensión Santa Elena if you want the full scoop.
Aventura Canopy Tour (Tel 2645-6388; www.monteverdeadventure.com; canopy adult/child US$45/35, bridges US$35/25; h 7am-4pm) Aventura has 19 platforms that are spiced up with a Tarzan swing, a 15m rappel and a Superman zip line that makes you feel as if you really are flying. Aventura’s cables and bridges are laced through secondary forest only. It’s about 3km north of Santa Elena on the road to the reserve, but there’s a booking office in town.
Extremo Canopy Canopy Tour (Tel 2645-6058; www.monteverdeextremo.com; canopy US$40, super cable US$30, bungee US$60, tarzan swing $35; h8am-4pm) This outfit doesn’t bother with extraneous attractions if all you really want to do is fly down the zip lines. Located in secondary forest, there’s a canopy ride, allowing you to fly Superman style through the air; the highest and most adrenaline-addled Tarzan swing in the area; and a bungee jump. One way or another, you will scream.
Original Canopy Tour Canopy Tour (Tel 2291-4465; www.canopytour.com; adult/student/child US$45/35/25; h7:30am-4pm) On the grounds of Cloud Forest Lodge, this is the fabled zip-line route that started this adventure/theme park trend. These lines aren’t as elaborate as the others, but with 14 platforms, a rappel through the center of an old fig tree and 5km of private trails worth a wander afterward, you can enjoy a piece of history that’s far more entertaining than most museums. It’s 1km north of town, on the way to Reserva Santa Elena.
Selvatura Canopy Tour (Tel 2645-5929; www.selvatura.com; canopy US$45, walkways US$30, each exhibit US$15; h 7:30am4pm) One of the bigger games in town, Selvatura has 3km of cables, 18 platforms and one Tarzan swing over a stretch of incredibly beautiful primary cloud forest. In addition to the cables it has 3km of ‘Treetops Walkways’, as well as a hummingbird garden, a butterfly garden and an amphibian and reptile exhibition. Selvatura is 6km north of Santa Elena, near the reserve, but there’s a booking office in town.
SkyTrek Canopy Tour (Tel 2645-5238; www.skyadventures.travel; adult/ child SkyWalk US$35/22, SkyTrek US$71/45; h7:30am-5pm) This seriously fast canopy tour consists of 11 platforms attached to steel towers that are spread out along a road and zoom over swatches of primary forest. We’re talking serious speeds of up to 64km/h, which is probably why SkyTrek was the first canopy tour with a real brake system. The SkyWalk is a 2km guided tour over five suspended bridges; a night tour is also available.
Café Monteverde Coffee Tour (Tel 2645-5901; www.cafemonteverde.com; per person US$15; h7:30am-6pm) S Run by the small-scale Cooperative Santa Elena, this highly recommended tour takes visitors to organic fincas that are also implementing sustainable growing techniques like composting and biodeisel. Help to pick perfect coffee beans, then head to the beneficio (coffee mill) to watch the beans get washed and dried, roasted and packed. The tour includes a taste of the final product.
Coopeldós RL Coffee Tour (Tel 2693-8441; www.coopeldos.com) Coopeldós is a cooperative of 450 small and medium sized organic coffee growers from the area.
You might drink Coopeldós blends back home, as this Fair-trade-certified organization sells to Starbucks, among other clients. Tours include a visit to the industrial facility, followed up by some hands-on (mouth-on) quality control. The co-op is located in the village of El Dós, about halfway between Tilarán and Monteverde. Make special arrangements if you want to visit a nearby organic coffee plantation.
Don Juan Coffee Tour Coffee Tour (Tel 2645-7100; www.donjuancoffeetour.com; adult/ child US$30/12; h 7am-4:30pm) Don Juan is a more commercial operation offering a three-in-one tour, where you can learn about all of your favorite vices – coffee, chocolate and sugar (OK, maybe not all of your favorites, but three of the good ones). See how sugarcane is harvested and processed. Learn how cacao beans are transformed into that dark, decadent dessert. And witness the whole coffee process, from plant to bean to cup.
El Trapiche Coffee Tour (Tel 2645-7650; www.eltrapichetour.com; adult/ child US$32/12; h 10am & 3pm Mon-Sat, 3pm Sun) Visit this family finca, where they grow not only coffee but also sugarcane, bananas and plantains. The tour covers the entire coffee process and includes a ride in a traditional oxcart. Finish with a cup of coffee or a sample of the area’s other famous beverage, saca de guaro (sugarcane liquor).
Caburé Chocolate Tour Chocolate Tour (Tel 2645-5020; www.cabure.net) Bob, the owner of Caburé chocolate shop, shares his secrets about the magical cacao pod and how to transform it into the food of the gods. There are plenty of opportunities for taste testing along the way, and you’ll try your hand at making truffles.
