The distance between Arenal and Monteverde is deceptive. By road, it’s 65 miles (106 km). That doesn’t seem too bad, but in reality, it is – the road between the two destinations is pitted with potholes, gravel and bumps. This being the case, driving between Arenal and Monteverde can take upwards of 5 hours, depending on the type of car you’re driving. Below you’ll find a few options for navigating between these two places.
Due to the drastic change in elevation between La Fortuna and Monteverde (La Fortuna is at 1,150 ft and Monteverde is at 5,000 ft) there is no direct road route. The road between these two places runs along Lake Arenal and through the town of Tilarán. The road between La Fortuna and Tilarán is in good condition, but the road between Tilarán and Monteverde is quite bad. Because of this, a car with four-wheel drive is strongly recommended, especially during the rainy season. During the peak of the rainy season (October and November), it’s often impossible to drive this route without a 4x4 vehicle. On average, it takes about 4 hours to get between Arenal and Monteverde in a 4x4 car. In a sedan, it’ll take closer to 5 hours. See this rental car search and driving map.
By Public Bus
From La Fortuna, travelers can take the 8:00 AM bus to Tilarán. From here, catch the 12:30 PM bus to Monteverde. The bus will arrive in Santa Elena (the main town of Monteverde) around 3:00 PM. All told, this option takes around 8-9 hours.
By Taxi / Boat / Taxi
This is one of the most popular options. First, travelers will take a short taxi from their hotel to the Lake Arenal Dam. Here they will board a boat and enjoy a 30-minute ride across Lake Arenal. On the other side, travelers will board a mini bus or 4x4 car and finish the final 1.5-hour drive to Monteverde. This option takes around 3 hours and can also be arranged in the opposite direction. More taxi / boat / taxi info and photos
By Horseback, Boat, and 4x4 Car
This is one of the most exciting options. Travelers are picked up from their Arenal area hotel and driven to the Lake Arenal Dam. From here, they’ll enjoy a 15-minute boat ride across the lake to the town of El Castillo. Once off the boat, guests will mount a horse and ride around a section of the lake, ending in Rió Chiquito. From here, they’ll be driven along the final leg to Monteverde, a distance of approximately 12 miles (20 km). This option takes around 3.5 hours. Group sizes are small (2-6 people), and along the way there are fantastic photo opportunities. This tour also runs in the opposite direction, from Monteverde to Arenal. Tours depart Arenal at 8:30 AM and Monteverde at 8:00 AM. More horseback riding info and photos
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