The Monteverde region of Costa Rica is home to a large area of cloud forest broken up into 2 main national parks; Monteverde and Santa Elena. They are located just a few kilometres apart and offer pretty much the same activities such as; canopy tours, suspension bridges and butterfly conservation areas.
We decided to head into Santa Elena instead of Monteverde as we had read that it was a little smaller and therefore received fewer visitors enabling you to have a higher chance of seeing wildlife.
The road to the area is unpaved, unmarked and unlit. We arrived from Liberia and up until you leave the pan-america highway you know where you are going. The minute you turn off you are left constantly second guessing which turning you should be taking.
The road goes through the mountains and is hazardous at the best of times, however we had the added joy of underestimating how long it would take us to arrive and ended up heading through the mountains in the dark.
When we finally arrived in Santa Elena we checked into Eddy’s Cabinas just past the main road and basically crashed out. The accommodation was centrally based and very good value with free breakfast, plus you got discounts on tours if you booked through Eddy.
The following day we decided to visit the national park of Santa Elena which is $10 p/p to get in and spent the better part of the day walking the various trails through the park. The path for the most part is paved or partly paved and unless it is raining is fairly easy to do.
There wasn’t a lot in term of wildlife around but we did spot quite a few birds. The park makes for a really nice day out especially as the temperatures in the cloud forest are a good few degrees lower, making walking enjoyable instead of an arduous task.
The next day we decided to do the suspension bridges in Santa Elena with Selvatura, a total of 8 suspension bridges located at tree height. We booked through Eddy and got a small discount of $3 each making entry $27 p/p. This time we also decided to rent a pair of binoculars from the tour company so we could hopefully spot some of the more elusive birds.
The weather at this height in the cloud forest changes constantly and you could be in sunshine one minute and drizzle the next. Nevertheless we ended up spending the whole morning going from one bridge to the next trying to see rare birds. We got lucky and found a couple including a Quetzal and a 3 Wattled Bell Bird which makes a noise like “bonk” when it calls out.
When we finally arrived at the last bridge we were greeted with a unique sight. A male howler monkey walking along the railings of the bridge. We were able to get some shots before he made his way back into the trees.
The area is beautiful and you could easily spend more time there but it’s not cheap, especially the activities which range from $30+ p/p. Plus, you absolutely definitely need a 4×4 to get around on those roads!