Monteverde Cheese Factory CHEESE Factory (La Lechería; Tel 2645-7090; www.monteverdecheesefactory.com; tours adult/child US$12/10; hours 9am & 2pm Mon-Sat, store 7:30am-5pm Mon-Sat, to 4pm Sun) Learn about the history of the Quakers in Costa Rica and their methods for producing and pasteurizing cheese. The Monteverde Cheese Factory is now the second-largest cheese producer in the country. Don’t miss the chance to sample Monte Rico, a Monteverde original.
Budget travelers have loads of options in Santa Elena, while midrange and high-end travelers might want to take a look in nearby Cerro Plano, Monteverde and the forested hills around town.
Reservations are practically required during holiday weeks, and recommended throughout the high season. We have listed high-season rates, which drop 30Tel to 40Tel during the low season.
Casa Tranquilo B&B $ (Tel 2645-6782; www.casatranquilohostel.com; dm/r per person incl breakfast US$10/15; p i W ) At Casa Tranquilo, the wonderful Tico hospitality starts first thing in the morning with homemade banana bread. In addition to the excellent breakfast, staff leads free-guided hikes, sharing their in-depth local expertise. The rooms are simple and spotless, some featuring skylights and gulf views. Colorful murals adorn the outside, so you’ll know you are in the right place.
Pensión Santa Elena Hostel $ (Tel 2645-5051; www.pensionsantaelena.com; incl breakfast dm US$12, s/d/tr without bathroom from US$16/24/36, standard s/d/tr US$19/29/36, plus s/d US$25/37; p i W ) This full-service hostel right in central Santa Elena is a perennial favorite, offering budget travelers top-notch service and pura vida (pure life) hospitality. Each room is different, with something to suit every budget. The ‘plus’ rooms in the annex feature perk like superior beds, stone showers and iPod docks.
Cabinas Eddy Cabina $ (Tel 2645-6635; www.cabinas-eddy.com; d US$4060, without bathroom US$35; p i W ) this reader-recommended budget spot continues to get raves for its amazing breakfasts, attentive service and delightful manager Freddy (son of Eddy, by the way). The rooms are spotless, as is the fully equipped communal kitchen. The balcony is a great place to relax with a cup of free coffee and take in the view.
Monteverde Hostel Lodge Hostel $ (Tel 2645-5989; www.monteverdehostellodge.com; dm US$16, s/d/tr/q from US$37/44/57/68; p W ) Think of a classy mountain lodge with lots of amenities, where you meet cool people and share adventures. That’s the concept behind the hostel-lodge. Room’s range from stylish six-bed dorm rooms to private, semi luxurious treetop cabins. All guests are invited to the huge common area to listen to some tunes, access free wi-fi and sip happy hour cocktails.
Prices include a guided hike on the woodsy grounds, home to friendly white-faced capuchin monkeys. Movie nights, barbecue dinners and other events mean that you will have something to do after sunset.
Camino Verde B&B B&B $ (Tel 2645-5641; www.hotelcaminoverde.com; incl breakfast s/d US$30/40, s/d without bathroom $25/30; p W ) this well-loved travelers’ nest offers an assortment of spacious, bright rooms with wood ceilings and tile floors. There’s a sweet little restaurant and a rambling garden. Rocking chairs are scattered about the porch, offering a perfect spot to soak up the scenic view.
Cabinas El Pueblo Cabina $ (Tel 2645-6192; www.cabinaselpueblo.com; d incl breakfast with/without bathroom US$40/24; piW) On a quiet road steps from the town, this pleasant hostel is run by an attentive Tico couple, Marlene and Freddy. Well-furnished rooms are bright and clean, if cramped. You’ll also find a communal kitchen, hammocks, and – most importantly – an exceedingly warm welcome. All guests are gifted a treat from the family coffee plantation.
Sloth Backpackers Hostel $ (Tel 2645-5793; www.hotelslothbackpackers.com; dm/r per person incl breakfast US$8/15; p W ) this colorful corrugated-tin and cinderblock hostel comes with super-friendly management and excellent hammock swings. The rooms are simple, but they all have wooden beds covered with quilts and frilly homemade toilet-seat covers, featuring (of course) an adorable sloth.
Sleepers Hostel $ (Tel 8305-0113; www.sleeperssleepcheaperhostels.com; incl breakfast dm US$9, d US$25-30, apt US$30-45) you can’t miss this lime green and aqua blue building in central Santa Elena. Downstairs it looks like a friendly restaurant, but it’s actually a communal kitchen, where happy travelers prepare and share meals. Upstairs it looks like a modern motel, but it’s actually a hostel, where happy travelers surf the web and catch a breeze on the balcony.
Rooms are spotless, with en suite bathrooms. The 3rd-floor efficiency apartment is a steal.
