Costa Rica's

MONTEVERDE (SANTA ELENA)

Global Mark : 14.06

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 3 5 2 2 4 5 3 2 13.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
26 96%(25) 69%(18) 88%(23) 7 to 20 15.12


Description : A tiny village full of backpackers, travel agencies, shops and expensive attractions all around

Comment : The village is, as usual, nothing special and it is better to be a tourist than a backpacker in the area but there are fortunately alternatives to the expensive entrance fees. 

What to do ? Get a free map of the area from one of the touts waiting at the bus stop / Watch your budget carefully : it is easy to spend a fortune ! / Spot wild life in one of the numerous trails, in or out a reserve  / Listen to the noisy Toucan or admire the beautiful Quetzal / Fly over the canopy suspended at a cable, playing Tarzan from platform to platform / Walk on suspended bridges / Learn about butterflies and other insects (Butterfly Garden, $7 or 5.5 students) / See the world's smallest orchid plus 400 other species (Orchid garden, $5 or 4 student) / Walk the forest by night / Tour art galleries / Shop for souvenirs / Meet plenty of tourists / Spot 30 species of reptiles (serpentarium, $3 or 2 student) / Ride horses in every direction / Watch a movie or party at the disco / Have a look at the inside of a cheese factory / Enjoy the cool weather

What you may not like ? Obviously, not being rich enough ! / The bad roads connections / The noisy and polluting traffic on the main road / The slightly higher cost for accomodation and food / The crowd in HS (reservation recommended) / The ridiculous cost of some attractions or trails / Spotting more westerners than local people / Not having a sweater & an unbrella for the cool & humid evenings

How long ? It really depends of your budget ! At least one day per reserve plus another for a canopy adventure and the smaller attractions. If you do not wish to rack dollars, two nights will be enough.

Where to stay ? The quality-price ratio here is lower than in other places but the offer remains adequate and acceptable :

- In the village :

  • Hotel Camino Verde (6455916), opp the bus stop / $8(1) or 10(2), w. shower 14(1) or 20(2) / Kitchen / Rather overpriced for small rooms w. thin walls and a smelly atmosphere / Another branch a bit away to check out
  • Hospedaje El Banco, by the banco ! / $5 p.p., w shower C2500 p.p. / Go there for the family atmosphere, the large rooms w. shower & good mattress and the cheap prices w. shower (bargain down possible) / What you may not like : the walls are so thin that you really share the life of the family (nice little girl that will explain you how to enter inside your bed), the road & a cow are nearby and it is not spotless.
  • Pension Santa Elena (6455051, mundonet@sol.racsa.co.cr), on the road down from the bank / Dorm (5) w. shower $5 p.p., Sgl without shower $7, Dbl w. shower 12(1) or 15(2) / Kitchen / Internet 10mn for $1 / Go there for the friendly and lively backpacker's atmosphere with music and plenty of other people to meet. A more quiet atmosphere can be found in the house opp. or at the Marbella branch (w. nicer & more exp rooms) / What you may not like : the rooms are quite small and basic so it is a bit expensive
  • Pension Colibri (6455682), a small path on the left / Tiny rooms w. bunk bed $5 p.p., w. shower $10 p.p., bigger 15(1) or 20(2), great room number 10 $20 (1 or 2) or 30(3) / Go there for the charming wooden house, well decorated, the superb & huge rooms (especially Nb 10), suitable for a small family and correctly priced, the location in a quiet street, the  view from some room or terrace and the cleanliness. / What you may not like : the cheapest are really too small ! / Horse for rent at $7 per hour
  • Pension El Tucan (6455017), down the bank road on the right / $7 p.p., w. shower 10 p.p. / Go there for the spotless wooden rooms, some w. a lovely bathroom and a nice view and the therefore good prices / What you may not like : the cheapest are a bit small and and it is a bit exp for two
  • Hotel El Sueno (6455021), turn right after the above / Dorm (4) $5 p.p., room $5 p.p., w. shower $10 p.p., bigger room 30 (up to 3) or 40 (up to 4) / Go there for the nicest cheapest and the large clean room, suitable for a family / What you may not like : there is one cheap room only !

- 10mn walk from center, after the supermarket, on a badly lighted and dirt road :

  • Cabinas Kelly (6455933), on the left side / $5 p.p., w. shower 10(1), 16(2 or 3), 20(4) / Kitchen / Go there for the best quality price ratio in town as the rooms are nice & clean and correctly sized (huge rooms w. shower) / What you may not like : you get the key of the house and then you are on your own !
  • Cabinas Sol Y Luna (6455842), opp. on the right / w. shower $10 p.p. / Go there for the enormous spotless rooms smelling the pines, the terrace w. a view and the quiet area. An excellent deal if alone ! / What you may not like : being alone in such a big room maybe...

