*The Butterfly Garden near the center of Santa Elena has hundreds of butterflies displayed and a greenhouse with lots of live ones fluttering.
*Snakes galore can be found at the Monteverde Serpentarium on the road to Monteverde reserve.
*Even better is the Frog Pond of Monteverde You get a guided tour for less than USD10.
*In Santa Elena the World of Insects is open daily with dozens of creepy crawlies!
*Orchid lovers should visit The Orchid Garden with more than 400 species of orchid growing in the gardens.
*Get killer milkshakes and great locally produced cheeses at The Monteverde Cheese Factory, about halfway between Santa Elena and Monteverde reserve.
There are public buses to Monteverde from San Jose, Puntarenas, Las Juntas and Tilaran. Pulmitan buses from Playas del Coco and Liberia will drop you off at Rio Lagarta from where you catch another bus to Monteverde. Rates average about 1500 Colones or $USD3 . Routes are well established and usually punctual. On a few routes you can buy your tickets in advance at the bus station.
San Jose to Monteverde - Buses depart twice daily from from the Coca Cola bus depot in San Jose. Times are 6:30 am and 2:30 pm. The station is the "old Puntarenas" bus stop and the busses to Tilaran leave from this same depot. The ride takes more than 5 hours.
Puntarenas to Monteverde (via Lagartos) - Departs once a day at 2:15 pm. This bus leaves from the bus stop on the beach - not the station of Puntarenas. Wait across the street from the station, there are a couple of roofed shelters with benches and people waiting. Journey time is about 3 1/2 hours.
Puntarenas to Monteverde (via Las Juntas) - This bus leaves Puntarenas at approximately 1:30 pm and goes to Monteverde via the old mining town of Las Juntas de Abangares. This route is not as direct but arrives in Santa Elena approximately 45 minutes before the Puntarenas bus that passes via Lagartos. This bus is practical for anyone coming from the beaches in Guanacaste or Liberia since it can be caught from the turn off at the highway which goes to Las Juntas. This turn off is called "La Irma".
Tilaran to Monteverde - From Tilaran you can take a bus at 1:00 pm to Monteverde. Journey time is a little more than 3 hours. Take this bus if you are coming from La Fortuna and didn't take the jeep-boat-jeep shortcut across Lake Arenal.
DRIVING TO MONTEVERDE BY CAR:
If you plan to rent a car, you should get a 4x4 vehicle, not only for the traction but for the clearance as well -the "roads" to Monteverde are among the worst in Costa Rica. Costa Rica's only complete north-south route is the Pan American highway, also called route number one. This road enters Costa Rica from Nicaragua and runs south on the pacific slope of the country, passing though San Jose, and continuing on to Panama.
If you´re heading from San Jose to any place north of Puntarenas (Guanacaste for example) you will follow the Pan Americana highway. Those travelling from the south will reach Monteverde by turning off at the entrance to Sardinal and driving up the mountain, passing through Guacimal, until you reach Santa Elena If you´re coming from the north it may be more practical to come up via Las Juntas. There is also an entrance from Tilaran if your driving from the Arenal Volcano. Monteverde is by no means a hub for transit. Many people pass from Monteverde to Arenal or vice versa, otherwise, from Monteverde you usually go on to Puntarenas or San Jose, and from Arenal you either head back to San Jose or continue to The north of the Nicoya Peninsula.
THERE ARE 3 ROADS INTO MONTEVERDE:
Road from Sardinal - This is an exit on the Pan American highway. Sardinal is further south on the highway and is paved half the way from Sardinal to Guacimal. This is the route to take if your coming from San Jose. Driving from San Jose to Monteverde will take a little over 3 hours. From San Jose to Sardinal turn off is about two hours, from Sardinal to Monteverde allow about an hour and a half. Traffic will influence you on this route. Certain times of the year or days of the week increase travel to the beaches and this can create a clog in this artery of Costa Rican transit.
Road that heads out towards Las Juntas and branches off on another road that will take you to Tilaran - This road is also unpaved. If you´re traveling between Monteverde and locations in northern Costa Rica you probably want to come via Las Juntas de Abangares. Las Juntas is located just off the highway at a turnoff called "La Irma" after the gas station located at this junction. From Las Juntas to Monteverde allow around 2 hours. If your going to our coming from Tilaran it takes a little longer depending on road conditions.
Road from Lagartos - Lagartos is an exit on the Pan Americana located between Las Juntas and Sardinal. This is the route the public bus takes and is not paved. If you're driving there is really no reason to take this road.
Drivers should plan to travel during daylight hours as the winding roads are in very poor condition and it can be a long drop down the cliff!
SHUTTLE BUSES TO MONTEVERDE
There are 2 major collective shuttle service operators. They are Interbus and Fantasy Bus. Theses companies offer shuttles to a large number of destinations at rates from $29 . Services are door to door for most hotels. Trips to Monteverde leave daily at 9:00 am or 2:00 pm from San Jose.
TRAVELLING FROM MONTEVERDE:
From Monteverde there are daily public buses to San Jose at 6:30 am and 2:30 pm. There is a public bus at 6:00 am going to Puntarenas via Lagartos and another at 4:30 am going to Puntarenas via Las Junta / La Irma. At 7:00 am there is a bus to Tilaran. Collective shuttle buses depart for the most part before midday.
Monteverde is the name of the area close to Monteverde Cloud Forest. Cheaper hotel options are available in Santa Elena the 'town center' of Monteverde.
The 'luxury' hotel in Monteverde is Hotel El Establo with views from the large rooms at the top of the hill.
Monteverde has plenty of great restaurants many of them use locally grown organic produce, these our our favorites:
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT: Johnny's Pizzeria- pictured above- is a smart casual Italian restaurant in Cerro Plano between Santa Elena and Monteverde. Reserve in advance during high season. However we recommend Tramonti just outside the town center as the best place to eat pizza in Monteverde.
BEST MEAT RESTAURANT: Restaurante de Lucia serves excellent quality meats and fresh fish grilled to your taste in a large dining room with beautiful wooden tables and chairs, good selection of Chilean wines. The 'cowboy steak' with fried eggs on top at Morpho's in Santa Elena will set you up for the day. Our favorite is Mar y Tierra on the high street in Santa Elena.
BEST FINE DINING RESTURANT: Sofia serves what can best be described as ècletic´, Latin influenced food, one of our favorite restaurants in Monteverde, though prices are steep for this area! Great mojitos with ginger and mango.
BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT: On the road to Monteverde in Cerro Plano, Moon Shiva serves mostly vegetarian food with a Middle Eastern twist, we thought the portions small and the prices large .Flor de Vida down the street is a better vegeterian restaurant.
BEST CHEAP EATS: Bar Amigos near the church does great bar food and superb ceviche. Pull up a stool with the locals at the soda on the high street next to the church. Super Pollo near Banco Nacional has good fried chicken for about US$2 for wing and drumstick with tortillas and salsa in a bag!!
Monteverde is a cloud forest in the mountains of Costa R ica.
Monteverde is an area that includes the town of Santa Elena and the Monteverde Reserve.
It takes about 4 hours to drive from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José to downtown Santa Elena.
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