This guide will detail the four main options available to you and give you all the information you need to book your transportation from La Fortuna to Monteverde (or Monteverde to La Fortuna) right away and save you valuable time.
The adventure-packed town of La Fortuna and the mountainous region of Monteverde are top destinations for travellers to Costa Rica who enjoy lush rainforests, hiking, ziplining, wildlife, and the outdoors. To combine these two destinations on your trip to Costa Rica would be to get the best of what inland Costa Rica has to offer. The country is far more than just beaches and coastlines.
Unfortunately, the journey from La Fortuna to Monteverde isn’t as straightforward as it may appear on a map.
This complete guide covers how to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde and Monteverde to La Fortuna by car, shuttle, van-boat-van transfer and bus.
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La Fortuna to Monteverde
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La Fortuna to Monteverde Map
I think it’s important to start by distinguishing between La Fortuna and Monteverde. La Fortuna is the main tourist town of the Arenal Volcano National Park (also known as the Arenal region). Monteverde is the region surrounding the town of Santa Elena.
So, when speaking about how to get from La Fortuna (a town) to Monteverde (the region), we are essentially speaking about how to get from La Fortuna to Santa Elena (in Monteverde).
This map gives a general idea of the geography of both areas and the journey that is made by car or shuttle around the top of Lake Arenal.
Distance from La Fortuna
When looking at a map, it may seem that a journey between the two destinations is pretty straightforward.
But, there is no direct road that runs from La Fortuna to Monteverde to the south of Lake Arenal through the national forest. Getting from La Fortuna to Monteverde, you will have to drive northwest, around the top of Lake Arenal and back down toward Monteverde.
La Fortuna to Monteverde by Car or Private Shuttle | ~110km (68 miles): or a 3 hour drive
La Fortuna to Monteverde by Shared Shuttle | ~110km (68 miles): or a 3.5 – 4 hour drive
La Fortuna to Monteverde by Van-Boat-Van Transfer | 3.5 hours incl. 30 min boat ride
Where is Monteverde?
The mountainous region of Monteverde is located at the northernmost edge of the Puntarenas Province and where the Guanacaste, Alajuela and Puntarenas provinces converge.
At the core of the Monteverde region, situated in the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range, you will find the town of Santa Elena, the main hub for Monteverde accommodation. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve lies east of the town.
Things to do in Monteverde
Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s premium eco-tourism destinations with so much to offer.
Take a hike through the misty Monteverde Cloud Forest, making sure to keep a lookout for birds and wildlife. Or, get your adrenaline pumping with the best ziplining in the country at the Selvatura Adventure Park, along with a walk through the picturesque Monteverde hanging bridges.
About La Fortuna
Where is La Fortuna?
The once-sleepy-farming town of La Fortuna is situated at the base of Arenal Volcano in the northern province of Alajuela. Located at the easternmost edge of Arenal Volcano National Park and Lake Arenal, La Fortuna Costa Rica is often noted as the gateway to the Guanacaste Peninsula and is the most visited adventure destination in the entire country.
Things to Do in La Fortuna
A visit to La Fortuna will have you strolling across the Mistico Hanging Bridges, standing in awe of the bright blue La Fortuna Waterfall, soaking in the thermal pools of Tabacon Hot Springs or Eco Termales Hot Springs, indulging in the delicious Costa Rican chocolate on a La Fortuna chocolate tour, swinging from the El Salto rope swing or day tripping to Rio Celeste.
After spending two weeks exploring all the best things to do in La Fortuna, I can undoubtedly say it lives up to the hype as one of the top adventure destinations in Central America.
READ MORE | The Complete La Fortuna Visitor’s Guide
By Airplane from La Fortuna
Monteverde does not have an airport. Therefore, the Monteverde Arenal route cannot be completed by airplane.
By Rental Car from La Fortuna
If you are comfortable driving in a foreign country, you can make the La Fortuna to Monteverde journey by rental car. Driving in Costa Rica is the best way to see the country, as a whole.
I personally use and recommend booking through Discover Cars. Whether you are looking for a budget Costa Rica car rental or looking to rent a 4×4 in Costa Rica, this platform has you covered.
What’s great about Discover Cars is they compare local, national and international rental companies to give you the best price. Plus, they give you full insurance coverage for only $7USD a day (30% lower than booking directly with the local company).
La Fortuna Car Rental
You can find car rental in La Fortuna Costa Rica along the streets surrounding La Fortuna central park.
Do note, that car rental companies in La Fortuna keep limited stock and can frequently sell out in the high season during the summer holidays from mid-June to mid-August and the dry season from mid-December to the end of April.
If you plan to visit during these times, please reserve your car rental ahead of time! The easiest way to do that is through Discover Cars.
