Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves
Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves are in South Costa Rica.
The cheapest way to get to Monteverde is by bus, but you may also choose to use the Taxi Boat Taxi option if you are coming from "La Fortuna" and Arenal Volcano area.
You may also choose to get a rental car. The roads within Santa Elena are now paved, but only as far as the gas station. The road to the reserve is not paved. Renting a car is thus not such a bad idea, but make sure that is is 4WD.
There are also private transportation companies that offer private transfers in a private vehicle. There are also shuttle services that charge around $29.00 per person from anywhere in the country. Be aware that these are not private, and sometimes utilize window vans that are packed like sardines.
Beware of pickpockets on the public bus. Don't put your back pack in the overhead rack.
There are several Taxi companies, and local bus services are going up and down the hill every 2 hours every day. Many of the activities in the area are in walking distance. The ones further away have free transportation included in their price.
The most scenic parts of Monteverde are at the Trocha in San Luis, at the Ventana in the Monteverde Reserve or at the Mirador in the Santa Elena Reserve. Mist and clouds often obscure these views.
Monteverde's appeal centers around its scenery and nature. Many ecosystems exist in the numerous reserves, such as Bajo del Tigre, the Santa Elena Reserve, the Bosque Eterno de los Niños and the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
A major industry is the zip-line business, and there are several choices, including the mediocre Original Canopy Tour, the good Sky Trek and the stellar Selvatura. These "canopy tours" offer a good albeit fast look at the canopy from dizzying heights.
Minor attractions include:
All throughout the main drag of Santa Elena, T-Shirts, shot glasses and other standard tourist fares are sold. Coffee products are sold throughout town as well, though the Coffee Roaster in Monteverde is particularly noteworthy. A women's art commune, CASEM, is a good place to look for wooden wares and a variety of rainforest themed stuffed animals, but is not cheap. Cerro Plano also boasts a South American clothing store, which is relatively cheap but certainly not Costa Rican. Overall, Monteverde souvenirs are tourist-geared kitsch, however.
Go to downtown Santa Elena to get the best food. Sophias Restaurant has really exotic food, and the new restaurant at the top of the Monteverde History Museum, Tramonti is great for italian food. Fried chicken next to the bank in Santa Elena.
Bar Amigos is the premier place for Ticos and tourists to mingle. Beers are ¢700, but expect an occasional ¢1000 cover charge. Service is mediocre but the food is great.
The Guarida del Sapo is a more upscale and much more expensive locale, with beers going at a criminal ¢1200. However, the service is amazing and the music is never as loud as Bar Amigos.
The Unicornio is a locals only spot for the most part, with beers at ¢700 and (hilariously bad) karaoke most every night. Proceed to Unicornio with prudence and trepidation; you're likely to stick out here as a tourist of any kind.
The Bromelias souvenir shop sometimes converts into a bar with great live music, but this is rare. Beers here are also ¢700, but Bromelias is by and large the best place to drink when it's functional.
Go to the beach or to the nearest destination - Arenal Volcano & Fortuna.