It’s actually possible to make it to Monteverde and back in one day. In fact, we did this the first time we went there. But it’s a lot of driving, it’s exhausting, and you probably won’t fully enjoy the site and the surrounding activities. So we recommend spending the night in one of the hotels in the region.
Preparing for the trip
The Monteverde Reserve is a cloud forest environment. It’s fairly high up in the mountains, and it is often covered with … well, clouds. That means it’s usually 10-15 degrees cooler here than at sea level, and its very humid. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared:
- Reserve a hotel room for the night
- Take sun block and mosquito repellent
- Heavy rain is possible. Take light rain jackets, and possibly light sweatshirts for the early morning cool.
- Use the map below – NOT the directions Google will give you if you just search for Monteverde.
- If possible, rent a 4 wheel drive for this trip. It is feasible to get to Monteverde without one, only the last 20 km are rough. But your nerves (and maybe your wallet!) will take more punishment…
From Playa Grande, drive inland on the main road, then turn right at the Huacas fork, as if you were going to Tamarindo. Then follow the map shown here (clicking on it will take you to the Google Maps version of it).
Important Note: Once you hit the Panamerican Highway (Highway 1), ignore the first Monteverde sign. That road would get you there, but it is much more painful (more rocks and dirt). Interestingly, left to its own devices, Google Maps would also take you up that road. However the link in this page forces Google Maps to show you the “right” path (I promise you’ll thank us).
Don’t go into the actual reserve on the first day. Visit the town of Santa Elena, try a few of the activities in the region, have a nice evening. Then you’ll have the entire next day to visit the reserve…
We recommend hiring a guide once you get into the reserve. It’s expensive, but the local guides are amazingly good at spotting wild life, and they are almost always very pleasant and knowledgeable. We think it’s worth it. The guided tour is about 3-4 hours, which means you will still have several hours left to explore the trails on your own.
A Monteverde primer: an essential guide to one of Costa Rica’s tourism gems – In-depth article on Monteverde and the surrounding area