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Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

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Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena


I'm going to CR on friday, but I'm not sure wether to visit Monteverde og Santa Elena. Monteverde is the one you allways read of, but it seems like it might be a bit overcrowded and touristic.

Do any of you know if its better to visit Santa Elena? Is the "cloud-forest" experience just as good (or maybe better)?

It might also be that Monteverde is ok at the moment, as it is off-season?


Denver, Colorado
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1. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Monteverde is a bit overrated-only in comparison to the rest of CR, but has much more to offer than Santa Elena in terms of variety and access. If you haven't been, don't miss the Arenal area as well.

St. albert,Alberta
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2. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Didn't do either on our trip this summer but, My girlfriend spent a month in CR a couple years ago and Santa Elena was her absolute favorite (can't even remember why....I just know she loved it!!)

As Hoodoos said, If you get the chance, check out Arenal. Beautiful area with lots to see and do.

Thats the bad thing about CR..........too many gorgeous destinations to choose between!!

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Both are really nice- I'd vote Monteverde, just for the humming bird cafe. Also the close proximity to Arenal. AJ

San Jose, Costa Rica
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4. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Santa Elena and Monteverde is about the same thing...Santa Elena a small town about 20 minutes to the main entrance to Monteverde Private Reserve...basically again the same thing...if you visit Monteverde you drove by Santa Elena...and if you visit Santa Elena you must visit Monteverde...

Luis Road Advisor

Creston, Canada
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5. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Hi Jannie, We visited Selvatura Bridges in March 2006. We had the place almost to ourself and it was a little bit cheaper also.

Wayne, New Jersey
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for Playa Conchal
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6. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Most people express an opinion based on how their opinion was the moment they were there. At either Cloud Forest you have a chance to see Everything, Nothing, What you hoped for... or anything in between.

All other things being equal, Santa Elena CF is less visited.

My best suggestion is to go to either, with low expectations and hope to be astounded by your good fortune.

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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7. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Toas Advisor is thinking of the TOWN of Santa Elena whereas I'm sure you're talking about the Santa Elena RESERVE. The town of Santa Elena is roughly equidistant from both parks (roughly 6-7km or 20 minutes as RA correctly stated).

I missed AJ's point about Monteverde having close proximity to Arenal. Maybe one could say it is in close proximity as the crow flies, but unless you want to do a 1-2 day hike along the backtrails of the park and over the volcano, you're morre likely to backtrack to the town of Santa Elena and either cross or go around the lake the long way and even that will take you 3-4 hours. If anything Santa Elena maybe a little closer as you can take horsetrails down from beyond there to the lake and cross that way but more likely you'd backtrack almost the entire way to town from there as well.

My answer to your question would be to point out the inherent problem with the way you phrased it. This is not really an either-or question and it doesn't really matter what one is better (which is a subjective question anyway). Because it is relatively difficult to get to the Monteverde area, its probably not somewthing you want to do for just one day. And if you have more than one day in the area, why not go to both parks. Even if you only did have one day, you could visit one park in the morning and visit the other as a night tour. Then you could decide for yourself which one is "better" for you.

Which one do I think is better? They both have their pros and their cons.

Monteverde is a much larger park (nearly 26000 acres vs. Sta. Elena's 765) with a much more extensive trail network as well as a few small attractions near its entrance. It also tends to get more crowded, though with nearly a month left in the wet season that shouldn't be as much of a problem. Beyond that it is not really as simple as that.

One reason Monteverde (aka Monteverde CROWD Forest) is so crowded is because probably 90% of the people that go there never see 90% of its trails. Most go on a group tour for a few hours in the morning and those cover just some of the trails closest to the park entrance. Those parts often ARE heavily trafficked while the more remote corners of the park hardly see any people at all.