Monteverde Backpackers Hostel $ (Tel 2645-5844; www.monteverdebackpackers.com; incl breakfast dm US$10-12, d/tr/q US$30/45/56; p i W ) Small and friendly, Monteverde Backpackers is part of the Costa Rica Hostel Network. The wood-paneled rooms are clean and comfy enough, the showers are hot, the location is quiet, and the management is helpful. Breakfast is DIY, so you can make ’em how you like ’em (eggs, that is).
Arco Iris Ecolodge
Lodge $$ s/d/tr budget from US$32/42/52, standard US$67/88/98, superior US$105/115/130; p i W ) this clutch of pretty cabins is on a little hill overlooking Santa Elena and the surrounding forests. Rooms vary in size and style, but all are quite lovely, with lots of stained wood, rainforest showers and private terraces. A system of private trails winds through the property, including one that leads to a lookout with views to the Pacific.
Monteverde Rustic Lodge Hotel $$ (Tel 2645-6256; www.monteverderusticlodge.com; d/tr/q incl breakfast US$70/85/105; p ) Funny thing about the Rustic Lodge: it’s not that rustic. The tree-trunk posts and furnishings play along with the theme, but the remodeled rooms are spotless, comfortable and even upscale. Decorated in subtle earth tones, the rooms have lots of stained wood, tile floors and floral curtains. The shared balcony or terrace overlooks a blooming garden.
Mar Inn B&B B&B $$ (Tel 2645-5279; www.monteverdemarinn.com; d incl breakfast without/with view US$62/79; p i W ) this humble, homey B&B is a family-run place that makes all guests feel warm and welcome. Rooms are rustic but reasonably comfortable. There’s a communal kitchen and a shared balcony where rocking chairs are oriented toward those lovely sunset views of Santa Elena and the Golfo de Nicoya.
Hotel El Atardecer Hotel $$ (Tel 2645-5485; www.atardecerhotel.com; s/d/tr/q incl breakfast US$40/65/85/98; p W ) This attractive two-story wooden lodge is located away from the main drag, guaranteeing a good night’s rest (as long as your neighbors aren’t too noisy). Surrounding a spacious courtyard restaurant, the tiled rooms have high, beamed ceilings, good mattresses and new bathroom tile. All in all, it’s not a bad place to come home to.
Hotel Claro de Luna B&B $$
(Tel 2645-5269; www.clarodelunahotel.com; d breakfast US$72-93; p W ) This graceful mahogany gingerbread-style house is surrounded by lush gardens bursting with heliconias, orchids and other tropical blooms. The rooms are also cheerful, with brightly painted interiors and floral quilts. Unfortunately, sound travels easily in this old house: get a room in the downstairs annex if you can.
Swiss Hotel Miramontes Hotel $$ (Tel 2645-5297; www.swisshotelmiramontes.com; s/d/chalets incl breakfast US$45/57/90; p W ) About 500m north of the soccer field on the road to Juntas, this charming Euro inspired retreat is well situated in a grove of pine trees and tropical flowers. Expansive grounds are landscaped with trails winding through the gorgeous orchid gardens. The eight wood-paneled rooms are a little stuffy but satisfactory, while the chalets offer porches and more privacy.
Hotel Poco a Poco Hotel $$$ (Tel 2645-6000; www.hotelpocoapoco.com; d incl breakfast from US$151; p n i W s ) There’s a lot to love about Poco a Poco. The spa, of course. The restaurant is also excellent, and the contemporary architecture is striking. The whole place is family friendly, with a small playground, a kiddie pool, and ceramic critters peeking out in unexpected places. Rooms show off a sophisticated style, with soothing earth tones and wooden accents.
Pay more for the views from the upper floors.
Ficus Sunset Suites Hotel $$$ (Tel 2645-6200, 2645-5157; d incl breakfast US$149; p a i W ) Just south of Santa Elena, these brand-new rooms are spacious and stylish, with private terraces and sweet views of the town and forest beyond. Unfortunately, the landscaping is nonexistent and the design is more ‘suburban condo’ than ‘cloud-forest lodge’. Nonetheless, after a day trekking through the mist and the mud, you’ll appreciate that hot shower and comfy bed.
Around Santa Elena
Los Pinos Cabañas y Jardines Lodge $$ (Tel 2645-5252; www.lospinos.net; cabaña d/ste/q US$70/85/140, superior d US$115; pW) S Fourteen freestanding cabañas (cabins) are scattered around the peaceful, forested gardens of this 9-hectare property, which once formed part of the family finca. With plenty of space between them, each cabaña affords plenty of privacy, plus a fully equipped kitchen and small terrace. It’s a superb setting for those seeking a little solitude, with some great options for families.
If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, there is that too, with new ‘superior’ rooms those are fitted with fireplaces and balconies.
