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How To Get From Monteverde To Arenal

Map on How to Get From Monteverde to Arenal

Getting From Monteverde to Arenal

Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel from Monteverde to Arenal every year. And you might be planning on going this route, but you’re probably not sure whether or not you should rent a car, hire a private transportation service, or use the Costa Rican public transportation system to make it, right?

Don’t worry. I got you. Many people have come to me with this question, and I’ve helped them find the best ways to get from Monteverde to Arenal in the most appropriate way. People have different backgrounds and needs. Thus, what may work for some might not work for others.

Therefore, this article will discuss the main ways to get from Monteverde to Arenal, from using public buses to hiring a private transportation service. Let’s dive in and find out which option is best for you.

Disclaimer: I’m not too fond of ads on educational pages like this one because it ruins the reader experience. Therefore, I keep my website ad-free. However, I still need a way to make a living. Thus, this article contains affiliate links to book transportation, from which I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. After reading this post, if you decide to book a tour, please consider using the links on this post so that I can continue sharing unbiased, helpful information with your support. 

The Best Ways To Get From Monteverde To Arenal

  1. Public Transportation
  2. Jeep Boat Jeep Transfer
  3. Private Car Service
  4. Driving (Car Rental)

Let’s dive right in:

There are four ways to get from Monteverde to Arenal. You can use public transportation, go on the Jeep Boat Jeep, hire a private transportation service, rent a car, and drive. Generally, the first two options are more affordable, but the latter is more convenient.

Public transportation is the cheapest way to get from Monteverde to Arenal, while driving is the fastest way to travel. On the other hand, getting a private transportation service is the easiest option, while going on a group shuttle gives you the best balance of price and comfort.  

Keep scrolling to find out how each option ranks against each other based on its pros and cons, and learn a few tips and recommendations to help you make the best out of your trip from Monteverde to Arenal. 

Let’s start by comparing the different ways to get from Monteverde to Arenal by how affordable each option is:

Most Affordable Ways to Get from Monteverde to Arenal

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Transportation $10 – $15
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Jeep Boat Jeep $30 – $67
Private Transfer $90 – $100


  • The above rates do not include the 13% IVA tax.
  • These prices assume there is a minimum of two travelers.
  • Renting a car consists of the base rate, insurance, and fuel.
  • Prices can fluctuate throughout the year based on the market conditions and demand.

Keep reading more detailed information on each service and how they work.

How To Get from Monteverde to Arenal by Bus

a passenger bus that is parked on the side of a road

The cheapest way to get from Monteverde to Arenal is to use the public transportation system, but it isn’t easy. You will need to depart from Monteverde early, and it will take about half a day to get to Arenal. 

In addition to this long travel time, you will need to take two or three buses (depending on the route you choose, which I will explain soon), and doing this can be a challenge if you don’t speak fluent Spanish. That’s why I only recommend it if you are traveling on a tight budget. And if this is your case, stick around as I explain how to get from Monteverde to Arenal using public transportation.

Let’s go over this process step by step. I will include the links to Google Maps, so you can easily find where to take each bus. 

First, you must take the bus to Route 145 Monteverde – Tilaran. Please note that there are no terminals in Monteverde for this route, and you can’t purchase your tickets in advance as this route is rural and doesn’t have an office or a website. You catch this bus at 7 am at the Monteverde Cheese Factory in Monteverde, or 7:10 am in front of Hotel El Sueno in Santa Elena. The bus runs daily, costs $1.50 (930 Costa Rican Colones), and arrives at Tilaran at around 9 am.  

Even though the Monteverde – Tilaran bus makes a few stops in the small country towns of El Dos, La Florida, San Miguel, and Quebrada Grande, you must get off at the last stop at the Tilaran Terminal

Once in the Terminal, you can buy tickets for your next bus Route 142 Tilaran – La Fortuna, for about $5 per person. However, you will need to wait a few hours for the La Fortuna bus to depart. The bus leaves Tilaran at 12:15 pm and follows route 142 around Arenal’s Lake before arriving at La Fortuna at about 3 pm. 

Map of the Bus Route 142 from Tilaran to La Fortuna

Depending on your Hotel/Airbnb location, you may be able to stop along the bus route and walk to it. Therefore, it’s vitally essential to prepare beforehand. Make sure you know exactly where your lodge is. And if possible, try asking your host if the place is en route. Some inns, such as Agua Inn in Nuevo Arenal or Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, are right along the bus route.

Note: Even though the 142 route passes through where most lodgings are in Arenal, it does not go through El Castillo, a sector between Arenal and La Fortuna. El Castillo is home to Arenal’s Volcano National Park and a few iconic lodges like Rancho Margot, Nepenthe B&B, and Essence Arenal Boutique Hostel. Therefore, if you’re heading to this area, you must wait to arrive at La Fortuna and then take a taxi to El Castillo, which will cost about $20. 

Getting from Monteverde to Arenal by Car

Driving from Monteverde to Arenal

Now that we know how long it takes to get from Monteverde to Arenal using public transportation, let’s talk about how to make this trip much faster. 

