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 be extremely helpful. I’ll 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.
*This post has been updated February 24, 2020 with the current road conditions for Route 606 and updated information about Route 145*.
The best route to take to get to Monteverde is Route 606 thanks to the newly paved road. Below, I will talk more in depth about the Monteverde roads and routes to take. You can click the section to skip to it.
- San Jose to Monteverde
- Route 606 Sardinal
- Guanacaste to Monteverde
- Las Juntas Route 145
- La Fortuna
- Santa Elena and Monteverde road conditions
- Do You Need a 4×4? (Our thoughts)
- Driving tips
Always check to see which route your GPS device will take you to Monteverde.
If you use a GPS device (rented through your car rental or if you bring your own), enter the name of your hotel as your final destination. Check the GPS to see which route they are taking you because as you’ll read more below in this post, we recommend to take Route 606 to Monteverde.
If you use Google Maps or Waze, they will take you to the “fastest” or closest route which may be Route 145 (I’ll talk about this one in a bit) or Route 605. Of all the routes to Monteverde, we do not recommend to take Route 605 (it’s not a nice road).
As Route 605 eventually connects to Route 606, it is better to stay on the Interamericana highway 1, go straight to Route 606 and then turn to go up the mountain to Monteverde. On our last trip, Waze was trying to make us go through Route 605. Yeison has had experience on this route which is an old road not used as much due to its poorer conditions. Road 606 is much better.
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 and 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)
*February 24, 2020 update. The Route 606 is now paved all the way to Santa Elena downtown. It is in good condition going up the mountain although still narrow and curvy but much better than before. Photos below were taken February 2020, dry season. These are the current road conditions for Route 606 to Monteverde*
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 which is now paved!
At this part, it used to be a gravel road with lots of potholes but it is now paved all the way to Santa Elena downtown. The views are very nice and much more pleasant to drive! Below are photos of the road.
A lot of trailer trucks and buses use this route so you may get stuck behind one and they drive super slow. As you can see in the pictures, the route is curvy so even though the road is paved, drive very carefully as there are no guard rails whatsoever. Since we drove this route in February 2020 (dry season), there weren’t many loose rocks and the road was still in great condition since they just finished it December 2019.
Because Route 606 is in much better condition than Route 145 and Route 605, you can still take Route 606 coming from Guanacaste. It’ll take about 30 minutes longer but it’s a much more enjoyable drive.
You will see mostly 4wd/4×4 rental cars on this route despite the paved road. I’ll talk a little bit more about if a 4×4 is really required for Monteverde later in the post (click here to skip to it).
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 current road conditions for Route 145, Las Juntas (as of February 24, 2020).
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. Be careful when driving because the road is very narrow and curvy so you may need to suddenly brake and make space for oncoming cars. Drive slow on this route!
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 is harrowing due to narrow gravel roads and big trailer trucks. During our drive, one of the huge trailer trucks got stuck going up a hill, blocking the road. We managed to drive down on the side of the road on the grass in our 4×4 but it was super steep. We almost got stuck in the side ditch! Another time we turned a corner and there were 3 huge oncoming trailer trucks but there was no space. We had to inch over to the side (very carefully because there was a grass ditch) and the trucks all had to back down around the curve to give us space.
This route also has a ton of big potholes and there are no guard rails either. Be extremely carefully on this route during rainy season and if you’re visiting in rainy season, we actually recommend to go on Route 606 since that road is now paved.
Below are some photos.
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 and has lots of potholes, taking around 3 to 3.5 hours. Here is the map below.
Santa Elena town itself has paved roads. Cerro Plano, the smaller town also has paved roads but it 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. The road to Sky Adventures, Selvatura Park, Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena and Vista Verde Lodge is also unpaved with potholes and is steep at some parts.