Is Monteverde Costa Rica Safe?

Monteverde is generally considered safe for tourists, with lower crime rates than urban areas. However, petty theft, such as pickpocketing and scamming, can occur, especially in crowded tourist areas. Violent crime is rare, but it’s still advisable to remain vigilant and take common-sense precautions.

Monteverde, in Costa Rica’s Puntarenas province, is famous for its cloud forests, diverse ecosystems, and rich wildlife. During a family trip to Costa Rica last year, we sought a nature-focused experience, so we stayed in Monteverde for a week before moving on to Tamarindo. I found Monteverde to be a very safe location, especially compared to coastal areas. Although I haven’t experienced any theft or crime, an unexpected incident occurred where someone stole something from an unlocked car. This prompted me to delve deeper into local perspectives and research to gauge Monteverde’s safety.

Key Takeaways 

  • Monteverde is generally safer than many other towns in Costa Rica. Some common crimes, however, include petty theft and scamming.
  • If you visit Monteverde, always ask the hotel staff for recommendations when visiting new places, and research by reading online reviews.
  • Always be cautious in crowded places, and never leave valuables in your car unlocked.
  • To be safe, I recommend choosing bottled water over tap water and eating in clean areas.
  • Try to learn a bit of Spanish so you can communicate with the locals, as few people speak English.

If you plan to visit Monteverde but have some safety concerns, this article will guide you.

How safe is Monteverde?

When you travel to Monteverde, keep in mind that the road conditions can be diverse. Some roads are narrow, winding, and occasionally unpaved. You’ll most likely encounter rough terrain and steep inclines. I recommend renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle for navigating these challenging roads safely. 

If you don’t have a vehicle, Monteverde offers public transportation options like buses and shuttles, which are affordable and convenient for getting around town. Buses are generally reliable but can be crowded and have long travel times, especially on routes with frequent stops. The bus service from Downtown Santa Elena to Monteverde Cloud Forest operates several times daily.

Taxis are also available and convenient for short trips or specific destinations. To avoid overcharging, it’s best to ask the hotel staff to call a reputable taxi company for you. Pre-reserved shuttles also offer a convenient way to get around for a nominal fee. Always secure your belongings when using public transportation to prevent any incidents.

For accommodations, I recommend staying in hotels rather than Airbnb, especially for first-time travelers to Monteverde. During your stay, hotels provide reception staff support, which can be helpful.

In terms of safety, although crime encounters are rare, securing your valuables is critical. I experienced an incident where someone stole something from an unlocked car. Therefore, always lock your car when leaving valuables inside.

Regarding food, Monteverde has plenty of options for good meals at affordable prices. I particularly enjoyed dining in Santa Elena because it has excellent restaurants where you can have a satisfying meal without breaking the bank.

I heard from locals about concerns regarding mosquito-borne diseases, but I was prepared with bug repellent and always made sure to wear long sleeves, so that wasn’t a problem for me. Also, based on my experience, I highly recommend drinking bottled water instead of tap water. I learned this the hard way after developing a stomach ache from drinking tap water during my visit.

Comparison of the Monteverde safety index with other places in the world 

Source: Travel Safe

What types of crimes happen in Monteverde?

Monteverde experiences fewer violent crimes compared to many other parts of Costa Rica. Petty theft, such as pickpocketing and theft of unattended belongings, is the most common problem. It’s important to stay cautious, especially in crowded places and tourist areas. Keep your valuables securely locked in your car, or if using public transportation, leave them in your hotel room.

The local community’s proactive safety measures contribute to a welcoming atmosphere. Law enforcement collaborates closely with the community, implementing safety initiatives and conducting regular patrols to promote security.

Food and Water Safety:

Before visiting Monteverde, I had read online that the tap water was potable and of excellent quality, so I didn’t think I needed to purify it or buy bottled water. However, I discovered the hard way that tap water can cause stomach aches. Therefore, I advise drinking bottled or purified water and refraining from consuming tap water-made ice.

During our visit, my family and I encountered a couple of restaurants that seemed to lack proper hygiene standards. There were flies everywhere, and the restroom was in poor condition. It’s easy to imagine the potential consequences of eating in such a location.

When choosing where to eat, choose restaurants and food vendors with good hygiene practices. Avoid consuming street food from unlicensed or unsanitary establishments to minimize health risks.

It’s important to note that Monteverde has a public clinic known as an EBAIS (Basic Team of Integral Health Care), providing general medical consultations and emergency care. Larger hospitals in Puntarenas or San José typically refer patients for more specialized treatment or serious emergencies. However, the local clinic is well-equipped for immediate and less severe health concerns.

