Monteverde vs. La Fortuna

Monteverde and La Fortuna, are both a stark contrast and a perfect showcase of Costa Rica’s ridiculous bountiful nature. From forest reserves to volcano parks and a freshwater lake, you can find a lot to wonder about around the interiors of Costa Rica.
Monteverde vs. La Fortuna

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Monteverde is a verdant expanse that offers outlandish scenes that can make you appreciate just how beautiful this Earth is. La Fortuna on the other hand educates you on how geological and natural history help shape the beauty of a nation. These precious locales further support Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida”. If you live alongside nature, living purely and simply is an everyday opportunity.


The mountain gem of Monteverde is literally translated as “green mountain”. The expanse truly epitomizes the fabled natural gifts of Costa Rica. From trekking in a sea of clouds to making coffee and chocolate, this green gem is a must-experience in the heights of Costa Rica.

Monteverde is perfect for the green-loving adventurous folks, who love to connect with both culture and nature. The district’s genius blend of culture and nature has perfectly shown how Costa Rica is a true champion of ecotourism.

What Makes Monteverde Unique?

A Forest in the Clouds

Located along a cordillera, or a mountain range, Monteverde’s Cloud Forest seems like a world away. Costa Rica never truly runs out of ecotourism destinations, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of its biggest attractions. This outstanding patch of lush vegetation that straddles atop receives over 70,000 visitors each year. The Cloud Forest is best reserved for the eco-conscious and the adventurous.

Aptly named “Cloud Forest”, for the pervasive mist that blows through the rainforest, you can surely find a plethora of natural wonders here. It is considered one of the rarest natural habitats in the world. Certainly, yet another addition to Costa Rica’s biodiverse resume. The stretch is home to a rich roster of both flora and fauna, many of which you can encounter on a hike.

As you trail through the forest, you’ll find a series of hanging bridges, natural walks, and especially hiking trails. The Cloud Forest boasts an expansive 34,594 acres (14,000 ha) worth of green, lush rainforest filled with natural gems worthy of preservation.

A Biological Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest is also one of Costa Rica’s biggest biological reserves. It was established for the sake of preserving this precious biodiverse expanse.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972 and encompassed only 810 acres of forest area at the time. Today, this diverse ecosystem stretches far beyond its original boundaries (to 35,000 acres). The expanse comprises eight microclimates and is home to a diverse set of wildlife. It is home to over 100 mammalian species, 400 avian species, and 1,200 amphibian and reptile species.

Monteverde has been a famous tourist destination in Costa Rica for more than 30 years. A 1983 National Geographic article, even dubbed it the “mecca for bird and wildlife lovers.” The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the area surrounding it continue to attract large numbers today.

The reserve welcomes everyone as part of the country’s ecotourism scene. The district aims to provide awareness and rake in revenue for its preservation at the same time. The cloud forest lures everyone from budding wildlife photographers, families, to even YouTubers.

You can also find a wealth of activities to do around the Cloud Forest and the entire Monteverde. Its vast expanse offers hiking, trekking, and the most famous one, ziplining.

Coffee and Chocolate

Before Costa Rica’s meteoric rise to tourism fame, the nation made money from eco-farming and exporting its homegrown goods. Two of these famous goods are cacao and coffee beans. You can expect to find stretches of cacao and coffee bean farms even across the heights of Monteverde. The district is home to a plethora of coffee shops and chocolate stores.

Perhaps two of the most popular activities, while you’re in Monteverde, are taking chocolate and coffee-tasting tours. You can easily find several of them on offer in Monteverde, but none is more popular than the Don Juan Coffee – Chocolate Tour.  A family business thriving in teaching visitors the process behind creating two of Costa Rica’s most famous products.

A Coffee Tour takes you around the farm, showcasing how coffee is made, from bean harvesting to the brewing of a cup of Costa Rican coffee. Other tours, like Don Juan, include a chocolate tour.

Tourists are taken through the entire process, from harvesting Cacao seeds to the making of a chocolate bar and hot cocoa drinks. Every chocolate tour ends with chocolate tasting, a rather sweet way to end a tour.

