Arenal and Monteverde are two of the best destinations in Costa Rica. Although many people assume they are similar, they are very different. For one thing, Arenal is the rain forest and volcano and Monteverde is the cloud forest.
We highly recommend visiting both if you have the time as they both have so much to offer. In this post is a sample 5 day Arenal and Monteverde itinerary to help you plan your trip.
What to Know About This 5 Day Arenal and Monteverde Itinerary
Arenal and La Fortuna, Monteverde and Santa Elena
First of all, Arenal is actually name of the volcano and lake. This area is actually locally known as La Fortuna but many tourists call it Arenal.
Monteverde is the name of canton consisting of the cloud forests, Santa Elena (the tourism hub and town) and the small community of Cerro Plano.
Doesn’t matter which one you visit first
Whether you’re flying into San Jose Airport or Liberia Airport, driving times are very similar. San Jose and Liberia to La Fortuna is about 3.5 hours and about 4 hours to Monteverde. For the purpose of this itinerary, I’m going to start with La Fortuna since most people visit there first.
Arenal is hot and humid, Monteverde is cooler
The average temperature in the La Fortuna/Arenal area is around high 80s F (~31 C) and is very humid. Monteverde is considerably cooler as it’s around 1500 meters (~5000 feet) in elevation. The average temperature is low 80s F (27 C) during the day and gets down to the high 60s F (20 C) at night.
How to get to Arenal and Monteverde
If you’re renting a car in Costa Rica, we do recommend a high car for Monteverde (check Monteverde road conditions here), especially in rainy season. In dry season, you don’t necessarily need a 4wd or 4×4, but a car with higher clearance.
All the roads to La Fortuna and in the area are paved.
Renting a car? Check out our Costa Rica car rental discount!
From San Jose: The quickest way to La Fortuna is via San Ramon by way of Route 702. See what the San Jose to Arenal drive is like.
From Liberia: You will have to get onto the Interamericana highway 1 heading south, exit at Canas, continue to Tilaran and go around Lake Arenal to reach La Fortuna on Route 142. See what this drive from Guanacaste to Arenal is like here.
From San Jose
To Monteverde: 6:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Takes 5 hours. To La Fortuna: 6:15 AM, 8:40 AM and 11:30 PM. Takes 4 hours.
To Monteverde: You need to take a bus from Liberia to Canas, Canas to Tilaran, Tilaran to Monteverde. The bus from Liberia to Canas takes 2 hours and there is one every half an hour from 8:30 – 3 PM. Canas to Tilaran buses are at 6, 730, 815, 9, 1030, 12, 1 PM, 1:50 PM, 2:35 PM, 3:15 PM, 4PM and 6 PM. From Tilaran to Monteverde there are 4 buses: 4 AM, 8:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 5 PM.
To La Fortuna: Take the same buses as above except at Tilaran, take the bus to La Fortuna. There are buses at 7 AM and 12:30 PM.
There are plenty of shared shuttles from both San Jose and Liberia. There is usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon and costs around $59 USD per person. Read more about Costa Rica shuttles here.
You can also book private shuttles which is favorable if you are coming in a large group, have seniors or little kids. Want to book a private shuttle? Contact us for quotes!
Days 1-3: Arenal
For the first day, I recommend arriving at Arenal and La Fortuna as early as possible. That way you can spend the rest of the day exploring La Fortuna town and you can spend two full days doing activities. You can read our La Fortuna guide for more information on the town.
Where to stay in Arenal
There are over 100 hotels and vacation rentals to choose from in the Arenal area so it depends on your budget. There is everything from cheap hostels for $10-15 USD a night to $850 USD a night luxury hotels.
If you’re renting a car, you have the freedom to stay anywhere. If you’re not, I recommend staying in La Fortuna downtown for convenience. Here are hotels we’ve stayed at and recommend but there are many more.
Budget: Selina La Fortuna, Hotel Las Colinas
Mid range: Arenal History Inn, Hotel Montana de Fuego, Hotel Magic Mountain, Arenal Springs
High end/luxury: Springs Resort & Spa, Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Kioro, Nayara, Los Lagos. You can find some of the nicest hotels in the Arenal area. Check our list of luxury hotels in Arenal for recommendations.
