Confusion over what and where Monteverde is, what and where Santa Elena is (and even what and where Cerro Plano is), is all too common. We regularly have the following conversation with travellers:
Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated: A visit to Monteverde is an excellent choice! We can certainly assist you with hotel arrangements in or around the Santa Elena area.
Traveller: Oh, I have no interest in visiting Santa Elena, thanks. I want to see Monteverde.
Most travellers are familiar with the term “Monteverde” as it is discussed at great length in various guide books and talked about at large among past Costa Rica visitors. Yet, most travellers are surprised to learn that Monteverde is not the name of the town most sources refer to. Monteverde is itself a region – most notably known for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve that the area encompasses – and Santa Elena is the name of the nearby town. When planning a visit to Monteverde, most travellers essentially visit Santa Elena where many hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and other “good-to-haves” such as banks and grocery stores are located.
Downtown Santa Elena consists of three main roads forming a triangle. The downtown core itself is tiny, however the entire area (what is generally referred to as Monteverde although it includes the regions of Monteverde, Santa Elena, and Cerro Plano) is quite large. The three roads that form the triangle offer tangents to the north, south, and southeast. As in life, whichever road is best for you depends on where you desire to end up: the road to the north leads visitors to popular adventure tours such as Sky Adventures’s Adventure Park and Selvatura’s Park, as well as the well-known Santa Elena Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, the road to the south paves the way to Costa Rica’s central highway system for those needing to get to San Jose or the SJO International Airport in Alajuela, and the road to the southeast leads to additional hotels, popular sites such as the Monteverde Cheese Factory, and of course, the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. To help travellers visualize the area, our friends at Desafio Adventure Company offer a great map that perfectly showcases the town’s design:
Don’t allow the name “Santa Elena” to discourage you when planning your trip to Monteverde. We know all too well how confusing the region names can be, as well as how difficult it can be for travellers to decipher between which area is the best to visit and which is the best to find room and board in.
When planning your vacation (whether it be with the assistance of a local expert or on your own), take note of the locations within the Monteverde region that you wish to visit (ie. the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Sky Adventures’ Adventure Park, etc.) and plan your transportation to and from each accordingly. If you have a rental vehicle you may prefer to stay in the area actually labelled “Monteverde” (nearby the reserve of the same name) and drive yourselves to and from town to shop and/or eat. Otherwise, if relying on tour transportation, shuttle services, private transfer services, and/or taxis to get you from point A to point B throughout your trip, perhaps it would be most advantageous for you to select a Santa Elena hotel (many of which are within walking distance to dining and shopping options) so you can plan to participate in tours and activities to and from there.
*Discounts for hotels in Santa Elena, Monteverde, and Cerro Plano are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Been to the area? What is your favourite region or hotel and why?