Other than coffee and chocolate tours you can take around Monteverde, the town is also speckled with an abundance of coffee shops. You can expect to explore a new one each day. So if you’re a coffee addict, you can try as many coffee shops as you can for the entirety of your stay in the small town. You can try places such as Orchid Coffee, Cafe Monteverde, and Choco Cafe.

Santa Elena

The Monteverde District is actually made up of two small separate towns, Monteverde and Santa Elena. If you’re keen on exploring places outside but near Monteverde, you can take a day trip to the neighboring town of Santa Elena.

The town is littered with a variety of establishments, such as bus stops, banks, health clinics, grocery shops, souvenir stores, and tour offices of various travel agencies. Santa Elena also has a post office, police station, supermarket, bar, and a number of inexpensive restaurants.

You can book horseback-riding tours of the Monteverde and Santa Elena Reserves here. Hiking expeditions and canopy tours of the surrounding areas can all be arranged from town as well. Skywalk trips, which are a popular way to see both of these cloud forests, can also be organized.

Because it is cold and rainy for the majority of the year, you should dress warmly when visiting.

You can easily hike in the wonderful reserve, and tour a stunning butterfly garden and hummingbird gardens. There is even a bat museum and a fascinating serpentarium nearby. You also visit some exquisite local art galleries. These are just a few of the attractions along the road from Santa Elena going up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

La Fortuna

This is one of Costa Rica’s jam-packed ecotourism locales. La Fortuna is quickly becoming a favorite among the outdoorsy and adventurous travelers. From a dormant volcano to a large lake, you can have a wide array of natural wonders in this fabled town. Not to mention, La Fortuna also has a thriving, quirky local town scene.

This famous gem is perfect if you want to have that sweet blend of nature, local culture, and interesting history. Plus, La Fortuna is just a ride away from the many wonders of interior Costa Rica. You’ll easily see how gifted the entire expanse is, after all, it isn’t named “La Fortuna” for nothing.

What Makes La Fortuna Unique?

The Arenal Volcano National Park

When you visit or just even drive through the mouth of San Carlos canton, in Costa Rica, you will be greeted by an imposing natural sight. The Arenal Volcano stands tall over the town of La Fortuna, looming, and preserving all its natural splendor. Now a dormant volcano, the Arena Volcano is not just overtly beautiful and majestic, it also holds great natural value.

Arenal was the most active volcano in Costa Rica until 2010. Arenal is still active (one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes), but after the 1968 eruption, the regular spilling of lava, gas, and ash came to a halt in 2010.

Visitors to the area can marvel at Arenal volcano’s 5,673 ft high (1.7 km), symmetrical, cone-shaped look. The volcano demonstrated activity between 1968 and 2010 but has since stopped. Currently, Arenal Volcano is regarded as “dormant” since 2010. Experts, on the other hand, anticipate that many more volcanic eruptions will occur in the unforeseeable future.

You can also do a whole slew of tours of cocoa fields, relax in geothermal springs, sloth watching, and river rafting. Plus, you can also do treks around Arenal Volcano National Park.

You can find many possibilities to see the various flora and fauna that Costa Rica has to offer in and around the Arenal Volcano National Park. If you want to witness a broad range of wildlife, including sloths, the national park offers some excellent opportunities.

1968 Arenal Route

This is the most recommended route to take and the most popular hiking trail at the foot of Arenal Volcano. The 1968 Route takes you around history and breathtaking volcano-made views. The eruption of July 1968 was momentous because it marked the birth of the Arenal.

Originally thought of as a green mountain, it woke up out of the blue with a series of eruptions and became the fabled Arenal Volcano. Now dormant and sleeping since 2010, tourists have plenty of places and angles to marvel at the volcano, right at its foot.

Access to the 1968 Trail is about 25 minutes from La Fortuna on the western side of the volcano. The trail is known for its close-up views of Arenal Volcano. These views provide a view of the previous lava flows, which have now cemented into rock and are flowing down the volcano’s slope and into the valley. You can find several volcanic boulders of varying sizes scattered around the lava field’s edge.