What to do in Arenal
With 2 full days in Arenal, you can do a lot. Since many of the attractions are closeby, you can do a combo tour to do multiple things in one day. Here are our recommendations.
Combo Tour (Hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano hike and hot springs)
This is the best way to experience the highlights of Arenal. First is a visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges, then La Fortuna waterfall, lunch, a hike around Arenal Volcano and you end the day at the hot springs. Best tour to hit all of the main attractions of Arenal!
Read more about the Arenal combo tour.
Hot springs are a must as this area is famous for them. They are best at night when the temperature is cooler and it’s a great way to end a fun day. You can book hot springs as part of a tour like the combo tour above or go on your own. Some popular ones are Tabacon, Paradise, the Springs, Ecotermales, Baldi or Termalitos.
La Fortuna is home to probably a dozen zipline parks, all of varying degrees of difficulties with different views. Sky Trek is the most exhilarating one with higher and longer cables but there are many more family friendly, first time beginner ziplines around.
White Water Rafting
Near La Fortuna/Arenal are a couple of excellent rivers for white water rafting. Some are Balsa Class 2 & 3 (great for families and first time rafters), Sarapiqui (Class 3 and 4 rapids) and Pacuare (Class 3, 4 and 4+ rapids).
For leisurely wildlife watching, the safari floats are the best. All you have to do is relax and enjoy as you float down a calm river surrounded by a lush rain forest. See monkeys, caimans, iguanas, sloths and other animals. Plus your guide does all the paddling! The most popular river for the safari float is Penas Blancas. We personally love the Rio Frio Pure Nature safari float for a more exclusive experience.
The magical sky blue river in Costa Rica is an incredible sight to see and only about a 1.5 hour drive from La Fortuna. Hike through the Tenorio Volcano National Park to see a stunning blue waterfall and learn how Rio Celeste gets its astonishing color.
Jump down 200 foot waterfalls deep in the rainforest on this canyoning tour right outside La Fortuna. Perfect for thrill seekers and families looking for some excitement. Read more about canyoning in Arenal.
To decide what to do, first I advise setting a budget as tours are costly. The all day combination tour is around $180-270 USD per person, Rio Celeste is around $140 USD per person, canyoning is around $100 USD per person and the safari floats are $60-75 USD per person so you will be spending a good chunk if you want to do several tours.
If you have a limited budget, I recommend doing at least one or two activities you really want to do. For cheap activities, you can do a self guided hike at Arenal Volcano National Park ($15 entrance fee), visit one of the cheap hot springs ($25 for Hotel Los Lagos adult day pass) or go to the free swimming holes in La Fortuna.
Interesting booking tours? We have a partnership to give 7% off tours in Arenal. Please check here for more information!
Should I go ziplining in Arenal or Monteverde?
Both Arenal and Monteverde are famous for their ziplines. If you’re not sure where to zipline, here are our thoughts.
Go ziplining in Monteverde – If you’re looking for an extreme zipline. Even though Monteverde doesn’t have as many canopy tours as Arenal, it makes up for it in excitement. You will find the longest ziplines and craziest canopy tours in Monteverde (bungee jumping, tarzan swing).
Go ziplining in Arenal – If you’re not looking for an extreme zipline. Arenal has over 10 canopy tours, most of which are perfect for first timers, families with little kids, those scared of heights or not looking for intense ziplines. The most exciting one is Sky Trek in Arenal which has magnificent views of Arenal Volcano and the lake.
Day 4: Travel to Monteverde
Drive or take the taxi-boat-taxi to Monteverde. The taxi boat across Lake Arenal is the most fun way since you get to see the lake and enjoy a nice boat ride instead of sitting on a bus or shuttle for 3 hours. This is for tourists who are not renting a car as the boat ride holds foot passengers only.
If you drive, the drive is around 3-3.5 hours. There are some fabulous views along the way so take your time and leave during the day to drive in daylight. Remember it gets dark by 6 PM in Costa Rica everyday.