- 1km away, on the road toward Monteverde, in an area with hotels in development (not isolated therefore) :

  • Pension Manakin (6455080, tinas-casitas@hotmail.com), small path down on the right / $5 p.p., w. shower $10 p.p. / Internet C33 per mn / Go there for the clean and nice rooms, the cozy family atmosphere and the gym / What you may not like : the bunk beds in the small cheapest and the remoteness
  • Pension Trogon or El Pino, just after the above / Another small house with probably a cozy family atmosphere. That is if there is somebody to show you around...


Backpacker's Tips : Carly, Canada (June 07)
There is a real cheap option for budget travelers in Monteverde. Just keep walk west of Supermaket Esperanza, walk down the hill. Across from "Mundo of Los Insectos", You'll find "Sleepers Sleep Cheap Hostel". It's US$6 for a private bedroom with shared bath. US$10 for a private bedroom with private bathroom included. It's own by young Costa Rican couple, not German or American owners. It's really good deal with steamy HOT showers with big breakfast included and free internet. You may not like: noisy neighbour dogs, a lot of buggs will come into your room if you open your window. Laundry service is a bit expensive. It's US$4 for wash / dry / fold.
Pension Santa Elena: It's Lonely Planet's most recommend budget option in town however the room is a bit expensive (US$10) without bathroom. My room is P11 and super humid and stinky. If you have a reason to sleep at Pension Santa Elena, I'd recommend to sleep in the dorm. (US$5) The house itself is quite old and rambling. They really need to fix some parts of the house!!! Pension staff was friendly and they will give you detailed orientation about the town. If you need information, you don't need to sleep there. Maybe you wanna use the internet (30min US$0.75) and chat with them.
Please try Ice Cream/cheese in Monteverde. I tried ice cream at Sabores (US$1 or C500) on the way to the butterfly garden. It was a very good ice cream which was produced in Monteverde. Monteverde is very famous for dairy products. 


Where to eat ?
An excellent place is Restaurante Teen's, at the entrance of the village, by the bus stop : excellent comida for C900, and large hamburgers combo for 1250. Unfortunately, the 13% government tax is extra ! More basic, the two sodas opposite : Soda Central cost 1200 for the full meal while the one left of the church (and owned by it) is cheaper at C1000. In the supermarket by Musmanni bakery (not as good as usual), a cafeteria offers hamburgers' combo at lunch for C490 and a choice of 4 already prepared dishes in the evening for C950. No tax but no atmosphere. Restaurant Maravilla, next to Green Road Hotel was also recommended. 

Internet ? The best place by far is Tranquilo Communications (tranquilo@rcsa.co.cr) , 100m from the supermarket on the 'y' road to san Jose : C22 per mn ($4 per hour) or C16 per mn ($3 per hour) if student. Very cozy atmosphere with free coffee & tea, light music and book exchange.


A great free (yes, free !) walk ? 
If you can not afford the national parks do not despair : there is an alternative way to spend a day walking the countryside and forests !
You unfortunately have to start walking on the main road toward Monteverde : it would be a pleasant walk, if it was not for all the polluting and noisy cars and motorbikes. Not a very natural experience ! You have to walk for 3km, passing the Sendero Bajo del Tigre, the women's arts and craft cooperative (CASEM) and the cheese factory. You will then cross a small bridge. At the level of Colina Lodge, a few minutes later, turn right : this is an alternative way toward San Luis village. 
The first part is still open to traffic About 15mn later, take left (the right path up leads to a Finca). Soon, the road will become a path, unsuitable for any vehicles. You can start breathing again ! You will pass through pastureland and soon find yourself in the forest. The path will go down most of the way, via beautiful panoramas and a few ants' nets. About 1.5 hours after the turn from the main road, you should reach San Luis. 
At the cemetery level, turn left. A few minutes later, turn right toward the cascada (waterfall), 4km further. Actually, the entrance is 2km away only. On the way, you will pass a small trail going inside the forest on the right : "Camino Real".  This path is 1.5km long but you will find other paths inside. If you have got time, take your time to walk them all. Keeping on the left side, you will reach the road again, a bit down from the entrance of the trail. 
Continuing to walk down toward the waterfall, you will cross a small river. It is worth to have a look a bit upstream as it is a very relaxing picnic spot. Another 10mn up and you will reach the information center for the waterfall. It is a private property and it cost $5 ($4 for student) to walk the 2km trail toward the 100m high waterfall. Even if you wish to skip it (I did), it is worth walking at least up to the river.
You could also walk another 2km toward a finca. I went back toward the San Luis road and turned right for Monteverde. It is a stiff road, going uphill for about 30mn but the panorama is splendid ! Back on the main busy road, turn right and walk 3km to reach the Biological reserve entrance.
Turn left to go back to Santa Elena, 5km away. Go straight to have a look at an art gallery. There are quite a few other arts galleries on the way back. The start of the alternative road toward San Luis is actually only 5mn down. Altogether, count on about 4 hours minimum for this loop. 5 or 6 at a more relaxed pace. It is therefore a good idea to start early and to stop by the main road's attractions on your way back only : the numerous art centers, the cheese factory (worth a stop for the observation room) and, closer to Santa Elena, the Finca Ecologica and the butterfly garden. Even if you do not enter, the 20mn walk inside the forest is nice. But you may think that you have walked enough already...

