Santa Elena Travel Guide

Photo of Santa Elena

Santa Elena Overview

In the northern regions of Costa Rica’s province of Puntarenas is the quiet and largely undeveloped Tico town of Santa Elena, visited by all and sundry, from backpackers to families to honeymooners. What awaits the influxes of tourists is a region of exquisitely preserved and enchanting cloud forest nature reserves, boasting incredible eco-systems, abundant wildlife and the opportunity to get as up close and personal with nature as you are ever likely to.

 
To this day, still nothing more than a township, Santa Elena caters superbly for travelers of all descriptions, offering a world of eco-adventure activities. In a region focused on the wonders of nature it is possible to visit butterfly parks, frog ponds, a bat jungle, an orchid garden, take horseback rides or zip-line your way through the forests. Moreover, visitors can learn about the livelihoods of the local residents through tours of Monteverde Cheese Factory and the El Trapiche Tour, a guided tour of coffee and sugar cane harvesting.
 
A large part of Santa Elenas charm is that, alongside the Quaker community of nearby Monteverde, they have immense respect and appreciation for the stunning region in which they reside, forever striving to protect the reserves from commercialization and overdevelopment. Until now this battle has been a success and as long as the locals stay proud and keep pumping the proceeds back into the conservation of the reserves this should continue way into the future.

Things to do in Santa Elena

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve - Covering 26,000-acres, this pristine biological cloud reserve is the main attraction and one of the countrys most famed nature reserves, possessing a range of habitats as well as abundant flora and fauna. Protected by the Quaker community and local conservation groups, the reserve preserves its natural beauty by only allowing a maximum of 120 visitors at given times. Inside the reserve are well marked walking trails and the obligatory skywalk and canopy zip-line.

 
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve - Lesser known and far less visited, the 766-acres of this community-run reserve is like a condensed version of its larger counterpart and considered by many to be more enchanting. Here visitors are given the chance to explore the forest at their own pace and with fewer people the chances of spotting wildlife are increased. On a clear day there are wonderful views across to the distant LakeArenal and Arenal Volcano.
 
Butterfly Garden - With a mission to educate the world about butterflies, the guided tours here are superb, providing endless information on their life-cycles and place in the world of nature as well as the opportunity to see hundreds of varieties flurrying around. Open daily from 9.30am - 4pm.
 
Bird Spotting - With the possibilities to spot a feast of birds, both common and rare, ornithologists and general bird lovers are in for an absolute treat when visiting the reserves around Santa Elena. There are over 400 species in total and with a little luck it is possible to see Costa Ricas national bird, the quetzal, as well as bellbirds, guans and toucans.
 
Selvatura - A nature reserve in Costa Rica is almost incomplete without a canopy tour and the people at Selvatura have done a fine job with their series of zip-lines and hanging bridges. Whats more, this area of the park is also home to butterfly and hummingbird gardens and an intriguing exhibition of insects known as the Jewel of the Rain Forest.
 
Monteverde Cheese Factory - A must see for cheese lovers is the local factory, in business since 1950 after a group of American Quakers set about farming the dairy cattle. Tours of the factory walk visitors through the old-school techniques used and offer the chance to sample the goods, including a fine Gouda and Swiss provolone. The factory is also known for its production of delicious ice creams.

Hotels in Santa Elena

Budget Hotels Santa Elena

Casa Tranquilo - Comfortable hostel with good mountain views. Rates include breakfast. Tel (506) 2645 6782.
Cabinas Bella Vista - Family friendly hotel offering simple huts and unspoilt views. Tel (506) 2645 9980.
Pension Santa Elena - Budget dorms, cabinas and camping grounds with swimming pool. Tel (506) 2645 5051.
 
Midrange Hotels Santa Elena
Hotel Arco Iris - Tranquil lodge in the heart of Santa Elena. All rooms with private balcony. Tel (506) 2645 5067.
Hotel EL Viandante - Great value bed & breakfast just outside of town. Tel (506) 2645 6475.
 
Luxury Hotels Santa Elena
Hotel Poco a Poco - Great rooms and service in a converted family home. Tel (506) 2645 6000.
Hotel El Sapo Dorado - Excellent mountain lodge with a range of suites. Tel (506) 2645 5010.

Santa Elena Weather

Santa Elena Travel Resources

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