Driving is the fastest way to get from Monteverde to Arenal, which will take between 3 and 4 hours. A more precise estimate will depend on the traffic conditions and your experience driving around Costa Rica. On average, tourists take 4 hours to drive from Monteverde to Arenal.

Fastest Ways to Get from Monteverde to Arenal

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Driving (Car Rental)* 3 – 4 Hours
Private Transfer* 3 – 4 Hours
Jeep Boat Jeep 4 – 5 Hours
Public Bus 8 – 9 Hours

*Going on a Private Transfer will be faster than Driving if you’re not used to driving in Costa Rica.

There Isn’t a Ferry Across Lake Arenal

Before moving on with the driving instructions from Monteverde to Arenal, let’s explore a question I get asked frequently; Is there a ferry across Lake Arenal?

There is not a ferry across Lake Arenal. If you’re driving from Monteverde to Arenal or vice versa, you must move around the lake either through the outer or inner sides. The outer side goes through Tilaran and is 100% paved. However, the inner side is unpaved and crosses a river, so you need a 4×4 vehicle.

Keep reading for more details on this.

How to Get from Monteverde to Arenal by Car

There are three ways you can get from Monteverde to Arenal by Car. You can drive through Route 1 and then take San Ramon’s Route 702. Alternatively, you can use the most common road through Tilaran’s Route 142 around Arenal Lake’s outer side. Lastly, you can drive around Arenal Lake’s inner side through Rio Chiquito crossing Cano Negro’s River.

Driving from Monteverde to Arenal through San Ramon

Driving through San Ramon is the most comfortable (100% paved roads). However, it requires the longest driving time (approximately 4.5 hours), so Google Maps will not show this alternative. This route is my preferred way of traveling when the unpaved roads of Tilaran are in excessive bad shape, usually during September and October when it rains the heaviest.

If you’d like to use this route, you should set your GPS from Monteverde to San Ramon first, and once you get to San Ramon, you must set your GPS from San Ramon to Arenal.

Note: The road from San Ramon to Arenal is dark and full of sharp turns and clouds as you cross the San Ramon’s Cloud Forest area of Los Angeles de San Ramon. Therefore, I don’t recommend this route if you’re traveling after 5 pm.

Map of Driving from Monteverde to Arenal through San Ramon Part 1

Map of Driving from Monteverde to Arenal through San Ramon Part 2

Driving from Monteverde to Arenal through Rio Chiquito

On the other hand, driving from Monteverde to Arenal through Rio Chiquito is only doable with a 4×4 car and during the summertime from December through April, when the Cano Negro River’s water level is low. I love this route. It’s ultra scenic and quiet. It feels like you’re crossing the jungle. And you save about 30 minutes compared to going around the outer side of the lake.

If you’d like to use this route, you should set your GPS from Monteverde to El Castillo first, and once you get to El Castillo, you must set your GPS from El Castillo to Arenal.

Note: Don’t try to cross this river during the rainy season, even if you have a 4×4, as you may get stuck in the river. No one has died from getting stuck there, but some locals have lost their vehicles this way. Similarly, don’t try to cross this river with a low, non-4×4 car. You’ll get stuck. I also don’t recommend using this route after 5 pm because it’s very dark, and there are very few houses along the way to help in an emergency.

Map of Driving from Monteverde to Rio Chiquito

Map of Driving from Rio Chiquito to Arenal

Cons of Driving from Monteverde to Arenal

Driving from Monteverde to Arenal has a couple of caveats you should consider before you decide on renting a car to make this trip. 

There Are No Car Rentals Based in Monteverde

The main problem with driving from Monteverde to Arenal is no car rental agencies based in Monteverde. So, if you plan to arrive at Monteverde using public transportation and then drive from Monteverde to Arenal, that will not be an option. 

Keep the above in mind when planning your trip to Monteverde. If you decide that you want to drive a vehicle from Monteverde to your next destination, you will need to have come to Monteverde by car in the first place. And in that case, I recommend using the Rental Car Comparison Tool. You can find the best car rental deals in one place. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick up a rental car, and the tool will instantly show you the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. 

If you are already in Monteverde and don’t have a car, go ahead and skip the rest of this section, as it will not apply to you.

Driving is Not Always the Fastest Way to Get from Monteverde to Arenal

As mentioned above, driving from Monteverde to Arenal takes about 3 hours. However, these averages are more realistic and applicable to those used to driving in Costa Rica. They do not necessarily apply to foreigners. 

The Google Maps average time from Monteverde to Arenal uses real-time traffic speed to calculate the estimated travel time. However, most tourists drive at a significantly slower pace than locals. You will experience this if you decide to rent a car for your trip to Costa Rica. More likely than not, you will drive more slowly than Costa Ricans, and that’s because you will probably want to enjoy the incredible scenery, while the average local will be rushing to get home from work. 