Don't get me wrong. It is definitely recommended that you take a guided tour, at least to start if nothing else. A good guide armed with a good scope can be an invaluable aid to learning how to spot the wildlife. Just be aware that, going over just those heavily trafficked trails closest to the park entrance that all the other groups go over, a lot of the wildlife in the nearby area will be scared off. This can be particularly true if you get stuck in a group with a bunch of loud bratty kids or an inconsiderate couple that insist on constantly yakking with each other - ie walk as quietly as possible when you go.

I'd normally recommend going beyond the group tours and exploring at least a little bit on your own after the tour. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the biggest part of the park (the part further back) is currently closed for regeneration, however there is still plenty of trails to explore.

Santa Elena is much smaller than Monteverde though if you add up what trails are left open at Monteverde the total mileage at Sta Elena (12km) might be a bit more. Another possible difference is that Santa Elena is perhaps a little drier being on the Atlantic as opposed to the Pacific slope. OTOH, It is still very similar to Monteverde in terms of flora and fauna. It is actually a good size and one can cover all the trails in it within just a few hours (depending on how much you "stop, look and listen".

So, to get back to your question, if all you plan to do is go on the tour over the 10% of trails closest to the park entrance, what difference does it really make if Monteverde is larger than Santa Elena. If that is all you plan to do, you might be better off at Santa Elena, which gets less traffic that close to their entrance and thus may be more conducive to wildlife spotting. OTOH, if you're prepared to really explore what each park has to offer than Monteverde might have more for you.

Oh yeah, since someone mentioned it, Selvatura Park is about the same size as Sta Elena (and practically right next door). I don't know how extensive its trail network is but it is primarily known for its canopy activities (zip-lines and hanging bridges) rather than hiking trails (they also have the obligatory hummingbird & butterfly gardens like you find at so many CR tourist attractions). IMHO, it would make a great destination to pair up with an early morning visit to Santa Elena (alternatively SkyTrek/Tram/Walk in the same area would also work). If you go to Monteverde in the morning then stopping at the attractions in the Cerro Plano area (about halfway between that Forest and the town of Santa Elena) such as CASEM handicrafts, the cheese factory, the Children's Cloud Forest or closer to town the Finca Ecologica.

OTOH, if this is a rush visit and you only have an afternoon evening and morning before you run off for whatever destination is next on your tour of the country then it really doesn't matter about paifing up activities that way since you'd be returning to your hotel for the night in between between. Even, if you're doing it right and spending a couple of nights or more in the area, the area is small enough that you could mix and match anyway you see fit, but that's the way I'd split it up.

Bordon, United...
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8. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

At last I have found a forum talking about these tours - have previously found info hard to find. We are considering either a 2 day Adventure Taster Tour (Rincon de las Viefa area) or a 4 day Cloudforest Tour (Arenal and Mounteverde areas). We are more in favour of the 4 day one (although we know little about either) simply because we are concerned 2 days is a bit short. If anyone has been on either of these (we will be booking through first choice in the UK) I would be greatful for any information - either a post on the forum or message me. Thank you.

Can anyone tell me if Yellow Fever or Malaria precautions are necessary and what should be worn on such trips? (well, yes I know clothes LOL!)

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9. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

I don't remember reading that Costa Rica has yellow fever issues? Anyway, the yellow fever shot is a good idea if you plan traveling in tropical areas in other parts of the world. It's fairly inexpensive and I think it lasts something like 10 years.

Malaria you take a pill for. The US consular travel sheet should be able to tell you which areas in CR malaria has been discovered. The malaria meds are kind of expensive and apparently can have side effects (I've never had any), so I would only take them if the area you visit requires it. In most any tropical area a typhoid shot (inexpensive) is considered a good idea as is Hep A&B vaccination which I think runs around 160$ in the States.

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10. Re: Cloudforest: Monteverde or Santa Elena

Prolijo, your post included much good information for me as well. I'm travelling to Costa Rica in the end of April and will be in Monteverde / Santa Elena for five nights in May. Do you (or someone else) know, when Monteverde cloud forest trails will all be open again?