Located in the Central Valley, San Jose is the most common jumpoff point to one of Costa Rica’s most iconic destinations – Monteverde. Monteverde cloud forest is the perfect break from the country’s many beautiful beaches.
With its lush mountains forever touching the clouds, Monteverde is rich in flora and fauna – 2,500 species of plants, 400 types of birds, and 100 varieties of mammals! This district is green, moist, and beautiful all year round, but if you want to explore it with a bit of sunshine, time your visit in summer (June to September).
You have 3 main ways to cross the 135km distance between San Jose and Monteverde: a 5.5-hour bus, a 3.5-hour minivan or a 2.5-hour private transfer. Expect to pay between 3,480 CRC ($5.50) and 96,129.53 CRC ($154).
On a budget? The public bus is the cheapest option to get to Monteverde with rates from 3,480 CRC ($5.50). It’s worth noting though that because of traffic and its many stops, it is also the slowest. Travel time from San Jose to Monteverde can take around 5.5 hours.
The minivan is a faster-shared ride at 3.5 hours. If you don’t mind paying 28,960 CRC ($47) for a ride, then you can enjoy the free hotel pick-up and drop-off as well. No need to worry about finding the way from the bus station to your hotel! There is also a shuttle bus that can pick you up from San Jose Airport.
Travelling with a group? Depending on the amount of people you travel with, renting a private transfer can be cheaper than a minivan ride when you split the cost. Rates start from 96,129.53 CRC ($154) for a 6-seater minivan from San Jose to Monteverde.
Transportation options from San Jose to Monteverde
Transmonteverde is the only bus company operating from San Jose to Monteverde. It offers two daily bus trips and you can get a ticket for around 3,480 CRC ($5.50).
This public bus from departs in the centre from Terminal 7-10. They make a lot of stops so travel time can take around 5.5 hours from San Jose downtown. Buses park at Transmonteverde bus station in Santa Elena city centre.
3,480 CRC ($5.50)
A ticket for this public bus costs 3,480 CRC ($5.50) when you purchase it online through the Transmonteverde website. We highly recommend booking online for guaranteed seats. If you’re willing to take the risk of tickets being sold out, you can buy them directly at the bus station in San Jose downtown for $1 cheaper on the day of your trip.
It’s worth noting that you can also book this route through the popular platform Guatego, but here tickets from San Jose to Monteverde are $10 more expensive.
San Jose to Monteverde by Minivan
Duration: 3.5 hours Cost: 28,960 CRC ($47)
You can choose from 4 trusted minivan operators when travelling from the city centre of San Jose to Monteverde/ Santa Elena:
Tropical Tours Shuttle (from San Jose Airport)
Fares for a minivan ride start from 28,960 CRC ($47), per person. It’s more expensive than the bus, but you can enjoy the luxury of being picked up from your hotel in San Jose. After a 3-4 hour scenic trip, you will be dropped off at your destination in Santa Elena and Monteverde area. Depending on the company you book with, the journey from Monteverde from San Jose will last between 3.5 to 6 hours.
You can see below a detailed guide of minivan rates and schedules from San Jose to Monteverde. Also here are our suggested booking links if you decide to purchase your tickets online.
Questioning yourself whether you should book your minivan ride online beforehand? The answer is a clear yes. Booking your ticket beforehand guarantees that you’ll have a seat on your desired date. And also saves you the hassle of visiting the minivan terminal just to buy your tickets.
BookAway is our preferred booking website for its top-notch customer service. RideCR, Interbus, and Gray Line are all available on BookAway.
When you want to travel from San Jose Airport to Monteverde, you can only book your ride directly at the Tropical Tours website.
San Jose to Monteverde by Private Transfer
Duration: 2.5 hours Cost: from 96,129.53 CRC ($154)
Private transfers don’t make unnecessary stops like public vehicles, so they can complete this journey about 1 hour faster (2.5 hours instead of 3.5-5.5 hours)
Therefore, a private transfer is best when you want to avoid all stops along the way or are travelling with a group. BookAway offers private transfers from San Jose to Monteverde/Santa Elena with rates from 96,129.53 CRC ($154).
The vans can fit up to 6 persons. If you are with 4 or more people, it’s already cheaper to get this private shuttle compared to a shared shuttle/minivan ride.
Are you with a bigger group? Buses for up to 18 persons are also available. You can book one of these large vans starting from 186,793.64 CRC ($299).
The official airport code (IATA) for San Jose, Costa Rica is “SJO”. This IATA code is derived from the official name of San Jose airport: “Juan Santamaría International Airport”.
Note that San Jose, Costa Rica airport is often confused with San Jose airport in California, which is officially named “San Jose International Airport”, but has the ITATA code SJC.
What is the best time to visit Monteverde?
To start with, when visiting Monteverde don’t expect a bright blue sky with high temperatures. Due to Monteverde high altitude at 4,662 feet (1,440 m) above sea level, temperatures are colder than in the rest of Costa Rica. Temperatures in Monteverde are around 24 degrees (75°F) all year round, but it can cool down significantly overnight.
If you want to visit Monteverde with less rain, we recommend going in the dry season which is between November to May. The rainy season lasts from June to October, but you can still be lucky to find some good weather in July and August. Same for the dry season, even during these months, you might even experience heavy rainfalls outside of the rainy season.
Don’t let the weather put you off though. The misty clouds forming Monteverde cloud forest are a sight on its’ own. The mysterious clouds and animal sounds will give you a true jungle experience that you won’t find in Costa Rica’s coastal towns.
Which destination to visit after Monteverde?
After heaving visiting Monteverde’s cloud forest, many travellers continue their journey to La Fortuna with a 4-hour minivan.
Other popular destinations besides La Fortuna are the beach towns Tamarindo and Santa Teresa.
If you can’t get enough of visiting Costa Rica’s rainforest, also consider visiting Manuel Antonio which offers a beautiful mix of rainforests and stunning beaches.
Can I visit the Arenal Volcano from Monteverde?
In theory yes, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Although the direct route from Santa Elena/Monteverde to Arenal Volcano is only about 115 km, the road is full of bumps and in bad condition.
We would rather recommend taking the minivan to La Fortuna that we mentioned above. La Fortuna offers lots of fun activities to experience and is one of our favourite destinations in Costa Rica.
This place is a real treat. You can even book a room that has its own private jacuzzi. If you don’t want to splash out that much, you can still enjoy their covered heated pool, spa and beautiful gardens.
You don’t have to leave the hotel as their onsite restaurant offers super tasty meals. They combine both local products from Monteverde and exotic ingredients to create exciting and delicious flavours. The rooms as well as their staff are both fabulous.
If what you’re looking for is complete relaxation, then here is the place! Calathea Lodge is situated slightly further from the main town, but still only a walk away from the main town.
The rooms are bright, open and comfortable. All coming with a private patio or balcony where you can sit and observe nature. The staff is super friendly and will help you organise your activities in Monteverde. They also provide a superb breakfast to set you up right for the day.
Eddy’s Place in Monteverde is a guarantee of good value for your bucks. This small family-run hotel only has 4 rooms, with Freddy the main host, making you feel at home immediately. His breakfast every morning is delicious and very filling.
The rooms are nice and big, with exceptionally comfortable beds. You’ll definitely be getting a good night's sleep here. In the morning you’ll awake to an array of wildlife living in the jungle around the hotel.