Driving in Costa Rica is always an adventure and even more so in developing or remote areas. Although some routes are classified as an official road in Costa Rica, they may be unpaved, have huge pot holes or even cross rivers. One such route is Route 911, otherwise locally known as the Monkey Trail in the Northern Guanacaste province.
This coastal route connects the beach towns of Flamingo, Brasilito and Potrero to Diamante Eco Adventure Park, the Riu Guanacaste all inclusive resort and the Papagayo Peninsula so it is commonly used among locals. Route 911 is now widely used among tourists because Google Maps and Waze will recommend this coastal route as it is an official road in Costa Rica. Unbeknownst to the majority of tourists who follow this route, Route 911 contains two river crossings and they get caught surprised when they see a body of water approaching.
If you plan to drive Route 911 from Flamingo or Tamarindo to Playas del Coco or Diamante Eco Adventure Park, this is what you need to know about the Monkey Road Route 911 and the river crossings (and how to avoid crossing the rivers but still take this route). We will also talk about alternative routes that do not have any river crossings and are all on well paved, flat and straight roads. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount to save some $$!
Avoiding the River Crossings on Route 911 Monkey Trail
If you take Route 911 and want to avoid crossing the rivers, you can enter the The Congo Trail property. Their property is right next to the river crossing and they charge visitors a fee to enter their property to cross and avoid the river crossings.
The Congo Trail fee is 5000 CRC or $10 USD per day and they are open everyday from 8 AM to 5 PM. So if you plan to drive back to Flamingo/Tamarindo from Coco or Diamante after 5 PM, then we recommend to take the alternative, well paved route. We do not recommend driving Route 911 Monkey Trail when it is dark (it gets dark by 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica).
***Safety is always our first priority for our readers so we are not telling you have to cross the rivers, we just want to explain what it’s like and how to safely drive Route 911 Monkey Trail. We never want any of our readers to get stuck or hurt so please do not cross the rivers if it is not 100000% safe or you are not 1000000% comfortable and confident. Likewise, water damage is never covered under any car rental insurance. It’s better to avoid the rivers by going through The Congo Trail.***
Coming from Potrero/Tamarindo/Flamingo Direction
When you are driving from Potrero and are getting close to the river, you will see a sign on your right hand side like this below.
On the left hand side, there will be an entrance and gate to The Congo Trail. Here, you can turn into the gate and wait for someone to let you in. You’ll pay them the fee.
If you continue onto this road, you will reach the two rivers. So if you don’t want to cross the rivers, enter to the left here into The Congo Trail.
Coming from Diamante/Coco
If you are coming from Playas del Coco or Diamante Eco Adventure Park, you will see a sign like the one below right before the rivers.
To enter The Congo Trail, just follow the route to the right to their entrance to pay the fee and cross. The left hand side road continues to the rivers.
The exit from that side will be the entrance from the other side so just drive slowly to make sure you don’t come head on to another car trying to get in the gate.
Route 911 Monkey Trail River Crossings
How deep the two rivers on Route 911 Monkey Trail are depend on the time of year. One of the rivers is not as big as the other one and it’s the big one that causes the problems for drivers.
In the driest months, the rivers can get so dry, it’s full of small puddles. In the rainiest months, the river can go up to the bumper of SUVS… or higher. Read more about Costa Rica weather here.
If you are local and need to know the current condition of Route 911 Monkey Trail rivers, then we recommend you to join the Facebook group: Monkey Trail River Crossing (Route 911). Members post current videos and photos of the river conditions.
Use The Congo Trail if you are in a sedan or low clearance car. A 4×4 can pass the river. I passed it twice at the end of January. The water was not super high but there was a very decent amount. I did use my 4×4 in my Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4×4 SUV just in case. We visited Diamante Eco Adventure Park from Tamarindo.
February, March and April
These are the driest months of the year in Guanacaste. The rivers dry up a lot, especially by end of March and April. A sedan can pass but if you aren’t comfortable, take the Congo Trail.
Below is a video of when we passed Route 911 Monkey Trail rivers in April. You can see that the water level is really low in both rivers.
That video was taken April 2021 so the road condition is better now.
May and June
The transition months from dry to rainy season sees a few hard rains. The rivers will start filling back up. If you’re in a sedan or 4×2 SUV, best to take the Congo Trail.
