How To Make A Day Trip To Monteverde From La Fortuna (Arenal) Or Vice Versa

Ricky & Nikki

Ricky & Nikki – We’re “Happy Hypocrites” (learn why below)!

This blog post is going to be a bit of a hypocritical one.

Once and a while travellers ask us for our advice in doing something that we secretly wish they wouldn’t do. Like parents coaching their adolescent children through the process of choosing a university or college to attend when one option is located close to home and the other is miles away. Although many parents support their offspring’s desire to soar independently, I suspect many more secretly hope that their birdie will stay close to the nest. We too, suffer from a similar internal struggle. Would we ever set travellers up for disappointment or failure? Of course not (all of the time that we have invested in building Costa Rica Travel Blog as a free online trip planning resource is proof of that). Do travellers sometimes make decisions that are not as cost efficient or as time efficient as they could be, in our opinion? Sure, but that’s all part of the learning process. Hence, the hypocrisy of our point: sometimes travellers ask us for our advice in doing something that we secretly wish they wouldn’t do, and we hold our tongue. Would we stop them from making decisions (that they have come to on their own terms after careful consideration of a variety of factors, including those touched on in our other blog posts) in order for us to get our way? No, but that doesn’t mean we need to fully agree with the decision’s outcome either. When we provide as much information as we can for travellers to sift through, including our recommendations for options “X” and “Y”, it is inevitable that sometimes option “Z” will be chosen. And, we are okay with that. We may clench our jaw a little when it happens (only because we pride ourselves on having travellers’ best interests at heart, and when we see them proceed with their trip planning in a direction that we don’t see a ton of value in it saddens us as we feel they are missing out). But, we’ll get over it. As is the case with adults allowing teenagers to grow up and move on, we would never stand in the way of travellers researching, comparing, narrowing down, and eventually deciding on the trip items that are best for them via the means they feel most comfortable.

So, what is the most common question we are asked by travellers for which we provide an answer that we secretly wish they wouldn’t follow us up on? “How to make a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna (Arenal) or vice versa.” Why do we answer this question for travellers? Because we would be lying if we said it wasn’t possible to accomplish, and in true Costa Rica Travel Blog style, we are all about full disclosure. Why do we hope that travellers don’t take us up on our answer? Because once city-to-city transportation comfort, precious vacation time, and budget concerns have been factored in, the day trip may not be worth the effort.

Nikki in La Fortuna (Arenal) & Ricky in Monteverde

Nikki in La Fortuna (Arenal) & Ricky in Monteverde

Let’s get our recommendations out of the way off the top.

La Fortuna (Arenal) AND/OR Monteverde: The Eternal Question

First and foremost, the majority of travellers who opt to visit Costa Rica plan to visit La Fortuna (Arenal), Monteverde, or both destinations during their trip. Some have a hard time deciding which of the two areas to visit and/or whether it would be advantageous to plan visits to both areas during the same vacation. To those who are undecided, we recommend reading our related blog post: Should You Visit La Fortuna (Arenal), Monteverde, Or Both Destinations During Your Costa Rica Vacation? as it will help you tremendously. Obviously, if you have decided to visit both La Fortuna (Arenal) and Monteverde during your trip, you have little interest in the content of this blog post given that a day trip to either of these areas from the other would be redundant. On the other hand, travellers who decide to visit one of the two destinations during their trip (regardless of whether La Fortuna or Monteverde is chosen) often wonder whether a day trip would be a good option in order to experience both areas without needing to plan separate stays at each. To these travellers we recommend skipping the day trip. There is no doubt that we see the value in visiting both La Fortuna (Arenal) and Monteverde (our blog post linked to above makes that point quite clearly), however if and when travellers have decided to visit one of the two areas during their trip, then we recommend committing to that decision fully by letting go of the idea of a day trip. Our reasoning for this choice will become evident below, however our best recommendation is that travellers follow one of the following two trip plans:

1. Plan to spend a few days/nights in the La Fortuna (Arenal) AND Monteverde areas.

How many days/nights you would prefer to spend in each area is up to you, but commit to travelling to, staying over at, and exploring both destinations during your vacation. This vacation plan would involve adding La Fortuna (Arenal) and Monteverde to the trip itinerary as two separate destinations/stops.

