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1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

los angeles
2 posts
1 review
1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Can u please advise how we should coordinate our travel? We fly into San Jose in the early morning.

Should we take a plane the next morning or take the shuttle bus up to Arenal/Monteverde?

Also, we only have 2 full days and 2 1/2 days to spend in the Arenal/Monteverde. Would u recommend staying in La Fortuna and seeing the Volcano, etc. and then MOVING to a place in Monteverde to see the Cloud forest? Or is it possible to just stay in La Fortuna the entire time and make day trips to monteverde?

We are also planning on ending our trip in Tamarindo. What would be the best way to get from Arenal/Monteverde to Tamarindo?

Loosely, this is what our itinerary looks like for end of June:

Wednesday: arrive in San Jose @ 9am

Thursday: depart for monteverde/arenal

Friday: monteverde/arenal

Saturday: monteverde/arenal

Sunday: depart for tamarindo

Monday: tamarindo

Tuesday: tamarindo / depart for san jose in early evening

Wednesday: depart SJO in afternoon


Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
10,954 posts
23 reviews
1. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Arenal and Monteverde look very close together on a map but they're very far apart in travelling time. I think you would be wise to pick one or the other given your limited time in the area. Its a 3 hour jeep-boat-jeep transfer between the two or 4+ hours driving on umpaved roads, so day trips are nuts (in my opinion). I'd suggest you stay in Arenal where there is more than enough to keep you happy with hot springs, ziplines, a beautiful waterfall, hanging bridges, whitewater rafting and float trips at Cano Negro (for wildlife viewing). Save Monteverde for the next trip.

To get around you can rent a car, hire a private driver (do a serch on this site) or use one of the shuttle buses (just google interbus and grayline). The shuttle buses do not pick you up at the airport but can pick you up at nearby hotels, a 5 minute taxi ride away.

Level Contributor
1,940 posts
127 reviews
2. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

for a one week trip if you want to see tamarindo then skip Monteverde and give Arenal your time

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
50,749 posts
35 reviews
3. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Take your transporation to Arenal the day you are arriving!!

Arenal and Monteverde is the same mountain system...very much the same vegetation...in your case you are limited on time...just skip Monteverde...and days trips there...not a good idea!!

From Monteverde or Arenal...back to Pan Am Hwy and take a bus to Liberia or one all the way to Tamarindo...

Luis Road Advisor

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

9 posts
1 review
4. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

I know it's been a while since your trip, but we were planning a similar trip to CR as follows in mid-February:

Saturday: arrive SJO ~10am and drive to Monteverde (approx. 5 hours?)

Sat-Mon in Monteverde

Monday early AM - drive to Tamarindo (??approx. driving hours??)

Mon-Thurs in Tamarindo

Thursday early AM - drive to Arenal

Thurs-Sat in Arenal

Depart for SJO from Arenal on Saturday by noon for 5:25pm flight

I know everyone else recommended to cut out Monteverde, but we REALLY wanted to see the cloud forest in Monteverde AND Arenal volcano. (unrealistic?!?!)

Just wondering how your trip worked out....is it way too much driving and not worth it to go to Monteverde? Any tips or advice is very much appreciated!

Thank you in advance!

Monteverde Costa...
Level Contributor
655 posts
59 reviews
5. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Hi little sogi. You can easily do what you listed and stay in Monteverde as planned. I live here and it is different than Arenal like elevation 1300 meters vs say 200 in Arenal.

People going with guides to the reserve are seeing Quetzals almost everyday in the reserve. Till March or so then it is harder for Quetzals (but possible year round) And other things depending on your luck.

The forest IS different which if you go out with a guide in both places you will soon learn.

As long as a person can spend say two nights in each place a drive the day you leave is no more than 4 - 5 hours between Gaunacaste beaches, Arenal and Monteverde.

Besides as long as you drive during the day you can take it easy and sight see.

Also as a road update here in Monteverde.

A new 8 kilometer stretch was just paved extending the stretch from Sardinal to Guacimal. So now coming in from San Jose or Manuel Antonio you have only a half hour or so drive up the mountain on gravel.

And that stretch was just smoothed out and new gravel put in. As I understand it the road construction company was given a two year contract for maintenance on this stretch. (now that is no guarentee here but encouraging)

Also the stretch straight out from Guacimal to Rio Lagartos was also just upgraded although still gravel. You can hit third gear on this now safely.

The stretch up from Las Juntas I´m not sure about but would assume is not in the greatest shape and is slow driving.

Some of the transport drivers are now going down to Guacimal and then straight out to Lagartos and hitting the main highway there to go up to Liberia or to the friendship bridge.

So you could come down to Lagartos and up from there if coming from the north.

Keep in mind that you need to drive slow anyway which is a good idea anywhere in Costa Rica.

From Arenal all around the lake to Tilaran the road is Pavement and a nice scenic drive. Then from Tilaran I understand the road crew is now working on that gravel portion which is about an hour and half driving time to Santa Elena our town here in Monteverde.

