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Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

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San Francisco, CA
posts: 14
reviews: 5
Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

We (2 adults one 11 year old) are traveling to CR in February for 7 nights. The plan is to rent a car and drive but I am concerned about what I've read about road conditions in the Monteverde area. According to Fodor's, "The roads to the area are some of the worst in the country" yet "don't let that deter you from a visit". Our intinerary is SJ to Manuel Antonio then up to Santa Elena (Monteverde) and back through San Ramon to the airport. That time of year is purported to be warmer and drier so presumably driving will be the most optimal. I am also confused by one post (the reverse drive from Monteverde to MA) from 2007 which indicated it is a 5 hour drive (roads were in the process of being paved) while Google Maps says 2 1/2 hours. Have the roads been paved since then? Is it worth the effort and would you recommend Arenal over it? Part of the reason for going is to stay at Hidden Canopy. I have a detailed map so I'll be able to follow detailed comments.

31 replies to this topic
Destination Expert
for Bermuda
posts: 2,681
reviews: 26
1. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

the roads to monteverde were not paved when i was there in march '11, and yes, they are that bad but worth it for me. the last 30k from tilaran to monteverde is unpaved but when i was there last it was in good condition, much smoother than in '10, but one good rainy season can change it back to the way it was. the road in from guacimal is is good nearly all the way up the mountain with beautiful views, but when the pavement ends the torture begins! this road is SLOW, but the views are great and the reward at the end is worth it.

Costa Rica
posts: 21,868
reviews: 26
2. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

For distances and travel times, this is your best source: www.yourtravelmap.com Google maps.... not so much.

Puntarenas, Costa...
posts: 787
reviews: 12
3. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

OP, the roads around Monteverde are as bad as reported, and when the rains die down, the dust on the roads becomes an issue. I recently did the trip in a Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 and the suspension was regularly taking a hard pounding at low speed. The end result was the beautiful Monteverde and Santa Elena areas, so as the earlier poster put it, the end is worth the pain. I recommend a larger 4x4 when you decide on a rental if this trip is a go, as some of the smaller 4x4 like the Terrios and Jimny are hoppy and don't hold the road as well. Watch your speed, don't drive it at night, and you should be fine.

San Francisco, CA
posts: 14
reviews: 5
4. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Much appreciated. In fact, Google maps couldn't even calculate a route because the map does not show a connected road to Santa Elena.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 3,527
5. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

The approx driving time from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio is 4 hours (Approx 2 hours of those 4 are in gravel roads that are in bad shape and very bumpy). As others mentioned get a good 4x4 and drive slow in that area and you should be fine. Monteverde is a great area to visit

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 41,665
6. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

I will not trust very much what Fodors have to said...some drama queens around that forum looking for 10 seconds of fame....

I drive to Monteverde about 2 or 3 times a week...and I have been driving there for the last almost 35 years...and the road is the best out of all those years...recently I drove one of our Mercedez Benz E 320...very low clearence vehicle...and I did not hit the botton of my car even once...that was last week...

The last 12 kilometers getting to Santa Elena are dusty if dry...and muddy if wet...but not a big deal at all..GUARANTEE!

Of course you do not need a 4x4 at all...nice to have one mostly for the road clearence...but really you do not need one at all...

Going up around 1 hour and 30 minutes...coming back down to Pan Am Hwy...about the same or even less 1 hour...from Sardinal to Caldera about one hour...from Caldera to JAco about another hour...stop by Tarcoles river bridge to see the crocs...from TArcoles to Quepos...about one more hour...and from Quepos to Manuel Antonio about 15 minutes...


San Francisco, CA
posts: 14
reviews: 5
7. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

To roadadvisor, expectation and preparation are key. Fodor's caters to the "masses" and not just those who travel somewhat off the beaten path. We can't wait to visit your beautiful country.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 41,665
8. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Thank you gtgsf...nice remark...

Please enjoy our country as much as we do...if you need anything please do not hesitate to contact us here at the forum...any time...

I love SF...spend some time around Carmel!


Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 6,430
reviews: 57
9. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

There are different driving times because in reality a tourist drives much longer then the average speed allows. In August we have spent 6 hours between MA and Santa Elena; but we have stopped for a lunch (1 hour), to take photos of the crocs under Tarcoles Bridge (30 min) and have a another "pit stop" half the way into Monteverde (30 min). Therefore our driving time was 4 hours which is as http://www.yourtravelmap.com/ indicates, yet it can be done even faster if needed. Half the road up to Monteverde is paved now and there is a new highway to Puntarenas.

Uvita, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Uvita, Ojochal
posts: 2,124
reviews: 28
10. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Xelas has a good point, the driving times indicated of approx 4 hours are actual driving times, on the road. If you stop which you might well do will add to it.

The word Bad is not what I would use more like uncomfortable, bumpy, muddy or dusty exotic is more like it. about 40 - 50 min. Drive slow and like other posters mentione it is worth it.

Monteverde is a Cloud Forest, magical in my opinion and an ecosystem that is rare and becoming extinct in our planet. Arenal is totally different and at the moment for the most part of this year there has been no lava activity. If you are after nature Monteverde will not disappoint you.

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