2. Plan to spend a few days/nights in either the La Fortuna (Arenal) OR Monteverde area.

How many days/nights you would prefer to spend in the area is up to you, but commit to travelling to, staying over at, and exploring only one of the two destinations during your vacation. This vacation plan would involve relinquishing the idea of experiencing what both areas have to offer during your trip.

Ricky & Nikki - Van-Boat-Van from La Fortuna to Monteverde

Ricky & Nikki – Van-Boat-Van Service from La Fortuna (Arenal) to Monteverde

Accomplishing A Day Trip

Choosing between recommendation #1 and recommendation #2 above seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Not exactly, as so many of us want to have our cake and eat it to. And later, follow it up with a second or third piece. I can’t blame any traveller for wanting to do so however, as I would consider myself somewhat of a hungry traveller too; I want to fit in as much as possible in order to make the most out of every trip. So, for those of you who can only afford (given time and/or budget constraints) to schedule a visit to either La Fortuna (Arenal) or Monteverde, but still want to squeeze in a limited experience at the other location (ie. if you are looking for a third option that merges the benefits of the first and second options noted above), here are three methods of accomplishing this:

METHOD A) Reserve an organized 1-day tour (note: this option is available to visit the Monteverde area to/from La Fortuna, however not to visit the La Fortuna area to/from Monteverde)

This method highlights the 1-Day Monteverde Tour which includes round-trip transportation between La Fortuna hotels and Monteverde as well as 1 tour/activity in the Monteverde region. The day is typically comprised of the morning van-boat-van service (which departs from the La Fortuna area around 8:30am and arrives into the Monteverde area around 11:30pm-12:00pm), a canopy ziplining tour OR a hanging bridges tour (one of the two, according to the traveller’s preference), and the afternoon van-boat-van service (which departs from the Monteverde area around 2:30pm and arrives into the La Fortuna area around 5:30pm-6:00pm).


  • Little effort/organization is required (beyond simply reserving the 1-day tour option)


  • Cost
  • The tour operator’s requirement of a minimum number of participants to run the tour (typically a minimum of 4 people)
  • Pre-determined 1-day tour duration and transfer services (van-boat-van services including set travel times)
  • Low tour/activity participation freedom (travellers may choose to participate in either a canopy ziplining tour or a hanging bridges tour)
METHOD B) Organize your own 1-day tour via the popular van-boat-van service (otherwise known as the jeep-boat-jeep service)

This method allows travellers to create their own custom 1-day tour to Monteverde from La Fortuna (Arenal) or vice versa. Since the van-boat-van service departs from La Fortuna (Arenal) and Monteverde twice daily (at approximately 8:30am and 2:30pm from the La Fortuna area en route to Monteverde and approximately 8:30am and 2:30pm from the Monteverde area en route to La Fortuna), the day’s schedule will be similar to that followed by the organized 1-day tour method provided above. With this method however, travellers are free to build their own custom visit and are not limited to the tour/activity automatically included in the 1-day tour described above (ie. the canopy ziplining tour or the hanging bridges tour). Instead, travellers can choose whichever tour/activity they would like to participate in while visiting the La Fortuna (Arenal) or Monteverde area, so long as the tour/activity chosen can be run at a time that suits the van-boat-van service arrival/departure times and has a tour duration no longer than the window of time available to explore the area as determined by the two van-boat-van services.

Note: for more information about the van-boat-van service, please read our related blog post: Your Best Transportation Options Between Monteverde And La Fortuna (Costa Rica).