 << Discover a great walk


Where to walk the forest ? There are a lot of other options, beside the above. The two reserves should be a primary choice. Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (ouf !) is as large as its name and the most popular. It is also the most expensive at $10 ($8 for students). It is probably worth it as it houses six different life zones over 105 square km, from an altitude of 600m to 1842m at the top of Cerro Tres Amigos. There are 8 trails for a total of 13km and a 100m long suspended bridge. Do not expect to see much of the 100 species of mammals however. You will have more chance with a few of the 490 species of butterflies, the over 400 species of birds (incl. the quetzal) and the 2500 species of plants (incl 500 different kinds of orchids). If you wish to take a guide, it will cost you an add $15 and you may not even walk on your own with him. The bus at 6:20 or 13 returns at 12 & 16 for $2. Info : monteverde@sol.racsa.co.cr , tel : 6455122
Next or alternatively the Reserva Santa Elena. It cost less ($8 or 4.5 for students) but it is only 3 square km large. It is however enough for a approximate 6 hours on its 4 trails (at a very slow pace). The bus at 6:45, 11 & 15 returns at 10:30, 12 & 15:30 for $2. Otherwise, it is a steep 7km walk uphill (or downhill)
There are also a fair number of privately run trails. An interesting option could be the night walk organized by the Ecological Farm from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. $6 ($4 for students). About 4km of trails. Bosque Eterno de los Ninos is another interesting option at $5 ($2 for students). 

A canopy adventure ? After walking the forest, go over it ! Monteverde is getting famous for its cable thrills : not less than three companies... The "original" is slowly getting out of the business as it has 3 cables only and charges a whopping $45 ($35 for students). Monteverde Canopy Tour and Sky Trek offer ten rides each and cost $35 ($28 for students). It remains expensive for a 2.5 adventure. "I can go to Disneyworld for that price" was one comment. Bear in mind however that most people are enthusiastic about the experience and that those are not "plastic" rides. So start saving...
If you are more interested by the observation of the canopy than the thrill of playing at Tarzan, then you should consider the Sky Walk. It is more reasonably priced at $12 and allows you a relaxed observation of the wildlife from seven suspension bridges. Having binoculars would clearly add to the experience... 
Finally, the aerial tram offers a 1h15 ride on a small circuit. The price is certainly ridiculous at $12 ($10 for students) and it therefore receives little visitors. 


Backpacker's Tips : Pathou, France (Sept 04)
For 15$ pp we got from La Fortuna to Monteverde in less than 3 hours: Boat-Taxi-Boat
It is worth to go in Night tour Guide. We did skybridge but i was raining so we did not see anything. Although we saw raccoon in the Monteverde Rerserve and also colibri (not to be missed). We went clubbing with local...all youth people in the world are the same, dancing and drinking... 


Leaving ?
A few buses only. To Tilaran at 7am (C620, 3.5 hours). From there bus to La Fortuna at 12:30 / To Puntarenas at 6am (C650, 3.5 hours). From there, ferry to Montezuma at 11:15 & 15:15 / To La Jutas at 5am (C400, 2.5 hours) / To San Jose, at 6:30 & 14:30 (C1300, 4.5 hours) / If you still have some money left, you could also consider the alternative roads toward La Fortuna : jeep, boat & jeep for $25 (3 hours) or horse, boat & jeep for $65 (5.5 hours). Just make sure the horses are well treated and do not do the 'Mirador' trail in the rainy season. 

The trip to Puntarenas : SSSSS / Left / C650 / 3.5 hours
Being in the low season, the bus left half empty at 6am. In the high season, you should however buy your ticket as early as possible : you will be given a seat number.
The panorama was immediately gorgeous and it remained so until reaching the highway 2 hours later. If you wish to go to Liberia (88km) or San Jose (131km), this is the place to get off.
As the bus remained half empty, it was possible to alternate the left & right side seats to follow the panorama. Both sides were nice but the mountains background was slightly more impressive on the left.
If you did not have your breakfast, do not despair : we stopped at 7:30 for a 15mn break. Snacks and coffee available.
From the highway, the scenery lost most of its interest, although the last km offered a water view on both side of the narrow corridor. We arrived at 9:30. and got off in the middle of town, between the pier (150m to the north) and the bus station (150m to the south).

See also the trip from Tilaran