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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Julia

Costa Rica Adventure: Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica

As I transitioned to a different part of Costa Rica, my adventures transformed as well. One of the reasons I chose Monteverde for my next global travel destination in Costa Rica is because of the cloud forest reserves in the area. Who doesn't want to experience living a fairy tale in one way by walking through a cloud forest reserve immersed in nature?

So, what is a cloud forest reserve? I am glad you asked! I wondered the same when I first learned about them! They often take the form of fog, low-hanging clouds hovering around the upper canopy of the forest before the leaves of trees and plants condensed down below!

There are several cloud forest reserves in Monteverde including Monteverde, Children's Eternal Rainforest, and Santa Elena. I am visiting Monteverde for 3 weeks and will definitely visit several of them! After reading My Tan Feet's blog on the cloud forest reserves, I decided to visit Santa Elena first.

In 1992, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve was established protecting 765+ acres of cloud forest land. It neighbors Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Walking through Santa Elena, you will feel like a fairy tale princess in every way. The views, sounds, and feeling of being in the cloud forest reserve help you be present in every way.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Visiting Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

After arriving at my Airbnb in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I outlined adventures I would love to have with flexibility. I wanted to have various adventures every 2-3 days during my 2-3 week stay in Monteverde. I loved my adventures in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. At the same time, I wanted a slower pace.

I decided my first adventure would be Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. I noticed on the Monteverde map it is close to my Airbnb so I Googled transportation options and asked my Airbnb Host.


It's about 4 miles from the center of St Elena and is lush, green and full of flora and fauna.

The Santa Elena and Monteverde Region is small and everything is relatively close especially if you love to walk. At the same time, the hills, conditions of road, and misty/rainy weather may have you rethink walking in some areas. Due to the uphills, roads and weather, I decided to get transportation for Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.

I decided I would take a shuttle for $12 (increased prices due to pandemic).

Entrance Fee and Hours

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is $16 (and well worth it), and the hours are 7am to 4pm. Make sure you check fees and hours in case things change. I went on a Friday, and was the first to arrive! The reserve includes bathroom, cafe, and small gift shop as well.

The map below is via AllTrails where you may find routes globally. I recommend you take a picture of the paper map when you purchase your ticket. In addition, the trails are well marked.

What to Wear to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

I don't know about you but I am very cold natured. So, when I decided I would go in the morning combined with reading about the elevation and the potential mist and rain, I decided to bundle up.

I layered with a onesie, two shirts, sweatpants, jacket, and a raincoat. With any hike, I wear closed toed shoes like I did with Rio Celeste Waterfall and Hike. Keep in mind, there was a cold front and I am using a heater daily.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve Hiking Trails

There are five hiking trails including Sendrero Mundo Joven, Cano Negro, Del Bajo, Encantado, and Youth Challenge. Depending on your time, you may adjust which paths you want to go on.

I chose to go from information down to the Youth Challenge, then north on the Del Bajo trail, around and on a part of Encantado. I hiked for about three hours at a slower pace to enjoy every moment.

The day I went it was super gray and misty so I didn't do the view points of the Arenal volcano and lake. However, if you go on a clear day, I would definitely recommend Encantado or Cano Negro for the views. In addition, there is a large ficus tree you may climb up too!

The cloud reserve forest is well marked at every turn. The paths are in great condition as well.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

I loved every step of my visit especially the Forest Bathing on Del Bajo Trail and intentional reminders all along the way.

Forest Bathing
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

During my entire time at Santa Cloud Forest Reserve, I saw six people during my three hour hike. I spotted various birds, insects, butterfly's, and fungi. The forest is known for spotting monkeys, agoutis, and coatis. Quetzal are known to be all around in Santa Elena Cloud Reserve in February through mid summer months.

You may opt to take a guided tour to help you spot more wildlife. For Santa Elena Cloud Reserve, I wanted to experience the forest and canopy on my own. I did get a guide in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a Sloth Tour. In addition, I will be doing this for a night tour in Monteverde as well.

Costa Rica: Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Experiencing the Pura Vida touches your soul in every way. The limitless wonder you experience in Santa Elena Cloud Forest is magical.

I loved the feeling of presence and awareness.

The focus on the forest and feeling.

Pura Vida, the pure life, is everywhere in Costa Rica.

It absolutely impacts you especially if you normally don't experience a lot of nature.

Have you visited Monteverde? If you haven't, the cloud forest reserves are waiting!

Are you curious about Costa Rica and the Pura Vida?


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