Hotel El Bosque Hotel $$ (Tel 2645-5221; www.bosquelodgecr.com; s/d/tr/q incl breakfast US$62/73/85/96; p a W ) On the edge of the Bosque Eterno de los Niños, this place is a pleasant surprise. Stand-alone
wood cabins are surrounded by tropical gardens and primary forest, with many kilometers of trails to get lost on. Wildlife abounds – keep your eyes open for agoutis, coatis, capuchin monkeys and amazing birds. Walking distance to pastries and pizza.
Finca Terra Viva Lodge $$ (Tel 2645-5454; www.terravivacr.com; d/q incl breakfast US$50/80; p i W ) S A 300-acre working dairy finca surrounded by lush forest, this is a unique sleep that offer guests a typically Costa Rican rural experience. Try your hand at milking cows and making cheese at the organic dairy, or go horse riding around farm and forest. Kids love this place. It’s about 3.5km out on the road toward Reserva Santa Elena.
Mariposa B&B B&B $$ (Tel 2645-5013; www.mariposabb.com; s/d/tr incl breakfast US$40/60/72; p W ) Just 1.5km from the Monteverde reserve, this friendly family-run place has quite nice rooms with stained-wood walls, terra-cotta floors and beamed ceilings, not to mention a sweet Tico family looking after guests. It’s nestled in the forest, with a sunny terrace for observing wildlife or just savoring a cup of local joe. There’s not much in the vicinity, so you’ll want wheels.
La Colina Lodge Lodge $$ (Tel 2645-5009; www.lacolinalodge.com; d incl breakfast without/with bathroom US$35/55; p ) Unpretentious and inviting, this peaceful property is aflutter with feathered friends and other farmyard animals. Slightly ragged rooms are hand-painted in cheery colors with unique furniture and decor. The sunny grounds include a communal kitchen and plenty of places to relax. The place is looking a bit worse for wear, but it’s charming.
Formerly the Floor Mar, this hotel was first opened in 1977 by Marvin Rockwell, one of the area’s original Quakers, who was jailed for refusing to sign up for the draft in 1949 in Alabama.
Hotel El Viandante Hotel $$ (Tel 2645-6475; www.hotelelviandante.com; s/d/ tr/q incl breakfast US$68/80/96/113; p i W ) Perched on a small but steep hill in Cerro Plano with views of the gulf, this stone lodge is a solid choice. The rooms are pretty standard, with plain furniture, pinewood interiors and high ceilings, but the service is outstanding. Italian-American couples Renzo and Grace are your charming hosts. Enjoy an American breakfast with a view from the top-floor lounge.
It’s about 1.5km south of Santa Elena.
Hotel Belmar Hotel $$$ (Tel 2645-5201; www.hotelbelmar.net; peninsula r US$150-160, deluxe chalets US$178-308; piWs) S every room at the Belmar boasts a spectacular view of forest or gulf. (Indeed, you can see both from the 270 degrees of windows in some of the deluxe chalets.) The gorgeous light-filled rooms are decked out with hand-crafted furniture, high-thread-count linens and spectacular sunsets from the private balconies – and the higher you go, the more spectacular they are.
The chalets are truly splurge worthy, with floor-to-ceiling windows, huge balconies and hot tubs. Other perks (for everybody) include yoga classes, spa services and a fabulous restaurant with those same jaw dropping views. Incidentally, this place is a real eco-resort, boasting five leaves from the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism program.
Solar-heated water, bio digested energy and rainwater harvesting are just a few of the sustainable practices at the Belmar.
Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel $$$ (Tel 2645-5447; www.hiddencanopy.com; incl breakfast d US$254, tree houses US$322-390; p n W ) Hidden within 13 acres of private rainforest are five stunning stilted tree houses, built of wood and windows. Guests relish the private treetop balconies, luxurious bedding, waterfall showers, custom-made furniture and local artwork. There are two less expensive, less spacious, but equally attractive rooms in the main house. Prices include sunset drinks, featuring an amazing light show in the sky.
Hidden Canopy is 3km north of Santa Elena on the road to the reserve. No kids; two-night minimum.
Hotel Fonda Vela Lodge$$$ (Tel 2645-5125; www.fondavela.com; d/ste US$135/180; p n i W s ) With unique architectural styling, 14 hectares of trail-laced grounds and a private stable, this classy retreat is a sophisticated base for enjoying nature. Standard rooms are spacious and light, with wood accents and large windows; and the suites are among the nicest rooms in town, featuring wood ceilings, bathtub, balcony and sitting room. Located about 2km from the Monteverde reserve.
Cloud Forest Lodge Lodge $$$ (Tel 2645-5058; www.cloudforestlodge.com; s/d/ tr/q US$102/113/124/135; p i W ) sleep in the clouds: this hilltop lodge is up there, surrounded by 28 hectares of primary and secondary forest. There are trails to walk, species to check off your bird list and gulf views to marvel at. The rooms are rather basic for the price, but they are clean and comfortable and – frankly – you won’t be spending much time there.
