Santa Elena Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do in Santa Elena, Costa Rica - from hiking and biking to outdoor adventures and cultural attractions.

Introduction to Santa Elena

Welcome to Santa Elena, a charming town located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, in Central America, in North America. Santa Elena offers a unique blend of culture and nature, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure and relaxation. This travel guide will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to Santa Elena and guide you through the best attractions, activities, and experiences you can find here.

List of Places to Visit in Santa Elena

Here is a roundup of the top places to visit in Santa Elena:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Monteverde Historical Cultural Museum – a museum showcasing the history of Santa Elena and the surrounding areas.
  • The Bat Jungle – a unique museum that lets you learn about and interact with Costa Rica’s bats.

Natural Attractions of Santa Elena: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Selvatura Adventure Park – an outdoor park with canopy zip-lines, hanging bridges, and butterfly, insect, and hummingbird gardens.
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – home to a variety of animals and plants, this nature reserve offers great hiking trails and scenic views.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Santa Elena

If you’re a fan of hiking or biking, Santa Elena offers a variety of options for you. Here are the top routes you should try:

  • Cerro Amigos – a difficult hike that rewards you with the best views of Santa Elena and the surrounding areas.
  • Frog Pond – a moderate hike with great bird watching opportunities.

Best Things to Do in Santa Elena: Activities and Tours

Santa Elena has a wide range of activities to offer for every taste. Here are some must-try activities and tours:

  • Coffee Tour – visit a local coffee plantation and learn about coffee processing.
  • Horseback riding – explore the countryside on horseback with a guided tour.

Week-Long Itinerary for Santa Elena

To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve put together a week-long itinerary of things to do in Santa Elena:

Day Activity
1 Visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
2 Take a coffee tour in the morning, and go horseback riding in the afternoon
3 Visit Selvatura Adventure Park in the morning, and the Bat Jungle in the afternoon
4 Hike Cerro Amigos
5 Enjoy a day of bird watching at Frog Pond
6 Take a day trip to the nearby Arenal Volcano National Park
7 Relax at a local spa and souvenir shopping

Food and Drink Scene of Santa Elena

Santa Elena is home to a wide range of cuisine and drinks, showcasing flavors from the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Here are the must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Casado – a typical Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and a choice of meat.
  • Gallo pinto – a traditional breakfast dish made with rice and beans.

Local Beverages

  • Guaro – a sugarcane spirit that is popular in Costa Rica.
  • Coffee – Costa Rica is known for its high-quality coffee.

Where to Stay in Santa Elena: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Santa Elena offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Here are some of our top picks:

  • Monteverde Lodge & Gardens – a beautiful eco-lodge with great views.
  • Hostel Santa Elena – a budget-friendly hostel offering dorms and private rooms.

What to Buy in Santa Elena: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

If you’re looking for souvenirs and local products to bring home, Santa Elena has plenty of options. Here are some ideas:

  • Coffee and chocolate – Costa Rica is known for its coffee and chocolate.
  • Handcrafted jewelry – Costa Rica has a thriving jewelry-making industry.

Local Culture and Customs of Santa Elena

Costa Rica is known for its friendly people and laid-back culture. Here are some customs and traditions you should be aware of:

  • Tipping – it is customary to leave a 10% tip at restaurants and for other services.
  • Greetings – it is common to greet people with a handshake and a friendly “buenos días” (good morning) or “buenas tardes” (good afternoon).

Best Time to Visit Santa Elena

Santa Elena has a tropical climate, with a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from December to April, when the weather is more pleasant and the roads are easier to navigate.

Do’s and Don’ts of Santa Elena

Here are some important do’s and don’ts to remember when visiting Santa Elena:


  • Carry cash – some places do not accept credit cards.
  • Respect the environment – do not litter or disturb the animals and plants.


  • Don’t leave your belongings unattended.
  • Don’t wander around at night in unfamiliar areas.

Safety and Health

Santa Elena is a safe destination for travelers. However, as with any travel, it is important to take precautions for your safety and health. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Safety in Santa Elena

  • Do not leave your belongings in your car.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and stay in well-lit areas at night.

Health in Santa Elena

  • Drink bottled or boiled water to avoid getting sick.
  • Wear sunscreen and insect repellent to protect yourself from the sun and mosquitoes.

Getting to Santa Elena: Transportation Options and Logistics

Santa Elena is accessible by both air and land transportation. Here are the different options you have:

Airports Near Santa Elena

The closest airport to Santa Elena is the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, which is approximately a two-hour drive away.

Bus Stations Near Santa Elena

Buses run regularly from San Jose to Santa Elena, and the trip takes approximately four hours.

Other Options

You can also rent a car or book a private car transfer to Santa Elena.

How to Get Around in Santa Elena

The best way to get around Santa Elena is on foot, as many attractions and activities are located within a short distance of each other. Taxis and buses are also available for longer trips.

Where to Go Next from Santa Elena: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

If you have extra time in the area, here are some nearby destinations and excursions you may want to consider:

  • Manuel Antonio National Park – a beautiful national park located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
  • La Fortuna – a town located near the Arenal Volcano with hot springs and hiking trails.


Santa Elena offers a unique blend of culture and nature, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to Costa Rica. We hope this comprehensive travel guide has provided you with all the information you need to plan your trip to Santa Elena and make the most of your time here.