If you get to Monteverde in enough time to watch the sunset, we love the viewpoint in front of the CPI Spanish School. There are some benches along the road where you can sit and enjoy the view. The Mirador El Maike is another really nice one.
Where to stay in Monteverde
Monteverde has more rustic lodges and inns. Our favorite hotels are Hotel El Establo, Monteverde Country Lodge and Hotel Poco a Poco. For more luxury upscale hotels, check out Senda Monteverde and Hotel Belmar.
For budget options, there are plenty of hostels in town such as Pension, Santa Elena Hostel Resort, Selina Monteverde and Hotel Sloth Backpackers.
Day 5: Monteverde
Monteverde is famous for the cloud forests and ziplining and most people only spend 1-2 full days there. Santa Elena is very small and you can easily explore the whole town on day 4 after you arrive. You can read our Monteverde travel guide for more information on the area.
What to do in Monteverde
For 1 full day in Monteverde, we recommend to visit Selvatura Park to get the most out of your money and time. They offer an All Day Pass with ziplining, self guided hanging bridges, a sloth center, lunch and butterfly garden.
However, you can pick and choose what you want to do if you’re on a tight budget. Sky Adventures Monteverde also has a great zipline and hanging bridges.
Then if you want to hike or birdwatch, below are our recommendations.
Hiking cloud forest reserves
We personally love the Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena but the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is very nice too. The cloud forests are an extremely vulnerable ecosystem and can only be found in a few places in the world, Costa Rica being one of them. The trails in the cloud forest reserves lead to beautiful view points and you can see hundreds of unique trees and plants.
Bird watching at Curi-Cancha
If you want to see birds like hummingbirds, toucans or Resplendant Quetzals, take an early morning bird watching tour at Curi-Cancha Wildlife Reserve. When we visited in March, we saw 5 Quetzals in a tree! Tours are 2 hours and the walk is very easy so you can even do it the morning you leave Monteverde.
Free Local Spots
There are a lot of great free local spots in Monteverde like the ficus tree root bridge and hollow ficus tree. Definitely worth checking out if you like to explore!
5 Days in Arenal and Monteverde
And there you have it, the perfect 5 day Arenal and Monteverde itinerary. With these suggestions, you’ll be able to experience the best of both destinations in Costa Rica. You get some volcano, rain forest and cloud forest and a ton of fun outdoor adventure! On day 6, you can head to the beach, find another rain forest or even volcano!
I have an itinerary that includes Arenal and Monteverde if you want more ideas for places to visit. Read the 2 week Costa Rica itinerary here.
Or you can check out these other itineraries.
1 week: Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita
10 days: Puerto Viejo, San Jose and Manuel Antonio
Ivana Hansen says
My husband and I are interested in doing the Arenal Sky Adventures ziplining, tram, and hanging bridges combo. Do you offer any discounts for booking this excursion?
Thank you and Pura Vida!
Hi Ivana, no we don’t have discounts for Sky unfortunately.
Christina Rodriguez says
I’m looking for recommendation on going to a beach as close as possible to La Fortuna with kids. I was looking into Playa Coco and taking a boat tour?
Sure that is a very popular itinerary, we actually wrote that exact itinerary here: Costa Rica 1 week
Hi- I am planning just an adult trip fly into Friday and leaving Wednesday. Do you suggest to fly into Libera or San Jose.
I want to do the beach, volcanoes, hanging bridges and hot springs. Arenal for zipline maybe (not a must). Any suggestions on itinerary and places to stay at one spot (beach?) I was thinking of doing the tour as easier so do not have to drive
Thanks advance for your advice!
Hi, you can do either, San Jose/Liberia – La fortuna is about the same amount of time to drive, there are more bus routes from San Jose – La Fortuna in case you’re taking the bus and Liberia is easier to drive from but you can do either.
I LOVE your blog, I’ve been coming back and reading since the beginning of the pandemic, and we are finally taking our trip! 8 days just my 15 yo daughter and I. I like this itinerary…is there anyway to squeeze in Coffee and Chocolate or a beach day?
