Monteverde is the Aspen of Costa Rica. Or if you’re Canadian, the Whistler of Costa Rica. There’s no high end shopping, world class restaurants, or skiing but there is a zen upscale mountain feel that you can’t find in other Costa Rican areas. The kind of place that smells like fresh herbs and pachouli and people keep to themselves in a friendly sort of way to honor the tranquility of Monteverde.
Monteverde is a region that includes the main town of Santa Elena, Costa Rica. At a higher elevation, Monteverde offers cooler weather and a more lush/green landscape than other parts of Costa Rica during dry season.
WHAT TO DO
Most travelers to Monteverde visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve or the Selvatura Park. Both are a great way to get a little higher to see the views. Sky Adventures offers zip lines, hiking and a sky tram. If you book in their store/office in Santa Elena, you get 10% off.
WHERE TO STAY
Belmar Hotel has beautiful simple rooms, farm to table food, guided hikes, a spa and rooms include a free yoga class. Walking distance to Santa Elena shops and restaurants.
Monteverde Inn (Valle Escondido Preserve) has good rooms for families as they offer bunk beds. Part of the hotel is new and part is old, so I recommend getting in a room that is number 15 or higher. They have permaculture tour of the Valle Escondido Preserve, amazing views and hiking trails. Walking distance to Santa Elena shops and restaurants. Kid friendly.
Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. Right in Santa Elena. Rooms are a generous size and the hotel has a good restaurant, El Jardin. Has a pool and butterfly garden on property.
WHERE TO EAT
Celajes – Restaurant at Belmar Hotel, great farm to table food. Excellent innovative breakfast with good use of fresh herbs.
Toro Tinto – Great steakhouse and wine bar that offers pasta and chicken dishes.
Cafe Escondido – Restaurant at Monteverde Inn, has friendly staff, amazing views and is great for sunset. Very kid friendly as it has space for kids to run around and catch tadpoles in the small stream.
Morphos – Lunch/dinner, large open restaurant is kid-friendly and is great for sunset.
Monteverde Fussion – No amazing ambiance, but has good food.
El Jardin – Monteverde Lodge has a formal upscale feel with solid menu options.
Orchid Coffee or Orchid Cafe – right next to the Orchid Garden has great breakfast/lunch options. It is not a cafe that wants you to hang out. They have a 40 minute time limit on Wifi access.
Sophia’s – Restaurant for dinner. Good food.
Stella’s Bakery – a bit out of town, but walking distance from Belmar Hotel. Bakery with friendly staff and lush surroundings.
The Green Restaurant and Ristorante D Thomas are in a shopping center right next to each other, so if you’re with an indecisive group for lunch/dinner, go look at both menus and see which you want to eat at.
Cafe Cabure – Great for fresh chocolates and an extensive desert menu.
Choco Café Don Juan – Great for coffee, dessert or lunch. Try the tres leches.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can fly into San José, Costa Rica or Liberia, Costa Rica. It’s about 2 1/2 hour drive from Liberia, and 3 hours from San José. Both drives are winding twisty mountain roads that are part gravel/mud and I don’t recommend driving in the dark. Actually I recommend arriving in Monteverde, no later than 1:00 pm as the afternoon showers can make driving conditions a bit treacherous.