The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is an incredible Costa Rican destination. Monteverde means ‘green mountain’ in Spanish, and these humid forests are teeming with life. From incredibly tall jungle trees covered in orchids, mosses, ferns, bromeliads and vines to a terrific array of wildlife including tapirs, bare necked umbrella birds, jaguars, ocelots, and the elusive quetzal, the forests are an amazing tourist destination. The park has many deep gorges with crystal clear streams running through them. While in the park, you can enjoy zip line adventures, canopy tours, and suspended bridge tours. And, if you are in the area, it is just a short ride up to the nearby Arenal volcano!
Monteverde has a really interesting local history. Even over the years, the “city” of Monteverde remains no bigger than a small village at the cloud forest’s entrance. The town was founded by Quakers in the 1950’s, and has really only developed at all just to accommodate the large number of tourists that visit the cloud forests.
However, it is not easy to get to Monteverde. There are no flights to the city, so your only travel options are bus or car, and you have to drive up a mountain to get to the Cloud Forest.
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The public buses in Costa Rica are actually efficient, safe, and incredibly inexpensive. A one way ticket to Monteverde from San Jose costs about $7.50. You can even bring you surfboard on the bus for an extra $2.00. The seats recline and are actually pretty comfortable. However, sometimes the buses can be crowded. You cannot buy tickets for the bus in advance; you have to physically buy them at the bus station. Buses leave for Monteverde twice daily; one at 6:30 am, and the other at 2:30 pm. The trip takes about four and a half hours, and the bus does stop for about 15 minutes at a restaurant in the city Sarmientos, which is a little over halfway to Monteverde.
If you do not want to have to drive yourself, but do not want to get on a crowded bus, a semi-private shuttle is a good idea. There are two companies that provide shuttle service to Monteverde; Interbus and Fantasy Bus. The shuttle is incredibly convenient; it will pick you up and drop you off anywhere, eliminating any need for taxi service. The price ranges from $29 – $45. The fare for children is usually 50% off of the adult price. The shuttles leave from San Jose every day at 9:00 am and 2:00 pm.
Your other option is to drive. First of all, make sure you rent a four wheel drive vehicle. Most of the roads to Monteverde are dirt, and there are many potholes along the way. If it is the rainy season, the drive to Monteverde can be especially tedious, and you will not be able to get to the cloud reserve at all unless you are driving a 4×4 vehicle. From San Jose, you take Highway 1 north and then take the Sardinal exit. Part of the route going past Sardinal and up the mountain is paved, making driving conditions easier. You will passing through Guacimal, and then you will reach Santa Elena. This trip will take about four and a half hours, and you will drive 105 miles.
If you want to visit the Arenal volcano while you are in the area, there is an easy way to get there. Take a boat transfer from Monteverde to the Arenal Volcano. You take the boat across Arenal Lake straight to the volcano. The boat departs two times each day, and the trip takes 3 hours. It costs $25 per person.