Santa Elena, North Puntarenas

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Lying in the northern areas of Puntarenas province in the Tilaran Cordillera, Santa Elena is a small town located a few kilometers north from the breathtaking Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. One of Costa Rica’s most visited nature and wildlife reserves, this cloud forest is a big tourist attraction. Santa Elena is the closet township to the reserve and is often used by visitors as a stopover when exploring this stunning region and its spectacular vistas.

Town of Santa Elena

Sharing its name with the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve that is found nearby (around 5 km), the town of Santa Elena is has a tiny downtown area. Here one can find plenty of luxury and budget hotels, lodges and accommodations, as well as a bus stop, bank, health clinic, general store, souvenir store and tour offices of various travel agencies. Quite often full of backpackers, this town also has a post office, police station, supermarket, bar and a number of inexpensive restaurants.

Activities

From town, horseback-riding tours of the Monteverde and Santa Elena Reserves can be organized along with hiking trips and canopy tours of the surrounding areas. A popular way to tour both these cloud forests’ ‘skywalk’ tours can also be arranged. Cold and wet most of the year, it is important that you wear warm clothing when coming here.

Along the road from Santa Elena, leading up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, there are a number of attractions including hiking in the amazing reserve, a beautiful butterfly garden, hummingbird gardens, a bat museum, a fascinating serpentarium and some lovely local art galleries.

Quakers & Cheese

Founded by the Quaker community who came here from the United States in the 1950’s, Santa Elena is known throughout the region for its incredibly delicious cheese. La Lecheria is the local cheese factory in neighboring Monteverde that produces thirteen different varieties of cheese, including the popular Monte Rico.

Getting to Santa Elena

To get to Santa Elena it is best to rent a car and drive here either from San Jose Metro Area or from the Northern Pacific Coast and then drive out here. However, an alternative option would be to fly into the capital San Jose and then take a 3-hour long drive out to here, enjoying some fantastic scenery along the way.
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Distance: 4 miles / 7 km
Drive Time: 12 min
Distance: 86 miles / 137 km
Drive Time: 2 hr 30 min
Distance: 8 miles / 12 km
Drive Time: 18 min