As Monteverde is one of the most popular destinations in the country, we get these questions all the time. Is the road to Monteverde paved, how far is San Jose Airport to Monteverde and do I really need a 4×4 for Monteverde?
For those who are renting a car in Costa Rica and plan on visiting Monteverde, this post will go over the Monteverde road conditions and how to get to Monteverde. You can also read our Monteverde, Costa Rica travel guide to learn more about this region.
Do You Need a 4×4 for Monteverde?
So to answer your question Do I really need a 4×4 to get to Monteverde? Here are our thoughts about the kind of car you should rent for Monteverde. This is coming from a Costa Rican man who is very used to driving rural roads and a woman from the US who is not. And as always, safety is our number one priority for our readers.
There are two main routes to Monteverde: Route 145 and Route 606. For both of these routes, you don’t necessarily need a 4wd or 4×4, even a 4×2 SUV with high clearance will work.
One of the routes to Monteverde, Route 606, is now fully asphalted all the way to downtown Santa Elena (the main town of Monteverde). Therefore, if you are taking Route 606 and your hotel is in downtown and right off the main road, you can drive a sedan to Monteverde, particularly in dry season.
However, if you plan to explore, drive yourself to the parks and reserves or are staying at a hotel or vacation rental outside of Santa Elena downtown, then it is highly recommended to have a high clearance car with a stronger engine.
Keep in mind though that we always recommend to ask your host to see what kind of car is required to reach the property.
If You Drive to Monteverde in a Normal Car
If your hotel in in the town center and you rented a normal car like a sedan, then you can park your car at your hotel and take the public buses, taxis or transportation to the adventure parks and reserves. Then you can walk to town to restaurants, stores, etc.
Many parks such as Selvatura Park offer transportation and there are taxis and the local shuttle to the reserves throughout Monteverde.
Using GPS and the Best Routes to Take to Monteverde
The two best routes for Monteverde is Route 145 and Route 606 (I will talk in depth about both routes below).
If you use a GPS device (rented through your car rental or using one of the GPS apps), enter the name of your hotel as your final destination. Then check to see which route your GPS will take you to Monteverde.
If you use Google Maps or Waze, they will take you to the “fastest” or closest route. Of all the routes to Monteverde, we do not recommend to take Route 605 (it’s not a nice road). Route 145 and Route 606 are the best routes to take to Monteverde.
Driving from San Jose to Monteverde (Route 606)
If you are driving from San Jose Airport to Monteverde, the best route to take is Route 27, 23, Interamericana highway 1 and then Route 606. This route takes around 3.5 hours depending on traffic. The distance from San Jose Airport to Monteverde is 133 kilometers, or 83 miles via Route 606. This entire route from San Jose Airport to Monteverde is now paved.
Here is the route on Google Maps. Remember that Santa Elena is the name of the main town and tourism hub of Monteverde. You will see lots of signs for Santa Elena.
Route 606 Road Conditions (Sardinal)
Route 606 from San Jose is a fairly straightforward route. Head onto Route 27 Highway and continue for about 107 kilometers (66 miles). You’ll merge onto InterAmericana highway 1 a little past Puntarenas. This is a paved road and takes around 1.5 hours (depending on traffic).
Then you will turn right onto Route 606 Costa Rica, the route to Monteverde via Sardinal. You will see a gas station on your right and a huge billboard for Sky Trek/Adventures.
Drive onto this road for about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) and turn left. There are plenty of signs for Sardinal and Monteverde so you know you’re going the right way.
After about 17 kilometers (10.5miles), turn right at this sign to continue onto Route 606 to Santa Elena.
Turn left when you see this sign and continue up the mountain to Monteverde!
The gravel road is now asphalt
At this part, it used to be a gravel road but they asphalted it over late 2019 so it’s in MUCH better condition now! There are some pot holes here and there but it’s finally all asphalted over.
Here are some photos.
You’re still going up a mountain on a narrow road with no physical barrier so drive slow, take your time and don’t stress out. If you get caught behind one of the big trucks, just take it slow.
As it’s asphalted over, a sedan or SUV can make it up this hill as long as the engine is strong enough (and the car isn’t crazy packed heavy). The Route 606 is asphalted all the way until downtown Santa Teresa and then ends there.