  • Cost
  • No need to meet a minimum number of participants requirement
  • Moderate tour/activity participation freedom (travellers are free to choose the tour/activity they would like to participate in, within the parameters set by the van-boat-van services)


  • Moderate effort/organization is required (to reserve the van-boat-van services and the chosen tour/activity)
  • Pre-determined 1-day tour duration and transfer services (van-boat-van services including set travel times)
METHOD C) Organize your own 1-day tour via alternative transfer services (including a mix of van-boat-van services, shared shuttle services, private transfer services, and/or use of your own vehicle rental).

This method allows travellers to create their own custom 1-day tour to Monteverde from La Fortuna (Arenal) or vice versa, with the utmost schedule flexibility. Given that the van-boat-van service arrival and departure times leave little time mid-day for travellers to take in much of the area they intend to visit, alternative transfer services allow travellers to manipulate various aspects of the 1-day tour including the departure and return times–two critical elements in helping to extend the duration of the day–affording travellers the freedom to choose more than 1 tour/activity to participate in and with greater tour/activity scheduling ease. Ffor example. travellers could choose to depart from La Fortuna at 6:00am via a private transfer service to Monteverde, stay in Monteverde all day, and then depart from Monteverde at 7:00pm via a private transfer service back to La Fortuna, maximizing time spent in Monteverde throughout the day.

Note: if opting to build your own custom day trip, reference the following links for transportation options from La Fortuna (Arenal) to Monteverde, transportation options from Monteverde to La Fortuna (Arenal), tour/activity options in Monteverde, and tour/activity options in La Fortuna (Arenal).


  • Flexible 1-day tour duration and transfer services
  • Significant tour/activity participation freedom (travellers are free to choose the tour/activity – or more than one – that they would like to participate in)
  • No need to meet a minimum number of participants requirement


  • Cost
  • Significant effort/organization is required (to reserve the transportation services, to reserve the chosen tours/activities, and to coordinate the scheduling for each)
Along the drive from La Fortuna (Arenal) to Monteverde

Along the drive from La Fortuna (Arenal) to Monteverde

Yes, A Day Trip Is Possible. But Should You Take It?

Now that we have outlined the three most common methods of accomplishing a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna (Arenal) or vice versa, let us explain why we wouldn’t recommend either method A, B, or C over planning separate stays at both destinations during your trip (recommendation #1 above), or else simply choosing one destination to visit over the other (recommendation #2 above). Most of our reasoning is routed in helping travellers make the best and most comfortable use of their precious vacation time. Anyone who has researched the roads leading into and out of the Monteverde region already knows that they are certainly not models of fine transportation. In fact, they are some of the bumpiest and most rugged road terrain that the country has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, the mountainous landscape lining the way is stunning (it is one of the reasons why we love visiting Monteverde), however just because the route’s beauty is an asset doesn’t mean its foundation isn’t a liability. The unpaved, pothole-lined, stone-covered path that is required to get into and out of the area comes with the territory (literally!) when opting to visit Monteverde, and those who plan to make a day trip into and out of the area (en route between La Fortuna and Monteverde, or vice versa) must travel the route twice, in the same day! We should also mention that the one-way trip is an approximate 3-3.5 hour one (fortunately, only a portion of this route is what most travellers would consider to be uncomfortable, as other parts offer a paved highway), so depending on your car sickness tolerance level, travelling the route twice in a short period of time could be a nuisance. Then there is the issue of wasted vacation time. Sure, we could argue any day that no time spent in Costa Rica could ever be wasted (there is always a rare species of bird to look out for, a tree to admire, and/or a mountain in the distance to wonder about), but we’d be fools if we assumed that all travellers care about these small details to the same extent that we do. Putting the there’s beauty in everything mentality aside, there is little benefit to travelling to and from Monteverde or to and from La Fortuna (Arenal) twice in one day, apart from the opportunity it presents travellers with to experience a new area. If you feel as if a short trip to Monteverde or La Fortuna (Arenal) from the other would be a wise use of your vacation time then you likely won’t mind investing the required 6-7 hours of round-trip transportation time required to make the trip happen. On the other hand, if you feel as if your vacation time would be better put towards something else (such as relaxing, taking in more tours/activities, shopping/exploring the town center of the area you plan to stay at, etc.), then perhaps the additional transportation time required to make the day trip would in fact be a waste and not worth the reward. Of course, the trip budget is another concern. Bottomless pockets won’t have a problem with the costs associated with a day trip, but money-conscious (and money-cautious) travellers will. Methods A, B, and C noted above all require travellers to pay for their day trip experience, albeit different amounts (ranging in costs) to a variety of tourism vendors. Although we are smart enough to know that not taking a day trip has its own cost too (ie. if you opt to skip a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna, chances are you will spend your free day in La Fortuna doing something that has a cost associated with it anyway), we’ve also been in the business long enough to know that the expense of taking a day trip to a new destination is most often significantly higher than the expense of simply staying put. Perhaps the added expense would be peanuts compared to the extra experience obtained, or perhaps it would take an otherwise budget-friendly vacation from affordable to out-of-reach. That’s for you (not us) to decide. 🙂

