By Car: The principal access road to Monteverde is located along the Inter-American Highway (CR1); about 20km (12 miles) north of the exit for Puntarenas is a marked turnoff for Sardinal, Santa Elena, and Monteverde. From this turnoff, the road is paved for 15km (9 1/2 miles), to just beyond the tiny town of Guacimal. From here, it’s another 20km (12 miles) to Santa Elena, the gateway town to Monteverde.
From San José, you can either take the Inter-American Highway (CR1) north all the way to the turnoff, or first head west out of San José on the San José–Caldera Highway (CR27). When you reach Caldera, follow the signs to Puntarenas and the Inter-American Highway (CR1). You will actually follow signs for Liberia and San José, which are, in fact, leading you to the unmarked entrance to CR1. This road (CR23) ends when it hits the Inter-American Highway. You’ll want to pass under the bridge and follow the on-ramp, which will put you on the highway heading north. This latter route is a faster and flatter drive.
Another access road to Santa Elena is found just south of the Río Lagarto Bridge. This turnoff is the first you will come to if driving from Liberia. From the Río Lagarto turnoff, it’s 38km (24 miles) to Santa Elena, and the road is unpaved the entire way.
Once you arrive, the roads in and around Santa Elena are paved, including all the way to Cerro Plano, and about halfway to the reserve.
To drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde, head past Tabacón and over the dam to Nuevo Arenal, continuing on along the well-marked, paved road that hugs the lake all the way to Tilarán. From Tilarán there is a rough dirt road that is marked at critical intersections. Keep following the signs to Santa Elena and Monterverde.
By Bus: Transportes Monteverde express buses ((tel) 2256-7710 in San José, or 2645-7447 in Santa Elena) leave San José daily at 6:30am and 2:30pm from Calle 12 between avenidas 7 and 9. The trip takes around 4 hours; the fare is around C3,000. Buses arrive at and depart from Santa Elena. If you’re staying at one of the hotels or lodges near the reserve, arrange pickup if possible, or take a taxi or local bus. Return buses for San José also depart daily at 6:30am and 2:30pm.
Three daily Transportes Monteverde buses depart Puntarenas for Santa Elena at 7:50am, and 1:50 and 2:15pm. The bus stop in Puntarenas is across the street from the main bus station. The fare for the 2 1/2-hour trip is C1,600. A daily bus from Tilarán (Lake Arenal) leaves at 12:30pm. Trip duration is 2 hours (for a 40km/25-mile trip); the fare is C1,200. The express bus departs for San José daily at 6:30am and 2:30pm. The buses from Santa Elena to Puntarenas leave daily at 6:30 and 2:30pm.
Gray Line (www.graylinecostarica.com; (tel) 800/719-3105 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2220-2126 in Costa Rica) and Interbus ((tel) 4031-0888; www.interbusonline.com) both offer two daily buses that leave San José for Monteverde, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The fare is around $54. Both companies will pick you up and drop you off at most San José and Monteverde area hotels. Both Gray Line and Interbus offer connections to most major destinations in Costa Rica.
To reach Liberia, take any bus down the mountain and get off as soon as you hit the Inter-American Highway. You can then flag down a bus bound for Liberia (almost any bus heading north). The Santa Elena/Tilarán bus leaves daily at 7am.
You can travel between Monteverde and La Fortuna by boat and taxi, or on a combination boat, horseback, and taxi trip. See “Boats, Horses & Taxis,” in the La Fortuna Travel Guide, for details. Any of the trips described there can be done in the reverse direction departing from Monteverde. Most hotels and Desafío Expeditions ★★ ((tel) 855/818-0020 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-0020 in Costa Rica; www.desafiocostarica.com) can arrange this trip for you. Desafío offers multiday hikes from Monteverde to Arenal; you spend the night in rustic research facilities inside the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños. It also offers transfers to Pacific-coast beach towns combined with a day rafting on the Tenorio River.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.