Thank you for your wonderful in sites!
You can do a coffee and chocolate tour in la Fortuna on any of the days you’re there.
For a beach day, you can then use this 5 day itinerary to insert into a longer one like 7 days or 10 days and then add beach in the beginning or end.
So glad I tripped on your website as I was doing my research on CR. We have a limited time in March and I think you’ve convinced me to rent a car with Adobe via your link.
We arrive SJO at 230 pm on a Tuesday and I’m debating whether to drive straight to La Fortuna/Arenal or spend a night midway. What do you suggest?
The activities you described in Arenal fits our trip. I was wondering if we could explore on our own the waterfalls, hanging bridge and volcano rather than join a tour? Is that doable?
Is there a day trip tour to Monteverde from La Fortuna? Where do I find the timetable for the boat/ ferry that goes through Lake Arenal?
We would like to experience a CR beach even for a day. Is there 1 you can suggest that doesn’t entail a lot of driving? We fly out of SJO at around 2 pm on a Sunday.
Looking forward to hearing your response. In the meantime, I’ll continue surfing your site.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting, you could drive to La Fortuna right away or stay somewhere in between. If you’re visiting during rainy season, I’d stay a night in San Jose because of the weather. Also remember it gets dark by 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica.
You can do the waterfall, hanging bridges and volcano hike on your own.
There is a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna but it’ll be better to take a tour because if you take the boat – taxi – boat across the lake, it’s not really enough time and they only drop off at hotels so from a hotel, then you still need to find your way to the cloud forest park or adventure park.
For beaches, you can check out Jaco, it’s about 1.5 hours from San Jose or the beaches around like Herradura and Hermosa.
Lauren Ardman says
Hi Sammi! I am loving your blog and all your posts. Thank you so much! I am coming to costa rica the week before easter with my partner and 13 year old (this week is the only one I have and I bought tickets before all the research on crowds). I was planning to head to Arenal, then figure out which beach to enjoy. Now I am thinking best to head to the beach first and then to Arenal during easter weekend to avoid the crowds as best we can. The Caribbean beaches a draw, but that entails so much driving (which does not please my 13 year old!) Now I am thinking of a domestic flight to Nosara and a shuttle to Arenal, or a drive and ferry to stay in Montezuma, then head to Arenal and then back to the San Jose airport. We are very down to earth people and enjoy hostels, meeting other folks, wildlife, and some adventure (though not up for the rafting transfer, which would have been great if my kid was braver). I’m a bit daunted by the expense of all the tours, but now that I have bought tickets, I will probably splurge for some of them to get the most out of our time there. Any thoughts you have would be super helpful! We have 8 full days and need to be at the airport for a 3 PM flight out on the 9th day. Thank you!!
Hi Lauren, both beach towns are good. Both kind of remote, very laid back and Nosara has some great surfing beaches, Montezuma is small with nice waterfalls and rivers.
You can read our Montezuma, Costa Rica guide here (we’re working on the Nosara one).
thanks for the response…now thinking start with 2 nights villa caletas at the beach, one night at holtel belmar in monteverde, and 3 nights at the springs in arenal. zip line and cloud forest in monteverde, everything else you mentioned in arenal, any suggestions for things to do with kids at the beach around jaco or playa hermosa? will be renting a land cruiser when we arrive at san jose airport. don’t think i want to skip monteverde right?
Hi Greg, you can check our Things to do in Jaco guide here.
Hi Sammi : we arrive night of march 13th and fly home march 21st early AM. Was thinking maybe 3 nights in Arenal, 1 in Monteverde and two at the villa caletas for some beach time and a few other activities. Could also do 2 nights each in Arenal and Monteverde then 2 at villa catelas. As an option I booked peace lodge at POAS based on a friends recommendation(which would be a lot less driving. I have two kids 12 and 9 and my wife with me, what do you suggest. Sounds like there is more to do in Arenal than in Poas. please help? we want to experience hanging bridges, fun ziplining, short hikes, volcano, animal viewing and a little beach time. Appreciate you advice and time!
