Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves
Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves are in Central Pacific.
See also Santa Elena (Costa Rica)
If you come from "La Fortuna" and Arenal Volcano area, you have 2 options:
- 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.
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. 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:
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.
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.