Monteverde Costa Rica is truly a unique destination and one of the country’s best kept secrets! Located between two lush cloud forests in the Cordillera de Tilaran, this gorgeous area is home to 2.5% of worldwide diversity and to some of the most breath-taking vistas in the country.
What is now known as the community of Monteverde was founded in the early 1950’s by a group of pacifists from Alabama who fled from the United States in order to avoid being drafted into the Korean War. While the majority of these migrants were Quakers, there were others that were simply conscientious objectors. They all came together in rejection of what they viewed as a pointless war and chose Costa Rica as their destination, attracted by the country’s non-violent policies and lack of an army.
The Quakers were skillful dairy farmers and Monteverde’s cool weather was perfect for their activities. They quickly settled in and set about farming a sizeable piece of land which they later decided to turn into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. This reserve went on to become one of the most important tourist destinations in the Puntarenas province.
Today, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve attracts visitors from all over the world who come to study and appreciate its beauty and biodiversity, from scientists and biologists to bird watchers, backpackers and more. Here you can explore trails and trams through virgin rainforests, ride canopy tours that will take you through trees that are centuries old, and visit museums full of historic artifacts. On a clear day visitors can see the Pacific and Caribbean coasts on either side and, if they’re lucky, a majestic Quetzal or two as Monteverde is one of the last few places on earth where this endangered bird still lives.
Monteverde Travel Tips
Monteverde literally means “Green Mountain” in Spanish, so it’s pretty easy to imagine what to expect! Perfect views full of lush and dense vegetation with lots of wildlife living inside of it.
When To Visit Monteverde
Like the rest of Costa Rica, Monteverde has two seasons, a rainy one and a sunny one. And, as it is in the rest of the country, the sunny season is also high season and the rainy / green season is low season. So you can expect bigger crowds and higher prices on the months from December to May and more rain and less people from May to December. During particularly rainy days some of the trails may closed for hiking but this usually never lasts very long. Canopy tours, museums, and other attractions are open year round.
What To Pack
Monteverde is a cloud forest, this means it’s generally windy and surrounded by rain and fog. It is always a good idea to bring warm and impermeable clothes when visiting and, if possible, a good pair of boots. Cargo pants for the nights and shorts for sunny days are always a good bet. A windbreaker or poncho is probably best, but a warm hoodie or sweater can also help on cold nights. As with most places outside of San Jose repellent and sunscreen are also important.
Getting There And Around
Two buses leave daily from San Jose to Monteverde. The trip lasts about four and a half hours (with a 15 minute stop in Sarmientos) and costs about $8 for a one way ticket. There are also direct buses from Puntarenas twice a day. If traveling from Guanacaste you can take a bus to Lagartos or La Irma and from there catch a direct bus to Monteverde. Travelers in La Fortuna can catch a bus to Tilaran and then one to Monteverde.
For those Driving from San Jose, simply get on the Pan-American highway going north, go through Miramar and be on the lookout for a restaurant “Caballa Blanco” on the right side of the road. Here you will see signs for Monteverde and other tourist attractions. Follow the signs towards a turnoff past a gas station. After a few kilometers the road will turn into a dirt road as it winds up the mountain. Stay on the road and follow the signs towards Santa Elena. Finally, a semi-private shuttle can take you there for about $45 per passenger. Shuttles can usually be used in most cities in Costa Rica.
Facts about Monteverde
Where is Monteverde
Monteverde is located in the Tilaran Mountain Range in the province of Puntarenas.This unique settlement is located right between two beautifully preserved cloud forests about 3 and half hours from San Jose.