Again go slow driving anywhere.

In Santa Elena monteverde we have about 10 kilometers of pavement spreading out in three directions from Santa Elena.

Some of the roads are not in the greatest shape past the pavement but can be driven easily if slowly.

One big thing to remember for anyone coming to Monteverde is that our only gas station is closed.

BE SURE to fill your vehicle in Sardinal on the highway, Tilaran or Las Juntas before climbing the mountain.

With a full tank you will be fine for driving around here and getting back down.

Now for all the Monteverde bashers including ones who are supposedly experts on Costa Rica I would like to say quit discouraging people when you have no legitimate knowledge of what people are interested in.

Driving 4 hours is hardly a reason to not visit especially when the drive is scenic.

The forest here is CLOUD FOREST not the humid lower elevation forest in Arenal. I´m looking at clouds over the forest right now out my window.

It is windy right now and some days a bit of water in the air, so plan accordingly. That however is part of the climate here and can be appreciated.

It is cooler up here which is great after sweating in other places of the country, I have not seen a mosquito in months (maybe a scorpion or two though although not in my bed)and the air is pure and we have lots of animals, birds like the quetzal and Orange Bellied Trogon etc.

And our roads are getting better all the time.

If you want to just hang out at the beach then that is great, then go to the beach and stay. The Cloud forest is not for everyone.

However if you want to visit somewhere that is unique in it´s own way then come up to Monteverde.

I would say also no hotel reservations are needed except Easter week right now.

Just come on up and you will find a place to stay.

9 posts
1 review
6. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Wow! Thank you so much for all the information! I must say that my anxiety level about driving up to Monteverde has been replaced with excitement!

Just wondering, we were thinking of going with Selvatura for the sky walk and ziplining (we're first-timers but love an adventure!) Do you recommend them? Or is there another company that you would recommend instead?

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! I really appreciate it!

Monteverde Costa...
Level Contributor
655 posts
59 reviews
7. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Glad the info was helpful. I think you will be fine with the roads and enjoy Monteverde.

Selvatura is great and I think you will like it.

All the canopy tours here are good in my opinion and you would enjoy any one of them. Selvatura is good for their bridges as it fronts the Santa Elena reserve.

I would strongly recomend paying extra for a guide at the reserve. Better chance to see birds and animals and you learn about the cloud forest.

Best thing you can do here in my opinion.

Both reserves are good however a bit more luck for Quetzals at the Monteverde reserve right now.

And there are not that many people in the reserves these days so it should not be packed.

Your hotel can get you set up and try to get a guide who is working on his own that day for a semi private tour. Ask at your hotel.

Be sure to bring light rain gear as we can have some water in the air.

1 post
8. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

BUT if one were alright with trooping it on the jeep/boat/jeep option for a day trip from arenal to monteverde... it is doable? Are there several tours that offer such transportation with sensible timing (i hear morning is best in the cloud forest) to spend the day and get back to arenal?

Thanks in advance..

Monteverde Costa...
Level Contributor
655 posts
59 reviews
9. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

Day trip from Arenal on jeep boat is really not doable. You get up here to Monteverde about 11:30 - noon, then the Pm jeep boat leaves at 2:00Pm. It won´t work.

Stay one night here at least coming jeep boat PM from Arenal then AM tour of the reserve and leave Jeep Boat Pm back to Arenal.

Hey after sweating in Arenal you can use a nice cool night of sleep up here in Monteverde NO? And I can almost gaurentee you no Mosquitos.

9 posts
1 review
10. Re: 1 week: Arenal, Monteverde, & Tamarindo

just returned from our trip and it was FANTASTIC! thanks TA contributors! just wanted to post that the trip was relaxing and at a comfortable pace. we drove a 4WD but really, you just need the height to clear some of the bumps in the road. btw, the drive to monteverde is not that bad at all....mostly paved. (thanks for the tips monteverdeguy! so accurate!) it only took us 3 to 3.5 hours to drive from san jose --> monteverde --> tamarindo --> arenal --> san jose. GPS was well worth the extra $60 for the week and the guys at national car rental outside of SJO were very helpful.

we did 2 nights in monteverde at rustic lodge (clean, simple, cozy with hot water)....3 nights in tamarindo at capitan suizo (great charm with LOTS of wildlife sustained by the hotel! having howler monkeys as an alarm clock was AMAZING!)....and 2 nights in arenal at tabacon (5 stars well earned and a great way to end your trip....glad we ended with this one instead of starting with it!)

absolutely loved all three places....tamarindo itself was nothing too special but a great base to visit the surrounding beaches. witch's rock/joe's was great for board rentals and happy hour ambiance to watch the sunset.

i'd find it hard to believe that anyone couldn't love monteverde and arenal! unlike anything i've ever experienced!

LOVED costa rica thanks to everyone's help! hope this is somewhat helpful to someone else!