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Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Costa Rica

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Exploring the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

A remarkable natural area is known for its stunning cloud forest ecosystem.

Located between 1,600 and 1,800 meters above sea level (5,250 – 5,900 feet), the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is a stunning example of cloud forest ecosystems, featuring dense vegetation and a wide variety of flora you won’t find elsewhere (not even in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve).   

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is also the cloud forest site in Costa Rica that’s situated closer to the Caribbean zone. In contrast, the other cloud forest sites in the country are closer to the Pacific zone.

The high altitude and location make the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve a unique cloud forest site. At this altitude and in this zone, this beautiful reserve is significantly more humid than its sister cloud forest reserves in Costa Rica, making the ecosystem vastly different, with more variety of trees and plants. The only downside of this location is fewer animals here, as they prefer environments with lower elevations and less humidity.

For that reason, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve tends to be significantly less crowded than other nature reserves in Monteverde, such as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the most iconic cloud forest site in the world, and the Curi Cancha Reserve, another popular cloud forest location that also combines rainforest, making it an excellent location for birding.

Nonetheless, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve stands out as a fantastic nature reserve, with magical scenery and a more prominent cloud forest feel, featuring a more mystical, cloudy environment and outstanding natural beauty; it is especially recommended for those interested in botany or simply looking for a more natural, less touristy, cloud forest experience.

Additionally, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is significantly less expensive than other nature parks in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Hours and Entrance Fees

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is open every day from 7 AM to 4 PM, and the entrance fee is $18 for non-resident adults ($12 for locals), $7 for non-resident children between 7 to 12 years old ($6 for locals), and it’s free for kids under seven years old. With the entrance fee, you will get a map that you can use to guide yourself. The trails are also very well marked.

For an additional fee, you can tour with a local guide to learn about the cloud forest flora and fauna (you will not see many animals, but you will still learn a lot about them from your guide), which we highly recommend enhancing your experience. We also recommend booking your tour in advance to secure your spots. 

Here at MonteTours, we run our own guided nature tours, and we highly recommend this beautiful place as we’ve found it to be the most stunning nature reserve in Monteverde. Here’s what we think about the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, what makes it stand out, and why we recommend it.

Why Choose the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve?

Cloud Forest Ecosystem

Unlike rainforests, cloud forests are characterized by persistent, low-level cloud cover at the canopy level. This creates a moist, cool climate with a unique ecosystem. The constant mist in these forests provides the necessary humidity for a wide variety of plants, including mosses, ferns, and orchids, to thrive.


Conservation Efforts

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is a prime example of community-managed conservation efforts. The reserve is administered by the local community, and the proceeds from tourism help in both conservation and community development. This sustainable approach to ecotourism makes a visit here not just an exploration of nature but also a support to conservation and local communities.

Hiking Trails and Natural Beauty

The reserve offers a network of trails that meander through the lush, green forest. These trails vary in difficulty and length, catering to all levels of hikers. The natural beauty of the area, with its verdant landscapes and panoramic views, is unparalleled.


Expert Guides

Local, knowledgeable, and friendly guides are passionate about the cloud forest and its inhabitants. They will enhance your experience with fascinating insights, ensuring that every moment at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is educational and memorable.


Peaceful and Less Crowded

Compared to the more famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve nearby, Santa Elena tends to be much less crowded.

a person standing next to a tree in a forest on the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde
A Beautiful Tree in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

What Nature Lovers Say

Natural Beauty Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

First and foremost, hire a guide to get all the information you would miss and see things you would otherwise walk by. Also, most notably, to be safe. A guide will keep you safe from vipers to tarantulas and all the other unknowns. Incredible views, especially from the observation tower that overlooks the Arenal volcano (when the day is clear).

– Rebecca Diaz
Immersion In Nature Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

I asked to my friends: if I only have time to visit one place, where should I go? They’ll agree that the Reserve is a must! I went all by myself planning to do the longest trial but it was around 1pm and they close at 4pm so I only had that time frame to explore. I am glad I took the jacket with a hat because there was a mist on and off.

– Lance Williams
Great Hike Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

We had a very knowledgeable guide which makes for a much better hike. We saw two Quetzals, oranged-kneed tarantula, mot-mots, numerous hummingbirds and many other birds and plants. The trail going up wasn't terribly vigorous or muddy having once been an old road. The rest of the trail was mostly water-permeable pavers.

– Robert Richardson

Book Your Santa Elena Cloud Forest Experience Today!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Join us for a guided tour at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and let your spirit connect with nature as you immerse yourself in the beauty of one of Costa Rica’s most remarkable destinations. Book now to reserve your spot or learn more about our guided tour at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.