Monteverde is easily one of the most biologically diverse places in Costa Rica. The region is covered by more than 300 square kilometers of natural forest, which contain four different bioclimatic communities. Within these forests live 400 species of birds, over 100 species of mammals, 120 species of amphibians, tens of thousands insect species, and over 3000 species of plants. Monteverde has one of the best climates in the world for orchids, which has led to more than 500 different species being discovered. It’s also one of the last places on earth were the Golden Toad (Bufoperiglenes) can still be found. Most famously, Monteverde is one of the few places on earth where visitors can see Resplendent Quetzals. These Quetzals have a unique tail feathers that can reach two feet in length. For visitors looking to see Quetzals it’s important to remember that January through July or the months when they can be spotted.
According to the National Meteorological institute the warmest months in Monteverde are April and May when the average temperature 74.3 F, while January and February are the coldest with an average of 74.3 F. The average annual temperature is 65.84 F. The sun usually rises around 5:30 AM and sets at 5:30 PM.
The annual rainfall of Monteverde is 118 inches. The dry season lasts from December until March, but it is important to remember that because of the altitude light rains are also common during this time. The altitude also causes Monteverde to be extremely windy, something that is constant throughout the year. This means that it’s always a good idea to pack warm impermeable clothes.
Monteverde has enough options to keep you busy during your visit! Traditional restaurants, cafes, bistros, bakeries, and beer houses of all kinds are available here. No matter what your budget or preferences are, you will find something that you like!
D’Sofia is one of the most well known restaurants in the area. This gorgeous establishment focuses on Latin fusion cuisine and is famous for dishes such as tenderloin with chipotle butter sauce, sweet-and-sour fig roasted pork loin, and plantain-crusted sea bass. Another popular spot is the famous Morpho’s restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner, Morpho’s focuses mostly on traditional dishes with a gourmet touch. This is the perfect place to try a famous Costa Rican “Casado” with a delicious fruit shake!
Things to do in Monteverde
One of the things that make Monteverde such a popular destination is that it’s perfect for both relaxation and adventures. The cloud forest is the ideal place walk through beautiful trails, bird watch, take pictures, and just enjoy the peace and tranquility of the mountains. But if you’re more of the adventurous type you can go on mountain hikes, night tours, canopy’s and trams through the tree tops, and much more!
No matter what your idea of the perfect vacation is Monteverde can accommodate you. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look!
Life In Monteverde
Monteverde is the perfect example of a typical Costa Rican Mountain town. It was originally founded as a community of dairy farmers but with time it grew and developed until it turned into one of the country’s best kept tourist secrets. Its natural beauty and friendly people still attract visitors from all over the world just like they did with the Quaker expats of the 1950’s.
The town of Santa Elena has grown through the years to offer all sorts of services to locals and visitors alike. Here you can easily find grocery stores, souvenir shops, banks, restaurants, drug stores, coffee houses, a hospital, ATM machines, books stores, a post office, etc.
- Public Transportation: Buses leave from San Jose to Monteverde twice a day. There are also two daily buses from Puntarenas. Taxis are widely available inside Monteverde.
- Public Amenities: You can easily find all the same public amenities you would find in any other town in Costa Rica.
- Shopping: Retail, bookstores, art galleries, souvenir shops, supermarkets, etc are all readily available in Santa Elena.
- Money: There are three banks in town (Nacional, Costa Rica, Popular) each one with ATM service available.
- Gas Stations: There are two gas stations, the Monteverde Service Center and the Gasolinera El Tabu in Santa Elena.
- Wifi or Internet Cafes: Most hotels offer Wifiservices , as do many restaurants and other establishments. The Tree House Restaurant offers internet café services as well.
- Cellphone Reception: The town center of Santa Elena has good reception most of the time. As you start to go up the mountain or into the forest the service will begin to get more and more spotty.
- Restaurants: Monteverde has many options in all types of food and prices.
- Medical Services: The local Red Cross is available for minor injuries and health concerns. You can reach them in Santa Elena at 2645-6128. The private medical clinic Consultorio Medico EmergenciasMonteverde in Cerro Plano is also available and can be reached at 2645-7778. The main pharmacy located in downtown Santa Elena has a doctor on site who can give out prescriptions if needed.