The Original Canopy Tour is right here at the lodge, which is about 1km from Santa Elena. It’s a pleasant walk into town, but you’ll get your exercise on the way back.
Vista Verde Lodge Lodge $$$ (Tel 2200-5259; www.info-monteverde.com; d standard/superior US$108/116; p ) Wanna get away? Drive your 4WD 7km north of town to this remote, weather-beaten lodge, where you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the rainforest. Wood-paneled rooms with picture windows take in views of Volcán Arenal and beyond. If it feels a little damp (as it does), head to the cozy common area to warm your feet beside the fire.
Some 4km of trails run through 64 hectares of primary and secondary forest. Hike to the waterfall, which provides the hydroelectric energy that this place runs on.
Trapp Family Lodge Hotel $$$ (Tel 2645-5858; www.trappfam.com; d from US$113; pniW) you can’t get much closer to the Monteverde reserve than here (less than 1km
from the entrance). The trade-off, of course, is that it’s far away from everything else. The 20 spacious rooms have high wooden ceilings, big bathrooms and fabulous views from picture windows (which overlook gardens or cloud forest). The restaurant is elegant but overpriced.
Santa Elena has most of the budget kitchens in the area, but there’s good eating throughout the Monteverde swirl.
The giant Super Compro (Tel 2758-7351; h7am-9pm) grocery store in Santa Elena has everything you could possibly need, including organic produce. The tiny Whole Foods Market (h 7:30am-5:30pm) – no relation to the corporate-organic global dominatrix – in Cerro Plano has a smaller selection, but profits are reinvested in the community (it’s part of the Casem cooperative).
TACO TACO Mexican $ Quick and convenient, this taquería (taco stall) offers tasty Tex-Mex tacos, burritos and quesadillas filled with shredded chicken, slow-roasted short rib, pork al pastor (cooked on a spit), roasted veggies and battered mahi mahi. The only difficulty is deciding (but you really can’t go wrong).
Orchid Cafe BAKERY$ (Tel 2645-6850; mains US$2-12; h 7am-7pm; W ) S If you have a hankering for something sweet, go straight to this lovely little cafe. Take a seat on the front porch and take a bite of heaven. Aside from pastries and pies, crepes and cookies, there’s a full menu of savories, such as ciabatta sandwiches, interesting and unusual salads and delicious quiche. Breakfast also gets an A+.
Sabor Tico Soda $ (Tel 2645-5847; http://restaurantesabortico.com; mains US$5-8; h 9am-9pm) S Ticos and travelers alike rave about this local joint. Look for some tasty twists on the standard fare, such as chalupas (boat-shaped tostadas filled with meat or cheese), tamales and delicious rice dishes. Casados (set meals) are served with delicious homemade corn tortillas. If you have room for dessert, go for fried plaintains in cinnamon syrup.
The original location is opposite the soccer field, and there’s a newer outlet in the Centro Comercial.
Soda La Amistad Soda $ (Tel 2645-6108; mains US$3-6; h 9am-10pm) S Friendly and family run, this is a well-loved soda that’s a bit off the beaten track. You’ll find the typical, tasty casados, burgers, pasta and breakfast on the menu. Herbivores will appreciate the options, including veggie burgers and veggie casados. These ladies know their stuff (and it’s cheap).
Trio Fusion $$$ (Tel 2645-7254; mains US$7-17; h 11:30am-9:30pm; W) In a funny location behind the SuperCompro, Trio has a classy, contemporary open-air dining room perched in the trees. The menu is all about blending unexpected elements into a delightful surprise for the taste buds, such as sea-bass ceviche (seafood marinated in lemon or lime juice, garlic and seasonings) in coconut milk, barbecue ribs with guava sauce, and a highly touted burger with figs. The dessert menu does amazing things with tropical fruits.
El Jardín international $$$ (Tel 2257-0766; www.monteverde.com; mains US$16-23; h 7am-10pm; W ) S Arguably the ‘finest’ dining in the area. The menu is wide ranging, always highlighting the local flavors. But these are not your typical tipica: beef tenderloin is served on a sugarcane kebab, pan-fried trout is topped with orange sauce. The setting – with windows to the trees – is lovely and service is superb. Romantics can opt for a private table in the garden. Located on the grounds of the Monteverde Lodge.
Morpho’s Restaurant international $$$ (Tel 2645-7373; www.morphosrestaurant.com; mains US$8-20; h 11am-9pm; p v ) Dine among gushing waterfalls and pretty butterflies at this romantic downtown restaurant. The sophisticated menu combines local ingredients with gourmet flair – the results are sure to please any palate.