Now I’ll talk about Route 145!
Driving from Guanacaste to Monteverde – Route 145 (Las Juntas)
If you are driving from Guanacaste (Liberia, Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, Samara, Gulf of Papagayo, Conchal) to Monteverde, then the closest route is Route 145, Las Juntas. It takes around 3.5 hours with a mix of gravel and concrete roads. Route 145 is very narrow and windy. Below are the road conditions for Route 145.
Las Juntas Road Conditions Route 145
This route is very narrow, curvy and windy with concrete and gravel roads. It goes from gravel to concrete many times throughout the entire route. Trailer trucks, public buses and shuttles use this route.
Coming from Guanacaste, Las Juntas is the turn off a couple kilometers (~1 mile) after the Restaurant Tres Hermanas (where the big bull is) at the Limonal Plaza. Turn left.
You will continue on this road for 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) and drive through the town of Las Juntas and continue up towards Monteverde, passing small towns like Eco Museo, Canderlaria and Campos de Oro.
As it’s a rural area, you may run into some unusual traffic.
Our Experience with Route 145
Route 145 has beautiful scenery. However, the drive can be harrowing if you have never driven on unpaved roads or narrow mountain roads before. As always, the key is going slow.
A high clearance car is definitely recommended for Route 145, especially in rainy season. In rainy season, it will be best with a 4wd since it can be slippery on the concrete sections.
There are also a lot of trailer trucks and construction trucks on this route so you may need to pass them very closely.
This route also has a ton of big potholes and there are no guard rails either.
You can see the route in our video below.
From Santa Elena, go to soccer field/school and continue on the bumpy road towards Xtremo and Don Juan Tours. You will then continue until a slight left to Route 145 (signs for Las Juntas) and continue on that road.
Driving from La Fortuna to Monteverde
If you are driving from La Fortuna to Monteverde, the best route to take is Route 142 around Lake Arenal towards Tilaran, Route 145 Las Juntas and then Route 606 Sardinal. This route has a mix of concrete and gravel roads, taking around 3 to 3.5 hours. Here is the map below.
A high clearance car is also recommended, especially in rainy season. Enjoy the drive and as always, go slow.
Santa Elena and Monteverde Road Conditions
Santa Elena town itself has paved roads and ends where the El Establo Hotel is. That road continues on to the Monteverde cloud forest reserves, San Luis town and Curi Cancha Reserve and is unpaved after the CPI Spanish School.
We stayed at 2 Airbnbs in Monteverde that had awful roads. Awful. Like hitting your head on top of the car awful. These roads are the way to Finca Modelo and a neighborhood past the Santa Elena cemetery (Valle Bonito).
If you are wondering which route is best to take to Monteverde, Route 145 and Route 606 are both doable. Both are curvy and narrow roads so for that reason, you will see that 99% of the rental cars are SUVs. Driving slow, driving during daylight and not stressing out are the keys to a pleasant drive to Monteverde.
Route 145 is closer to those coming from or going to Guanacaste, Route 606 is closer to those coming from or going to San Jose.
When it comes down to it, a 4wd or high clearance car is the safest option to get to Monteverde if you want to explore and drive yourself around. If you are staying at a hotel right in downtown or right off the main road, take Route 606 to Monteverde, park your car at the hotel, take taxis or and you can get there in a sedan.
We do not recommend driving the sedan outside of the paved roads as it will have a hard time going up the steep mountain roads if you go outside of the Santa Elena town center and it will be easier to damage the car for all the potholes.
Additional Tips for Driving to Monteverde
- We do not recommend driving to Monteverde late at night, especially in rainy season. All routes are very curvy with no guard rails or street lights. Remember it gets dark by 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica! If your flight arrives in the evening, it is better to stay a night in San Jose/Liberia.
- Drive slow, take your time. Don’t pass if you’re not comfortable. You will run into some buses or trucks that are super slow.
- If you get car sick, take anti-nausea medicine! I get car sick easily and got fairly dizzy on Route 145.
- For more driving tips, you can read our in-depth Costa Rica driving guide.