Santa Elena is the closest town to Monte Verde – an area on top of a mountain that has national parks and privately owned parks.
Tourists come here for the wide array of various outdoor adventures: ziplining, bungee jumping, suspension bridges, hiking, coffee/chocolate/sugarcane tours, etc.
Because so many tourists come here, Santa Elena is a pretty cool town in the middle of no where.
The weather is what I really loved – at the bottom of the mountain (pretty much everywhere else in Costa Rica), it was so unbelievably hot! All my clothes were constsntly wet from a combination of the humidity and me sweating non-stop… But in Santa Elena, it was actually cold! I put pants on and a jacket and was sad that I had forgotten my sweater in Puerto Jimenez just days before.
Places to Eat in Santa Elena
Amigos » This place is really big, good food and drinks, and very lively ater 10pm. If you want quiet and relaxing, then avoid this place if it’s around 9:30pm because at exaclty 10pm, they blast the music. What I really liked about this place was that the night I arrived, it was actually pretty cold out, so everyone was wearing jackets and pants, and the place is all wood, so it felt like I was hanging out in a lodge after skiing. However, the vibe might be different when you go.
Sabor Tico » If you want a quieter place to eat, then check out Sabor Tico. It’s a short walk away from the “downtown” area. Note: they close at 9pm, so this option is for early dining – great for lunch!
Gollo » This is a local favorite; it’s a place to get quick, cheap food. It’s a small kitchen hut outside with maybe 8 stools around it to sit – that’s it. $2 for a giant Empanada! I recommend this place!
The Treehouse Restaurant » If you’re feeling super fancy for dinner, then check out the Treehouse – it’s right in the heart of thr main street. They built the building around an actual living tree. With three floors and the spiral staircase that goes around the tree, you really feel like you’re climbing a tree and entering a tree-mansion! Meal prices are about $18+.
There are three parks in Monte Verde – 2 national and 1 private.
Ziplining » So there are a few different zipline options – some are in the national parks, as well as the private park. All are about $50.
Suspension Bridges » Take a stroll across eight suspension bridges. Walk from peak to peak (which makes it a really easy hike because there’s not much incline). This is in the privately owned park. You do not need a tour guide – simple purchase your ticket and walk at your own pace. This walk will cost you $35.
Coffee, Chocolate, & Sugarcane » One tour that shows you how each is made. About $33.
Other things to check out
Ficas “Climbing” Tree
So this tree (actually, there are about 3 trees like this) is a short walk from the center of town and is AWESOME! I honestly liked this better than my tour!
It’s a hollowed out tree that you can easily climb through to get to the top. I did it with my boots and bag on me, so really, it’s easy… And epic!