Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
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This 310-hectare cloud-forest reserve (tel. 506/2645-5390, www.reservasantaelena.org, 7 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, $14 adults, $7 students and children) is five kilometers northeast of Santa Elena (4WD required).
Owned by the Santa Elena community, it boasts all the species claimed by its eastern neighbor—plus spider monkeys, which are absent from the Monteverde reserve. It has four one-way trails (1.4–4.8 km) and an observation tower with views toward Volcán Arenal. At a higher elevation than Monteverde reserve, it tends to be cloudier and wetter.
The reserve is the site of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Ecological Center, a farm that educates youngsters and local farmers on forest ecology and conservation. There’s also a visitors center. Guides are available, as are dormitory accommodations.
Guided three-hour hikes ($15) are offered at 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.; there is also a 90-minute night tour at 7 p.m. You can buy trail maps and a self-guided trail booklet—and rent rubber boots ($1)—at the information center.
Getting to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Shuttles for ticket-holders leave Santa Elena at 6:45 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. A collective taxi leaves Santa Elena village at 6:45 a.m., 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m., but you must book the day before ($2 pp). A regular taxi costs about $10 each way.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition