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Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves

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Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves

Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves banner.jpg

Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves are in Central Pacific.

See also Santa Elena (Costa Rica)

Get in[edit]

Cloud Forest at monteverde

If you come from "La Fortuna" and Arenal Volcano area

- You may choose to use bus company TRANSPISA leaving "La Fortuna" bus station at 8.00AM and arriving at around 10.00AM at Tilaran's bus station. Then connects with another public bus (chicken bus) leaving from the same place at 12.30PM and arriving at Santa Elena at around 3.00PM (1500 ₡). Please note that the road between Tilaran and Santa Elena is unpaved but you can enjoy awesome views. Many options for eating around the bus station at Tilaran while you are waiting for your bus connection.

- You may also choose to use the Taxi Boat Taxi but it's more expensive.

- 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 and that the spare tyre is in good condition - you may have to use it.

- 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.

Public bus from Penas Blancas (Nicaraguan border):

Take any bus headed to San Jose and ask for a ticket to 'La Irma'. Tickets can be purchased from the counters opposite the immigration building and cost around $3. The journey to La Irma takes around 2.5 hours.

The bus stop at La Irma is across the road from the restaurant. Buses depart here for Santa Elena at 10am and 3pm and take around 1.5 hours.

NOTE: if arriving from Nicaragua, ensure you are able to show proof of onward travel out of Costa Rica! This is checked at the border and you will have to buy an open-date bus ticket at the border (leaving Costa Rica, for example San Jose to Panama) otherwise.

From San Jose

There are buses daily from Transmonteverde in downtown San Jose. There are buses twice daily at 6:30 AM and 2:30 PM.

Get around[edit]

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.

See[edit][add listing]

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.

Do[edit][add listing]

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. Budget travelers should be aware that organized activities in Monteverde are not cheap. Simple guided tours can cost $35-$40, and more intense activities such a ziplining cost $45+ Also beware that commissions are a driving force in Monteverde and your hotel receptionist will not always sell the best tour, but the one that gives the largest commission. For example when you book a night tour and pay $25 for the 2 hour hike the hotel will be payed $10 for making the booking. You payed the hotel $10 p/p for calling and making a booking for you. The ziplines offer a $25+ commission to book them. You will be pressured to book those things that offer the largest commissions at many places especially if the room is cheap! Trust guidebooks and tripadvisor and book directly through the attraction!


A major industry is the zip-line business, and there are several choices, including the Original Canopy Tour, Sky Trek and Selvatura Park. These "canopy tours" offer a good albeit fast look at the canopy from dizzying heights. Often there are hanging bridges and cloud forest hikes at these locations as well and they provide better views of wildlife but less adrenalin!

Other attractions include:

  • the Bat Jungle, with live bats, museum & an Argentinean restaurant
  • the Frog Pond
  • the Original Monteverde Butterfly Garden in Cerro Plano
  • the Victorian-style Butterfly Garden at Selvatura Park
  • the astounding Insect Museum in the same complex
  • the San Luis waterfall
  • the very interesting Bajo del Tigre night walk
  • the Monteverde Cheese Factory
  • horseback riding. All-day cowboy ride and San Luis Waterfall ride.
  • San Luis Botanical Garden, San Luis de Monteverde. This botanical garden has arboretum trails and 75 species of medicinal plants. Resident naturalists offer day and night-time natural history walks through forest trails. Visitors can also participate in UGA Costa Rica's Carbon Offset Program and help reforest with native species, and enjoy a cup of coffee or fresh, cold juice and a meal after hiking to the San Luis waterfall.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

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.

  • Marvin Anchia (Horse Trek Monteverde), Santa Elena, Monteverde, Costa Rica (Santa Elena Center with Desafio Adventure Company), 506-2645-5874, [1]. 5-7. Howrseback Riding in Monteverde Costa Rica. From 2.5 hours to the exciting new All Day Cowboy Ride and San Luis Horseback Ride. Good horses, fantastic scenery.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

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.

  • Panaderia Jimenez, San Elena and Canitas. The Panaderia Jimenez on Santa Elena's main street has delicious bread, pastries, coffee, and more at budget prices. Stop by for breakfast or a snack for the trail or bus ride. Their products are both served at restaurants and on the store shelf throughout the region.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

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.