Peace Lodge is gorgeous but it’s good for just like 1 or 2 nights the most and to visit the La Paz waterfall gardens, Poas Volcano and coffee tours around. Arenal has more things to do (hanging bridges, ziplines, hikes, volcano, wildlife which is pretty much everything on your list). You could do 1 night in Peace Lodge to split up the drive between San Jose to La Fortuna.
Hi Sammi – love your website and post. I have two questions on the transportation between Arenal and Monteverde.
1) We plan to pick up/ drop off our car at SJO. But in the middle of the trip, if we want to travel to Monteverde from Arenal by taxi-boat-taxi and return to Arenal after 2 days, where can we park our car while we are out of town?
2) If we don’t take the rental car with us to Monteverde, how do we go around in the area? Will the local tours in Monteverde pick up and drop off us at the hotel?
Thank you so much!
Hi Tonia, check with your hotel in La Fortuna or any hotel in La Fortuna or your rental car company to see if you can leave your car for a fee.
There are taxis in Monteverde and some adventure parks offer transportation like 100% Aventura or there is also a local bus that goes from Santa Elena town to the cloud forests.
Hi! Love your post! Thanks! We are visiting Costa Rica for the first time but I have read that June and July Months are during your rainy season. How much rain are we talking about? We plan to be there 7 full days and two travel days. Also, is San Jose better to fly into then Liberia? We will have a 6, 8, 11 year old kids with us. Any help appreciated.
Hi Jennifer, in July we have something called “little summer” where it dries up and is like summertime. June is rainier so if you can visit in July, it does have better weather though it is much more crowded and busy due to N.America summer break. You can read more about Costa Rica weather here.
You can read about Costa Rica airports to see which airport works better for you.
Hi Marina, you can check our getting around Costa Rica post for more tips. Keep in mind that October is our rainiest month and the Monteverde road conditions. require a 4wd/4×4 during that time of year. If you are not comfortable driving that type of roads, I would recommend to get shuttles instead.
Marina Suv says
Hey there! My cousin hate I are going to Costa Rica from October 10th (we land at 9pm) to October 26th. We were thinking to go to Monteverde for 2 night, then 3 night in La Fortuna, and then head to Puerto Viejo. What do you guys think? Shall we rent a car? It’s just us two girls will it be safe for us? Thank you so much for your response!
Hi Sammi, we are landing in LIR (mid-May) and leaving from SJO airport. Staying in Guanacaste area for 3 days (1 day boating/snorkeling in the gulf, 1 day beach (which beach do you recommend in the area Playa Conchal or Playa Del Coco or Tamarindo) and one day Tour to Rio Celeste and Arenal.
After that, we are checking out from the hotel in Guanacaste and driving towards SJO. We will have a whole day and we leave the following day afternoon. Which place do you recommend to stay and visit for the day we are driving from Guanacaste towards SJO. We need to spend the night as well. I was thinking Monteverde. We can switch Arenal with Monteverde tour instead, take a tour to Monteverede when in Guanacaste and go to Arenal the day we are driving to SJO.
I definitely want to visit Manuel Antonia but I know its so far and will save it for next time. Please suggest. Thanks in advance!
Hi Penny, you can read our post Guanacaste itinerary to read more about where to stay in Guanacaste.
On the exact route from Guanacaste to San Jose, to be honest there isn’t too much. You could do Arenal or Monteverde since it’s about 4 hours driving from Guanacaste and from San Jose. Either one is fine, but if you aren’t renting a high car or 4wd/4×4, then Arenal would be much easier as MOnteverde requires a high car and takes a bit longer to drive to since it’s up in the mountains on bad roads. You could do the Monteverde day tour from Guanacaste and stay in La Fortuna for a night.
We will be traveling in these areas the 1st two weeks of August. Is it possible to find hotel vacant rooms as we travel through this area or should we book rooms before we arrive?
Hi Grant, I would prebook because August is a high season month (summer vacation in North America), especially if you want to stay at nicer hotels as those book up fast.