Usually in July, it stops raining for a few weeks as we have a “little summer”. However, tropical weather isn’t always exactly the same all the time. Same recommendation as May and June. Make sure to check the Facebook group for current conditions.
August and September
August and September starts to see harder, more constant rains so recommend ONLY 4×4’s cross the rivers. Even in a 4×4 high clearance SUV or truck, if you are not confident and do not know how to drive across rivers, then do not cross.
The rainiest month in Costa Rica (except the Caribbean) means both rivers, particularly the big one, will be very full. Only recommend high clearance 4x4s with confident, experienced drivers. Even then, if there is a tropical storm or wave, we do not recommend taking this route and crossing the river. It’ll be safer to take the Congo Trail bridge or the alternative route. Flash floods CAN and DO happen and they can kill people in a blink of an eye.
We crossed the river once in October in our Isuzu DMAX 4×4 pick up truck (with high suspension, snorkel and bull bars). The water level was decently high and we saw two cars stuck on the other side of the river.
Same recommendation as October. November can still have tropical storms and waves. Even though it starts transitioning to dry season, the river won’t dry up that fast.
By end of December, it’s most likely stopped raining altogether. However, at the end of the rainy season, the rivers will still have a decent amount of water. It’s still safer to take the Congo Trail bridge if you do not have a high clearance 4×4.
Route 911 Monkey Trail Actual Road Condition
Route 911 is in much better shape as it has been almost completely paved. The only unpaved sections are right at the rivers in the forest. Otherwise, the entire road is paved. Before 2019, this road was not paved at all!
However, this route, once you leave Potrero, is curvy, narrow and hilly with no painted lines, sidewalks, shoulders, guard rails or street lights. Because of this, we do not recommend to drive this route at night (remember it gets dark by 6 PM everyday).
During the day, it is not really difficult to drive. Just go slow, enjoy the views, keep an eye on the pot holes and drive slowly. Do not get stressed out if locals start tailgating you closely or zooming past you. Just let them drive their speed and drive the speed you are comfortable at.
They are still fixing up this road so there may be construction here and there. Stay aware in case you need to stop.
Alternative Route to Route 911 Monkey Trail That Does Not Require Any River Crossing and Is Easy to Drive, Well Paved and Straightforward
Don’t want to deal with the river crossings at all? Then take the alternative route which is through Route 155, Route 21 and then Route 151. All of these roads are well paved, straightforward, have street lights, gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets along the way and are easy to drive.
Time Difference Between the Alternative Route and Route 911 Monkey Trail?
It depends on your start and end destinations.
Tamarindo to Playas del Coco via Route 911 takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes according to Google. However, there is a very good chance it will take you longer because you might drive slow. So I’d plan for at least 1 hour and 45 minutes. The alternative route via Route 155, 21 and 151 is around 1 hour and 30 minutes so the time difference is not drastic. You do not really save a ton of time going through Route 911 from Tamarindo to Playas del Coco as opposed to the other way.
From Brasilito, Flamingo and Potrero, it is faster to take Route 911.
Route 911 Map
Here is our map of Route 911 from Tamarindo or Flamingo to Coco. You can also see the alternative route you can take.
It’s an interactive map so on mobile, use two fingers to move it around.
Recommended Car For Route 911 Monkey Trail
A 4×4 is always recommended for anyone who plans to be driving in remote, rural and developing areas, especially during the rainy season in Guanacaste. However, you can drive this route is a 4×2 high clearance SUV like a Hyundai Venue or Hyundai Creta during the dry season or rainy season (rainy season taking the bridge).
A high clearance SUV is the best option for this route whether you’re taking The Congo Trail or not. Parts of this route are a bit steep going up the mountains, so you will need to have a car with a strong enough engine if your car is very packed full of people and luggage. If you are traveling light and during the driest months of February, March and April, you can get by in a sedan as the rivers will be extremely low and dried up. It can get so dry, that there are only very shallow puddles in one river.
If you plan to cross the river, please remember that when renting a car in Costa Rica, water damage is never covered under any insurance, even if you purchase full insurance. It does not matter that Route 911 is an official road, water damage will never be covered under any type of car rental insurance. Please drive safe and carefully!
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Blog Posts About Guanacaste
We hope this post was helpful for you, here are some more about Guanacaste below!
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