Restaurante Celajes in Hotel Belmar provides unique and high quality specialty cocktails that utilize many of the ingredients that Monteverde has to offer. Paired with excellent food and an astonishing view of the Gulf of Nicoya and Nicoya Peninsula, this is an ideal place to relax with a cocktail while watching the sunset.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Monteverde cloud forest reserve, [2]. La Casona is the unique and only lodging establishment inside monteverde cloud forest reserve and it was built in harmony with nature $60-70 per person not room.  edit monteverde cloud forest reserve
  • Casa Tranquilo Hostel, [3]. The Ultimate Backpacker Experience with free internet, breakfast, Hikes & Climbing. Large rooms, privates with bath $15 pp privates shared bath $10 pp Dorms 8$ per person. The delicious breakfast with homemade banana bread, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, coffee & tea. Volunteers accepted. The Owner David speaks perfect english and is willing to help you organize your trip.  edit
  • Hotel el Establo, (506)2460-4697, [4]. In the heart of the touristic zone of Monteverde 7 km from the Santa Elena Rain Forest and 4 km from the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Set in a private 150 acres farm (50% protected primary forest) adjacent to the Monteverde Reserve, from here you can arrange one day hiking tour to the monteverde cloud forest.  edit
  • Trapp Family Lodge, 305-712-5634 (), [5]. The closest lodge to the Monteverde Reserve Costa Rica, a 15 minute walk, great for bird watching. This cozy new 20-room inn pays tribute to its setting with beautiful tropical wood appointments, private balcony in each guest room, and a family-style restaurant fronted by huge picture windows and a balcony overlooking gardens and verdant rain forest. Set in a small private reserve.  edit
  • Pensión Santa Elena is the cheapest option in town, and is located in the middle of Santa Elena. Prices fluctuate but are never high.
  • Mari´s B&B is a true gem. A small and friendly b&b with a great location just up the hill from Santa Elena, central but quiet. The staff are very helpful and the price is right! A perfect option for couples on a budget. Rooms offer useful facilities (fridge, cable tv, ensuite) for the same price as basic rooms in other hotels/hostels. Breakfast tasty and wifi good. Kitchen facilities available. It´s located pretty much accross the road from the shopping complex with restaurants and supermarket.
  • Arco Iris Lodge is a mid-range hotel at $65 per room. Breakfast is extra but worth the price. A family-run hotel in a beautiful parklike setting. Walking distance to everything in Santa Elena.
  • Monteverde hotel - Fondavela[9] The Fonda Vela hotel's proximity to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve makes this luxurious eco-lodge a favorite with bird watchers.
  • Sleepers Sleep Cheaper Hostel [10], Recently relocating to the main triangle of town. This hostel is nestled in the center, and will cost you $10-$15 USD. The owner and his family are a kind locals, and will serve you breakfast that's built into the cost of the room.
  • Ecolodge San Luis at the UGA Costa Rica Campus, San Luis de Monteverde, (506) 2645-8049, [6]. The University of Georgia operates a 155-acre campus in San Luis, including the 12-room Ecolodge San Luis. Offers an educational, nature-based experience. Internet and wi-fi, but no television or phones in rooms. Hot water and private bathrooms. Meals and a variety of on-site activities included in nightly rate. Neighboring the San Luis waterfall and adjacent to the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve. $64-102.  edit
  • Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast, (from the central bus station walk southwest, at the supermarket follow the sign straight down the dirt road for 300m, next to Tina's Casitas), (506)26456849, [7]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. Bed and breakfast style lodging opened in 2009 on the edge of Santa Elena. Although part of chain of three accommodations in Monteverde it remains very much a family-run business. Even the owner's 12 year old daughter can often be found mucking in. The B&B is laid out in the style of a family house and guests are encouraged to treat it as their home. The building was in fact once the owner's family home which gave inspiration to this Tica House designed hotel. Breakfast is free. . 17.5 p.p. (10.315365,-84.826735) edit
  • Cabinas Eddy, [8]. an awesome midprice place that has both private and shared rooms. It is more expensive than a shared room at a hostel but on the cheap side for a private room (delicious breakfast is included - try the pancakes!). Cabinas Eddy feels like a cross between a hostel and a hotel. The lobby area gives it a hostel feeling, there are several tables that people tend to congregate at to eat and chat, but the room accommodations are more similar to a hotel. The owner, Freddy, is super nice and will help you book tours at a discount if you're staying with him. Each room is ~ $15-$25 per person per night.  edit

Get out[edit]

Go to the beach or to the nearest destination - Arenal Volcano & Fortuna.

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