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Santa Elena Costa Rica: Is It Different Than Monteverde?

Santa Elena Costa Rica: Is It Different Than Monteverde?

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on July 24th, 2017.

Santa Elena Costa Rica
Rolling Hills Of Monteverde


Confusion over what and where Monteverde Costa Rica is, what and where Santa Elena Costa Rica is (and even what and where Cerro Plano Costa Rica is), is all too common throughout Costa Rica trip planning discourse. We regularly have the following conversation with travellers:

Nikki and Ricky: A visit to Monteverde is an excellent choice! We can certainly help you obtain discounts for tours and activities in and around the Santa Elena area.

Traveller: Oh, I have no interest in visiting Santa Elena Costa Rica, 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 by past Costa Rica visitors. Yet, most travellers are surprised to learn that Monteverde is not the name of the town most sources refer to. Instead, Monteverde is a region–one most notably known for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve that the area encompasses–and in contrast, “Santa Elena” is the name of the region’s 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 that form a triangle. The downtown core is tiny, however the entire area (what is generally referred to as Monteverde, although it technically 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 to travel depends entirely on where you desire to end up.

Heading north out of Santa Elena Costa Rica

From the center of Santa Elena Costa Rica, the road that exits the downtown core to the north leads visitors to popular adventure parks including Sky Adventures’ Adventure Park and Selvatura’s Park, as well as the well-known Santa Elena Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Heading south out of Santa Elena Costa Rica

From the center of Santa Elena Costa Rica, the road that exits the downtown core to the south paves the way to Costa Rica’s central highway system–a route most often travelled by those who need to get to or from the Monteverde region and San Jose, or the SJO International Airport in Alajuela.

Heading southeast out of Santa Elena Costa Rica

From the center of Santa Elena Costa Rica, the road that exits the downtown core to the southeast leads to additional hotels, popular sites such as the Monteverde Cheese Factory, and ends at 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 Santa Elena Costa Rica’s triangular design:


We know all too well how confusing the Monteverde region’s names can be, as well as how difficult it can be for travellers to decide 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 specific locations of the attractions that interest you the most (for example, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Sky Adventures’ Adventure Park, or the Don Juan Coffee Farm, to name a few). Plan your transportation to and from each accordingly; if you have a rental car, you may prefer to stay in the area actually labelled “Monteverde” (i.e., the land nearby the entrance to the reserve of the same name) and drive yourselves to and from town to shop and/or eat. Alternatively, if you do not have a rental vehicle and you plan to rely on tour transportation, shuttle services, private transfer services, taxis, and/or public buses to get from point A to point B throughout your trip, it would be most advantageous for you to select a Santa Elena hotel (many of which are situated within walking distance to dining and shopping options) so you can plan to participate in tours and activities that depart to and from there.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to the Monteverde region? Did you stay in Santa Elena or on the outskirts of town?

Pura vida!

Nikki and Ricky

DIY Costa Rica

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