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Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

San Francisco, CA
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Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

We (2 adults one 11 year old) are traveling to CR in February for 7 nights. The plan is to rent a car and drive but I am concerned about what I've read about road conditions in the Monteverde area. According to Fodor's, "The roads to the area are some of the worst in the country" yet "don't let that deter you from a visit". Our intinerary is SJ to Manuel Antonio then up to Santa Elena (Monteverde) and back through San Ramon to the airport. That time of year is purported to be warmer and drier so presumably driving will be the most optimal. I am also confused by one post (the reverse drive from Monteverde to MA) from 2007 which indicated it is a 5 hour drive (roads were in the process of being paved) while Google Maps says 2 1/2 hours. Have the roads been paved since then? Is it worth the effort and would you recommend Arenal over it? Part of the reason for going is to stay at Hidden Canopy. I have a detailed map so I'll be able to follow detailed comments.

San Francisco, CA
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11. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

To all who have replied to date, thank you in advance for making our trip to CR all that more special and enjoyable, especially your tips for stopping along the way. We do enjoy adventurous travel (driving around Alaska last summer) so I expect we will neither be disappointed or annoyed by our adventures in CR. Won't hesitate to re-post if I have further questions!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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12. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Thank you xelas as you mentioned it is really a 4 hour drive from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio plus stops for someone that really wants to enjoy the country, respecting speed limits and conditions of the road.

Punta Arenas, Costa...
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13. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

MikeA943 brings up an important point to respect the speed limits.

CR has been counting more and more on road fine revenue and I believe the police have a zero tolerance for poor driving. At the same time, respect Costa Rica, simply put, a traveler who is not familiar with the route can easily get into trouble by a lack of diligence when it comes to road conditions...and a 4x4 as opposed to a small car might give that extra traction when it's needed most. Those of us who have traveled this road know the surprises found around the turns, and I would not navigate this road w/out 4x4. To tell you that it's not necessary is like driving with one eye closed. Pay for the extra protection and enjoy a safe trip.

Come back to see us again soon.

Costa Rica
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14. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

There are several ways to get to Monteverde and I have driven a couple of them - once in a 4x4, once in a non 4x4. There was no difference.

What many people misunderstand is that a 4x4 doesn't help you stop. It helps you go and it provides more ground clearance. But on any of the roads to Monteverde, you will just need to slow down and enjoy the scenery and not get frustrated because you are going slow.

What kind of car you use really depends not only on your preference but where you are going next. If you like having "adventures" and exploring, by all means rent a 4x4 for the peace of mind. If you are just going to San Ramon and Manuel Antonio where you don't need a 4x4, then I would not rent one just for the trip to Monteverde.

Punta Arenas, Costa...
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15. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Hattie, not exactly true, as a recent forum article states:

"In 2WD your front tires would normally lock up while the rear wheels are still moving since they do most of the braking. Hence you skid and slide.

When in 4WD the front and rear axles are forced to rotate at the same speed (excluding differentiation effects). As the front brakes start to slow the front wheels down the driveline also forces the rear axle to slow rotation at the same rate as the front axle (since they are locked together via the tcase) thus transferring the added braking affect to the rear wheels and reducing the early lockup of the front wheels."

In other words, and simply put, braking on many different road conditions, 4x4 is better for traction and braking.

As I said before, go with the margin of safety, go for a 4x4 for the mountain road trip.

Costa Rica
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16. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Well, considering you would be going less than 20 mph on the worst part of the road, probably not an issue.

I haven't seen this article and don't know who it was written by. After having lived in northern New Hampshire for 10 years, I know a lot about 4x4's.

As I said, I have traveled this road in a "regular" car with no problem. To rent a car especially for a 12-15 km stretch of road is kind of overkill. But really up to gtgsf, of course.

The problem is.... two widely divergent opinions. Not much help, I guess, but perhaps a useful discussion.

Edited: 26 September 2011, 17:17
Punta Arenas, Costa...
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17. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Don't deny your 4x4 experience Hattie, and your great advice for travelers on unfamiliar roads, but that 12-15kms feels like a whole lot more, as it's some of the worst roadbed in CR.

By the way, you can find the Jeep Forum here: jeepforum.com/forum/…

San Jose, Costa Rica
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18. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

I completelly agree with exbeacher, a 4x4 is really great to have in an area like Monteverde. Sure you might be able to use a regular car but with those bumpy gravel roads, you would really be a lot more confortable on a 4x4. As they say, the taste of the puddin is on the fork! Tell us how was your experience when you finish the your trip. Monteverde is a great area to visit!!

San Francisco, CA
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19. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

tikivillas, thanks for your comparison of Monteverde and Arenal--a reason to return and explore more. HattieCR, Exbeachers2, MikeA943 glad for the 4x4 discussion, useful and all good. Hattie and tikivillas the yourtravelmap beats Google maps hands down. I'll report back upon our return. Thanks everyone!

Costa Rica
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20. Re: Driving to Monteverde from Manuel Antonio

Gtgsf - have a great visit and let us know about everything.