Around Santa Elena
Stella’s Bakery BAKERY $ (Tel 2645-5560; mains US$4-8; h 6am-10pm; W c ) A bakery for birders come in the morning for strong coffee and sweet pastries, or come later for sandwiches on homemade bread and rich, warming soup. Whenever you come, keep on eye on the bird feeder, which attracts tanagers, mot-mots and an emerald green toucan.
Café Caburé CAFE $$ (Tel 2645-5020; www.cabure.net; mains US$10-12; h 9am-8pm Mon-Sat; p W ) The Argentine cafe above the Bat Jungle specializes in creative and delicious everything, from sandwiches on homemade bread and fresh salads, to more elaborate fare like tortillas stuffed with chicken mole, chipotle-rubbed steak, curried potatoes, and lemon shrimp. Save room for dessert because the chocolate treats are high art.
Sofia Fusion $$ (Tel 2645-7017; mains US$12-16; h 11:30am-9:30pm; W) Sofia has established itself as one of the best places in town with its Nuevo Latino cuisine – a modern fusion of traditional Latin American cooking styles. Think sweet-and sour fig roasted pork loin, plantain-crusted sea bass, and shrimp with green-mango curry. The ambience is enhanced by groovy music, picture windows, romantic candle lighting and potent cocktails.
Pizzeria Tramonti Italian $$ (Tel 2645-6120; www.tramonticr.com; mains US$1016; h 11:30am-9:30pm Mon-Sat; c ) Tramonti offers authentic Italian, specializing in fresh seafood, hearty pastas and wood-fired pizzas. There’s a decent selection of wines from Italy and Argentina. With a greenery-filled dining room twinkling with lights, the ambience is relaxed yet romantic.
Johnny’s Pizzeria Pizzeria $$ (Tel 2645-5066; www.pizzeriadejohnny.com; mains US$11-24; h 11:30am-10pm; W c ) Johnny’s has been serving up wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas since 1993. Keep it simple with a marguerite or let Johnny impress you with one of his creative combos (like the Monteverde, with prosciutto, green olives and homegrown organic leeks).
Drinking & Entertainment
Nightlife in these parts generally involves a guided hike and nocturnal critters, but since this misty green mountain draws artists and dreamers, there’s a smattering of regular cultural offerings. When there’s anything going on you’ll see it heavily advertised around town with flyers.
Bar Amigos BAR (Tel 2645-5071; www.baramigos.com; h noon3am) With picture windows overlooking the mountainside, this Santa Elena mainstay evokes the atmosphere of a ski lodge. But no, there are DJs, karaoke, billiards, and sports on the screens. This is the one consistent place in the area to let loose, so there’s usually a good mix of Ticos and tourists. Also, the food is surprisingly good.
La Taberna BAR (Tel 2645-5883; h variable) Known by many names in recent years, this drinking establishment will always be remembered as La Taberna. No matter what you call it, you’ll find a friendly outdoor bar, drink specials, pub fare and live music.
Common Cup CAFE (Tel 2645-6247; coffee from US$2; h 7am-6pm; W ) a cute yet sophisticated coffee shop with its own roastery. The name belies the fact that the gentleman barista crafts quite an uncommon cup of joe. The coffee beans are locally grown, the brew is fabulous and the milky foam is a medium for art.
Monteverde Art House Handicrafts (Casa de Arte; Tel 2645-5275; www.monteverdearthouse.com; h9am-6:30pm) you’ll find several rooms stuffed with colorful Costa Rican artistry. The goods run the gamut, including jewelry, ceramic work, Boruca textiles and traditional handicrafts. There’s a big variety, including some paintings and more contemporary work, but it’s mostly at the crafts end of the artsy-craftsy spectrum. Great for souvenirs.
Casem Handicrafts (Cooperativa de Artesanía Santa Elena Monteverde; Tel 2645-5190; www.casemcoop.blogspot.com; h 8am-5pm Mon-Sat year-round, plus 10am-4pm Sun dec-Apr) Begun in 1982 as a women’s cooperative representing eight female artists, today Casem has expanded to reportedly include almost 150 local artisans (eight of whom are men). Honestly, it’s an underwhelming selection, featuring embroidered clothing and painted handbags, polished wooden tableware, and some painted bookmarks and greeting cards. There are more interesting paintings and woodwork in the Sky Gallery upstairs.
Reserva Biólogica Bosque
Here is a virginal forest dripping with mist, dangling with mossy vines, sprouting with ferns and bromeliads, gushing with creeks, blooming with life and nurturing rivulets of evolution. It is so moving that when Quaker settlers first arrived in the area, they agreed to preserve about a third of their property in order to protect this watershed. By 1972, however, encroaching squatters threatened its sustainability. The community joined forces with environmental organizations to purchase 328 hectares adjacent to the all ready preserved area. This was called the Reserve Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Wildlife Biological Reserve; Tel 2645-5122; www.reservamonteverde.com; adult/concession US$18/9; h7am4pm), which the Centro Científico Tropical (Tropical Science Center) began administering in 1975. Nowadays the reserve totals 105 sq km.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the result of private citizens working for change, rather than waiting around for a national park administered by the government. And yes, the reserve still relies partly on donations from the public. As the underfunded Minae struggles to protect the national-park system, enterprises like this are more important than ever for maintaining cohesive wildlife corridors.
