This beautiful, natural reserve is home to several bird species and boasts a cooler climate. Meet the Resplendent Quetzal or Emerald Toucanette as you wander the magical cloud forest.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve: Where Nature Paints Dreams with Mist and Green

A Forest Shrouded in Mist

As you step into the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, you'll be transported to a realm where the ordinary transforms into the extraordinary. At an elevation ranging from 1,440 to 1,660 meters (4,725 to 5,450 feet) above sea level, the forest is perpetually cloaked in a delicate veil of mist. This ethereal mist gives rise to the reserve's name and nurtures a unique ecosystem found in only a few places on Earth.

Verdant Trails of Discovery

Wander along a network of well-maintained trails that wind through the cloud forest. Each step leads you deeper into a world where moss-draped trees, dangling epiphytes, and vibrant orchids create a surreal landscape. The "Bosque Nuboso Trail" (Cloud Forest Trail) offers a captivating introduction to this ecosystem, while the "Sendero del Pantano" (Swamp Trail) takes you through a marshland alive with amphibian calls.

Avian Oasis

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is renowned for its remarkable birdwatching opportunities. With over 400 bird species calling this cloud forest home, it's a paradise for bird enthusiasts. Keep your binoculars handy to spot elusive quetzals, colorful tanagers, and the resplendent emerald toucanet. The forest echoes with the melodious songs of these feathered wonders.

Wildlife Encounters

The cloud forest is not just about birds; it's also a sanctuary for a myriad of other wildlife. Look closely, and you might spot the elusive coati, the tiny agouti, or the vibrant blue morpho butterfly fluttering through sun-dappled clearings. The reserve is also home to several elusive big cat species, including margays and ocelot, though sightings are rare.

Conservation Legacy

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is more than a natural wonder; it's a testament to Costa Rica's commitment to conservation. It's a place where research and education thrive alongside pristine wilderness. Guided tours and interpretive centers offer insights into the delicate balance of this unique ecosystem and the ongoing efforts to protect it.

Birdwatching in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Birdwatching in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve: A Symphony of Avian Wonders

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, boasting a diverse avian population that thrives in the misty treetops and lush vegetation. Birdwatching here is like stepping into a living, breathing kaleidoscope of colors and melodies. Here are some of the incredible birds you can encounter in this magical cloud forest:

Resplendent Quetzal: The quetzal, with its vibrant green and crimson plumage, is a symbol of beauty and freedom. Spotting one of these elusive birds is a highlight for any birdwatcher.

Three-Wattled Bellbird: Known for its distinctive call, which sounds like the ringing of a bell, the bellbird is a striking white bird with wattles hanging from its beak.

Hummingbirds: The cloud forest is home to a variety of hummingbird species, including the magnificent hummingbird, green-crowned brilliant, and violet sabrewing. Watch them hover and flit among the flowers, displaying their iridescent plumage.

Emerald Toucanet: This small toucan, with its emerald-green feathers and red breast, adds a splash of color to the canopy.

Black Guan: A striking black bird with a distinctive red throat wattle, the black guan is often seen foraging in the forest.

Golden-Browed Chlorophonia: This tiny bird sports brilliant yellow eyebrows and a turquoise throat, making it a true gem of the cloud forest.

Woodpeckers: Look out for acorn woodpeckers and the striking lineated woodpecker, which can often be heard drumming on tree trunks.

Highland Tinamou: Although rarely seen, the haunting calls of the highland tinamou are unmistakable in the early morning mist.

To enhance your birdwatching experience, consider hiring a local guide who can expertly spot and identify the birds' subtle nuances in color, calls, and behavior. The early morning and late afternoon are ideal times for birdwatching, as many species are most active during these hours. Grab your binoculars and immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Santa Elena's feathered inhabitants.

Plan Your Journey

Whether you're a seasoned naturalist, a curious traveler, or a family seeking adventure, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve invites you to embrace the wonder of this mystical world. The trails beckon, the birds serenade, and the mist whispers secrets of the forest. It's a place where dreams merge with the beauty of the natural world, leaving an indelible mark on all who venture into its embrace. Come, let the cloud forest weave its spell on you.

Weather and packing list

Located in the cloud forest, the weather in Santa Elena is fairly predictable. Expect cool and damp conditions and dress for rain. Daytime temperatures average in the low 70s with night time lows averaging in the upper 50s. The most consistent rain is experienced between the months of May through November with the heaviest rains September through November.

Visitors should pack shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block. It is also advised to bring at least one pair of pants, a long sleeve shirt, and even a sweat shirt or light jacket.

Fun Fact: Resplendent quetzals and emerald toucanettes can be spotted here most of the year.

Nearby Destinations

Monteverde9 km
La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano112 km
Nuevo Arenal67 km
Puntarenas75 km
Alajuela138 km


Latitude: N 10° 20' 36.56"
Longitude: W 84° 47' 45.64"

Unsure of what to do? Let us make you a free custom trip plan!