Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve Hike

Tour the Monteverde Cloud Forest on horseback

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest is one of those rare places that make you feel like you've found an undiscovered treasure! While the nearby Monteverde Reserve is on the "must-see" list of most travelers to Costa Rica, the Santa Elena Reserve offers the opportunity to take in this rare ecosystem without waiting in lines for a photo or having to step off the path as large tour groups pass.

Although Santa Elena is slightly higher in elevation than the Monteverde Reserve, rainfall and cloud coverage increases are considerable. This, combined with the lack of crowds, makes the atmosphere of Santa Elena all the more ethereal and mesmerizing. And because the local community runs the reserve, the tourism dollars generated by visitors go directly toward aiding the local schools and protecting and maintaining the forest.

Upon arrival, you'll meet up with a naturalist from the park. Of course, wildlife abounds here, as the cloud forest is home to an astonishing number of animals. Elusive feline species include pumas, jaguarundi, and the endangered jaguar, but more commonly seen animals include spider monkeys, sloths, bright red poison dart frogs, and tarantulas.

Because the canopy is extremely dense in this cloud forest, it's a unique challenge for the untrained eye to spot most wildlife species while walking the trails. Your guide will share stories and insights about Santa Elena while keeping a careful and well-trained eye out for any wildlife that crosses your path.

Discover more unique experiences in Monteverde.

Itineraries with Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve Hike

Costa Rica Adventure & Wildlife Tour - 10 Days

Spend 10 days getting to know the diverse wildlife of Costa Rica's rainforests, with plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities, too. You'll zip-line through the rainforest, hike to waterfalls, and mountain bike on a volcano, with opportunities for kayaking and relaxing in hot springs.

Volcanoes, Cloud Forests, and the Pacific Coast - 13 Days

This 13-day itinerary is perfect for travelers who like to combine their mountain adventures with a bit of a beach holiday. After arriving at the airport in Liberia, you'll head to Rincón de la Vieja to explore the nature surrounding one of the country's most active volcanoes. Then travel deeper inland to spend a few days crossing suspension bridges, zip-lining over trees, and hiking through the jungles of La Fortuna and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You'll end your trip by returning to Guanacaste for some relaxation on the beaches of Papagayo.

Costa Rica's Cloud Forests - 6 Days

Head to the Monteverde region if you want to experience a distinct ecosystem, spot wildlife, and have plentiful options for hiking and zip-lining. Perfect for a quick getaway, the 6-day version of this itinerary will take you to both Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves, along with two nights in vibrant San José.

Costa Rica: Ultimate National Parks Tour - 15 Days

Experience Costa Rica's most spectacular national parks on this 15-day tour. You'll catch glimpses of sea turtles and monkeys in Tortuguero National Park and spot hundreds of bird species in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Then it's time to head to the countries largest and most famous volcano, Arenal, for a mix of wildlife and heart pumping excursions. Finally, you'll end the trip in  Manuel Antonio, where you'll snorkel among colorful fish and traverse jungle trails.