Visitors should note that the walking trails can be muddy, even during the dry season. You’re essentially walking around in a cloud, so quit complaining and bring rain gear, suitable boots and a smile. Many of the trails have been stabilized with concrete blocks or wooden boards, but unpaved trails deeper in the preserve turn sloppy during the rainy season.
Because of the fragile environment, the reserve allows a maximum of 160 people at any time. During the dry season this limit is usually reached by 10am, so arrive early (before the gates open). Alternatively, head across town to the Reserva Santa Elena (p203), which gets about 10Tel of the number of visitors as Monteverde.
Activities Hiking There are 13km of marked and maintained trails – a free map is provided with your entrance fee. The most popular of the nine trails, suitable for day hikes, make a rough triangle (El Triángulo) to the east of the reserve entrance. The triangle’s sides are made up of the popular Sendero Bosque Nuboso (1.9km), an interpretive walk through the cloud forest that begins at the ranger station, paralleled by the more open, 2km El Camino, a favorite of bird-watchers. The Sendero Pantanoso (1.6km) forms the far side of El Triángulo, traversing swamps, pine forests and the continental divide. Returning to the entrance, Sendero Río (2km) follows the Quebrada Cuecha past a few photogenic waterfalls.
Bisecting the triangle, the gorgeous Chomogo Trail (1.8km) lifts hikers to 1680m, the highest point in the triangle. Other little trails crisscross the region, including the worthwhile Sendero Brillante (300m), with bird’s-eye views of a miniature forest. However, keep in mind that despite valiant efforts to contain crowd sizes, these shorter trails are among the most trafficked in the country.
The trail to the Mirador La Ventana (elevation 1550m) is moderately steep and leads further afield to a wooden deck overlooking the continental divide. To the west, on clear days you can see the Golfo de Nicoya and the Pacific. To the east you can see the Peñas Blancas valley and the San Carlos plain. Even on wet, cloudy days it’s magical, especially when the winds are howling and fine swirling mist washes over you in waves. All over these woods, in hidden pockets and secluded gullies that mist collects into rivulets that gather into threads that stream into a foaming cascada, visible from Sendero Cascada. From here the water pools, then forms into a gushing river, best glimpsed from Sendero Río or Sendero Chuecha. There’s a 100m suspension bridge about 1km from the ranger station on Sendero Wilford Guindon. A mini Golden Gate suspended in the canopy, you can feel it rock and sway with each step.
There are also trails to three backcountry shelters that begin at the far corners of the triangle. Even longer trails, many of them less developed, stretch out east across the reserve and down the Peñas Blancas river valley to the lowlands north of the Cordillera de Tilarán and into the Bosque Eterno de los Niños. If you have the time to spare, these hikes are highly recommended, as few tourists venture beyond the triangle. It’s important to first talk to the park service, as you will be dealing with rugged terrain; a guide is highly recommended. Also, backcountry camping and sleeping in these shelters is normally no longer allowed.
Monteverde is a bird-watching paradise, with the list of recorded species topping out at more than 400. The resplendent quetzal is most often spotted during the March and April nesting season, though you may get lucky any time of year. Keep your ears open for the three-wattled bellbird, a kind of cotinga that is famous for its distinctive call. If you’re keen on birds, a specialized bird tour is highly recommended.
For those interested in spotting mammals, the cloud forest’s limited visibility and abundance of higher primates (namely human beings) can make wildlife-watching quite difficult, though commonly sighted species (especially in the backcountry) include coatis, howler monkeys, capuchins, sloths, agoutis and squirrels (as in ‘real’ squirrel, not the squirrel monkey). Most animals avoid the main trails, so get off the beaten track.
Life in the Cloud Forest
To explore the Monteverde cloud forest is to arrive at the pinnacle of Costa Rica’s continental divide. A blast of swirling, misty euphoria surrounds you, where lichen-draped trees soar, exotic birds gossip, and orchids and bromeliads bloom. Life is abundant, throbbing and palpable.
Two Forests, Two Ecosystems
Warm, humid trade winds from the Caribbean sweep up forested slopes to the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (p212), where they cool and condense into clouds that congregate over the nearby Reserva Santa Elena (p203). The two forests are rich in diversity and oxygen, but the slight temperature and topographical differences mean that each has its own unique ecosystem.