I am going to Arenal with my wife and 8 year old son for last week of March. We were hoping to do this package activity: https://skyadventures.travel/arenal/skylimit/ – However, its not for kids. Good thing I did not book it! Please guide me as to what would be a good alternative to do such adventures which includes zip lining, rafting, rappelling, etc with 8 year old. Any recommend packages for two days worth of activities that is good for both adults and a child? Please provide direct links to some options if you can — Alternatively are there supervised children activities offered by hotels like Tabacon or the Spring Resorts for 8 year old so that my wife and I can at least do one of the activities where an 8 year old can not? Thank you for your help.
Hi Joe, here are our articles on the activities you asked about:
Canyoning in la Fortuna
La Fortuna river rafting Class 2 and 3 (minimum age is 8)
For ziplining, you can do the Sky Trek at Sky Adventures Park, minimum age is 8.
The Springs Resort & Spa and Club Rio has a multi adventure package where you can choose activities like horseback riding, rock wall, tubing, and inflatable kayaking.
We have a discount for La Fortuna tours you can get here: Arenal and La Fortuna tours discount and a Club Rio discount here: Club Rio discount
Hi Sammi. Great blog! Thank you for such a helpful resource. We need some help planning our 5 day trip (we’re a family of four with two tweens). We’re flying into San Jose this month and renting a car at the airport. This is the planned itinerary:
Day 1 and 2: Leave early morning from San Jose. Make a short stop at Poas Volcano National Park. Reach Arenal by afternoon. In Arenal, per your suggestion, thinking about doing the Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano hike, ziplining and hot springs. Spend two nights in Arenal.
Day 3: Leave early morning for Monteverde. Short hikes in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (and Curi Cancha Reserve if time permits). Spend night in Santa Elena.
Day 4: Drive to Jaco or Punta Leona or Manuel Antonio (or any other nice beach town close to San Jose that you would recommend??). Don’t plan on doing any sightseeing for this part…just relaxing at the beach. Spend night at beach town.
Day 5: Head back to San Jose in the afternoon. Our flight leaves very late at night.
Do you think this is doable? Thanks for your advise!
Hi Basil, It is doable, but it’s a lot of driving so make sure to plan accordingly because if you leave too late, you won’t really be able to enjoy your time in Monteverde or your beach day on day 4 because La FOrtuna to Monteverde is around a 3.5 hour drive and Monteverde to Jaco/Manuel Antonio is around 5 hours, probably more since you’ll be stopping. I’d go to Punta Leona, since it’s more north and not as far as Manuel Antonio and you can enjoy a nice resort and a beautiful white sand beach. Santa Elena reserve closes at 4 PM so you can only do a very short hike since you need time to eat lunch, check in, etc.
Thank you for the prompt response! Like your idea about staying in Punta Leona due to the limited time we have. We’re now debating if we should go to Monteverde at all, or instead go to Rio Celeste. Which one is more unique and fun in your opinion – cloud forests in Santa Elena or Rio Celeste? If we leave early from La Fortuna, we could get to Santa Elena by noon, giving us about 4 hours to cover a couple of trails. Kids are not too interested in bird watching but are intrigued by a hike in a cloud forest and seeing some wild life. Rio Celeste would take a day but the blue river looks gorgeous…hoping that trails don’t get too muddy this time of the year!
Personally I’d go to Rio celeste, you can read our post on it here: Rio Celeste
Thank you for the excellent and timely advice!!
Dear Yeison and Samantha –
We will have 7 days (two days of those are arrival and departure at San Jose) at the end of March. We would like to go to the Neuvo Arenal for a day or 2. Other than that, do you have suggestions for a beach/rainforest area? We don’t mind driving for distances to see the country (if navigable in a small car). Is Manuel Antonio a good area to think about? We’re trying to get the most we can in a short time. Also, I know it can be difficult entering San Jose in the morning of our flight from a certain direction, which is the best way to come back into town. Thank you very much for your car rental advice and service. We were pleased on our last trip!
Manuel Antonio is an excellent destination about a 3.5 hour drive from San Jose. It’s a bit of a far drive though so you’ll have to set aside one travel day between Nuevo Arenal and Manuel Antonio but you can leave very early in the morning. That route is all on paved roads (most of it on a highway) so a sedan is perfectly fine to Manuel Antonio.