Car Rental in Monteverde
If you have arrived in Monteverde by other means and are wanting to rent a car in Monteverde for the remainder of your Costa Rica itinerary, unfortunately, this option is not available to you. There are no Monteverde Costa Rica car rental companies in or around Santa Elena.
I would recommend picking up a car rental in either San Jose or La Fortuna and reserving first through Discover Cars.
Driving from La Fortuna to Monteverde
The drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde or from Monteverde Costa Rica to La Fortuna will take you on paved roads and dirt and winding roads. Starting in La Fortuna, follow the winding road 142 west out of downtown toward Lake Arenal. Follow along the coastal road up and around Lake Arenal until you reach the town of Tiliran. The road from La Fortuna to Tiliran is winding, but paved.
Turn left in Tiliran onto road 145. The road from Tiliran to the next pit stop will all be hard dirt and gravel. Make a stop at Viento Fresco Waterfall to get out and stretch.
NOTE | You do not need a 4×4 vehicle here, but high clearance is definitely recommended.
Follow the road upwards into the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range making a left onto road 606 in the village of El Dos de Tilaran (San Ramon). This section of the road is hard dirt and gravel but is very bumpy due to poor maintenance and potholes.
TIP | Keep an eye out for large potholes on road 606, as they are common.
By Shuttle from La Fortuna
Whether you choose a shared or private La Fortuna to Monteverde shuttle (or vice versa), you will likely be riding in a large minivan, giving you plenty of space to relax. The journey from La Fortuna to Monteverde or Monteverde to Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna will take approximately 3 hours for private transfers and 4 hours for shared shuttles.
Most shuttles (both private and shared) will offer complimentary hotel pick-up and drop-off.
All minivans are air-conditioned and the La Fortuna Monteverde journey will always include pit stops.
I use Book Away to reserve my Costa Rica shuttle because they offer better deals than booking directly with the shuttle companies.
By Van-Boat-Van from La Fortuna
The van-boat-van transfer (also known as the jeep boat jeep or taxi boat taxi transfer), is the most interesting way to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde if you don’t have a rental car.
Van-Boat-Van Transfer Duration | 3.5 hours
The scenic journey from La Fortuna to Monteverde will have you picked up at your La Fortuna hotel in a large van, and driven to the edge of Lake Arenal where you will board a medium-sized passenger boat. Note, that this is a shared experience, and is not private.
Take a 30-minute boat ride across the lake with Arenal Volcano as a beautiful background. Board another large van on the other side of the lake and make your way into the Cordillera de Tilaran mountain range towards Santa Elena and the Monteverde region. This part of the drive is absolutely stunning!
Drive from La Fortuna to Lake Arenal | 30 minutes
Boat Ride across Lake Arenal | 30 minutes
Drive from Lake Arenal to Santa Elena (Monteverde) | 1.5 hours
The actual travel time is 2 hours, but time is included for transferring luggage from the van to the boat and the boat to the van on either side of Lake Arenal. Also, with a shared shuttle experience, time is allotted for picking up all passengers from their designated hotel.
The van-boat-van transfer usually departs twice a day, one in the morning from 8-8:30AM and one around 2PM.
NOTE | The boat that crosses Lake Arenal does not accommodate cars or vehicles of any sort and is a passenger-only boat.
NOTE | The jeep boat jeep transfer is NOT a jeep. You will be picked up in a large van. I had a few fellow travellers disappointed by this fact.
By Bus from La Fortuna to Monteverde
While taking the La Fortuna Monteverde bus is the most economical option, it does come with a bit of hassle. There is no direct route for the Monteverde to La Fortuna bus or vice versa.
Tickets can be purchased at the bus station for around $5-10 USD. Do note, that most public buses in Costa Rica including a bus from La Fortuna to Monteverde (and reverse), do not offer air conditioning so make sure to arrive early (30-45minutes early) and snatch that coveted seat by the window.
The indirect bus from La Fortuna to Monteverde will depart from the La Fortuna bus station a block off the main square at 8AM (a 2-hour drive). It will stop in Tilaran where you will wait for the 1PM bus that travels to Santa Elena (Monteverde) and arrives around 4PM. Buses between Tiliran and Monteverde do not run past 3PM.
The same route is followed from the Monteverde bus station back through Tiliran to arrive in La Fortuna.
Bus from La Fortuna to Monteverde (and vice versa) | 8 hours
Monteverde vs La Fortuna
Researching where to go and stay can be a little overwhelming, especially when you only have 7 or 10 days in Costa Rica. La Fortuna and Monteverde may seem a bit similar from the outside, both are adventure centres, and both have zip lining and hanging bridges.
But, here are the main differences to make your choice between Monteverde or Arenal La Fortuna easier (if you really have to choose):
La Fortuna, Costa Rica (Arenal Region)
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
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