The most abundant life form in the cloud forest, epiphytes seem to take over the trees they are growing on, yet they are not parasites and they do not harm their hosts. These clever plants get their nutrients from the floating mist, which explains their exposed roots. Look closely, and you’ll see that one tree might be covered in dozens of epiphytes. This
is one of the major reasons that cloud forests can claim such biodiversity: in Monteverde it’s estimated that epiphytes represent almost 30Tel of the flora species.
The biggest family of epiphytes is the orchids, with nearly 500 species (the greatest diversity of orchids on the planet). Most amazingly, this figure includes some 34 endemic species – those that do not exist anywhere else.
Playing an important role in the pollination of orchids and other blooming plants, hummingbirds are among the most visible of the cloud-forest creatures. Their unique ability to fly in place, backwards and upside down allows them to drink on the fly, as it were. There are some 30 species buzzing around; check them out at Cafe Colibri (p216), just outside the Monteverde reserve.
You’ll hear the three-wattled bellbird long before you see him, as his distinctive song is supposedly one of the loudest birdcalls on earth. As you might guess, he has three long wattles hanging from his beak.
The most famous cloud-forest resident is the resplendent quetzal. With long plumes of jade green and electric blue, this exotic beauty lives up to its name. The quetzals move seasonally between elevations, but if you’re in the right place at the right time, a good bird guide should be able to find one.
The Quakers were the original conservationists here. In the early 1950s, about a dozen pacifist farming families decided to leave the United States so that they would not be drafted to fight in the Korean War. They settled in this remote perch and called it Monteverde (literally ‘Green Mountain’). The Quakers have been actively involved in protecting this unique environment ever since.
Although you can (and should) hike around the reserve on your own, a guide will provide an informative overview and enhance your experience. Make reservations at least a day in advance for park-run tours. The English-speaking guides are trained naturalists; proceeds benefit environmental education programs in local schools.
The reserve can also recommend excellent guides for private tours. Costs vary depending on the season, the guide and where you want to go, but they average about US$60 to US$100 for a half-day; reserve admission fees are sometimes extra.
Bird-Watching Tours Tour (per person excluding entry fee US$60; departs 6am) Guided bird-watching tours begin at Stella’s Bakery near Santa Elena and set out on a five-hour quest. They usually see more than 40 species. There’s a two-person minimum and six-person maximum. Longer tours go on request for a higher fee, resulting in a higher number of species checked off the list.
Natural History Tours Tour (Tel 2645-5122, reservations 2645-5112; excluding entry fee US$17; departs 7:30am, 11:30am & 1:30pm) Guided natural-history tours start with an informative 10-minute orientation, followed by a 21⁄2to three-hour walk in the woods. You’ll learn all about the characteristics of a cloud forest and identify some of its most unique flora. Your ticket is valid for the entire day, so you can continue to explore on your own after the tour is over.
Night Tours Tour (with/without transportation US$20/17; h departs 5:45) Two-hour night tours offer the opportunity to observe the 70Tel of regional wildlife that has nocturnal habits. Frogs, bats and other night critters are increasingly active as the sun sets. Tours are by flashlight (bring your own for the best visibility).
Sleeping & Eating
If you can carry everything you need, you might inquire about staying at the three backcountry shelters, though they are normally used only by researchers.
La Casona Lodge $$$ (Tel 2645-5122; www.reservamonteverde.org; incl 3 meals per adult/child private r US$73/37, shared r US$62/37) Near the Reserva Biológica
Bosque Nuboso Monteverde park entrance is this mountain lodge with capacity for 47 people. It’s usually used by researchers and student groups but is often available to tourists – make reservations.
Restaurant Sandwiches $ (plates US$3-9; h7am-4pm) There’s a small restaurant at the entrance to the reserve, which has a good variety of sandwiches, salads and typical dishes.
Cafe Colibri CAFE $ (Tel 2645-7768; www.cafesantamarta.com; sandwiches $3-5, coffee drinks US$2; h 8am-5pm) Just outside the reserve gates, the ‘hummingbird cafe’ is a top-notch choice for coffee and cakes. The gourmet coffee comes from beans sourced from the family’s finca, Santa Marta. The drinks will warm your body, but the humming of dozens of hummingbirds in the garden will delight your heart. An identification board shows the nine species that you’re likely to see. Great photo ops.
The visitors center (Tel 2645-5122; www.cct. or.cr; park entry adult/student & child/child under 6yr US$17/9/free; h7am-4pm) is adjacent to the reserve gift shop, where you can get information and buy trail guides, bird and mammal lists and maps, as well as souvenirs and postcards. Leave your passport to rent a pair of binoculars (US$10).
The annual rainfall here is about 3000mm, though parts of the reserve reportedly get twice as much. it’s usually cool, with high temperatures around 18°C (65°F), so wear appropriate clothing. it’s important to remember that the cloud forest is often cloudy (!). The reserve is managed by the Centro Científico Tropical and supported by donations through the Friends of Monteverde Cloud Forest (www.friendsofmonteverde.org).