Santa Elena

Tucked away among the misty, green hills of Costa Rica’s cloud forest lies the cozy pueblo of Santa Elena, which most travelers use as a base to explore the Monteverde region. This vibrant village, located on the Talamanca Mountain Range, is only accessible via dirt roads that are in poor conditions year-round. As the area’s main hub, Santa Elena offers a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries and tours to enjoy Monteverde’s main attractions: ziplining and hiking through its popular cloud forest reserves.

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is an expanse of 765 acres of protected forest that has lookout points with breathtaking views of Arenal Volcano and Lake on clear days. Despite its beauty, visitors often bypass this reserve, preferring to check out its more popular counterpart, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. However, if time permits, visit both, you won’t be disappointed!

Just a short drive from Santa Elena you will find the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, an enormous extension of forest bursting with plant life including bromeliads, mosses and more than 500 orchid species! The reserve is thought to contain a total of more than 3,000 plant species. Its wildlife is equally abundant, and the reserve’s most famous resident is without a doubt the Resplendent Quetzal. Monteverde’s popularity soared thanks to this bird and a National Geographic Magazine writer who, in 1983, stated that this was the best place to observe the Quetzal. Since then, tourists starting pouring into the cloud forest bringing, cameras, tripods, binoculars, and a burning desire to see this magnificent creature.

Apart from its cloud forest reserves, Monteverde is famous for the top-quality zipline adventure tours that can be arranged in Santa Elena. For those who prefer less of an adrenaline rush, the hanging bridges might be a better option to enjoy the treetops. A favorite among the little ones is the mini-train that traverses the cloud forest.

A historical Monteverde landmark is its cheese factory, called the Lechería in Spanish, which offers a magnificent two-hour guided tour in English and Spanish with rich details about the local history. The Monteverde Cheese Factory was opened in 1953 by the Quakers who migrated to this area from the United States to escape the military draft. They produce some of Costa Rica’s most popular dairy products, which you can find in most grocery stores across the country. Don’t leave the factory without trying a milkshake! To book a guided tour call (506) 2645-7090.

On the road between Santa Elena and Monteverde you will find scores of interesting stops, including a serpentarium, a butterfly garden, a few art galleries, and shops that sell crafts created by local artisans.

Santa Elena Weather and Packing Checklist:

Santa Elena generally gets consistent rainfall from May to November, and experiences the heaviest rains from September through November. Temperatures here are cool and comfortable, hovering in the low 70s during the day and the upper 50s at night.

Your packing list should include rain gear and a couple of sweaters or jackets in case it gets chilly. Hiking shoes, pants, long sleeve t-shirts and sunblock are a must for your cloud forest hikes!


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