As a general rule, I recommend adding 30 to 60 minutes to the estimated driving time the GPS device/app gives you. I recommend using Waze, the most popular GPS traffic system in Costa Rica. I drive approximately 50,000 kilometers per year (about 31,000 miles), and in my experience, Waze tends to be more accurate than Google Maps. The only drawback is that you need internet data to use Waze, so you will want to buy a chip with internet data if you want to use it.

Driving is Not the Easiest Way to Get from Monteverde to Arenal

Driving from San Jose to Arenal is simple, but it’s not always easy. There are crazy local drivers, unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, and narrow roads in bad shape. 

As mentioned above, Costa Ricans drive significantly faster than foreigners. In addition to this, since we know the roads, as locals, we can make risky moves that might scare someone who has never driven in our country. 

On the other hand, you have the unpredictable weather conditions of Costa Rica. You might be driving with a clear sky when suddenly a cloud forms ahead, pouring rain all over the place. Driving under changing weather conditions might not be such a big problem during the summertime from December through April, but it can get extremely challenging during the rainy season. 

In Costa Rica, the rainy season is not so bad from May through August. However, it can get scary sometimes during September and October, especially if you stumble upon a storm while driving. These are the top 2 rainy months and the top months for accidents on the road. 

The rain also causes a lot of damage to the roads, which worsens during the rainy season. Many potholes come to life during this time of the year, and it takes a couple of months for the government to repair the cracks. 

A tourist’s main problem with potholes is that they can make a vehicle’s tire explode. Exploding tires do not usually cause many accidents in Costa Rica. However, they can easily create a trip very stressful for a tourist, who will need to phone in the car rental to get another vehicle and then file the insurance paperwork. It’s not dramatic, but it can ruin a few hours of your dream vacation time. 

Getting from Monteverde to Arenal with a Private Car Service

Private Car Service from Monteverde to Arenal

We have already explored how complicated it is to get from Monteverde to Arenal using public transportation. We also covered how driving can be problematic, so what’s the easiest way to make this trip? 

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from Monteverde to Arenal. With a private shuttle, you can arrange a specific time and place, and a transportation company will pick you up there and take you to your lodge in Arenal within 3 hours. 

With this private door-to-door service, you don’t need to worry about carrying your luggage or catching a bus in the middle of the public road, compromising your safety and belongings. 

You also don’t need to worry about driving in a foreign country with roads that might differ significantly from the streets you’re used to riding back home. 

Instead, you arrange the pickup time and place. Then, a local professional driver will pick you up with a modern vehicle to take you from your departure place in Monteverde to your destination in Arenal. 

The only disadvantage of hiring this type of transportation service is the price. Going on a private transfer is the most expensive way to get from Monteverde to Arenal. It’s the most comfortable, convenient, and straightforward option but also pricey. 

Depending on the pickup and dropoff places, a private transfer will usually cost $210 for 1 to 6 passengers. The pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, if you want to travel at night, the prices might get $20+ higher for this service. 

Prices for private transfers are also subject to increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead of time. 

However, there is a couple of scenarios where hiring a private transfer will not be the most expensive option to get from Monteverde to Arenal.

Hiring a Private Car Service from Monteverde is pricey but fast and convenient. I especially recommend it for those who prefer to relax over driving on narrow, bumpy roads or crossing the lake on a boat. The Private Car will not go through the lake as the Jeep Boat Jeep Service (coming next) but around the lake.

Jeep Boat Jeep from Monteverde to Arenal

Jeep Boat Jeep Tour from Monteverde to Arenal

Using the Jeep Boat Jeep Service from Monteverde to Arenal is an excellent choice for solo travelers and couples. A Jeep Boat Jeep (also known as Taxi Boat Taxi) is a door-to-door shared service where a shuttle picks you up at your lodge in Monteverde and takes you to Arenal’s lake. Then, you take a boat to cross Arenal’s lake. And finally, you take another shuttle from the other side of the lake to your lodge in Arenal. 

Generally, taking the Jeep Boat Jeep, or the “Taxi Boat Taxi,” as the locals call it, is the most recommended door-to-door way to get from Monteverde to Arenal for most travelers. The Jeep Boat Jeep is convenient and provides the best balance, saving time and money for travelers in most cases.

You share space and cost with fellow travelers on the Jeep Boat Jeep. Using this option to get to Arenal will be far more convenient than riding the public bus and significantly less expensive than hiring a private transfer. 

Using the Jeep Boat Jeep is also more manageable and less stressful than renting a car and driving. The price can change depending on the seasonality and demand, but it’s usually around $27 per person. 

Here’s the end of this article. Thank you for reading this far, and feel free to share this info with fellow travelers as you deem appropriate. Happy travels and ¡Pura Vida, amigos!

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde holding a mountain bikeDaniel Lalinde

I am the founder of MonteTours Costa Rica. I live in Monteverde and love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time outdoors and dining in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, coffee shop, or restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!

We love helping visitors and connecting them with the different tours and activities to have a memorable experience in Monteverde.

If you need help planning things to do in the area, send us a message, and we will happily assist you! 


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