From Manuel Antonio, you can use Waze to help you with traffic in San Jose in the morning because from around 5-8 AM, it’s very bad traffic. Normally you take the exit for Radial Coyol to the airport but Waze will help you navigate since during that time of day, pretty much all entrance/exits are congested.
Stephanie Stubblefield says
Love your blog! We would like to Canyoning. We have 3 days in Monteverde and two in Arenal. Do you have a recommendation on which is best for canyoning? Our Arenal itinerary is pretty packed but I am sure we could fit more in if you recommend Arenal over Monteverde. Only thing we have booked in Monteverde is a night tour.
Thanks a ton!!
Hi Stephanie! Definitely ARenal. Monteverde doesn’t have as many waterfalls but they do have one canyoning tour by Finca Modelo but the waterfalls aren’t as tall. The Pure Trek canyoning in Arenal is definitely the best one we’ve done, it’s a ton of fun and a half day trip.
Loving this blog so far – it’s been so easy to research and navigate through your blog! We are going the first week of September. Do you think we would be able to do all of the activities above even during the rainy season in Arenal and Monteverde? We are trying to see if it’s worth pushing through the rain. We are also considering the possibility of cutting out Monteverde and just going straight to Manuel Antonio from Arenal (we are flying into San Jose and have only 6 days). Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks for maintaining such a great blog!
Hi Wynn, in rainy season we recommend doing all activities early in the morning. For only 6 days, I would pick just two destinations. Three would be way too many and you’d be spending more time traveling than enjoying. Arenal and Manuel Antonio will be great places, Monteverde is nice too but it rains more up there and it won’t be worth it if you barely have one full day.
Thank you so much Sammi! That really helps us determine our plans – we will probably only do two then in our 6 days. We are definitely planning to go to Arenal and possibly doing a combo tour (saw your link!). Given the potential rainy weather, do you have any insight on whether Monteverde or Manuel Antonio would be the better option? I’ve been to Manuel Antonio before, but my girlfriend has not. I’m leaning towards Monteverde (we would do at least a day and a half there), but am worried about the rain plus the potential redundancy of activities from Arenal? Or are the cloud forest hikes/activities a vastly difference experience? Thanks in advance!
If you guys want beach, I’d go to Manuel Antonio since you’ll be doing rainforest and volcano at Arenal and if you go to Monteverde you won’t have other chances to go to the beach. The rain forest and cloud forest are different but they offer similar activities: hiking, ziplining, etc. I’d personally recommend Manuel Antonio since that will be very different so you can get rainforest, volcano and beach whereas if you go to Monteverde and Arenal, you’d have just volcano, rainforest and cloud forest. And since Monteverde tends to rain quite a bit more, the cloud forest isn’t as nice to experience since you can’t see or do as much.
You have a better chance of having nice weather in Manuel ANtonio and enjoying the beach.
Do you have recommendations for specific public transport to take from Monteverde back to San Jose? I was looking at interbus but it costs $53. Do you have any other cheaper recommendations that are also safe given the road conditions? We are not planning to rent a car.
Hi Jenna, you can also take the public bus. There is a bus from Monteverde to San Jose at 6:30 AM and 2:30 PM every day. It costs 2810 colones (about $5) and takes about 4.5 hours. It will take you to the terminal 7-10 in downtown San Jose.
Thanks for the great advice! We would like to do a split trip between Arenal and Monteverde in 5 days as well. If we want to take the taxi boat taxi from Arenal to Monteverde, do you recommend that we rent separate cars in both areas to get around and to get to/from the airport? Or would it better to plan for public transportation the entire trip instead? Thanks in advcance!
Hi Karen, there are no car rentals in Monteverde so you will have to take public transportation or shuttles. There are car rentals in Arenal though so you can rent one there to go to the airport. But usually car rental companies require a minimum of 3 days rental or they’ll charge the full 3 days if you have different pick up and drop off locations so you’ll have to see what works better for your schedule – to rent a car or use shuttles/buses.