Overall, when travellers ask us whether they can take a day trip to Monteverde from La Fortuna (Arenal) or vice versa our answer is: Yes (we hope Methods A, B, and C outlined above help illustrate how). Would we recommend making the trip? No, but that’s simply our opinion and we would never stand in a traveller’s way of doing so if that is what he or she would like for their trip. For this reason, we are left with what will likely be the most hypocritical post we have ever published; a post that walks travellers through the process of accomplishing a particular aspect of Costa Rica trip planning that we do not 100% believe in. What we do believe in however, is you and your ability to make informed decisions regarding your own vacation. And, if that means trading sincerity and our preferences for transparency so you can better accommodate your wants and needs, we’ll take on the role of being happy hypocrites any day.

Nikki & Ricky - Looking Out On Our Future Together From Cerro Chato

Nikki & Ricky – yes, we really do see the beauty in everything!

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you taken a day trip to either Monteverde or La Fortuna (Arenal) from the other, visited both destinations, or visited one or the other? Let us know about your experience!

Pura vida!

8 responses to “How To Make A Day Trip To Monteverde From La Fortuna (Arenal) Or Vice Versa

  1. Travelers to Costa Rica have no idea until they actually experience this. We did a whirlwind tour of CR, which suits our traveling style. We stayed a couple of nights in Tortuguero, a couple in La Fortuna, one night in Monteverde, and a couple of nights in Manuel Antonio. We happen to like road trips, so we enjoyed the long, albeit bumpy roads that gave us a chance to see more of beautiful Costa Rica. As much as we loved all of the places, we fell in love with Monteverde. One 24 hour period was not enough time for us to adequately explore the area, but we are happy we made the trip. For us it worked to take the taxi-boat-taxi to Monteverde and take a 1:00 shuttle the next day to our next location. That gave us time to take a night tour and take another tour the next morning, and also allowed time to try some restaurants and see the famous strangler fig and the town of Santa Elena. I cannot imagine trying to do the trip in one day. I would have felt very disappointed. As it is, 24 hours was not quite enough time to make us truly satisfied, but at least we know where we are going when we return.

  2. Thank you for this. We are planning to come to CR for a week and have 3 days at the beach, 3 days in La Fortuna, and 1 day in San Jose. We were planning to take a day trip to Monteverde, but you may have just saved us what is likely to be a VERY long day with 2 kids and some arguing to boot. Thanks for your honest opinions.

    • Beki –
      No problem at all! Thank you for your interest in our blog and for your comment. Wishing you and the family an absolutely WONDERFUL time here! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • billjoehunter –
      That is great to hear! We would love to read it when available. Will you be visiting Monteverde as a distinct destination during your trip (ie. you will plan to spend at least 1 night in the area) or will you be visiting via a day trip (and/or passing through just for the day)?
      Pura vida! 🙂

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