I recommend familiarizing yourself with the locations of medical facilities in the area, as well as carrying essential medications and a small first-aid kit, which can be very useful during your visit.

Other safety concerns

Wildlife Encounters:

Monteverde’s diverse wildlife offers thrilling experiences but can also pose risks. During tours, guides will stress the importance of maintaining a safe distance from wild animals and refraining from feeding or approaching them. For your safety, you must follow these guidelines to prevent wildlife-related incidents.

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses:

Like other areas in Costa Rica, Monteverde carries a risk of mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever, zika virus, and chikungunya. Protect yourself by using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved clothing and pants, and staying in accommodations with screened windows to avoid mosquito bites. 

Altitude Considerations: 

Monteverde’s elevation ranges from 1,200 to 1,800 meters (3,900 to 5,900 feet) above sea level, which may affect your health, especially if you have pre-existing conditions. Stay hydrated, rest adequately, and consult a healthcare provider if you’re concerned about altitude sickness before your trip.

Places to avoid in Monteverde:

Avoid visiting tourist attractions or sights at night, especially alone. During daylight hours and in the company of others, it’s safer to explore.

Don’t accept strangers’ offers to show you directions to the cloud forest, restaurants, or other destinations. Instead, rely on hotel staff members, trusted shops, or businesses for recommendations and guidance.

Safety in Outdoor Activities 

Monteverde is a popular tourist destination, offering various engaging outdoor activities such as touring the cloud forest, zip-lining, bird-watching, horseback riding, and more. Of course, if you are visiting Monteverde, you’ll want to participate in numerous activities, so it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Here are some important precautions to keep in mind:

Research and select reputable tour operators: 

Before participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, zip-lining, or canopy tours, research and select reputable tour operators with experienced guides and a strong safety record. Go online and read reviews. Ask hotel staff to make recommendations for you.

Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. 

Dress in suitable clothing and footwear for outdoor activities. I usually opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that protects me from the sun and insects. Sturdy, closed-toe shoes with good traction are essential for hiking and exploring rugged terrain.

Stay hydrated and bring snacks.

Carry an ample water supply and stay hydrated, especially when engaging in physical activities in Monteverde’s humid climate. 

Follow safety guidelines and instructions: 

Follow established safety guidelines, such as staying on designated trails, maintaining a safe distance from wildlife, and properly using safety harnesses and equipment.

Be prepared for weather changes:

Bring waterproof clothing, such as a lightweight rain jacket or poncho, and consider packing extra layers to stay warm in cooler temperatures.

Carry essential supplies: 

Pack a small backpack with essential supplies for outdoor activities, including a first-aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, a map, and a fully charged mobile phone for communication.

Travel in groups and inform others:

Whenever possible, travel with companions or in guided groups.

Tips for Ensuring Personal Safety

  • Choose accommodations with secure locks, well-lit entrances, and positive reviews from reputable sources.
  • Avoid leaving your belongings unattended in public areas or visible in parked vehicles.
  • Consider using a money belt or hidden pouch to carry important documents and cash while exploring.
  • Stay vigilant in crowded areas, tourist spots, and transportation hubs to guard against pickpocketing and theft.
  • Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas, particularly at night.
  • Do not hail taxis yourself or accept rides from individuals claiming to be public transport drivers. Instead, use reputable taxi apps or have your hotel arrange transportation.
  • Keep a list of emergency contacts handy, including local authorities, your country’s embassy or consulate, and your accommodation’s contact information.
  • Make sure to fully charge your mobile phone and store emergency numbers in your contacts.
  • Learn a few basic Spanish phrases to facilitate communication and show respect for the local culture.
  • Carry a compact travel first-aid kit containing essential medical supplies and necessary prescription medications.
  • Stay informed about local safety and security conditions from reliable sources like hotel staff, tour guides, or official travel advisories. Local knowledge is valuable in Monteverde, so be receptive to advice from your accommodation hosts or community members regarding places to visit and areas to avoid, especially at night. 

Wrapping Up

In my experience, Monteverde, Costa Rica, is generally considered safe for tourists. However, I recommend taking common-sense precautions such as securing valuables, staying vigilant in crowded areas, and avoiding unfamiliar or poorly lit areas, which can help ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

When exploring Monteverde’s outdoor activities and natural attractions, prioritize safety by choosing reputable tour operators, dressing appropriately, staying hydrated, and following established safety guidelines. It’s also essential to stay informed about local safety conditions and seek advice from trusted sources, such as hotel staff and tour guides.

By taking these precautions and remaining aware of your surroundings, you can make the most of your visit to Monteverde while enjoying its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife in a safe and responsible manner.

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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