Adventurer’s Paradise

The whole region is rich in natural land and water formations, biodiversity, and spectacular vistas. You can certainly find an abundance of thrills and adventure around La Fortuna. La Fortuna offers a variety of activities for the curious and the adventurous nearby. Check out the Arenal Volcano National Park up to the town and the surrounding areas.

La Fortuna puts you in the middle of a plethora of interesting adventures. It is the starting point for the main route connecting the Arenal region, Lake Arenal, and the road to Guanacaste.

You can do horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canopy tours, and many others in the area. Also, apart from a hiking tour at the foot of the volcano, the nearby Arenal Lake also offers kayaking activities. And if you want to have downtime with a bit of an outdoor adventure, you can pack a picnic and hike to La Fortuna Waterfall.

Because the location is so popular with tourists, it’s likely that you’ll be taking some of these tours for the first time. That also means you have more options for accommodation. Thanks to its myriads of opportunities for adventure La Fortuna is also beginner-friendly. However, you can expect many other visitors as well.

Enjoy Nature’s Gifts

Probably the best-known fact about Costa Rica is that it is littered with natural wonders that are nothing short of spectacular. You can expect to find a lot in La Fortuna. You can find a whole slew of nature’s gifts in the area surrounding the town and the Arenal Volcano. From lush forests to pristine lakes, expect to want to stay a bit longer in town.

Here are some of the must-visits:

Geothermal Hot Springs

The natural springs that stem out at the foot of the volcano are naturally heated and thus became a spectacle of their own.  Thanks to the geothermal activity from the Arenal Volcano, now you have another draw that you must visit.

These hot springs aren’t just streams of fresh water; they also possess minerals that provide health benefits. A dip in the water can give you a refreshing feeling, and a renewed vitality to take on the beauty of the surrounding nature.

Hotels and resorts around the area have taken advantage of this gift and pumped the water into their own facilities such as pools. But you can enjoy these springs for free as well. You can soak in the water from the rivers nearby, just google the location and you’ll find pins leading you there.

La Fortuna Waterfalls

Another natural gem, the La Fortuna Waterfalls is another stop in the bountiful area where tourists love to flock. This 200-foot waterfall (61 m), located just outside of La Fortuna, is an excellent spot. You can have a picnic, swim, or take photos for that coveted Instagram post here. The falls rises from a lush forest and plunges into an emerald green natural pool below.

A jade-colored pool lies at the base of the waterfall, surrounded by mossy edges, large boulders, and a rainforest scene. The atmosphere is so peaceful that you could easily be tempted to spend a whole day sunbathing and soaking up the cold mist from the waterfall.

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is the country’s largest lake, and a popular must-visit when you’re in La Fortuna.  It sits right on the other side of the Arenal Volcano from La Fortuna. You can easily take the highway that juts out of the town and heads off further west, just around the volcano.

It’s around 19 miles (30 km) long and roughly 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point, with a 33-square-mile (85 sq. km) surface area. The sceneries, rocky slopes, and plush mountains that surround the lake are just as beautiful as the lake itself.

Visit Lake Arenal in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, for a unique, nature-filled experience. Especially if you’re looking for exhilarating, offbeat activities. Windsurfing, kayaking, recreational fishing, and a scenic boat cruise are all available.

The Town Itself

The town of La Fortuna de San Carlos is quaint, sleepy, and interesting.  Despite the nearby and surrounding natural thrills and adventures. Enjoying enduring fame, La Fortuna still lives up to its hype for, after all, a simple life coupled with natural wonders never goes out of style.

The town is built around a lovely park with vibrant gardens and a huge church. Arenal Volcano, the major attraction, serves as a backdrop and can be seen from nearly every vantage point. Many restaurants, hotels, tour operators, and businesses may be found on the streets around Central Park. On the route heading to the volcano and Lake Arenal, there is more accommodation.

The town is still charming and has a small-town feel to it. You’ll encounter Ticos in their daily lives among the tourist stores and cafes catering to the many visitors. You can even buy supplies for their farm, take a bite to eat, or simply sit on a park seat, like a local.

For foodies, you can visit places such as Chifa La Familia Feliz, Cafe Mediterraneo, and Chante Verde. If you’re a coffee addict you can try out Arabigos Coffee House, Cafeto Chill Out, and Organico Fortuna.

What Is Better – La Fortuna or Monteverde?

If you’re looking for a more jam-packed destination, having a little bit of everything you could ever want, La Fortuna is the best option. The town and everything in its close proximity is the epitome of ecotourism.

You can have a volcano, a trail below, waterfalls, a lake, and a plethora of many other natural wonders all at an arm’s reach from La Fortuna. Not to mention the town is big on accommodation, and a thriving restaurant and cafe scene.

Monteverde on another hand is best for a day trip. You have a cloud forest worthy of a few hours of hike and tours across its many varied features. And all can simply take less than a day. Plus, Monteverde is small and quite laid-back, the best thing to do here is to simply live with nature. The town doesn’t offer many thrills as La Fortuna, but it can be appealing only to a certain few.


Monteverde or La Fortuna First?

Whether you’re flying into San Jose or Liberia Airport, the shortest travel goes to Monteverde. Travelers who have been to both destinations recommended heading to Monteverde first, as it is more accessible from the capital. Plus, Monteverde is just around three hours away.

Most people prefer to visit Monteverde first because of how you can explore the district in little time. La Fortuna, on the other hand, has myriads of draws and features, especially the Arenal Area.

Can You Visit Monteverde From La Fortuna?

If you’re staying in La Fortuna, you can easily take a bus or a tour shuttle from there to Monteverde. Many travelers often put the two destinations together in a single itinerary. Just a few hours away, you can easily explore Monteverde’s green bounties in less than a day.

Can You Do a Day Trip to Monteverde From La Fortuna?

With its proximity, it’s easy to do a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna. Plus, Monteverde doesn’t offer as many thrills and features as La Fortuna does, especially with Arenal in its footsteps. You can easily head up to the cordilleras via buses, rental cars, shuttle service, or private transfer.

How Far Is Monteverde From La Fortuna?

Monteverde is approximately 16 miles (25 km) from La Fortuna, directly. Taking the high road, the distance is around 50 miles (80.5 km).

How to Get From La Fortuna to Monteverde

You can only get between them by land, taking the long route by wheels. Buses, Rental cars, shuttle services, and private transfers are the best and most common ways.

Best Route From La Fortuna to Monteverde

The best roads to use to get to Monteverde from La Fortuna or Lake Arenal are Route 142 to Tilaran, then Route 145 to 606. The journey from La Fortuna takes around three to four hours. Expect to be met by a mix of paved and dirt roads getting there.

How Long Does It Take to Get From Monteverde to La Fortuna?

Braving the high road, it can only take around three hours or so to drive between Monteverde and La Fortuna.

How Is the Drive From La Fortuna to Monteverde?

Expect to have a varied experience from the drive to La Fortuna to Monteverde. Most roads between them have varying qualities. You will have to go through paved roads, dirt roads, long winding roads climbing up the mountains, and even mountainside roads. Drivers are advised to be extra cautious.

Where Do You Stop Between La Fortuna and Monteverde?

The route between these destinations is littered with natural wonders and quaint towns to explore. You can have both cultural and natural experiences from your journey, which always seems like a bonus for avid explorers.

You can stop by Lake Arenal, and check out many miradors, or viewing spots. The town of Tilaran is also another ideal stop if you want to take a breather from the wheels, and get familiar with the local culture.

Chances are you’ll find a plethora of hidden natural and authentic gems across the route. If you’re up for a quick stop on a waterfall, visiting Viento Fresco just outside of Tilaran is a favorite as well.

Things to Do Between La Fortuna and Monteverde

The road between La Fortuna and Monteverde are much like these towns as well, you can find plenty of cultural and natural activities to do. Considering if you’re not tight on time that is.

Lake Arenal is an ideal stop and offers plenty of activities from fishing, kayaking, or just plain sightseeing. You can take a stop at Lake Arenal around highway 142.

You can also take guided tours around the many natural wonders littered across each side of the lake. However, none can compare to the experience waiting for you at each end of the journey.

How Much Is the Bus From La Fortuna to Monteverde?

Traveling between La Fortuna and Monteverde by bus is the cheapest option, with only 9 USD one way.